Coffee beans, like everything else we eat, are best served fresh. To give yourself the best chance of brewing top quality coffee each morning, there are a couple of rules you can follow to preserve the freshness of your beans.
You don’t want to be drinking stale coffee, just like you don’t want to be drinking rotten milk, or eating mouldy cheese. If you find yourself with flavourless, textureless coffee, luckily for you it’s an easy fix.
There are a few enemies of coffee. Sunlight, oxygen, heat, and moisture. We’ll shed some light on the best ways to keep your coffee beans fresh, but before that, here are some tips on how to pick the freshest beans in the first place.
- How To Spot Freshly Roasted Coffee
- What’s More Fresh: Pre-Ground Coffee Or Whole Beans?
- Does The Way You Store Coffee Beans Really Matter?
- How To Store Your Coffee Beans At Home
- Debunking Some Coffee Myths
- Final Thoughts
How To Spot Freshly Roasted Coffee
There’s no point reading this entire article on how to keep your coffee fresh, if you don’t buy fresh beans in the first place.
Sometimes bags of coffee can be sitting in a warehouse for weeks or even months, even before being put on the shelf. This doesn’t do any good for the flavour that ends up in your cup. I know if that was my bag of coffee, sitting there collecting dust, there’s no way I’d want buy it.
There are a couple of things that stand out about freshly roasted beans though. We can use them to identify the best coffee on the shelf.
Fresh Beans Are Oily
The first sign that the beans you bought are fresh is to look at their appearance. If they look and feel oily or glossy, this means they’re super fresh.
So fresh in fact that the oils are still escaping from inside the beans. It might put you off at first as most of the time oil on your food isn’t a good thing. But coffee beans are the exception.
This rule is more so with dark roast coffee beans than light, as they’ve been roasted longer. However, light roast beans will still have a dull shininess to them.
Does The Bag Have A Valve?
This is a really good way to determine how fresh the beans are inside the bag, without buying them first.
When coffee beans have been freshly roasted, they give off heat and gases. If placed fresh inside the bag without a valve, the bag could pop. What a waste of coffee!
If there isn’t a valve on the bag, that tells you the roasters/packers don’t need to worry about the coffee giving off gases. There’s no need to allow for air to escape. This means they’re not as fresh as they could be.
If the bag of coffee you’re looking at has a valve, then the roasters are anticipating that the beans are going to be giving off gases, and they need to allow for this.
Rule of thumb: If your bag of coffee has a valve, it’s more fresh than a bag that doesn’t.
What’s More Fresh: Pre-Ground Coffee Or Whole Beans?
Without a doubt whole beans.
If you’re wanting a truly good cup of coffee, something with a lot of flavour and a beautiful texture, go for whole beans. There’s a very good reason for this.
Once your coffee beans have been grounded up, there’s more surface area exposed to the air. This is going to dry out your coffee a lot faster than if they were still whole.
Grinding your own coffee beans is the best way to ensure a quality cuppa. It’s not as convenient as pre-ground, but we’re talking about freshness and flavour here.
You can get some inexpensive coffee grinders that grind your coffee in seconds, and the payoff for doing so is the nicest coffee you’ve ever brewed yourself.
If you’ve got a coffee maker that only allows for single serve coffee pods/capsules, you can get reusable coffee filters. This means you can buy whole beans, grind them up yourself and place them into the reusable K cup. Do this and thank me later.
Does The Way You Store Coffee Beans Really Matter?
Do you ask that question about potatoes, cheese, or bread?
Yes it matters. Every food in your kitchen is placed somewhere that’s going to keep it fresh for the longest. Why should it be any different for coffee?
Firstly, you should understand that you only deserve the best coffee. Why would you serve yourself stale, flavourless coffee, when you could be drinking awesome coffee every morning.
Just like any other foods, coffee is going to react to the oxygen in the air over time and become stale. It’s not like it’s going to kill you, it’s just going to lose freshness, flavour and aromas, so everything we enjoy in a coffee.
Storing your coffee beans correctly is going to help protect the freshness, and keep your coffee tasting at its best for as long as possible.
How To Store Your Coffee Beans At Home
There are some easy tips and tricks that we can implement to keep our coffee fresh.
