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:
“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.”
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.
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.
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 sparkles 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 nuances and differences. There’s always something new to try.”