So you’re wondering how to store coffee beans? You’re not alone this is something everyone wants to know as they get more serious about their coffee experience. In this post, we explore different methods: freezing, refrigerating, and keeping them in the pantry… But what’s the best way to store coffee? Let’s take a look and then you can be the judge.
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How to Store Coffee: Freshness Guide
Keeping coffee fresh is important when it comes to getting your strongest, best-tasting cup. And while it is resistant to mold, coffee can go bad or stale so knowing how to store it properly will help in a few ways.
In this post we’re going beyond beans, we’ll be talking about ground, brewed, cold brew, and instant coffee as well. Our focus will be on keeping your coffee tasting fresh and flavorful. Fresh coffee is at the base of all your favorite types of coffee.
If you’re concerned about whether or not coffee goes bad, or how long it’s good for, check out this post. And if you’re concerned that something is up with your coffee maker/machine making your coffee taste weird check out this post about how to clean your coffee gear/makers.
As you determine how to keep coffee beans fresh there are a few things to keep in mind about coffee. These factors apply whether you’re talking about storing ground coffee or coffee beans. (I’ll go into a little more detail about this as we look at various storage options.)
- Coffee absorbs moisture and aromas. Your storage choice needs to keep your coffee safe from those freshness zappers.
- Coffee will go stale as time passes. Once your bag of coffee is open, even with your best efforts to keep it fresh it will start to lose its rich aroma and flavor over time. The goal should be to use it as soon as possible.
- Light, heat, air, and moisture are enemies of fresh coffee. It needs to be kept dry, dark, cool, and as sealed off from the air as possible. Coffee is perishable and all of those elements can negatively affect its aroma, flavor, and healthful properties.
Coffee Habits and Coffee Storage
We don’t all have the same coffee habits or philosophies. The way you buy and consume your coffee will affect the way you store your coffee.
So you’ll need to ask yourself a few things like…
- Do I buy coffee beans or ground coffee? Coffee beans hold their flavor longer than ground coffee, so for fresh-tasting coffee – storing beans is the way to go. But if you buy ground coffee don’t worry – you can keep it tasting fresh.
- Do I drink coffee a couple of times a day … or a couple times a week? If you’re using up your coffee quickly (which is always best) you may not have the same concerns about air and light affecting the flavor of your beans/grounds. So storage becomes easier. If you consume it slower you may want to pick up a good quality storage container (more about that later).
- How do I drink my coffee? (Do I like it black, or do I always add milk and sugar)? If you always add milk and sugar when you make coffee at home then it won’t be a big deal if the fridge or freezer leaves your beans/grounds a little less flavorful.
Helpful tips: Keep the following in mind when considering how to store your coffee.
- Your coffee beans and ground coffee are at their best (freshest and most delicious) as close to the roast date as possible. So consuming them quickly should be the goal.
- Your coffee will stay fresher longer if it is unopened. Once open it starts to lose its aroma and flavor because of exposure to light, air, moisture, and heat. Keeping it in a cool dark place in a well-sealed container is your best bet.
It’s not always possible to use up your coffee lickety-split so you may want to store it a little longer.
There are a number of options, let’s take a look at the best-case scenario first: You buy coffee beans and use them within a week or two.
Learn more: The Strongest Coffee in the World
1. Best Way to Store Coffee Beans
The best way to store your coffee beans is in an airtight opaque (light-blocking) container in the pantry (a cool place).
The exception to this would be if your coffee beans came in a resealable bag with a one-way valve. In that case, it would be best to store them in their bag. That valve will let the gasses your beans are releasing out, but won’t let any air in – which is a good thing.
If your beans didn’t come in a resealable bag with a one-way valve you’ll want to transfer them to a properly sealed opaque container. This includes chocolate-covered coffee beans.
This will ensure that they are protected from light, and moisture. If you’re more comfortable getting away from plastic storage options (like I am) then transferring your beans to stainless steel or ceramic container also means they have less contact with plastic and other chemicals.
Light, heat, air, and moisture can negatively affect the coffee beans causing them to lose flavor, and aroma and (in the case of moisture) possibly leave them vulnerable to bacteria/mold growth.
Once your beans are open they should hold pretty good flavor (in their resealable one-way valve bag or an opaque container) in your cool pantry for a few weeks. But as time goes by they will lose some of their aroma and flavor.
Want one of the best coffee storage options? Try the Coffee Gator Canister.
This is ideal because it’s stainless steel, opaque, airtight and has a CO2 valve. It also comes in some nice color options like, blue, green, gray, orange, pink, red, and silver. With that color choice you might want to store it on the counter, just remember to keep it away from heat sources.
Helpful tip: Keeping your coffee beans fresh is about storing them properly and using them quickly (within a few weeks). It’s best to buy them in small batches and grind them just before you brew them.
If you want to keep your beans in a glass or ceramic container on the counter try using a small container that seals properly and only store a small amount which you will grind soon. Store the rest as we discussed above. Changing out those beans often will keep them fresh.
