Having reached the level of coffee snob some years ago, I don’t think I’m quite to the level of coffee geek yet, but I continue to work on it. That’s how much I love really good coffee!
As you may recall, I’ve been a home roaster for many years now. While my family and I seriously enjoy a good cup of coffee, the real reason I took up this hobby in the first place was not to achieve quality. It was to save money. Excellent quality, gourmet-level, freshly roasted coffee is not inexpensive.
The day I spent $19.95 for 12 ounces of Costa Rican, La Minita Tarrazu roasted coffee beans—with absolutely no indication on the packaging for when this coffee was roasted—was the day I said this is crazy. There has to be a better way.
It started with 10 pounds of raw green coffee beans purchased from an online coffee dealer and an old hot air popcorn popper. The learning curve was fairly steep, but I caught on quickly.
Within weeks, I was hooked because not only was it fun (in a challenging way), the resulting coffee was to-die-for.
From there, I increased our too-frequent orders to 25 pounds at a time to get a quantity discount. The first time I ordered 50 pounds, I said it again: this is nuts! Why am I not buying directly from the grower? And with that, my husband and I became coffee importers.
We now import a full bag of raw coffee beans from the La Minita Tarrazu plantation—150-200 pounds of raw, green coffee at a time. We’ve had to learn the proper way to store coffee—raw beans, roasted beans, as well as ground coffee. The goal is to make sure those beans remain fresh and amazing right to the very last bean.
What are green coffee beans?
Coffee beans in their raw, natural state are referred to as green coffee beans. You might not recognize them as coffee because of their grayish-green color. Green coffee doesn’t smell like coffee, either.
Once roasted, how long do coffee beans remain fresh?
Roasted coffee beans are at their peak of flavor within two weeks of roasting. At three weeks, roasted coffee beans become noticeably semi-fresh. At four weeks, just OK. Older than a month, roasted coffee beans deteriorate to the point of becoming bitter.
Small-batch roasting is ideal, which means I roast coffee once a week and rarely have more than a pound of roasted coffee beans on hand.
How to store raw green coffee beans
Green coffee beans remain fresh almost indefinitely provided they are kept at room temperature in a dark location. Ideal green coffee storage conditions are 60 F., and about 60% humidity. Higher humidity can encourage mold growth within the beans, while super dry conditions below 20% will dry the beans out, causing them to develop a “flat” taste once roasted. The general rule for storing green beans is this: “If it’s comfortable for you, then your coffee is happy too.”
Raw coffee beans need to breathe, so storing them a brown paper bag or burlap bag to allow for air movement is ideal. There are bugs or larvae that might be attracted to the burlap material itself (I have never experienced anything like that), but almost nothing will eat green coffee.
If you have a home vacuum sealer you may consider vacuum sealing any coffee you want to store long-term. While that is not necessary, it will protect the flavors of the beans, especially in very humid or very dry environments.
How to store roasted coffee beans
Store roasted coffee beans in any container with a lid, then keep it in a cupboard or pantry. Vacuum sealing roasted coffee beans in a Mason jar extends their useful life considerably—up to several months.
What about ground coffee?
Ground coffee is a staple in many homes. Just add a few scoops to your coffee maker, and you’re all set, right? That depends on what you consider good coffee.
As convenient as it is to purchase coffee already ground, it will never taste as fresh as when you grind your own and then brew immediately. That ground coffee from the store may have been ground months ago as it made its way through distribution, warehousing, and then finally to the supermarket shelf.
Once ground, coffee should be consumed within two hours. If you must pre-grind, store small batches in tightly sealed containers or packets then keep them in a dark place. Remember the clock is ticking. Ground coffee will decline in flavor as time goes by. Air is the enemy, so keep those small containers closed tightly. Once you open a container of ground coffee and expose it to air, use it immediately.
Should I refrigerate coffee beans?
No, never refrigerate coffee—raw, roasted, or ground. Refrigeration creates moisture, which is coffee’s worst enemy because it turns it bitter and awful.
Further, each time you open a refrigerated container of coffee to remove some, you expose it to warm air. When you close it up and put it back in the refrigerator, you’ve created more moisture, which makes for horrible coffee.
Does freezing coffee preserve freshness?
While refrigeration is too moist for coffee, the freezer is too dry.
I do not recommend freezing coffee, but if you have so much you believe you have no other choice, freeze in small batches in tightly lidded or vacuum-sealed containers. Once you remove a small container from the freezer, just set it on a shelf to thaw. Never refreeze.
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