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Storing Coffee

  • c

I was hoping a coffee expert among you could lend some advice on storing coffee.

How long does a well sealed bag of whole bean coffee stay fresh, and what's the best way to store it?

Also, how long does freshly ground coffee stay fresh? And how long will it keep in the fridge (assuming that's the best place to keep it)?

As a gift, I recently purchased my girlfriend's father (a true coffee lover) coffee beans from some of the very best roasters and coffeehouses in town - Graffeo, Groundworks, Peets, and The Coffee Roaster, among others. I now feel it may have been a mistake, because the guy can't possibly drink that much coffee within a couple of weeks.. and I'm not so sure that beans will stay fresh for very long..

Any advice?

Thanks in advance for any and all help - much appreciated.

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  1. here's my experience.

    i buy whole beans from monmouth coffee house to make espresso coffee in my pavoni. i buy the grains 300 grams at a time, and store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. i grind the beans as needed in my rancilio grinder. after all this fuss, i get sensational coffee for the first two days. from day three onwards, the drop in quality is noticeable till i'm making drek in my pavoni by day seven.

    buying a whole lot of beans at the same time is a huge mistake .. you want to get them as freshly roasted as possible. storing them in the fridge etc only dries the oils out from the beans faster than leaving the beans outside to begin with. the trick is to try and slow down the evaporation of the oils as much as you can, but whatever you do, by day seven its hopeless.

    2 Replies
    1. re: howler

      My thanks to all of you who've replied - this site is absolutely wonderful for learning about stuff like this, and it's people like you who make it so.

      So, in regard to what you said howler, that, "by day seven it's hopeless," ...what does this mean then when it comes to supermarket coffee?? I drink coffee myself, and will (sometimes) buy some of the bulk whole beans they sell at my local Ralphs... beans that I am certain have been sitting there for at least a few days.. if not for many days.

      I'm going to guess that the answer is that the best coffee is always fresh roasted coffee... yeah?
      Small batches, used quickly - that seems to be the consensus.

      By the way, once ground, how long does it stay fresh? And should ground coffee be stored in the fridge, or in the oft-recommended "cool, dark place?"

      1. re: CawfeeTawk

        Sounds to me like you need to find a reputable coffee house and try what real coffee should taste like! I think the pivotal moment for me in terms of coffee was the day I opened up a peaberry blend that I'd just brought home from Hawaii. I just threw it in the coffee machine like usual, but was completely blown away with the results. It was smooth, creamy, and sweet all by itself! The thought of putting anything into the coffee actually seemed wrong to me!

        After three days, the coffee tasted noticeably different. It wasn't that I was bored with it; it just tasted more and more stale and un-unique with each passing day.

        By the end of the week, it tasted like Foldgers. So sad.

        It was my own fault for not taking great care with storage (ziploc on top of kitchen counter), but I only had 1/2 a pound anyway.

        But from that experience on, I've been more careful about what coffee I buy and how much of it I keep around. It's such a huge difference! Post on the board for your neck of the woods and find yourself some great coffee.

    2. I buy small bags of whole bean coffee (Fairly Traded/Equal Exchange from my church...$5.00 for 12 ounce bag of Cafe Salvador thru the Presbyterian Coffee project which guarantees small farmers and their workers a fair wage) and keep that bag in a cool dark closet in airtight container. I grind it up fresh as I need it and keep the freshly ground coffee in the freezer in a small baggy. Using it quickly is the important thing...I think I've read that once the beans have even been roasted, they start to lose flavor. I used to freeze the beans but have read that it isn't necessary to do that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Val
        JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

        The beans' flavor peaks about 24 hours after they've been roasted. Before that time, they are still outgassing carbon dioxide, which masks the flavor of the beans.

      2. c
        ChowFun (derek)

        Perhaps this site may be of help...

        Link: http://www.coffeegeek.com/

        1. I buy 4 pounds of whole bean coffee from Graffeo every month. I order by phone and if my order is placed before 11:00 am, it is sent out that same day, the day it is roasted. I get the beans the next day, put them into glass jars (quart size) and store in the freezer all but the one jar that is on the shelf in a dark cupboard. One jar lasts about 4 or 5 days. This way deterioration is retarded. I notice no loss of quality in the last jar, but maybe my palate is not as sensitive as some others. Of course, it is ideal to be able to buy freshly roasted coffee in small amounts very often, but this is not practical for most of us.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jeremy Newel

            I was talking about this very topic today with the guys from Blue Bottle Coffee, the current "in" roaster in our area, because my daughter in NY requsted some whole beans from them and I won't be headed there until a week from Monday. To make a long story short, they talked me into coming back next Saturday to get the latest roast, but did say that they recommended neither refrigerating nor freezing, just the proverbial "cool dry place" in an air-tight container.

