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Dec 7, 2007 07:11 PM

How to store coffee [Moved from Home Cooking board]

A little while ago someone was talking about coffee and storage and such - it wasn't the main topic - and people were saying that coffee beans shouldn't be frozen but, instead, be kept sealed away from light and in an airtight container. Who says that?

We buy bulk beans in those bags with the folding tops. When the top is folded and the metal tabs are in place, it is probable that the container is airtight. We could leave it on a shelf at 65 degrees or so. Would that suffice according to the experts? My son thinks that "airtight" means we have to suckerbag the product, which seems a bit extreme.

So what is the authoritative word?

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  1. my brother is an avid coffee afficionado who owns a coffee shop & roasts his own blends. His expert advice on storing coffee beans is: in sealed glass jars (never plastic) away from light. definitely NEVER in the freezer. when I buy coffee I immediately transfer it out of those bags (actually not airtight if truth be told) and into a glass jar with a hinged rubber sealed lid & it stays fresh indefinitely. also chyro vac'd works well for bulk purchases. but why buy bulk? why not buy fresh every week or two?? that's what coffee gourmandos do.. hope this helps! from the coffee obsessed Pacific Northwest

    13 Replies
    1. re: foiegrasfan

      Thanks for the tips, but may I ask why glass and not plastic? I am very curious, as I currently am storing my coffee beans in plastic containers, but will change if that is no good for the beans.

      1. re: MacArthur Mike

        i'm just guessing here.. but i know plastic and oil are molecularly similar and bind to each other... so you could never get the container really clean... and coffee oil goes rancid quickly and easily....

        but as i said just a guess

        1. re: thew

          Plastic jars gives off volutile chemicals used in their manufacturing, which would surely react with the coffee beans.

          I used to store the beans in the freezer, but now I still put them in a ceramic or porcelain storage jar like Gevalia was sending out for a while, then put them in the refrigerator. But I agree it is wiser to buy a smaller week or two amount more often. Then the refrigerator may not be necessary to store. Freezing causes the moisture in the bean to crystalize just like in other frozen foods depending on the level of water in the foods. Ever hear of Freezer Burn!
          Since I have switched to Green and Oolong Teas full time, I have an occasional cup of decaf coffee after dinner. But it has to be good decaf or I will pass. Have gotten to the point, where i will wait to get home for that cup of coffee rather then get a mediocre brew at the restaurant. Nothing spoils a nice meal like coffee, that was on the too hot burner too long!

          1. re: nutrition


            Do you have a link that we can read to see the data on this?


            1. re: jfood

              Do you mean data on plastic emitting volatile chemicals used in the manufacturing process of it? If so a search will have to be necessary on the different types of plastic used for foods in stores, etc.

              1. re: nutrition


                Your statement "which would surely react with the coffee beans" is fairly strong. Is there data to support this concern?

                Since jfood does not cook in the plastics plant, he is not as concerned in the chemical reaction there, but is concerned if there is scientific research describing the reaction of the plastic containers in his house with his coffee beans.


                1. re: jfood

                  Just keep doing what your doing and don't worry about it, which I am sure you won't do. :)

                  1. re: jfood

                    I was searching for storage answers and found this older thread. I also wish we'd get hard, scientific data. I regularly hear anecdotal warnings but nothing concrete. It seems that the FDA is SO overly cautious that, were it even close to dangerous, they'd have been pulled off the market. But I'm really open to change but I need just the facts, m'am :)

        2. re: foiegrasfan

          Why not frozen? I have always kept my whole beans that way, so now am wondering. And LOL I swear the Pacific Northwest folks bleed expresso.

          1. re: Quine

            I also usually freeze my coffee immediately after buying. I don't thaw it out, but grind while frozen...the whirring thaws it anyway. I put the coffee package into a thick plastic freezer bag and leave it there til used up...usually about a week and a half.

            Maybe I should change my habits and put it into the glass canning jars with the rubber seal and snap-closed lids....hmmm.

            1. re: oakjoan

              I've learned that freezing the beans separates the natural oils and therefore compromises the flavor and quality of the bean once it is ground for use. I really don't know if this is indeed true but in all my years of selling coffee makers that is what all the "experts" say. We store ours in an airtight ceramic container.

              As far as using a plastic container-a customer kept bringing back his cracked plastic storage container. After several returns we realized he was using it for coffee beans and they must be the culpret. (None of his other containers cracked that he used for sugar etc.)

              1. re: oakjoan

                oakjoan - That's exactly the type of container that I store mine in, and I've been doing so for years.

              2. re: Quine

                Some of us just bleed regular coffee...mind you, it's been french pressed, grown in the shade, and paid out the nose for!

