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 from previous posts (here and here for example), 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 coffee is not inexpensive.
The day I spent $19.95 for 12 ounces of Costa Rican, La Minita Tarrazu roasted coffee beans 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.
Every year or so, we buy a full bag from the La Minita plantation. We’re talking 150 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 150 pounds of beans remain fresh and amazing right to the very last drop.
While there are plenty of myths out there when it comes to storing coffee, here is the simple truth:
RAW GREEN BEANS. Green coffee beans remain fresh indefinitely provided they are kept at room temperature in a dark location. Raw beans need to breathe, so a brown paper bag or burlap bag is ideal. Raw beans should not be vacuum-sealed.
ROASTED COFFEE BEANS. Small-batch roasting is ideal, which means I rarely have more than a pound of roasted coffee beans on hand at any time. Store roasted coffee beans in any container with a tightly fitting lid then keep it in a cupboard or pantry.
Roasted coffee beans are at their peak of flavor within two weeks of roasting. At three weeks, roasted coffee beans become semi-fresh. At four weeks, just OK. Older than a month, roasted coffee beans deteriorate to the point of becoming bitter.
Vacuum sealing roasted coffee beans in a Mason jar extends their useful life considerably—up to several months.
GROUND COFFEE. Ground coffee is the 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 a 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. 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.
REFRIGERATE OR FREEZE? Never refrigerate coffee—raw, roasted or ground. That creates moisture, which is coffee’s worst enemy, turning it bitter and awful.
Each time you open a refrigerated container 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.
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.
Interested in learning the ins and outs of home-roasting coffee? Keep watching as I’ll be sharing my secrets and resources in an upcoming post and very soon!