Coffee Storage and You
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
— Updated April 04, 2023
On a recent trip to Ontario, Canada, our Content Creator, Christopher, noticed several coffee shops were storing their beans in clear glass jars. Returning to the US, he continued to see cafe after cafe lining their shelves with beans in Mason jars and bulk candy-style scoop bins.
Coffee beans are gorgeous, don’t get us wrong. Each bean is a unique, monochromatic wonder. But if you’re planning on grinding them up for your next cup, we advise you leave them in the bag or look for an equally sound alternative.
Coffee bags aren’t opaque because companies want to hide their beans from prying eyes. They're opaque to ensure the coffee you buy, grind, and consume is as delicious as it can be. If there were a way to preserve freshness while showing off the hidden treasure behind the label, maybe more companies would take the clear glass route. But roasted coffee beans hate the sun, so we'll just have to defer to their preference.
If you want optimal freshness and flavor, know your coffee’s four greatest enemies.
An air-tight container is essential for proper coffee storage, as oxidization can turn your morning cup into a stale death sentence. That’s dramatic, but it really won’t be very tasty. You wouldn’t brew with the coffee beans at the perfume and cologne counter, would you?
Coffee beans must be stored in a cool, dark place to avoid sudden dramatic changes in temperature, which can turn coffee bad almost instantly. Coffee absorbs moisture, as well as odors and flavors, so refrigerating or freezing your beans might be a bad idea, too. Don’t treat your coffee like the baking soda box at the back of your fridge.
Especially during these colder months, heat is great for us humans, but for our beans, it’s another story. Exposure to heat can cause loss of flavor, leading to a less-than-great cup. The only heat your beans should be exposed to is the hot water from your kettle. Any heat exposure between roasting and grinding should be avoided at all costs.
Lastly, the greatest threat to coffee is light. Crazy, right? Direct sunlight turns roasted coffee beans stale and can make them oily, so save yourself the heartache of a bad cup and just keep your beans in the bag. Or if you have an air-tight container, that will work, too. If you only have a clear container, be sure to keep it tucked away in a cool, dark cabinet or pantry.
Ask not what your coffee can do for you. Ask what you can do for your coffee. You already know what coffee can do for you (a lot!), so do a little more for your coffee. Another surefire way to enjoy great coffee is to limit how much you purchase. If you have too much, the flavor might go south before you’ve finished the bag. Oh, no!
You can always buy more coffee. You can’t resurrect stale coffee. If you are a coffeemancer capable of resurrecting stale beans, the world needs you.
Coffee has innumerable friends and just four enemies. Keeping your precious beans away from air, moisture, heat, and light is what separates you from the bad coffee of the world. And is what keeps coffeemancers out of work.
For more information, check out these links: ncausa.org/about-coffee/how-to-store-coffee or bonappetit.com/drinks/non-alcoholic/article/storing-coffee
Thanks for the info about the enemies of coffee beans. My wife and I drink a pot (12cups) of coffee a day. I keep our beans in a small air tight container, that stays in the dry cool dark place and refill it from the bags as needed, just as you recommend. A 5 lb. Bag of coffee last us about 30days, I like my coffee strong so that’s equates to about 10 heaping tbsp per pot every day. As we near the end of the month (bag), I notice the aroma begin to intensify, almost kind of skunky smelling, personally I enjoy the smell a lot, and I have noticed the once that smell becomes less intense, so does the flavor. It’s like my coffee is telling me, it’s time to order more. Have a great day and thanks for sending me fresh coffee in auto shop every month. Donny