For years now, the choice between storing coffee in the fridge, freezer, or cupboard has seen many debates. The topic is controversial within the coffee community, with many still believing that there are benefits to be reaped from storing their coffee in the fridge or freezer.
Unfortunately, however, we’re here to debunk that old myth and shed some truth on the topic once and for all.
The Fundamentals of Storing Coffee
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s review the individual environmental impacts on the quality of your coffee. These things are non-negotiables when it comes to coffee storage of any kind and should be followed religiously (or, to the best of your ability - we don’t judge).
Oxygen damages coffee. When you buy coffee (freshly ground coffee, not instant), you may have noticed that it comes vacuum sealed. This is because oxygen can damage the quality of your coffee. In order to give your coffee the best chance of preservation, you should aim to reduce the flow of oxygen to your stored coffee as much as possible. This often means keeping your coffee sealed in its original packaging or moving your coffee into an alternative air-tight container.
Sunlight/Artificial light damages coffee. Whether the light is coming from a natural source or an artificial source, it will start to break down the molecules within the coffee, impacting its flavour and shelf life. For this reason, coffee should be stored in opaque containers, in an area of your kitchen that is dark.
High Temperatures damage coffee. I can hear you through the screen. But isn’t heating coffee the whole point? Yes, but not before the brewing process. By exposing your coffee to high temperatures, it accelerates the process of oxidation that can break down the flavour. For this reason, coffee should be stored away from hot areas of the kitchen, such as the oven and hob.
Moisture/Humidity damages coffee. Humid environments, as well as sudden temperature fluctuations, can result in increased moisture levels. Moisture is the enemy of coffee. Scott McMartin, a member of the Starbucks Green Coffee Quality group, explains "The cell structure changes, which causes a loss of the oils that give coffee its aroma and flavor”. This change in cell structure results in a bitter-tasting coffee.
Keep it in the cupboard
As you may have guessed after running through the above, the optimum place to store your fresh coffee is in the cupboard, either in its original packaging or an alternative, air-tight opaque container. This way, you’re limiting the coffee’s exposure to oxygen, light, temperature fluctuations (if kept away from hot appliances) and humidity - the four horsemen of coffee storage.
Freezing your coffee
When it comes down to debates, the freezer vs cupboard debate is the hottest. For diehard coffee fans, the main argument against freezing coffee comes from the moisture and humidity found there.
Coffee, once roasted, is inherently dry. This makes the beans hygroscopic, meaning they draw in moisture from the environment around them. Once coffee soaks up moisture, it’s original flavours start to break down as chemical reactions strip the coffee of it’s oils and aroma.
When is freezing coffee acceptable?
Freezing coffee is often used as a method of extending the life of coffee. In this regard, freezing coffee is acceptable if you’re willing to accept the trade-off between shelf-life and quality.
According to the National Coffee Association, you can freeze whole coffee beans for up to a month. It’s best practise to freeze your coffee beans in airtight bags where possible. It’s equally important to leave your coffee beans to thaw once removed from the freezer and to consume within two weeks.
Never store coffee in the fridge
All in all, coffee should never be stored in the fridge. Refrigerators are humid, moist and light. The process of taking your coffee in and out of your fridge every morning results in constant temperature fluctuations, which breeds both condensation and microorganisms - neither of which you want associated with your coffee.
In our opinion, along with a lot of the specialist coffee community, coffee should be kept in the cupboard, away from environmental elements.
Below are our suggestions for optimum coffee storage:
If possible, buy coffee in smaller portions and grind the coffee yourself before brewing. This ensures your coffee will be as fresh as possible.
If you choose to freeze your beans, use a deep freezer. Colder temperature and less frequent access minimise the risk of frost burn and moisture.
Keep coffee in your cupboard in an opaque and air-tight container, safely away from the previously mentioned ‘four horsemen’ of coffee storage.
Let us know your coffee storage technique of choice over on our social channels, @nationwidecoffee.