Written by Tyler Maschino, founder of Triple Bar Coffee, a blog dedicated to advancing education on all things coffee.
Coffee is best when it’s freshly roasted. That’s no secret. But it is keeping the beans tasting fresh days after roasting seems to be more elusive. There are many ways to store coffee to help it maintain its freshness. Before we outline those storage methods, it’s important to understand how and why coffee gets stale.
We’ve all been there. We get up in the morning, grind our coffee, and pour the first cup only to find out that the coffee doesn’t taste nearly as good as it did a week ago. As coffee ages, it tends to taste stale, flat, and less tasty. Thankfully, the coffee world has identified the culprits in the great coffee flavor heist. Coffee gets stale over time because of two main factors: oxidation and sunlight.
After roasting green coffee beans, freshly roasted coffee emits CO2 and other gasses. It continues to emit less and less of these gasses as the beans age. Interestingly, these gasses don’t have any detrimental impact on the coffee. They protect the coffee beans from oxidation.
When coffee beans become exposed to oxygen, oxidation of coffee occurs. During this process, oxygen degrades the volatile compounds and flavorful oils in coffee, resulting in a stale-tasting cup. Old, improperly packaged coffee often tastes flat.
Another detriment to the flavor of coffee is sunlight. As innocuous as it seems, rays of that gorgeous afternoon sun can be wreaking havoc on your coffee beans. Ambient light, in particular, UV light, can cause damage to your coffee beans, resulting in a stale cup of coffee.
Preventing whole bean coffee from getting stale is as easy as slowing its rate of oxidation and keeping it out of the Sun’s harmful rays.
We’ve narrowed in on the three best ways to store whole bean coffee. These storage methods will significantly prolong the life of your coffee to make sure you’re drinking the best cup every day.
One of the most practical ways of storing whole bean coffee is in a Ball glass jar. These iconic jars, made initially for canning, are found in nearly every household in America.
The clear glass is easy to clean and scrub free of coffee oils. Additionally, it’s great to be able to see the beans inside. If you opt for the glass Ball jar, we recommend storing it in a dark place to avoid exposing the beans to ambient light.
The metal lid separates into two parts, which isn’t super useful for our coffee-related purposes but does make it easier to clean the top if oils build upon it. The metal surface of the lid is perfect for masking or painters tape to label the type of beans and the roast date.
One downside of the glass Ball jar is that it keeps in everything. Ultra-fresh coffee that’s just roasted will release gasses as the coffee ages. Without a way for those gasses to dissipate, they will build up inside the jar and cause pretty high pressure against the glass. If you’re planning to put freshly roasted coffee in the jar, but not using it for a while, the Ball jar may not be the best choice for you.
The next type of container we recommend is the 1-way valve container. These containers have a valve on the side or top that lets gasses leave the canister, but not enter it. Great for freshly roasted coffee because, as the coffee releases gasses, they safely exit the container without you having to intervene and release the pressure.
The 1-way valve canister uses the same technology as the industry standard coffee bag. Both feature a similar 1-way valve, but the canister has replaceable valves to ensure your canister stands the test of time.
The downside to this type of coffee container is that, once you open it, you let out all of the gasses out and in come the oxygen. Once the oxygen is inside, there’s no way to entirely remove it until the other gasses from the coffee gradually push it out of the 1-way valve.
For this reason, we recommend using these 1-way valves to prolong the life of coffee you may not be planning to use in the immediate future.
If you want to prevent oxidation of your coffee and keep it out of the sun, we recommend investing in a vacuum container. There are a few different types, but they all operate the same way.
Vacuum coffee canisters can have the gas sucked right out of the container. Removing the oxygen is usually done manually with a pump, a twist of the lid, or compression of the lid to remove the excess gasses from the container.
The nice thing about vacuum containers is that they have the 1-way valve built in, but also let you remove excess gasses, means you can open the canister, use the beans, then remove the air without trapping much, if any, oxygen inside.
Most vacuum containers come in both transparent and opaque formats, or even stainless steel, giving you a choice on whether you want to be able to see the beans (and store them in your pantry) or protect them from light, but keep them on the counter.
We all want our coffee to taste the best it possibly can. One way to achieve this is to properly store our whole bean coffee to prevent oxidation and sunlight from prematurely deteriorating the beans.
We’ve outlined the best three ways to store whole bean coffee: Ball jars, 1-way valve containers, and vacuum containers. All three options have their benefits, but we prefer to save our coffee in a vacuum container.