Last Updated on August 8, 2023 by Barry Gray
I get it; coffee beans look amazing, especially in those fancy containers that can sit on your counter or kitchen shelves.
Coffee beans in great containers look like great ornaments. It’s their gorgeous smooth chocolaty shape and color, but don’t do it; you will ruin the beans.
Sunlight is a roasted coffee bean’s worse enemy, so if you store it in a container on your kitchen top, go for one that blocks light totally. Keep it away from heat and prevent moisture to ensure your coffee beans last longer.
But here comes the sad part. Most people don’t know how to store their coffee beans, resulting in a poorer cup. So, let’s stop that from happening.
Think About It – People Love Coffee Beans For Their Delicate Flavor
Coffee beans are perishable, and their flavor and aroma will degrade if not stored properly.
The best way to keep coffee beans is in an airtight, opaque container at room temperature. Use a dark container so dark that no light can enter, if possible.
Avoid storing coffee beans in the refrigerator or freezer, which can damage their flavor. If you have bought too much coffee and feel you must keep it this way, make sure you have a completely airtight container.
Even then, I recommend you purchase the highest quality you can.
The Great Freezer Debate
There is great debate on this one, and it is ongoing.
Some say you can freeze coffee beans. I find it dangerous, and I will explain why. If you do freeze them, there are specific ways to do this to minimize mold, for example.
And why should you take care? It’s because coffee beans are more delicate than you think, and there are certain things out there that work against them.
The Enemies of Coffee Beans
The four enemies of coffee beans are air, moisture, heat, and light. Any one of them can cause problems, so let’s go through each one to see how they can negatively impact your coffee beans.
The Problem of Air
The air causes the coffee beans to oxidize, which reduces their flavor and aroma. That’s really not something you want to happen.
After coffee beans go through the roasting procedure, they emit carbon dioxide gas which acts as a protective layer against oxidation for a limited time. But most carbon dioxide gas dissipates within a few days, leaving the beans susceptible to oxidation.
Air oxidation can cause the following changes in coffee beans, which to my mind, are the essential parts of coffee and flavor overall:
- The beans will lose their aroma.
- They become less flavorful.
- They develop a bitter taste.
- The beans may become discolored.
- They go stale.
Storing coffee beans in an airtight container is essential to prevent air oxidation. Keeping the beans in a cool, dark place would be best.
The Problem of Moisture
Moisture can cause the coffee beans to mold or spoil.
As you may know, mold is a fungus that can grow on coffee beans if not stored properly. The fungus can result in a loss of flavor and potentially harmful substances covering your valuable beans.
Consuming mold is hazardous to your health, so it is essential to be mindful of any signs of fungus on your ground coffee. It does pay to check both your coffee beans and coffee grounds from time to time.
Mold can grow on coffee beans for several reasons, including:
- Exposure to moisture: Coffee beans are hygroscopic. Hygroscopic is a fancy word meaning the beans will absorb and attract water. If coffee beans come in contact with moisture, they can become moldy, so freezing must be carried out carefully.
- Exposure to heat: Mold can grow at temperatures between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. So avoid storing it in a warm place.
- Exposure to light: Light can also damage coffee beans and make them more susceptible to mold growth.
If you see mold on coffee beans, throw them away, don’t try to wash the mold off, the toxin will remain there.
But here’s a scary thing. Mold toxins can cause a variety of health problems, including:
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
If you consume coffee beans with mold, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.
The Problem of Heat
Heat speeds up the oxidation process and makes the coffee beans taste bitter. This, in turn, leads to these problems arising with your coffee.
- Loss of flavor and aroma: Heat can cause the volatile compounds in coffee beans to evaporate, which leads to a loss of taste and smell. I’ve sometimes seen a significant price ‘deal’ in certain supermarkets and have bought in bulk, and it would have been great if I had a family of ten coffee drinkers.
- Increased bitterness: Heat can also cause the coffee beans to taste bitter because the heat causes the proteins in the beans to break down, releasing amino acids that contribute to bitterness.
- Decreased acidity: Heat can also reduce the taste of coffee beans because the heat causes the acids in the beans to evaporate. A lower acidity can lead to a flatter taste in the coffee.
- Increased risk of mold growth: Heat can also increase the risk of mold growth on coffee beans because mold can grow at temperatures between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When coffee beans are stored in a hot environment, they are more likely to become moldy. As discussed earlier, this can cause serious health concerns.
As you can see, exposing your coffee beans to too much heat before using them is not something I’d advise.
The Problem of Light
Light can also cause the coffee beans to lose their flavor and aroma. As with the issue surrounding heat, light will also affect your coffee beans in the following ways.
- Loss of flavor and aroma: Light can cause the volatile compounds in coffee beans to break down, which leads to a loss of taste and smell. There is no bigger letdown than opening your coffee bean dispenser, and there is no lovely coffee aroma. That is half the point of coffee.