            Link: http://eatingchinese.org

          2. My perception is that roasted beans are best if used within one week or so and ground should be used immediately. I do not think freezing or refrig makes much of a difference, but who can argue with "cool, dry place." It is not that the coffee becomes undrinkable, just that with a side by side comparison there is a difference. My further perception is that livelier, more acidic coffees such as Kenyan deteriorate more rapidly than say, Ethiopian Harare.

            I roast my own coffee which is easy, not time consuming and cost effective. Green ( unroasted) beans are good for many months. My surprise, albeit a small one, is that roasting coffee smells like fresh grass burning not like "freshly roasted coffee." That aroma takes 24-48 hours to develop depending on the coffee and the roast. There a a number of reliable suppliers on the Internet. I do recommend www.sweetmarias.com. The site is exhaustive and the prices and service are top-notch.

            1. What about ground coffee that has been vacuum sealed?

              I ask because I ordered coffee off of the internet from Dunkin' Donuts (who I have been told by countless Dunkin' Donuts fans is very good), and it arrived in a vacuum sealed bag. I haven't opened it yet.. but I'm wondering, until I do open it, should it stay perfectly fresh.. being vacuum sealed?

              Thanks again for all of your insights and comments..

              1 Reply
              1. re: CawfeeTawk

                Vacuum sealed does work - the question is what happens starting the minute you open it.

                My opinion is that Dunkin Donuts coffee is really pretty awful stuff - the best I can say is that it is bland and indistinctive. For that class of blended, medium-roasted coffee, I'd recommend the Eight O'Clock brand before DD. I also feel that buying any coffee pre-ground in bulk is a real waste - the first pot after the vacuum seal is opened tastes drinkable, but it goes bad so quickly that even the second pot tastes worse, (the more surface is exposed to oxygen, the quicker it oxydizes - so that pre-grinding insures the maximum oxydation).

                But my in-laws drink coffee all day - Maxwell House, in a drip maker that they never empty until the end of the day. The first pot is very week (about 1/2 of the recommended amount) - then they just keep adding fresh ground coffee - one tablespoon per pot - and running more water through. They were products of the depression, but whatever the reason, this is what they liked, and they detested our fresh roasted (within the week) coffee. They couldn't understand anyone paying so much for coffee and thought the entire process of buying coffee so often from a specialty store was pretentious. While we immediately transfer our coffee to a thermos-hot pot, they nuked their coffee a lot - to me this is about as disgusting a thing to do to a cup of coffee as there is - the re-boiling of the oils just brings out all the worst tastes of coffee.

                So there's no accounting for taste. While we can all develop palates, there's no value judgement in someone liking bulk ground Dunkin Donuts coffee vs. Starbucks vs. home-roasted. As with so many other foods, the thing to do is to take some time and try some different options - side by side, as much as possible. It's one thing to drink DD because you like it better than Kona, it's another to drink DD because that's all you know or care about.

                Keep the Dunkin Donuts pre-ground stuff in sealed bags or ball jars and hope for the best. Next time, order whole bean, and grind it right before brewing each batch. Buy some specialty coffees - Kenya AA, Jamaican Blue Mountain or Hawaiian Kona - from a reputable source (these can be expensive, but buy small quantities to start). Try different ways of brewing - compare drip vs. french press. Try fresh roasted - roast your own, or get some from a specialty store (it's true that you need to wait a day or two after roasting for the best flavor).

                My wife and I try a lot of different things, but go back to our basic vacuum system more often than not. A few weeks ago there was a thread on cold brewing, so we sent off for the kit and tried it. We think it's great to keep the cold brewed concentrate in the fridge for iced coffee and for individual cups in the afternoon or at night. I keep an electric hot pot filled for my tea, so the concentrate is very convenient. But we still make the morning pot on the vacuum system - the cold brew is definitely less acidic, but some of the fullness of the flavor is gone. Is it better than making individual cups with a french press? It's easier (nothing else to wash), and iced coffee is especially easier.