It’s been 43 years, but Kevin Sinnott can still remember the smell and taste of the first cup of coffee he shared with the woman he eventually married. And over the years, he’s had more coffee milestones as his passion for the craved, caffeinated beverage grew. He now offers tips on brewing and how to store coffee through his CoffeeCon festival, which visits four cities a year.
“Being a coffee snob is against my nature,” he said. “The most important cup of coffee is the one you’re sharing with someone. I’d rather have an OK cup of coffee with someone I enjoy than a stellar cup of coffee by myself…although, I do enjoy both.”
If you’re an at-home barista looking for help maintaining the quality of your coffee beans, keep reading for Sinnott’s coffee storage tips, as well as some from the manager of a popular Hawaiian coffee roasting company. They both have decades of coffee-storing experience to help your next pot of coffee be the best it can be.
Store Whole Bean Coffee in Cool, Dark Places
To make sure his morning cup of joe has the best flavor possible, Sinnott stores his whole coffee beans in an opaque bag, usually the one the coffee came in, inside another sealed bag for freshness.
“Keep (your coffee as) a bean as long as you can,” said Sinnott, who wrote The Art and Craft of Coffee: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Selecting, Roasting, and Brewing Exquisite Coffee. “It’s the best state for a coffee to be in until you need to brew it.”
This is because coffee will begin to become bland once it’s processed, said Joy Marra, who has been the manager at Maui Coffee Roasters in Hawaii for 20 years.
“As soon as you start breaking down the coffee, you start breaking down the flavor,” she said.
It’s also important to store coffee in a cool, dark place. Both experts recommend a kitchen cabinet that is away from direct sunlight.
“Coffee is sensitive to oxygen, water, heat and sunlight,” said Marra. “Any of those things can make a coffee bean lose its oils and flavors.”
Brew Your Coffee as Soon as Possible
Our experts, and many others in the coffee universe, differ on the length of time you should keep coffee in storage, but both do agree on one thing: Drink your coffee ASAP.
“Do not stockpile your beans,” said Sinnott. “Buy and drink them as fresh as you can. I’m convinced, after doing my own tests and reading the work of others, the best thing you can do is to drink your coffee within two weeks.”
Of course the shelf life will likely depend of the type of coffee and how long the beans took to ship to the store where you bought them (or your home if you ordered them).
“The faster you drink your coffee, the better,” said Marra. “After a month of two, it really breaks down. As it sits, it becomes almost stale. So you want to keep drinking it.”
“Coffee doesn’t age,” she added. “It’s not like that. It’s a perishable, hard product.”
Avoid Storing Coffee in the Refrigerator
When you can’t drink you’re coffee soon enough, do not store the beans in a refrigerator, our experts agreed. The moisture inside the fridge will kill a coffee bean, or at least its flavor.
“The fridge is constant moisture, so keep it right out of there,” said Marra.
While experts, like Marra, are against freezing coffee since a freezer can absorb a bean’s flavor, others like Sinnott said coffee drinkers are better off freezing beans that letting them sit out too long.
“I have found that freezing beans is a good way of maintaining freshness,” he said. “If you do freeze the beans, make sure they are in a freezer-safe bag. And when it comes time to grind the beans, put them directly in the grinder, do not defrost them.”
“I think the beans are better ground when they’re frozen,” he added. “They’re more brittle and cut cleaner.”
Frozen or not, Sinnott suggests coffee lovers try new blends every so often and buy from locally-run coffee shops when they can.
“I drink around,” he laughed. “Make it a point, if you’re buds get jaded, to try something you haven’t had before. There’s always some new, exciting coffee varietals available.”