                Here's a good article on freezing coffee beans. Makes a lot of sense to me. I just keep mine in quart mason jars in the pantry.

            2. I do as foisgras fan does and store my beans in a glass canning jar in a dark corner on my counter. But Harold McGee, my authority on all such things, says "Once roasted, whole coffee beans deep reasonably well for a couple of weeks at room temperature, or a couple of months in the freezer, before becoming noticeably stale. One reason that whole beans keep as long as they do is that they're filled with carbon dioxide, which helps exclude oxygen from the porous interior."

              1. From the website:


                "What do air, moisture, heat and light do to your coffee?
                Well, coffee beans have a natural chemical process they go through after roasting. After the beans have been roasted they degas for three days. That means that carbon dioxide gas is released from the beans when they are at room temperature. Even after they emit the carbon dioxide the chemical composition of the beans continues to change. Air, moisture, heat and light affect the process. An increased amount of air, as from an open container, will cause oxidation and make the beans become stale. If moisture is added to the beans, like freezing, the flavor becomes weaker. Just like any chemical process heat and light make it go faster. The beans’ chemical process is affected the same way. If your beans are in a particularly warm or hot place with a lot of light the process will be faster and the beans will become stale much quicker than usual."

                jfood keeps in the container that was included in his Foodsaver. Beans go in, air goes out. Jfood has never heard of the "no plastic" rule and will have to look into this week.

                11 Replies
                1. re: jfood

                  If you get to the bottom of this Jfood, will you please post your what you find here? I am very interested in this thread, and am wondering if I should make the switch from plastic to glass. Many thanks.

                  1. re: MacArthur Mike

                    Here is one article jfood found. he will keep his beans in plastic containers unless someone else has some more authoritative articles.


                    Will ask Nutrition above to post

                    1. re: jfood

                      Hi Jfood...

                      I own a coffee house and get my bean custom roasted delivered once a week in 5lb bulk nitrogen flushed vac sealed bags. Once I cut the vac seal, the rest of the bag goes into a large Rubbermaid canister container, under the counter away from the light. I have never had an issue with bean being in plastic and quite frankly, I doubt I would want to take the chance with glass.

                      Also, if people take a minute and think about the typical coffee house, INCLUDING Starbucks and Dunkin, they also get large vac sealed bags of bean. Once theirs is opened, it is dumped into a hopper to be ground. Granted, Im sure they go through far more bean that just a home brewing schmo, but that evil oxygen is in every Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts too.

                      I would wash your container in hot, soapy water and give it a vinegar water rinse when your out of bean before putting in fresh. I use NSF sanitizer, but that is because of restaurant regs. At home, its the same thing, only smaller in size.

                      1. re: chelleyd01

                        Thanks chell and speaking for the home brew schmo's jfood has never even washed between uses for the coffee but will in the future. never bad to give an extra vish to the container that holds the magic that allows you to move from sleep to awake every morning.

                        1. re: chelleyd01

                          Just a question? Why would you use a vinegar rinse and not a coffee specific cleaner such as calviza? I would think the vinegar would leave a lasting if faint smell?

                          1. re: chipman

                            Vinegar dissapates into nothing. It cuts through any soap residue that might be left behind. When I say rinse I mean like 1/4 cup in the container full of water...swish and done. There is no left over smell. Why waste " a coffee specific cleaner" ($$$$) when you aren't cleaning a brew pot? Vinegar is like a buck for a giant bottle and gets the job done. Also, running it through home coffee pots a few times cuts through the hard water deposits, lime scale and oils the grind leaves behind.

                            Also, calviza is okay...Puro Caffe is much better when using in a cafe situation where I have brewed 30+ pots before 7am. Home use being 2-3 pots a day, Im sticking to good old white vinegar!

                        2. re: jfood

                          I looked at your cited reference above and I have decided not to strain my eye anymore with small faint type like that. And I am amazed at how much there is around the internet these days. What I read was that PET is safe for bottled water and sodas. Nothing about PET and coffee beans. Plus there are many OTHER types of plastic, that is NOT safe. Coffee bean oils do turn rancid with time and contaminate, so it would be wise to wash the container out from time to time. More so if it is made of some plastic.
                          The best defense against all these sorts of chemicals is to avoid them, rather then take a chance on N's long term health.

                          If the reference says there is no problem with the chemicals, I will still avoid them rather then take the chance. You have no idea what a high percentage of people believe all these type of industry generated disclaimers found for food safety and proceed to ingest them. But they don't have even have basic high school chemistry or physics for basic understanding of what is really sold to them! Just look at how many still use aluminum pots and pans for cooking! Inexpensive, but implicated in Alzeimers Disease.
                          Besides I have a stack of Gevalia porcelain storage jars on show on the kitchen cabinents to use.
                          But you are free to do as you see fit!