A quality coffee grinder will make your life a lot easier, and your coffee more enjoyable.
But what if you’ve bought a large bag that you can’t use up within a couple of weeks? And what if you live in a really humid climate, should you refrigerate or freeze coffee beans?
Let’s talk about those options.
Should you Refrigerate Coffee Beans?
As mentioned above, it’s best to keep your coffee beans in a cool dark place, like your pantry (away from sources of heat like your oven).
But what if you live in a hot climate and don’t have an air-conditioner?
If you are concerned that your pantry is too warm for storing your coffee beans, or you want to store them for more than a couple of weeks then you can store them in the fridge, but you’ll need to keep a few things in mind.
- Coffee is like a sponge when it comes to moisture, aromas, and flavors, so you will need to keep your beans in an airtight container. This will keep the flavor as safe as possible. If your beans came in a resealable bag with a one-way valve you can store them in the fridge right in their bag, but if they didn’t it would be best to put them in an airtight opaque container.
- Temperature changes can cause condensation. If you take your beans out of the fridge and leave them on the counter while you grind some of the beans and brew your coffee, moisture may condense on the beans sitting on the counter. That is not good for your beans. It’s best to take out the beans you’ll be using and put the rest back in the fridge as fast as possible.
- Coffee loses its aroma and flavor over time. If you live in a hot humid climate your beans will stay fresh longer in the fridge but the longer they’re in there, the more their flavor will diminish.
Helpful Tip: If your coffee beans didn’t come in a resealable bag with a one-way valve put them in a Ziploc bag and remove as much air as possible, then place them in an opaque tightly sealed container before placing them in the fridge. Or you could just pop the Coffee Gator Canister (mentioned above) right in the fridge. The less air and light they are exposed to the better.
An open bag of coffee beans stored in a properly sealed container in the fridge should be fine for around three months, but don’t expect your coffee to taste very fresh.
This may not be much of a concern if you’re used to adding milk and sugar to your coffee. If you like it black, then you probably won’t want to store it for nearly that long.
Even when it’s stored in the fridge it’s best to use it as soon as possible.
Can you Freeze Coffee Beans?
You can freeze your coffee beans if you need to store them for an extended time, but they will need to be kept safe from freezer burn.
How to protect coffee beans from freezer burn: A great way to do that is by putting them in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag and removing as much air as possible. As another layer of protection, you could place your Zip-locked beans in a freezer-safe opaque container.
Securely sealing your beans will also protect them from taking on other flavors floating around in your freezer – especially if that Ziploc seal fails.
Freezing your coffee beans will reduce some of their aroma and flavor. So it’s not recommended to store your coffee beans in the freezer just to keep them fresh. They will taste fresher if you store them in a cool pantry (in an airtight opaque container) and use them up quickly.
But if you need to freeze them and you’re used to putting cream and sugar in your coffee you may not notice the flavor reduction as much as someone who enjoys their coffee black.
As long as your beans are protected from freezer burn they should still taste like “coffee” when you grind them up and brew them.
An open bag of coffee beans stored in a properly sealed container in the freezer should be fine even after a year but I wouldn’t want to go past 6 months. Will your coffee taste fresh? With the help of a little milk and sugar it should be fine.
As mentioned above (when we were talking about putting coffee beans in the fridge) it’s best to return the unused coffee beans to the freezer as soon as possible after each time you dip into them. Otherwise, the temperature change from sitting on the counter could cause condensation which would not be good for your beans.
Helpful tip: If you have a deep freeze (chest freezer) it may be better for storing your coffee beans than the freezer part of your fridge. Usually, the deep freeze is opened less often which can mean a more stable temperature, the more consistent the temperature the better it is for your coffee beans.
2. Best Way to Store Ground Coffee
To keep ground coffee tasting fresh, it should be stored in one of two ways:
- in a resealable bag with a one-way valve
- in an airtight opaque (light blocking) container in a cool dark place, like the pantry
Because ground coffee has more surface area exposed to light, heat, air, and moisture than coffee beans do it does not hold its flavor as long.
An open bag of ground coffee stored properly in the pantry should hold its flavor pretty well for about a week. After that, you may start to notice less aroma and flavor.
As with coffee beans (mentioned at the beginning of the post), the Coffee Gator Stainless Steel Canister with a CO2 valve is a popular choice for storing ground coffee. It will do a great job in the pantry or the fridge.
Can you Refrigerate Ground Coffee?
Storing ground coffee in the fridge may be a good option for you if you live in a hot humid climate or need to store your ground coffee for more than a couple of weeks.
To keep it as fresh as possible, it will need to be stored in its resealable one-way valve bag, or if it didn’t come in one – you’ll need to put it in an opaque airtight container.
In the proper storage container, it will be protected from light, moisture and whatever flavors/aromas may be lurking in your fridge.
