I only recently figured out the magic formula for brewing an excellent cup of coffee in my ancient at-home coffeemaker. It took many an experiment to get the order of events just right, but a major game-changer was learning exactly how to store coffee beans and ground coffee. Because, yes, where you’re stowing your coffee makes a significant difference.
We asked three experts—both coffee shop owners and caffeine connoisseurs—for their top tips on exactly how and where we should be keeping coffee beans, ground coffee and brewed coffee to ensure we’re getting a perfect cup of joe every single time. Here’s what the pros had to say.
Lucky for everyone, the best solution is also the easiest. “The best way to store coffee beans is to leave them in the bag they came in,” says Austin Childress, director of education at Carabello Coffee Roasters in Newport, KY, and featured expert on Roasty. The key here is to really limit the amount of time the beans spend exposed to air and oxygen, as this is what causes your coffee to start breaking down (aka, losing flavor and intensity). “After each use, be sure to compress all of the air out of the bag and roll it up tight. If you wanted to go one step further, you could use an airtight container that has the ability to flush air out via a vacuum pump. The key is to disturb the coffee as little as possible so that the gases that are released post-roast stay in the bag.”
According to Selina Viguera, barista and café leader at Blue Bottle Coffee in Los Angeles, it’s also very important to keep your bag of beans away from heat or sunlight. If you follow these tips, you can likely leave your coffee out on your counter or tucked in a cabinet for up to one month before it starts to drop off in freshness.
Every coffee expert we spoke to recommended grinding fresh beans immediately before brewing, but if that’s just not the way you roll you can certainly continue buying pre-ground coffee. Much like whole beans, these should be kept in the bag you bought them in, says Childress, and you should squeeze any excess air out of the bag before sealing it.
How to Store Excess Coffee Beans or Grounds
Let’s say you bought more bags of coffee than you plan to use in a month. What’s the best way to stow them for later? That depends on how long they’ll be sitting around before use. According to Allie Caran, director of education at Partner’s Coffee in Brooklyn, NY, “Coffee can last for months stored in a cool, dark and dry environment,” like the back of your cabinet.
But what if you purchased in bulk and are hoping to store your coffee for an extended period of time? Childress recommends sticking beans or grounds in the freezer, albeit with some pretty specific instructions. “If you are not going to use your coffee immediately, put the [coffee] bag inside of a Ziploc bag, compress the air out of it and put it in the freezer.” You can stow coffee like this for a couple of months without fear of reducing that wonderfully deep flavor you love so much, unlike if you store it on your counter. “Once you are ready to use [the coffee], pull it out of the freezer and allow it to thaw completely,” says Childress. Just don’t try to refreeze it once it’s thawed—this is strictly a one-time-only kind of thing.
You should also avoid storing any beans or grounds you plan to use every day in the freezer (or the refrigerator, for that matter). The drastic change in temperature when you remove just a little bit of coffee from the freezer every day leads to excess moisture seeping into the beans, warns Viguera.
Whether you’re searching for the best way to keep coffee hot while in transit or you need to brew enough for a room full of party people, there is a hierarchy when it comes to keeping your coffee tasting hot and fresh for the longest amount of time.
“When brewing multiple cups of coffee or coffee for your commute, it is best to have it stored in a thermal dispenser or thermal tumbler,” says Caran. Her personal favorite is the 12-ounce MiiR Insulated Travel Tumbler with Locking Flip Lid ($25). Childress is a fan of both MiiR and Yeti and emphasized you should be looking for something that is double-walled with a closable spout (to avoid giving that heat any possible escape route).
If you’re leaving hot coffee out for guests at an event, an Airpot or another insulated vessel is your best option. And if possible, Childress recommends brewing directly into the thermal container. “If you transfer it to another server, you will lose a significant amount of heat,” so plan accordingly.
And what about cold brew? “Cold brew is best stored for up to two weeks. Store it in the vessel of your choice, as long as it has a lid that will keep any funky odors or flavors out that might be floating around in your fridge,” advises Childress.
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