One of the reasons coffee from the coffee shop tastes so delicious is that the baristas grind it fresh! While we know that freshly ground coffee will give our cuppa a superior flavor, many of us don’t want to buy a grinder and add the extra step of bean grinding fresh beans to our morning wake-up routine. The good news is that with proper storage you can still get that great fresh taste with pre-ground coffee that is (almost!) as good as grinding the beans yourself.
To keep your coffee grinds the freshest, you should store coffee in an airtight container in a cool, dry area away from sunlight.
We’ll let you in on more tricks and tips to keep your coffee grinds the freshest for that perfect cup of coffee!
The Hierarchy of Coffee Freshness
Coffee beans store differently according to their bean type and how much (or little) they’ve been processed. Fresh coffee beans get first place for freshness. These green beans will last the longest as they are unaltered. Second, we have roasted whole beans. And last, but still dear to our hearts, is ground coffee.
Green Coffee Beans
Green coffee beans should have the longest shelf life as they haven’t been processed or ground, yet. They are still sensitive to light and moisture but if stored properly, their natural flavors and aromas can be preserved. They should last up to 12 months in favorable conditions before they are roasted.
Roasted Whole Coffee Beans
Roasted beans are next in the lineup. They have already started processing and have begun releasing some of their gases, so they won’t last as long as green coffee beans. Depending on the type of coffee you choose and how it is stored, whole bean coffee can last from 6 to 9 months from their roast date.
Ground coffee is low-man on the totem pole of freshness. Once you open a bag of ground coffee the clock starts ticking on its lifespan! …Well actually, the clock officially began ticking after roasting and after grinding, but then it starts ticking again after opening the sealed bag.
Ground coffee usually tastes best if you can drink it within 2 weeks. With proper storage, you can extend its life to about a month before you begin to start tasting a decline in freshness.
Where to Store Ground Coffee
So how can we keep ground coffee tasting as fresh as possible? We should take into consideration, where we store it, the coffee canister we use, and even what type of packaging we choose from the grocery store shelf.
Don’t Refrigerate After Opening
While many packages are on your case to refrigerate everything after opening, coffee goes against the flow. Not only does the refrigerator add moisture into the equation, but coffee contains nitrogen, which allows it to absorb odors in the atmosphere. So unless your refrigerator smells like molasses and roasted nuts, you could end up with disastrous results. Instead of refrigeration preserving its freshness, you may just end up with funky-tasting stale coffee.
The Pros and Cons of Freezing
Some coffee drinkers recommend freezing coffee. Theoretically, the freezing should stop time and extend your coffee expiration date. The risk involved is exposure to moisture, which can steal from the freshness from your grounds. If you are going to freeze coffee, it is best to do so before it is opened to prevent moisture in your grounds.
The Best Coffee Storage Conditions
For the best coffee storage, coffee connoisseurs agree that ground coffee should be stored:
- At room temperature
- In a cool, dry place
- Away from light and heat
- Away from exposure to moisture
The best place to store coffee beans is a pantry or a cabinet. These areas usually stay consistently cool and are hidden from the light.
Avoid storing coffee in proximity to your oven, stove, or microwave as the heat will cause your coffee to become stale. Also, while the top of the fridge is a useful space for storing something… it is not best for coffee as a refrigerator can also let off some heat and moisture.
If you decide to store your coffee on your countertop, use an opaque, well-sealed container.
The Storage Container You Use
So we know that where you store coffee can affect its flavor, but even the container you choose can help or hinder your fresh coffee efforts!
Use an Opaque Container
Showing off a stock of coffee in clear glass bins in the kitchen has a great retro coffee shop feel to it. Unfortunately putting coffee on display is counter-effective to preserving its freshness. Coffee stays freshest when protected from light and sun. I love to see my coffee, but how my coffee tastes is even more important! Opaque containers such as the following are best:
- Ceramic containers
- Opaque glass
- Food-grade metal
- Containers that seal with an airtight gasket seal
If you do choose to store coffee in clear glass or plastic containers, be sure to store it away from light and heat.
The Trouble with Mason Jars
Mason jars were once relegated to Grandma’s canning corner. But, in the 21st century, mason jars became a fashion statement and have been used from vases at weddings to storing coffee on your countertop. Mason jars have many practical (and aesthetic?) uses, but storing coffee in mason jars has its pros and cons.
The pro is a tightly sealed lid that can keep coffee fresh. The con is that even though coffee looks cute lined up in mason jars on your countertop, the clear glass allows light in and can damage your grounds.
So, if you choose to use mason jars for coffee, they should be stored in the back of a pantry, away from light. Or, you could DIY the outside with paint or decoupage to keep the light from entering and make Pinterest proud.
Store in the Original Packaging
It is often recommended to store coffee in its original packaging even after opening. Coffee packages are opaque and they are made to keep the beans naturally dry with the oils well-preserved. After opening, just place the entire bag inside your favorite air-tight container to keep your coffee safe and fresh!
Vacuum Sealed Coffee vs. Valve Sealed Coffee
Even the packaging is important when looking for the freshest coffee. You’ve probably noticed the different kinds of packaging in grocery store aisles. There is the tightly packed coffee, which looks like a row of bricks in line. This is vacuum-sealed. And then there is the looser packaging with a one-way valve. If you squeeze this packaging a bit, you are rewarded with that delicious waft of coffee. This is valve sealed, which is the best packaging… not only because of the wafting but also because it preserves freshness better.
Vacuum sealed coffee is one method to keeping coffee fresh. This keeps coffee airtight and seals in freshness. However, one thing to keep in mind is that before coffee can be vacuum sealed, it first needs to be allowed to rest and off-gas after being roasted and ground.
Carbon dioxide is released from the beans as part of the roasting and grinding phase and continues to slowly release even after it is processed. This can create a problem when it is time for packaging and may cause bags of coffee to explode from built-up gases. To prevent this, the ground coffee is left to age and off-gas before it is vacuum-sealed. This means that by the time the ground coffee arrives at your house, you will have a slightly older coffee than its valve-sealed counterpart.
The One-way Valve
When looking for maximum freshness, a coffee with a one-way valve will be the best route. Valve sealed coffee allows for the coffee to breathe and lets the natural gases escape. At the same time, it prevents outside air from entering and contaminating the beans. This one-way valve allows coffee to be packaged shortly after it is roasted and ground resulting in a fresher coffee.
The Ground Coffee Fan Club
We know that grinding our own coffee will give us maximum freshness and the best taste, but we often choose ground coffee over coffee beans. So maybe we’re masochists or maybe we just love the fact that ground coffee is ready to pop into our favorite coffeemaker when we wake up in the morning. For me, I like to take the easy route to my cup of coffee when I first wake up. Later in the afternoon is soon enough to start grinding beans and trying out my pour-over skills.
The fact is, ground coffee will almost always have its own fan club for the ease of preparation it allows us. And if you know the proper methods for storing it, you can still get that fresh coffee taste that is worth waking up for!
We’ve shared some ways you can keep your ground coffee as fresh as possible. My takeaway from this discussion would be to buy coffee frequently and drink it often! Not only will this ensure that your coffee never goes stale, but you will also be living your best coffee life.