Want to brew your best cup o’ joe? Start with good water and fresh coffee!
That “fresh coffee” part can be a bit of a challenge. Coffee is best when brewed asap after the beans have been roasted and ground, but unless you’re growing and roasting your own coffee, it’s hard to know how old the coffee in hand is. Not all coffee packaging boasts roasting dates, but check to see, and choose the freshest bag available when you do have a choice.
By the way, vacuum-sealed coffee is already aged a bit before it’s sealed, to allow the beans to release their gas (otherwise those gasses can expand and burst the packaging). A package can be valve-sealed right after the beans are roasted, though, because the valve lets the gasses escape without letting other gasses in. In other words, the valve-sealed beans may be more recently roasted. In terms of maintaining freshness, some experts say the best packaging is a sealed, one-way valve foil bag with pinholes. (The holes let gas out without letting air in.)
Convenient as they are, ground beans—because they have more surface exposure to oxygen—will deteriorate even faster than whole beans. That’s why it’s ideal to grind your beans just before brewing your cup of coffee. (I don’t. I’m not quite that particular, and I don’t like the horrid noise of the coffee grinder. Tradeoff!)
Whether you tote home ground beans or whole, optimal storage means avoiding moisture, heat, and light.
If you buy your coffee in a substantial, zip-top or vacuum-sealed or valve-sealed bag, you can leave it in the bag. Otherwise, transfer it to an airtight, opaque container. (While the beans look lovely in that clear glass canister, it doesn’t provide protection from light unless you store it in a dark cupboard.)
There’s some disagreement on this point, but because coffee absorbs moisture and odors, most coffee connoisseurs recommend you not keep your coffee in the refrigerator or freezer. If you decide to refrigerate or freeze surplus (you rebel!), make sure the coffee is in a container with a good, airtight seal. And return the container to the freezer quickly after removing the coffee you need, so condensation (moisture!) doesn’t have time to form.
Your best bet, though, is to store the coffee canister at room temp, away from light and heat sources—not next to the stove or on a sunny counter.
Use up any coffee on hand within a few weeks—the sooner the better. Which means coffee isn’t something you’ll want to stock up on.
My ideal bottom line: Buy small quantities of beans that have been recently roasted (and ground, if you like), and store them in an airtight, opaque container in a cool, dark, dry place (a pantry basket or kitchen cupboard away from heat sources).
I’m off for a refill!
Do you shop at a store where you can grind coffee beans at the time of purchase? I remember my mom doing this in our A&P and, wow, did I love the smell of that grocery aisle!
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