Storage Tips

The Absolute Best Way to Store Coffee, According to an Expert

How to keep your beans fresh, perky, and good to the last drop.

July 17, 2020

I’ve been drinking some form of coffee since I was 6 years old. Was I too young? Maybe; it's unclear. Was it mostly milk, though? 100%. Flash forward to two decades later, and I still adore coffee. Hot, iced, pourover, latte, drip—you name it, I’m a fan.

Every morning, I start my day with a hot mug fresh from my French press. In the afternoons, I’ve learned to make pourovers with our office’s Chemex for 3 p.m. pick-me-ups. I know everything there is to know about my perfect cup of joe, but when it comes to storing it, I don’t know beans. In my pantry? In a canister? In the freezer?

To learn the best way to keep my beans fresh, I turned to Erika Vonie, Director of Coffee at Trade, a coffee subscription service that represents more than 50 roasters across the country. Here’s what she had to say:

Don’t reinvent the wheel

“The best way to store coffee is to store it in the bag it comes in,” Vonie says. When coffee is roasted, gases (mostly carbon dioxide) form inside the beans and need to escape. “Most coffee bags are designed with a gas-release valve on them, which does a great job of letting that gas expel without letting air in.”

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Another plus of original packaging? It keeps out sunlight, which also ages coffee beans, Vonie says. If you do want to transfer beans to your own canister, make sure it's airtight and protected from sunlight—you’ll degas beans naturally when you open to prepare your coffee.

The freezer can still be your your friend

While many experts agree that storing beans in the freezer is a no-no, Vonie has other thoughts.

“Coffee likes to be climate stable. We’re seeing a lot of people come back to the idea that freezing your coffee is okay. I think for ground coffee, especially, tossing it into the freezer actually helps with the aging process because it’s definitely away from sunlight, it’s definitely at a stable temperature, and if it’s in its original package, it can be degassed.”

If you do keep your coffee in the freezer, avoid thawing, Vonie cautions. Allowing the beans to warm up before going back in the ice box creates moisture, which ages the coffee.

Less is more

Coffee can last for months on the shelf after it’s roasted—but that doesn’t mean it’s fresh.

“Roasted coffee starts losing its super-nuanced sparkle about two weeks after it’s been roasted. I recommend buying coffee you can get through in a two- to three-week stretch of time. For me, that’s a bag every two weeks if I’m making a cup or a pot of it every day,” Vonie suggests. “If you’re sitting on a giant canister of coffee for months at a time, by the end of that canister, your coffee will start tasting differently than when you popped it open in the first place.”

Coffee is a seasonal product, Vonie says, so it’s a good idea to buy smaller batches more frequently, anyway. “It makes me try more varieties of coffee, to get to know the flavor profiles and textural differences. There’s always something new to try.”


For More Coffee Tricks...

Part of the appeal of getting really into coffee is all the gadgets and gizmos you get to experiment with—think of each new piece you pick up as a present to yourself. Here, we share the best tools and techniques we know to get you the strongest, smoothest cup of coffee possible.

If you love cold brew as much as we do (drains third cup of the morning), especially in the summertime, you'll be intrigued and maybe a little flabbergasted to hear that apparently, we've been making it all wrong. Check out this trusty method, straight from Japan, to get a cup that's "exactly the right strength."

Speaking of intrigue, when you encounter a small-but-mighty shot of espresso that might be just a little too bitter for your liking, try this trick on for size. It may be a smidge unorthodox, but it works.

Picture this: You amble into the kitchen after a fitful night of sleep, poke into the cupboards for all your coffee supplies, and realize with horror that you've run out of coffee filters. We've got good news, though—you can still enjoy your cup! Just grab another tool from your kitchen—we usually spring for fine-mesh sieve or a clean dish towel—then get to work using the methods outlined here. You're very welcome.

And finally, no tricks or sneaky secrets here—just a dang good cup that'll jolt you awake, STAT. Grab a carafe, a slice of cake, and join us back here for a klatsch.

How do you store your coffee beans? Share your best tips in the comments below!
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Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.

7 Comments

MLHE July 26, 2020
When I was 5 years old, a (maternal) great aunt made me a tiny coffee cup because she loved that my grandmother (paternal) 'exposed' me to this magic beverage at such a young age. Being a human being requires respect for liquids, and my three favorites are water itself, coffee, and then wine. Can you imagine where Kool-Aid is on my list? Yeah...it's at Pluto.
 
Beth S. July 21, 2020
Print “dry cleaning at home” again
 
marcyincny December 22, 2019
Pleasantly surprised to see a few brave souls advocating freezer storage for coffee. I think it depends on the freezer. Refrigerator freezers that are opened umpteen times a day and don't spend much time anywhere near 0º just aren't adequate. I'm luck enough to have a stand-alone freezer and I've had great success storing coffee (beans) in it for many, many years...
 
Jacqueline December 17, 2019
As someone who has been in the coffee roasting business for the last six years, I would like to add that I have had coffees that become even more nuanced as they age as far as two months out. Please don’t toss beans out because they are just a couple of weeks old. They can mature beautifully over time. Just make sure you’re buying quality coffee from roasters who know their farmers.
 
Masa July 19, 2020
Based on the comments, its seems like people measure freshness in years, not weeks. But, I agree. I like to experience the flavor arc from 1 day after to about 2 weeks, but there are still some subtle flavor hints after a couple months.
 
Lori H. September 25, 2019
It is only my husband who drinks coffee, because it makes me get the jitters. My husband likes Folgers breakfast blend,grounded. He stores that in the container which it came in. The expresso beans he prefers for the bag of beans be stored in the freezer.
Is this wrong or the right way to store coffee?
 
Toni July 14, 2019
Could not agree more. I own a high end espresso machine and have run my own tests on coffee bean storage. Two different air-tight espresso bean storage containers with gas release valves VS. the bag the beans came in. The bag was better by far....(despite how great that copper colored container looked on my counter 😕). Another nod to the freezer... I only keep enough beans out and ready for use for 4-5 days. Of course, proper storage can’t help poor quality beans...starting with the right blend to begin with is crucial. Thanks for this article... thought I was the only one going against common practice.