Of the small pleasures in life, there are few better than opening a fresh bag of coffee from your favorite roaster. The delicious and powerful aroma quickly fills the room, bringing a smile to anyone near – all is right in the world. If you’re taking the plunge into the specialty coffee scene, you must know how to properly store your beans to ensure quality – coffee waits for no one! Here’s a quick overview on choosing and storing coffee.

Let’s assume you’ve already done the research and have picked out an exceptional new coffee (perhaps through a Positive Energy Coffee subscription!). If not, no worries! When picking out a fresh bag, pay attention to a few things:

  1. Roast Date
  2. Whole Bean
  3. Package Type

It may appear obvious, but choosing a coffee that was roasted more recently is generally a better decision. Coffee truly begins to hit its stride about 12-48 hours after roasting (depending on the bean). So, purchasing a bag a few days after roasting is perfectly fine! Roasters that do not label the roast date may not have confidence in the freshness (*Cough* Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Green Mountain…). Avoid if you can!

Hopefully you have a coffee grinder floating around the kitchen. Grinding your own beans prior to brewing is a must. The National Coffee Association estimates that coffee begins to lose its fresh taste about 15 minutes after grinding. Coffee that is pre-ground, sitting eagerly on the grocery or café shelf, is simply stale already.

Ground coffee loses quality rapidly because of oxidation, which occurs as oxygen penetrates the soft, porous cellular structure of the beans. This is the same process that stales bread, fruit, veggies, and basically all other food. Whole bean coffee drastically reduces the ability for oxidation to occur, which keeps your exceptional coffee fresh longer!

In addition to purchasing whole beans, the physical coffee bag will help determine the coffee’s longevity. As you may now imagine, any package that allows air in is detrimental. This includes paper bags that are thin, or any bag sealed with a zip tie/tin tie.

At Positive Energy Coffee, we seal our foil-lined bags with a thermal heat sealer to ensure that no air can pass through. In addition, we use a one-way air valve to allow gas out but not in. This is important because coffee will “degas” carbon dioxide heavily in the first 12-48 hours after roasting. Allowing this carbon dioxide to pass outside of the bag will reduce bitterness in your cup!

Now, there is a lot of controversy in the coffee world about refrigerating or freezing coffee. Here’s our take:

As discussed, the #1 enemy of coffee is oxygen. The #2 enemy of coffee, however, is condensation. Refrigerators and freezers are packed with condensation, which will annihilate the quality of your coffee. In addition, the fridge/freezer tends to house other aromatic foods (garlic, cheese, frozen shrimp…). Condensation acts as a conduit and opened bags of coffee may absorb these unwanted aromas. Finally, repeatedly removing your coffee from the fridge/freezer everyday will continuously alter the bean temperature. This causes the cellular structure of your beans to break and may also pull oils to the bean surface – essentially pulling the flavors and aromas from the coffee.

The only time that may be appropriate for storing coffee in the fridge/freezer is if you plan to brew this coffee further in the future (one month +). So, if you plan on storing coffee for greater than one month in the fridge/freezer, ensure that the bag is fully sealed without a valve and remember to allow the coffee to come to room temperature before brewing. Once the coffee is taken out of the fridge/freezer, do not refridge/refreeze!

It’s safe to say fresh coffee is wonderful! To help keep your coffee fresh and tasty, remember to purchase freshly roasted and whole bean coffee, and store in an airtight, room temperature environment, and out of direct sunlight!

We at SlackTide Coffee love to hear from you. If you have any additional questions or comments about any and all things coffee, feel free to drop us a line!