It's one of those old bits of well-meaning advice you may have heard from your relatives: to keep coffee fresh, put it in the refrigerator or freezer. The enemies of a great tasting cup of coffee are air, moisture, heat, and light—so why wouldn't it make sense to keep your quality beans in a dark and frosty place to preserve their freshness?
The truth is that storing freshly roasted coffee in extreme temperatures or environments tampers with its natural elements. This can risk killing the aromatic quality of the beans and alter its rich flavor.
Beans Need Their Natural Moisture
High-humidity environments drastically cuts coffee's shelf life, but the natural moisture the beans possess is essential to its subtle flavor profiles. Freezers, in particular, operate by keeping the temperatures and moisture levels low to preserve frozen foods. This process also has to potential to zap the moisture from the coffee beans and flatten its flavor.
Some coffee distributors may recommend freezing their product for long-term use—these retailers emphasize that airtight bean storage is a must to prevent the natural moisture that can occur. However, most home implements are not up to the task. The food storage containers in your cupboards simply trap air in with the beans while allowing moisture to escape.
Coffee Is Hygroscopic
Natural moisture loss is not the only problematic issue caused by improper coffee bean storage. Coffee is hygroscopic in nature, meaning that long-term cold storage in food-preserving appliances will cause your coffee beans to taste like the air in the freezer or the onions in your crisper drawer. Hygroscopic foods absorb and maintain the moisture of their environments, adopting their tastes and odors.
In other words, coffee loses its natural moisture (and subtle richness) in cold environments and tries to replace it with the moisture in the air. This moisture absorption also leads to condensation in more humid refrigerators, which will destroy your coffee beans' quality.
The Best Way to Store Beans
Considering these factors, the best way to buy, brew, and store flavorful coffee beans is to:
Buy only enough coffee at one time to cover about a week's worth of coffee brewing (seven to ten days).
Buy from a coffee supplier that roasts in small batches on site as close to its selling or shipment date as possible.
Store coffee beans in an airtight, opaque container in room temperature away from heat sources (counters with direct sunlight, cabinets by the oven).
Grind beans for each fresh brewing of coffee.
Coffee beans start to stale quickly after the roasting process. Proper storage and timely consumption of freshly roasted coffee beans is the best way to take advantage of the benefits of buying from a quality coffee supplier.
At Green Dragon Coffee, each and every order is individually roasted in our small-batch roaster and delivered to your home within two to four days for optimum coffee flavor. Contact our store for more information or to ask any questions about our unique roasting process.