                          1. re: nutrition

                            just as a side note.. that aluminum link to Alzheimer's was, as i recall, pretty much debunked almost as soon as it came out.... now back to the discussion of how to best protect your morning drug fix from spoilage

                            1. re: nutrition


                              Thanks for the feedback and it appears it's a philosophical disagreement, but if you feel more comfortable not placing in plastic, go for it. Jfood has lived through all the "scares" that have come across the wire beginning with hiding under his desk in the first grade in the event of a nuclear attack (he is still having a brain cramp as to why his wood desk would protect him).

                              And jfood appreciates the head's up on cleaning the container, whether plastic or glass and is putting that in place as well.

                              Now onto the important task of replacing his coffee grinder which died on him after a wonderful 10-year relationship. Not a good way to start the week.

                              1. re: jfood

                                jfood, you might want to check out the Baratza line of grinders. We bought the $200 model (granted, even I think that's way over the top and the $100 model is probably completely sufficient) but we couldn't be any happier with it.


                        3. re: jfood

                          Pretty simple actually - coffee oils can't permeate glass and the glass can be washed free of those oils with a normal detergent. Coffee oils will permeate most plastic containers.

                          A stainless container would work if you're using a cleaner like Cafiza each time you empty it. That will clean out the coffee oils while leaving virtually zero chemical residue. It's what the pros use. Using any other type of cleaner would introduce other residues and tastes to your container.

                          cccweb has the freezing thing correct. If you're stuck with a five pound bag or some other large quantity, freezing is an option that can extend the life of the beans (days/weeks, not months). You want your freezer to be in the 0F range and you only want to scoop what you need from the freezer and then grind it immediately before any condensation can take place.

                          And as far as "keeps indefinitely" in a glass container - nope. Oxidation is an irreversible process. Even if you're buying whole bean in a one-way valve bag (gas can escape but air cannot enter) where nitrogen has been added as a preservative and to displace oxygen - once that bag is opened, beans will begin to degrade and continue to do so. Unless you can repack in a total vacuum, there's no way to stop that process.

                          Storing in an airtight container simply reduces the amount of oxygen exposure, it does not eliminate it. Thus degradation will continue. Which is why coffee generally starts to taste stale after 10-14 days after opening the bag (and for discerning coffee tasters, much earlier than that.)

                          Tons of sources on this on CoffeeGeek, Sweet Maria's, coffeed, WLL, Home-Barista and others. And someone geekier than I am on this will probably correct/amend some of my statements to tell you coffee is only fresh for a few seconds ;-)

                        4. The issue with freezing is not the beans being in the freezer, but rather the beans going into and out of the freezer repeatedly. Even a short time out of the freezer allows for a slight bit of thawing and condensation, then when the beans are returned to the freezer, the condensation can form small ice crystals. Eventually, this can affect the oil content and nature of the beans and negatively effect the quality of the beans. If you were to bring some beans home, leave them in the freezer for weeks or months in an airtight bag or container and then take them out, leave them at room temperature, grind them and brew with them within, say, a week, you'd probably have very good results.

                          We keep ours at room temperature in a stainless steal canister with an airtight seal. There's no vacuum process or anything, just a good seal that prevents any new air getting in. We go through our beans within about 10 days from the time the original containers are opened. There is definitely a difference between the first few days and the last few in terms of overall quality of the coffee, but there's not much we can do about that without simply drinking more coffee every day to go through them faster. It's not enough of a difference to be worth considering tossing the last few days worth of beans.

                          For the OP, I think, personally, I'd get a container to put the beans in instead of the bag...and I'd choose a light-proof, good sealing container and then I'd leave them on the shelf you're already using.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ccbweb

                            The best coffee is made at home from quality green coffeebeans, that were just roasted. It makes a very big difference for a wonderful taste and aroma. Green beans store better, then roasted beans. Back when I was a coffee addict, green beans were difficult to find, but worth it for the taste treat.

                            Now my mission is to find the better Green Teas like Tie Kuan Yin, which is always a delight for several cup infusions from one teaspoonsul of leaves. Also, a fraction of the price of coffee beans

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              I buy my beans in bulk (5 or 6lb at a time) from an online retailer (, and they suggest (and I follow) to freeze the ones you aren't using right now, and keep the current beans in the refrigerator. I agree that the warning about freezing is the taking it in and out of the freezer on a daily basis.

                            2. I think it keeps best in the freezer but I'm not a fanatic coffee drinker.