Purchasing and Storing Fresh Roasted Coffee
In our last article, we discussed some of the basics regarding whole bean coffee versus pre-ground coffee. Today, it’s all about how and where to purchase your beans plus and storage techniques.
Local roasters are your source for the freshest coffee available.
I’m a big supporter of local shops. With the advent of the internet and online shopping, it’s usually the small business, brick and mortar stores that suffer. For this reason, I always check for local roasters first. If shopping local isn’t enough of a reason to do so, getting fresher coffee is a fantastic cherry on top. Local roasters will have coffee that was roasted that day (or the day before) available for purchase, and they often take orders so you know they’ll have what you want when you arrive. Furthermore, you’re saving money on shipping. An example of local roasters I enjoy are Mountain Ridge Coffee and the Water Gap Coffee Company.
Roasters who sell coffee online are the next best thing.
If you don’t have any local roasters in your area, or you’d like to try beans from an award-winning business, the internet is at your disposal. One site I enjoy using is Go Coffee Go. They are a one-stop shop for many award-winning roasters, they offer flat rate shipping, and they have weekly deals for free shipping or a percentage off. Of course you can go straight to the source and seek out specific roasters who sell online as well.
You know your coffee is fresh when it “Blooms.” This is the release of excess CO2 when hot water is introduced to ground coffee.
The 2-4 days of shipping is not the worst thing in the world, especially considering many say fresh roasted coffee isn’t at its peak until a couple days have passed. Once coffee is roasted, it spends up to 48 hours degassing CO2, which is why you’ll often see coffee bags with a tiny circular valve on it. This allows for the release of CO2 without allowing in oxygen, which would cause the beans to degrade quicker.
Using an airtight coffee container helps protect the beans against air, moisture, light, and heat.
As mentioned in the last article, air, moisture, light, and heat are the main culprits guilty of causing good beans to go bad. Coffee is at its peak freshness between 2 and 10 days after roasting. For this reason, you should always buy your coffee as you need it (enough to finish using within two weeks maximum). Technically speaking, coffee’s shelf life (the time it takes to actually spoil) is much longer than 2 weeks. Whole coffee beans in an opened package can last 6 months in your pantry! But just because it hasn’t spoiled doesn’t mean it hasn’t lost most of its freshness and flavor.
Once the beans arrive, you should store them in a cool, dark location. No, not the refrigerator! There’s too much moisture and too many aromas that could potentially be absorbed into the beans. Your best bet for storage is to purchase a coffee container that is both opaque and airtight (preferably with some kind of CO2 valve or filter). Don’t keep this container too close to the oven, or anywhere there may be an excess of heat. You could also store your coffee in the bag it arrived in, which was built to provide a comfortable resting place for your beans.
Storing coffee in the freezer is a last resort.
The freezer is an option, but only for long-term storage (whole beans can be stored for up to 2 years in the freezer). If you have purchased enough coffee to use over the course of two weeks or so, stick with the coffee canister. If, however, you find a great sale on bulk coffee, or you just buy way too much to finish in a short period of time, storing the rest in the freezer is better than letting it go stale on the counter.
Moisture and other aromas from the freezer can potentially be absorbed into the coffee beans. This is especially true if you don’t use airtight freezer storage bags, and if you thaw and refreeze the beans. For best results, portion the beans off into “one use per baggie.” This way you aren’t taking the beans out and then refreezing them (which can cause the coffee to absorb moisture, which in turn breaks down the coffee). You can see why avoiding the freezer when possible is the best bet.