Storing coffee beans correctly will ensure that you get the most out of your cups of coffee. After all, it’s pointless to buy a 6 lb bag of coffee beans only to have it go stale after a few weeks.
So, how are coffee beans supposed to be stored? And how do you tell if they’ve gone bad?
We’ll go over this in-depth later today, so let’s get started. But, first, let’s look at what ruins or dulls the flavor of coffee beans so we know what to avoid.
What causes stale coffee beans?
The worst kind of coffee is stale coffee. It still has caffeine, as we saw in my previous post, but the flavor is gone. So what causes this to happen?
Flavor, like spices and tea, is heavily influenced by air, humidity, other smells, heat, and direct sunlight.
So this is what you must avoid with your coffee bean storage strategy, or you will be very disappointed with your coffee.
Exposure to air causes oxidation, which is basically oxygen releasing all of the flavors from the coffee.
This is why, when storing anything flavorful, an airtight container is required; otherwise, the flavor will dissipate in the air.
It’s also how perfume and other scents work to give the air a specific smell. You’ll notice they’ve worn off after a while because they’ve been completely released into the air.
This means that if you leave your bag of roasted coffee beans open on the counter for a week, only the bottom of the bag will retain some flavor. The upper and middle sections would be very exposed to the air and become stale after a few days.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is humidity. When spices and coffee beans mold, it’s usually the main culprit.
Humid air, especially if it is warm, will cause the coffee beans to brew very slowly, resulting in an odd flavor. However, this is before they’ve even started to lose their flavor.
Moist air is not optimal for keeping smells and should be avoided. This means avoid storing your coffee in the bathroom or kitchen if you cook frequently and there is a lot of steam and hot air and little ventilation.
To store the coffee, try to find a cool, dry place in your home. Each time you open the container, a small amount of moisture will seep in, so take care.
You will be better protected from moist air if you use an airtight container.
Other odors can and will spoil your coffee. But, in some cases, it can work in your favor. For example, if you want to flavor your coffee beans with cocoa, cinnamon, or vanilla, storing the spices with the coffee beans will do the trick.
However, if you store your coffee improperly, this can backfire. For example, assume you get a coffee container with a lid that won’t close.
This means that if there is a strong odor near the coffee (such as food, perfume, or air freshener), you will get flavored coffee.
Again, this is related to having an airtight container. Airtight means that no odors or moisture can enter or exit.
Another issue is heat, which is exacerbated by the fact that many people keep their coffee in the kitchen. If you cook frequently, the kitchen will become extremely hot. On a regular basis, and especially if you live in a humid climate, this can gradually ruin your coffee.
This is especially true if you keep your coffee on higher shelves. Heat always rises to high points, so air near the ceiling will be hotter than air near the floor.
If you want to keep your coffee in the kitchen, put it on the lowest shelf, or even better, the lowest drawer you can find.
If you’re concerned about children or pets getting into the coffee, install child locks wherever possible, such as on cabinet doors or on the container itself.
Direct sunlight will ruin the coffee by robbing it of its flavor once more. Sunlight ‘burns’ away the flavor in the same way that it bleaches color over time.
Suppose you’ve ever had drapes that have been exposed to sunlight for years.
As a result, the best course of action is to get a fully opaque coffee container. If you can’t find anything, make sure to store your container in a drawer or cabinet. Then, there will be no direct sunlight, and your coffee will be safe.
Another thing about sunlight is that, depending on the time of year and how strong it is in your area, it can actively heat the coffee container.
Even if it’s opaque, if it’s thin metal (as most commercial ground coffee cans are), it has a high chance of heating up, which brings me back to my previous point.
How to Keep Coffee Beans Safe
After learning about the things that can destroy coffee, we can avoid them in the future. There are two parts to properly storing coffee, and both are critical.
The first consideration is the type of container used. A good airtight and opaque container can withstand most elements, but only so much.
Second, the room in which you keep your coffee and the placement of the container is extremely important.
Having learned about the things that can ruin coffee, we will be better prepared to prevent them in the future.
So let’s start looking for a great coffee container. One that can withstand almost anything while still allowing you to have fresh coffee.
Planetary Design’s Airscape container will keep your coffee beans fresh with new technology.
It’s stainless steel, thick-walled 64 oz/ 1.800 kg capacity container that can be adjusted based on how much coffee is left in it.
The lid of the canister can be pushed down, releasing all of the extra air in your container while allowing none to seep in.
This means that your coffee container will only hold as much air as is required, which is the amount of air just between the beans themselves.
We will be better prepared to avoid coffee disasters in the future now that we have learned about the things that can go wrong with it.
The container’s walls are completely opaque, and it comes in a variety of colors, so you can choose whichever one you prefer.
You can read the reviews and check out the listing on Amazon here.
Now that you’ve got your own cool coffee container, let’s talk about where you should put it in your house.
