Everybody’s got an opinion on how to store coffee. The most popular schools of thought include:
- leaving coffee in a cool, dry space
- storing coffee in an airtight container
- keeping coffee out of heat or moisture
- leaving coffee whole-bean and only grinding before use
All good things. Very good things. But one area of debate is that of freezing coffee: some swear by it while others swear at it. When I recently visited my coffee friend, Rusty Angell, he brewed me a cup of Ethiopia Guji Sidamo that was so very delicious: bright, fruity and tart with a creamy finish. It was that fresh-tasting good-good… So you can imagine my surprise when he told me that he’d been storing said good-good in the freezer, a practice I’ve long been taught is a major no-go for coffee quality.
As it turns out, there is a right way to store coffee in your freezer: in vacuum-sealed bags!
If you’ve managed to get your hands on some truly wonderful coffee but are worrying about your ability to finish it before it begins to taste lackluster (anywhere from 2-3 weeks after the roast date, generally speaking), here’s what you should do:
First you’ve got to wait for your coffee to finish off-gassing. This process takes anywhere from 5-7 days after roasting, when the coffee beans have almost entirely released the gases trapped inside of them. You want these gases gone because you don’t want anything potentially breaking the airtight seal inside the bag: ever had freezer-burned ice cream? Yeah, that situation, only on your coffee. Not good.
Weigh out one week’s worth of coffee (whatever that amount may be for you) and vacuum seal that sucker. Rusty said he’s kept his bags of beans in the freezer for up to four months at a time: “It’s incredible to me how much it still blooms [when I brew it]. It’s got all the aroma, everything…”
When you notice that you’re running low on coffee, pull out a bag from your freezer and let sit out on your counter for 24 hours to get to room temperature. Be sure your beans are fully thawed before opening up the bag: if they’re still a little frozen, water from the air around them will condense on the beans and cause your coffee to stale faster.
Pro Tip: If you’re in a hurry, put the vacuum-sealed bag in a bowl of warm water for ten minutes to speed up the process. Since your beans are in an airtight container there’s no risk of water leaking into your bag to mess with your coffee quality.
Once you’ve got your beans thawed, you’re good to go! Use them within one week, keep them away from heat and moisture, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
You can also store your freshly-ground coffee in this manner. Simply grind your beans, portion ’em out and vacuum-seal that jank. Since we’re aiming for the ideal of “only grind what you need right now”, you’ll want to weigh out each bag with enough ground coffee to last you one day.
And there you have it, my friends. A simple, easy and relatively cheap (have you seen this hand-pump vacuum sealer!?) way to enjoy your coffee for as long as you please without compromising quality. Win-win (win).