Don’t Buy More Than A Weeks Supply
If you’re shopping every week, there’s no need to buy more than a week’s supply of coffee.
If you buy a 1kg bag of coffee with the idea it’s going to last a month, that means half your beans are going to be sitting there for at least 2 weeks. That’s a lot of time for those beans to go stale and start to lose their freshness.
The best way to keep your coffee tasting top quality is to buy small and often.
If this isn’t possible for you, then you should follow the tips below to maximise the freshness of your beans.
Check The Roast Date
Some brands out there actually put the roast date on the bag. This is a really handy piece of information, and normally conveys a lot of trust.
If the brand is willing to tell you when their coffee was roasted, they’re willing to expose how fresh their product is. You ideally want to find a bag with a roast date that’s around 2 months ago. Although not the freshest, this is probably the best you’ll find in a supermarket.
You can have a look at your local coffee roasters for real fresh coffee. Failing that, there are plenty of brands online you can order from. You can check out or coffee bean reviews for more information.
The best time to grind and brew your coffee beans is 4-12 days after they’ve been roasted. You can get away with up to a couple of months though. They’ll still be fresh as long as you store them correctly.
The reason why the beans should be left a little while is so that they can degas. Some gases like carbon dioxide are released from the beans throughout this time.
If you’re brewing via French press, then you can use the beans from about 4 days after the roast date. If you’re going to make an espresso with the beans, you should wait around 7 days.
This is so the gases don’t stop the water from properly extracting all the flavour from the coffee.
Air Tight Containers
As we mentioned earlier, letting air get to your coffee beans or pre-ground coffee is disastrous for the freshness and flavour.
To maximise your beans freshness, you want to be using air tight containers or jars. What you certainly don’t want to be doing is keeping your beans in the bag once opened.
Maybe, if you’re careful to fold the bag so no air can get in, you’ll be okay. But why take the risk of your beans going stale when you can get air tight jars.
Personally, I keep all my coffee beans in jars. Not just to keep them fresh, but the jars are also practical and look better than the packaging. I even go as far to write the name of the coffee, the roast, and where they originate from on the jar in a whiteboard marker.
Store In A Cool, Dark Place
Ideally you want to store your coffee beans somewhere that’s out of heat and direct sunlight.
The heat can affect the flavour compounds in your beans, as well as making them sweat. If your hopper, jar or whatever container you’re using gets hot, your coffee beans will start to give off oil.
After a little while your container will be super oily, which isn’t good for the taste. You want all those oils in the bean and extracted into your coffee.
Debunking Some Coffee Myths
After a lot of research, there are some household myths and legends about coffee that are blatantly wrong. Let’s clear this up.
Freezing Your Coffee Beans
You might have heard this before. Freezing your coffee beans to keep them fresh.
This is okay, as long as you make sure there is no air in contact with the beans when in the freezer. In other words, you need to vacuum seal them.
If you don’t do this, the coffee is at risk of absorbing moisture and odours that are in the air. You don’t want this. You want to preserve the flavours in the coffee beans themselves.
The thing is though, vacuum sealing requires the right equipment and there’s a lot waste.
Bottom line, you can freeze your coffee beans but try not to let any air in contact. I don’t see a reason to freeze your beans, but if you find yourself in a situation where you have to, it can work.
Keeping Your Coffee Beans In The Fridge
Again, I don’t really see a need to store coffee beans in the fridge.
One of the negative effects of doing so will be that your beans will absorb all the different smells in your fridge.
So for example if you have onions, garlic or cheese in your fridge, your coffee beans will absorb those smells. Definitely not something you want!
There is also a lot of moisture in the fridge and we all know moisture is bad for coffee beans. This will contribute to your coffee beans becoming stale quicker, as the beans will react to the moisture, and therefore having the opposite effect of what’s intended.
Here’s a quick video summarising a few quick tips and what we’ve been through:
Alright, that’s quite a bit of information to take in regarding how to look after your coffee beans.
To sum up, buy small and often, store your beans in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. Oh, and buy whole beans.
If you follow these tips and tricks, you’ll always be brewing the best coffee you possibly can from home. And why do you deserve anything less than the best coffee?