Most coffee people would agree that nothing is more off-putting to an avid coffee drinker than stale coffee.
Ugh! Imagine looking forward to tasting those wonderfully complex Colombian espresso coffee beans you've had a few weeks back. You carefully make yourself a shot, then quickly take a sip. Expecting a hit of the best espresso roast coffee, what you get, instead, is bland, with notes of wood and sand and a hint of mould in your mouth.
C'est La Vie
But what can you do? Even the best espresso coffee beans will go stale. And the darker they are, the quicker they will go bad.
Oxidation causes coffee beans to go from yummy to unsavoury. The oxygen in the air interacts with the compounds in your coffee. This leads to a gradual breakdown and loss of flavour, while the oxidation of the oils in coffee leads to an unpleasant taste.
But don't lose hope. Consider these five coffee bean storage rules to live by in your quest for coffee bean storage perfection (or something close to that).
1. Keep Them in the Dark
Coffee goes stale in the light, and especially faster in direct sunlight. If you want your favourite coffee beans to remain fresher for longer, you need to keep them away from the light.
Thus, given a choice between a transparent glass container and an opaque metal flask, choose the latter as your coffee storage option. You don't need to see your coffee beans; what you need to do is keep them in the dark.
2. Keep Them Cool
The cooler the coffee beans are, the longer they will stay fresh. A temperature other than an absolute zero will lead to chemical changes in your coffee. These changes will be gradual, but they are inescapable and inevitable. Therefore, the hotter it is where you keep your coffee, the faster your coffee will degrade.
The proof that heat degrades coffee is that you use hot water to extract flavour from coffee grounds. Why? It is the heat that helps break down coffee compounds.
So, store your coffee in a cool place. Do not keep it in the cupboard above your stove or the pantry beside your oven or refrigerator. Anywhere with hot spots is not a good place to store your prized flask of roasted Colombia coffee beans.
3. Not the Refrigerator!
Yes, ideally, you'd want to store your coffee somewhere cold. However, don't be tempted to put your pack of espresso roast coffee beans in the refrigerator.
Coffee oxidation is not the only enemy of coffee. Coffee is hygroscopic. In other words, coffee readily absorbs moisture from its environment.
If you put an open pack of your favourite Colombian blend coffee in the fridge, it will start absorbing the moisture in the surrounding air and, with it, the odd assortment of odours in your refrigerator. With enough time in the fridge, even the best espresso blend of fruity coffee will taste like a vile blend of leftover food flavours.
Well, perhaps you may be able to prevent this from happening if you can keep your coffee beans dry in an airtight container first, then keep the container in the refrigerator. But keeping your coffee beans in the fridge is just too much of a risk. So, don't do it.
4. Keep Them Airtight and Dry
Oxidation requires air, particularly oxygen. Thus, the key to keeping your favourite coffee beans fresh is by keeping air away from them.
Coffee canisters minimise coffee bean exposure to air, and there are three types of coffee canisters when it comes to their degree of effectiveness.
1. Airtight Containers
Airtight containers ensure that no new air can come in once you seal them shut. However, whatever air is already in the canister stays there.
2. Air Displacement Containers
Air displacement containers push any air out of the container first before sealing in the coffee. Thus, there's far less air in air displacement containers than in airtight containers.
3. Air Evacuation Containers
These are vacuum containers. They evacuate the air first to create a vacuum (or as close to a vacuum as possible) before sealing the coffee within.
Among these three types of containers, vacuum containers make the best storage option for coffee beans.
A well-known coffee consultant and online personality, James Hoffman, cupped coffee he stored in an assortment of coffee storage canisters. He put identical beans (from the same batch, lightly roasted for espresso) in different storage canisters, held the beans for six weeks, then cupped them in a blind taste test.
He noticed that beans stored in vacuum canisters yielded a little more sweetness and clarity than those kept in air displacement and airtight containers. Furthermore, he saw less channelling in the vacuum-stored coffee when he made espresso using the beans.
5. Fourteen Days Tops
If you must store coffee, try storing it for no longer than two weeks. This makes a good rule of thumb to follow.
This should also guide your coffee buying decisions. In other words, buy only as much coffee as you can consume in fourteen days.
Fresh Is Best
Of course, freshly roasted is best every time. However, you can't be buying freshly roasted coffee every day and, unless it's your job, you probably can't be roasting a fresh batch daily either.
So, like most coffee drinkers, all you can do is try to extend the life of your coffee beans for as long as possible. Use the five rules to live by above, and do the best you can.If you're ready for a batch of some wonderfully complex fruity espresso, shop now.