Here's how to store coffee beans or ground coffee for maximum freshness.
coffee beans
Credit: Bryan Gardner

Is coffee your super power? Whether you prefer to purchase beans or pre-ground, coffee begins to lose freshness almost immediately after roasting, according to the National Coffee Association, a trade group representing the U.S. coffee industry. Luckily, there are things you can do to ensure you brew a better cup.

It all starts with the bag. "Any factory sealed bag will keep freshness longer than an open bag, paper or not," says Michael Phillips, director of coffee culture for Blue Bottle Coffee. "Vacuum sealed bags that have been flushed are even better, but the best thing is to buy small amounts frequently, that way the freshness is ensured."

Does Coffee Go Bad?

"Coffees start to noticeably lose flavor at around two weeks—one week if the coffee is a darker roast profile," says Phillips. "However, coffee is pretty shelf-stable in terms of issues concerning health. Although, coffee beans do have a certain amount of oil in them that under bad conditions (such as exposure to sunlight and heat) can go rancid after long periods of time." The National Coffee Association recommends buying smaller batches of freshly roasted coffee more frequently—enough for one or two weeks.

Should You Buy Whole Beans or Pre-Ground?

Whether you should buy beans or pre-ground coffee really comes down to personal preference. "Most coffee aficionados opt to keep their coffee as whole bean right up to the point of brewing as this will keep the freshness of the coffee at its peak," says Phillips. "I would actually suggest getting your coffee ground in a coffee shop's professional gear, as having a good grind will treat your final cup better than the difference in freshness."

Storing Coffee Beans

Proper storage is the most essential detail in terms of keeping coffee fresh. That means keeping out air, moisture, heat, and light, which all have an impact on the freshness and taste. "If you have airtight vacuum-sealed packaging, the freezer is your best option," says Phillips. "However, once the packaging is opened, avoid the freezer at all costs. The coffee will act like a sponge and absorb all sorts of flavors and humidity. Once the original seal is broken, placing coffee in the freezer will almost certainly eliminate flavors and humidity that will lower the quality of what you get in the final cup." Optimal cups will come within one to two weeks of the coffee's roast date.

"To preserve your beans' fresh roasted flavor as long as possible, store them in an opaque, air-tight container at room temperature," notes the National Coffee Association. "Coffee beans can be beautiful, but avoid clear canisters which will allow light to compromise the taste of coffee. Keep beans in a dark and cool location. A cabinet near the oven is often too warm, and so is a spot on the kitchen counter that gets strong afternoon sun." Phillips recommends a canister from Fellow Products that helps to pump the air out, increasing freshness life even further.

Storing Ground Coffee

"You know what that glorious smell we encounter in fresh coffee is? It is the flavor running away," says Phillips. "Once coffee is ground, the CO2 from the roasting process that protects the coffee from oxygen escapes very quickly no matter how the coffee is stored. Optimal taste is within a few hours of being ground, but you can still get good cups for a day or two." He says that ground coffee will follow the same rules as whole bean coffee. The best way to store both is in airtight containers kept in a cool and dark location.


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