While insects are a coffee bean's worst enemy before roasting, their worst enemy once hitting your kitchen will be moisture, air, light and heat. This is why the method you use to store your coffee will have a direct impact on flavor, aroma and overall quality of your cup of coffee.
Does Coffee Expire or Go Bad?
Coffee does not technically expire like many other food items in your pantry. However the overall freshness will start to fade over time. This is why you will often see "best by" or "Use By" on the packaging and rarely see an actual expiration date. The FDA does not currently have a set standard for expiration dates on coffee because it is a shelf stable item, meaning it will last for years in it's original unopened packaging.
So while coffee will not expire, it will also not stay fresh forever. As coffee becomes stale it will loose much of its flavor, aroma and overall strength.
Will Stale Coffee Make Me Sick?
Older coffee, or stale coffee, will not make you sick so long as the packaging has been sealed and no outside bacteria has entered into the bag or storage container. Even in K-Cups which are known for being kept well beyond the use by dates, the coffee will not cause illness or harm.
At worst, it will make your sick of stale coffee pretty quickly.
What Are the Best Ways to Keep Coffee Fresh Longer?
- Buy Whole Bean Coffee
One of the simplest ways to keep your coffee fresh and tasty for a longer time is to buy whole bean instead of per-ground coffee. Ground coffee will always loose its freshness faster as there is a lot more surface area which allows oxygen to break down the coffee molecules. This is why quality coffee shops will grind beans right before brewing your morning cup of coffee.
- Avoid Storing in Glass Jars
Light is not a friend of your coffee beans. Avoid using glass jars as this will let light damage your coffee beans. A process called photodegradation, which breaks down the proteins, fats and other flavor aspects of coffee will leave you with a less than gourmet coffee flavor in just a short period of time.
As an added tip also avoid storing your coffee on kitchen counters that are near windows. This will keep your beans out of sunlight and extend the freshness.
- Store In A Cool and Dry Place
Keeping your coffee beans in a cool and dry place will also help prolong the lifespan of your beans. Moisture and heat will increase the rate at which your beans become stale.
- Buy Smaller Size Bags
While those enormous five pound bags may save you a few dollars they will cost you a quality coffee in the long run. Unless you are brewing for a navy ship full of sailors each day, those jumbo bags will become stale way before you hit the bottom of the bags. Smaller 10-12 ounce bags are the perfect size.
- Check Roast Dates on Bags
Did you know that a large portion of the coffee you purchase at the grocery store can have a long journey to your shopping cart. While moving from the roaster, to the distributor, to the grocery store distribution network and finally the store shelf it can mean 3-6 months before you brew the first cup. Order from small batch roasters can avoid this issue as many will ship right after roasting.
- Use An Air Tight Storage Container
Using an air tight storage container, especially one with dark sides to protect the coffee beans from light, will be your best option in preserving the freshness of your beans. The internal plunger forces out air before locking in place. These will help keep out oxygen, moisture and light. Barvivo makes a quality air tight canister at a reasonable price.
- Avoid Putting Your Coffee in the Freezer
While this has been a long debated topic the fact is coffee beans will absorb moisture and smells while in your freezer. Unless you are using a completely air tight style container, moisture will slowly make its way into the container. Along with it will be all the aromas of the steak, chicken, seafood and anything else you throw in there.
If you stick to the methods listed above you can avoid the need to freeze those extra pounds of coffee beans.
The quality of the cup of coffee you drink each morning will be dependent on how you take care of your beans, assuming you are buying higher quality beans to begin with. One of the easiest ways to produce a sub par cup of coffee is to purchase discount coffee beans. Yes, that five pound bag of coffee for $8 at your local discount store is too good to be true. Even gas stations wont touch those bags.
There is no secret storage method for junk or old coffee beans so do yourself a favor and before you spend money on a NASA grade specialty storage container simply find fresh roasted coffee.
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Do you have other tricks for preserving your beans? Let us know below.