I keep mine on the kitchen counter. This is because I cook frequently, but my apartment is very well ventilated, and when it gets hot in the summer, I can open all the windows and get a constant breeze through.
There is also very little humidity because the fresh air arrives dry.
The sun shines directly into the kitchen and reaches the counter, but my container is next to the microwave, which always keeps it in the shade.
And because I don’t have any children or pets to tamper with the container, it’s safe to leave on the counter.
If I did have any, I’d keep the container in one of the kitchen drawers, where I also keep my tea, and secure it with a child lock.
So, in your home, you should look for a space that is:
- If it’s not humid, look for the driest spot you can find with some shade, so there’s no direct sunlight.
- Close to the ground, a drawer or closed cabinet will suffice (cooler) If your home is frequently very warm, ensure that there is plenty of air circulation, as strong odors can sometimes seep into the coffee.
What room in your house would that be? Most spices are kept in the kitchen of most homes. If your kitchen meets all of the above criteria, feel free to keep your coffee there.
Other possibilities include a pantry or a storage cabinet in the hallway (usually well ventilated).
How long do coffee beans last?
Roasted coffee beans retain their flavor for a few weeks after roasting before becoming stale and bitter. Of course, depending on how the coffee is stored, the process can be slowed down or sped up accordingly.
If the coffee is properly stored, it can take up to two months for the beans to lose their freshness. This is only if you have a very good container.
Keep in mind that you’ll be opening the container every day or every other day, which contributes to the loss of flavor.
If you leave the beans in a poor container, such as the bag they came in, that is only clipped shut, the flavor will deteriorate much faster because there will be more airflow.
Coffee beans that have not been roasted, or green coffee beans, have no distinct flavor. The roasting process brings out the flavor, so you could store green coffee beans for a couple years and only roast them when they were ready, and they would still be delicious.
When keeping green coffee beans, you must make certain that they are also properly stored because they can spoil over time. It is the same regulations as for already roasted coffee, except that these must be stored in a dry environment.
Green coffee is more susceptible to mold growth than roast coffee.
Do coffee beans spoil?
Yes, coffee beans can spoil. They’d have to be very poorly stored or stored for decades for them to go bad, but they can. Coffee in whole bean form has a long shelf life.
When the coffee has lost all of its flavor and has begun to smell bad, you’ll know it’s gone bad as in a musty, mildewy odor. It can happen if you store your coffee in a warm, humid environment.
You may even notice colored droplets on the inside of the container where moisture brewed the coffee and stained the inner wall.
Aside from the humidity, another possibility is that the coffee becomes rancid. This means that the coffee oils in the beans have been exposed to heat for so long that they have become toxic.
The same thing happens when vegetable oil, lard, or any other type of fat is exposed to heat for several days.
If you live in a hot climate and your air conditioner breaks down, you’ll need to be cautious about where and how you store your coffee.
It’s best not to try your coffee if you suspect it’s gone bad. Of course, you can brew a cup to be sure, but there’s no point, and in some cases, you may jeopardize your health (if the coffee is really bad).
It’s best to toss it and get a new one.
Can coffee beans be frozen?
Some people have told me that they have done this to maintain their coffee beans in good condition for months at a time. So I’m going to repeat what I said when tea leaves were involved.
Freezing coffee beans is not a bad idea in theory. But it’s extremely difficult to do so without ruining it, because you need very little to no moisture in the air surrounding the beans for this to work.
No ordinary Joe has such a freezer unless it uses the same technology that is used to freeze fruits and vegetables on commercial assembly lines. And I doubt any ordinary home freezer has that.
The issue is that the moisture in the air is what causes ice to form. As a result, it’s also the main culprit when your beans defrost before you use them.
And as that layer of ice melts, it becomes water, which means it can and will slowly brew your coffee. And it will make grinding them extremely difficult because the beans must be completely dry before being added to any grinder.
Finally, because the humidity threshold isn’t close to zero, freezing coffee beans in a regular freezer causes the beans to stick together when the ice forms.
It will be impossible to scoop out a few coffee beans at a time since you’ll have to chisel away at a block of frozen coffee beans, which means you’ll have to do it in batches.
And, of course, every time you open the container or the freezer, more moisture enters and more ice forms.
Overall, freezing coffee beans to make them last longer is not a good idea.
Finally, some thoughts.
How well you store your coffee determines how fresh it will be when you brew it. After all, whole beans are similar to unopened coffee packets.
So, if you store your coffee beans properly, you’ll always have fresh coffee.
Do not make the same mistake. I saw it done in a coffee shop in my hometown back in the 1990s. They had large burlap sacks full of roasted coffee beans lying around the shop.
There are only glass window panes throughout the shop, and as much direct sunlight and heat as you don’t want on your coffee beans. But, of course, we were a simpler breed back then.