Here we’re going to look at how to store ground coffee. To preserve your beans’ flavor, store them in an airtight, opaque (not transparent) container in a dry place. The goal is to minimize exposure to light, heat, and moisture.
As someone who buys coffee in bulk, finding the best way to store my beans and ground coffee has made a significant difference in the consistency of my brew.
While storage isn’t a huge deal if you’re brewing all your beans/grinds within a few days, it will make a significant difference if your supply will last for over a week.
The difference becomes especially obvious for large supplies that will last 1-2 months (think wholesale store-sized bags).
Keep reading if you want to learn:
- How to tell if coffee has gone bad?
- How long will ground coffee stay fresh?
- What is the best container to store coffee?
- Should I store coffee in the fridge?
- What are some buying tips?
How to tell if coffee has gone bad?
First, it’s important to note that drinking old coffee typically won’t harm you. Of course, if you see mold or the scent is rancid, that’s a different story.
Old coffee is undesirable because of the loss of flavor. The easiest way to tell if coffee has “gone bad” is by smelling or tasting it. The pleasant aroma will be gone along with much of the taste.
Fresh coffee has a strong fragrance, but once it goes past its prime, the oils get degraded.
If you’ve already brewed it, leave it for about an hour and then taste it. If it’s sour, bitter, or lacks body (thin), it is most likely rancid.
Also, old coffee may also lose its deep dark color and appear a lighter brown.
How long will ground coffee stay fresh?
Coffee beans inevitably lose their flavor soon after grinding as the oils begin to evaporate. Once you’ve broken the beans—and that vessel—with a grinder, the coffee oxidizes rapidly. When the organic matter (lipids and proteins) in coffee comes into contact with oxygen, its molecular structure is altered.
However, if stored properly, they can last for months and even years.
Ground coffee can stay fresh at room temperature for 3 to 5 months. But it’s probably best to use it up well before then, and buy whole beans if possible.
Due to the fact that their molecular structure is still intact, whole beans can stay fresh for about 6 to 9 months.
Of course, the rate of flavor loss is affected by how the beans/grounds are stored.
What is the best container to store coffee?
The best containers for coffee storage are air-tight. They lock oxygen out, prevent early oxidation, and are opaque to ensure that light will not get through. If using a clear container, be sure to store in a dark location.
By using an air-tight container, and storing it in a dry, cool place, you’ll extend the life of your coffee.
These containers can be found for fairly cheap online and are well worth the investment. Stainless steel is most common, but there are ceramic options as well.
If you’d rather keep the coffee in its original packaging, place it in a Ziploc bag to keep it airtight. Remove any excess air when storing in the Ziploc bag.
Should I store coffee in the fridge (or freezer)?
There are varying schools of thought on this.
A 2016 study in Scientific Reports found that storing coffee beans in the freezer or fridge can extend the beans’ freshness and can make the coffee more flavorful. The National Coffee Association states that storing coffee in the freezer does not negatively affect brewing, assuming you use an airtight container for storage (protection from freezer burn).
On the flip side, storing coffee in the fridge/freezer potentially exposes it to moisture, the opposite of desired storage conditions. The air in the freezer is drier than the fridge, but opens up the possibility of freezer burn.
If you’re going to use the coffee everyday, the daily fluctuation of temperature of the coffee between the freezer or fridge and your kitchen may cause moisture to build up inside the container. So if you plan to freeze or refrigerate your coffee, it’s likely best to only do this process once before use.
Although there isn’t consensus on this subject, we tend to believe that it’s best not to store in the fridge or freezer. There’s added risk with minimal (if any) reward.
What are some buying tips?
There are some key things to look out for when buying coffee which can affect the freshness of your coffee no matter how you store it at home.
- Only buy coffee in packages that are valve-sealed, not vacuum-sealed. Coffee releases carbon dioxide once it’s roasted. The valve allows carbon dioxide to vent from the bag without oxygen from entering. This allows fresh roasted coffee to be packaged immediately. Coffee that is vacuum-sealed must first sit in the open air to release it’s carbon dioxide before packaging or else it may cause the bag to explode.
- Avoid coffee beans stored in large open containers or containers that do not appear to be airtight at the store. You don’t know how long the beans have been sitting there exposed to oxygen and potential sunlight (not to mention other people touching them!).
- Check the roasting date on the packaging to make sure the beans were roasted within 2-3 weeks. The more recent the roasting date, the less amount of time the beans have had to age and start to lose their flavor.
The Bottom Line
The primary objective figuring out how to store ground coffee is minimizing heat, light, moisture, and oxygen exposure. Storing your coffee in ziploc bags, tupperware, or other common containers which don’t limit exposure won’t hurt you, but you’ll lose smell and flavor.
Get an airtight container, and keep it in a dry, dark place. We prefer the pantry over the freezer.
If possible, buy whole beans instead of ground coffee. Grinding beans increases the rate of flavor loss as it’s exposed to oxygen and the structure breaks down, so it’s best to grind within a week or so of anticipated brewing. Check out our article on coffee grind size to learn how to adjust the grind size to optimize the taste of your brew.