Even if you are storing your coffee in the fridge, it’s best to consume it as soon as possible. The longer it’s stored the staler it gets.
But if it’s stored in a properly sealed container an open bag of ground coffee should stay reasonably fresh-tasting for a few weeks in the fridge.
If you usually put milk and sugar in your coffee you probably won’t notice much of a difference, but if you drink it black you may notice the loss of flavor.
As with coffee beans stored in the fridge, ground coffee needs to be returned to the fridge as soon as possible with each use so that condensation does not form on the unused grounds.
Can you Freeze Ground Coffee?
If you need to store your ground coffee for an extended time you can store it in the freezer.
While it’s always best to use ground coffee as soon as possible, if it’s stored in an airtight opaque container it should stay reasonably tasty for up to a month in the freezer. You can store it longer but it will continue to lose its aroma and flavor the longer it’s stored.
In an opaque (dark) airtight container it will be protected from light, moisture, aromas, and flavors that could affect its flavor. But when you dip into it, make sure to return the unused coffee to the freezer as soon as possible so that condensation does not create a problem.
Helpful tip: As with coffee beans, a deep freezer may be better for your ground coffee than the fridge freezer. The deep-freezer can provide a more stable temperature because it gets open less often, the more consistent the temperature the better it is for your ground coffee.
3. Best Way to Store Brewed Coffee
The best way to store brewed coffee is on the counter in an insulated carafe. Unless you will be drinking your brewed coffee as iced coffee I wouldn’t recommend storing it in the fridge because it will not taste fresh when you reheat it.
The exception to this rule would be for cold brew coffee. Cold brew coffee is brewed/steeped using cold or room temperature water. It’s usually a concentrated form of coffee and holds up much better in the fridge. If it’s sealed properly you can store your cold brew coffee for up to two weeks in the fridge.
If you are going to store hot brewed coffee in the fridge and reheat it later your best bet may be to warm it up gently in a stainless steel pan, let it get hot but try not to let it reach a boil.
Once it’s nice and warm, adding a rounded teaspoon of hot chocolate mix helps hide any weird flavors. A mocha-style coffee always goes down good.
What else can you do with your brewed coffee? A great way to make use of leftover brewed coffee is to make ice cubes out of it and put them in your iced coffee. But I would transfer them to a freezer-safe Ziploc bag (or similar container) as soon as they are frozen so they don’t take on any weird flavors.
But if you want to keep that brewed coffee hot and fresh all day a thermal carafe might be your new BFF, it will keep your coffee hot for 12 hours.
Good coffee carafes are double-walled 18/8 stainless steel and vacuum insulated to lock in the heat. And a push-button pour spout makes one-handed pouring nice and easy.
4. Best Way to Store Instant Coffee
Instant coffee would be best stored in an airtight opaque container in a cool, dry, dark place (like the pantry).
Instant coffee often comes in individually sealed packets which are perfect for storage. But if it comes in a clear plastic or glass bottle you might want to transfer it to a better quality container if you won’t be using it up very quickly.
The instant coffee crystals will soak up moisture and aromas so keeping them in a container with a good seal will be helpful. It’s also good to keep it away from sources of heat and steam.
You could store your instant coffee in the fridge or freezer but just make sure to keep it properly sealed so it doesn’t take on moisture or weird flavors/aromas from other food items.
Instant coffee is a concentrated brewed coffee that has had the moisture removed, it has a long shelf life so there may not be much of a need to refrigerate or freeze it.
But if you live in a highly humid area and don’t have an air-conditioner then you might want to store it in a cooler place.
Which Coffee Storage Option Works Best For You?
It’s no secret that for the freshest tasting coffee it’s best to buy a week’s worth of coffee at a time. And if you can grind it yourself – beans are better.
Wondering what kind of beans to buy? My favorite is medium roasted arabica beans with sweet flavor notes of chocolate, caramel, and nuts. A couple I’m loving right now are Z – Wrangler (Kicking Horse Coffee) and Tierra Madre (JustUs Coffee).
But maybe you don’t buy coffee beans, maybe you buy ground coffee (I get me some ground coffee once in a while too) and maybe you love storing it in the fridge or freezer. That’s great, it’s all good as long as you’re loving your coffee.
How do you store your coffee? I would love to hear your feedback, any tips or “how to” suggestions you have can help the EnjoyJava coffee community.
Please join me in the comments. And if any of my tips help make your coffee experience better, well, I wouldn’t mind hearing about that either 😉
One more tip before you go: Have you noticed that your beans are tasting a little stale? Before you throw them out try a cold brew.
You may be surprised at how flavorful it turns out. If you haven’t tried making cold brew yet I talked about an easy cold brew method in my iced coffee post.
- About the Author
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Dena Haines is a co-founder and blogger on EnjoyJava – and is working to make it the best coffee blog in the world.
She also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Storyteller Tech. Dena is a partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company she started with her husband, Bryan.