- Increased bitterness: Light can also cause the coffee beans to taste bitter. Light causes the proteins in the beans to break down, releasing amino acids that contribute to bitterness.
- Decreased acidity: Light can also reduce the acidity of coffee beans because the light causes the acids in the beans to break down. A lower acidity can lead to a flatter taste in the coffee.
Your goal is to minimize any damage to your precious coffee beans. The best place for them is a dark, cool pantry.
But Can You Freeze Coffee Beans?
If you need to store coffee beans for a long time, freezing them is an option, but be careful. To use them later, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator.
Some freezer bags are airtight and have air-suction equipment, which would work well. However, I choose not to use the freezer.
Coffee beans love absorbing the flavors of the fridge and freezer, so you could get that horrible freezer-burn taste once making your cup. You risk mold if they do not thaw out and dry quickly enough.
The best thing to do with coffee is only to buy as little as needed. If you do decide to buy in bulk, you can store it for shorter periods and share the rest with some friends.
How to Store Coffee Beans Properly
So, when you think about the issues surrounding light, heat, air and moisture, how do you store coffee beans properly?
Get yourself some excellent containers; they will be airtight, opaque, and able to fit into your pantry.
Go for glass and ceramic containers, not plastic. Plastic can absorb the flavor of the coffee beans and vice versa. Keep them tight enough; they need air within the container to avoid moisture buildup.
Once you have your beans contained, please keep them in a darkened pantry.
The best part of coffee is its freshness; when the beans are freshly ground, the aroma is full throttle. It pays to know how to look after your coffee beans; as many know, good coffee can be pricey.
My Coffee Drinking Habit is Long-standing
I drink quite a lot of coffee, and my family enjoys drinking coffee alongside me. I can now gauge how much coffee I will use in a week, but I admit I have various coffee makers, pots, and other equipment, so I have an array of coffees.
This means I have to know how much to buy and how to store it effectively. I don’t get it ideally right each time, but the experience will tell you more or less how much to purchase in one go.
I learned the hard way. I have a reputation for being a stickler for storing my coffee overall, but it is with good reason.
Years ago, I served coffee to my manager after dinner. I had prepped the whole scenario, my wife had cooked a great meal, the dessert was excellent, and we decided to show off our great coffee with some cheese and biscuits to seal the deal.
But there was a problem, and it was all thanks to my inability, at that time, to correctly store my coffee beans.
Stale Coffee Rarely Goes Down Well
I had been storing some dark roast beans for a while in the package they came in, so off I went to make coffee while my wife regaled the couple with tales of my coffee interest and excellent coffee skills.
When I got to the kitchen, I realized there was a small hole in the bag the beans were sitting in. I checked them over, and they didn’t look any different, but you guessed it, they had no aroma.
My wife proudly presented the cheese platter, various crackers, and whole loaves of bread, and I offered the coffee. It was dead, flavorless, and tasted a bit like dishwater.
My boss, who was a kind person, said it tasted delicious, but both my wife and I were utterly mortified. I vowed never to let this happen again and to stop showing off my coffee skills with immediate effect!
Coffee Packaging is Quite Suitable for Short-term Use
I will leave some coffee in the packet; many packages have foil linings and are airtight if closed correctly. If the packet is not airtight with foil, I will transfer it to a suitable container.
I have a ‘coffee station’ and leave some out because I know the family will use those particular coffees quickly. My coffee station is nowhere near the window or sunlight.
I’d advise you to also place your own coffee station in the perfect spot in your kitchen. Your ability to produce decent coffee depends on it.
Watch Out for Discoloration
I always check the beans for mold or discoloration, which indicates the beans are growing mold at varying stages. This is the worst effect of a coffee bean going off.
If you see this, the best thing to do is toss them out.
I’ve received suggestions to store beans in the fridge, but I prefer something else to this approach. Beans can absorb unpleasant flavors from the refrigerator and create more moisture.
Seriously, while it can work storing them in the fridge, you need to take care thanks to those flavor absorbing properties. Let’s face it, there is nothing worse than onion-flavored coffee.
However, I have tried storing coffee beans in an airtight container in the fridge when I anticipate using them within two weeks. However, I will do my checks before using, and if you only use a bit at a time, ensure they are dried off before grinding. So it can be doable.
Coffee smells and tastes delicious, but only for a short time. The moment you open that packet of coffee or tin, the oxidation process begins, and for a time, this helps your beans to stay fresh until it doesn’t.
Your job is to keep the beans as intact as possible, typically finding suitable solid storage containers that help omit sunlight or dampness.
Once beans are secured in a suitable container, put them into a cool dark place, which will last a few weeks.
If you realize you have overstocked, you could use the refrigerator or freezer if you have 100% waterproof containers. If you do not, mold could be a problem that can cause you to fall ill.