Dark's guide to storing your coffee beans!
If you’re an avid coffee drinker, like us here at Darks, then you should consider the best way of storing your coffee beans to keep them at their absolute optimum. Remember, we source the best raw coffee we can, we roast each coffee to its optimum profile and offer it to you at it’s absolute freshest. The least you could do is store it correctly!
The theory here is; Choosing the right storage container will help ensure your coffee is at its peak when it comes time to brew it. Storing your coffee in the right conditions will help ensure your coffee is at its peak when it comes to brewing it and; Identifying coffee that's past it’s used by date so its always at its peak when it comes to brewing it.
Right? Let's do it!
What should you store your coffee beans in?
Coffee beans, once roasted, are quite delicate. They need to be stored correctly for you to experience the greatest amount of flavour and origin related nuance that we’ve been able to roast into them.
To keep your coffee as fresh as you can, follow our simple guidelines and you will always have fresh coffee within reach. We should also add, the Darks coffee you’ve bought for the home will come in a zip locked bag with a one-way valve, allowing Co2 out but not letting air in. Once opened, it's resealable and will do the job of storing your coffee satisfactorily against the Three Mortal Enemies of coffee. The containers we’re about to discuss we should consider as long-term solutions for coffee storage. And they look cool too!! So, we suggest an airtight, nontranslucent container to store your fresh bought coffee beans in.
This type of container is NEEDED, not desired!! You need this airtight container because air and moisture are two of the Three Mortal Enemies of roasted coffee beans. If you expose your coffee beans to either one of these conditions, your meticulously roasted coffee beans will become stale due to oxidisation (exposure to air) and may potentially take on flavours of their surroundings due to the hydroscopic nature of coffee (exposure to moisture). Ground coffee is particularly susceptible to both of these.
The container also needs to be impervious to light because sunlight (UV light) is the Third Mortal Enemy of your coffee. If you were to place your coffee beans inside a clear airtight container, you’d still be allowing light to access your coffee. UV light or direct sunlight will age your coffee prematurely and degrade the volatile oils (these oils carry are the flavour compounds in coffee) that give us the crema and texture we crave so much. There are plenty of great examples of containers for storing coffee. We have a few listed in our web store. Ceramic, glass, stainless steel, the list is long, just remember, airtight lid, impervious to light.
Where should you store your coffee beans?
So, there are a few schools of thought on this and we’re going to have to make some assumptions here. These assumptions overlap with buying coffee which we’ll cover in more detail in another blog. So let’s start by saying, The Darks Method for coffee storage is not to chill or freeze your coffee. If this is our guideline to coffee storage, we, therefore, must assume you’re buying your coffee fresh and in small amounts. On that note just briefly, it’s so easy to obtain freshly roasted coffee it’s silly to buy large amounts of coffee (more than 4 weeks supply is what we consider a larger amount) or sit on coffee and not consume it within 3 or 4 weeks of purchase. So, small amounts more often. That's the general rule!
Now, where to store your coffee? You've got your storage container and now we need to determine where to keep it. Your coffee beans will thrive in a dark and cool space in a cupboard or pantry. Not in the fridge or freezer.
Remember, you’re buying small amounts more often so there’s no need to refrigerate or freeze your coffee. Keeping your coffee beans in a place such as this helps keep the beans from the three mortal enemies of coffee we discussed above, air, moisture and light. But there’s also a fourth enemy of roasted coffee, maybe not a mortal enemy but still, an enemy combatant working against us achieving the best brew we can and that is temperature fluctuations. Subjecting coffee to a wide range of temperatures will age the coffee prematurely and degrade the volatile oils we spoke about previously. Stretching the coffee to hot and compressing it back to cold is undesirable making it troublesome to brew coffee to its most optimum.
Keep your coffee at as constant a temperature as you can! Room temperature is fine just as long as it doesn't fluctuate much around plus or minus 5 degrees ie, a cupboard or a pantry.
How do I identify ‘past optimum’ coffee and how long does roasted coffee last?
Despite what some people think, roasted coffee doesn't last all that long. Depending on the roast profile, maybe up to 28 days. So, a month at a stretch.
We believe coffee brews and extracts, and therefore drink at its best from about 3-5 days up to about 21-28 days after roasting. Prior to 3 days, the coffee is ‘de-gassing’ and letting off Co2. This coffee is totally drinkable though will taste quite simple and one dimensional. Not the truest expression of itself.
From 21-28 days, the volatile oils will have naturally aged and degraded and extracting the best from your coffee is more of a challenge. Again, this isn't a hard and fast rule but we’re striving for freshness and the best brew so we aim to have coffee being prepared to drink within this time frame. So let's say, coffee is at it’s best from 5 days to 28 days. Identifying ‘past optimum’ coffee can be a bit tricky but the smell is a good place to start. We use our noses at Darks in every aspect of coffee, from green to roasted to brewed. ‘Past optimum’ coffee will smell flat and not particularly vibrant with no volatility coming off it. If the coffee is roasted for anything darker than filter roast, oils will be present on the surface of the coffee beans too (this obviously won't be visible in pre-ground coffee) indicating the coffee is older and past optimum.
And lastly, brewing past optimum coffee will be a bit more of a challenge. The crema will be thin and pale which affects the taste. The cup will taste thin and lack the vibrancy of freshly roasted coffee.
To summarise, coffee past it’s optimum will be older than 21 days from its roast date. It’ll smell flat and lack the rich, sweet, aromatics of freshly roasted coffee. Oils may be present on the surface leading to poor extraction and dull cup profile. In short. Don’t use coffee after a month after it's been roasted! Remember, buy small amounts of coffee more often!!!
Ok. So there you go. Storing coffee is pretty straightforward really. Buy small amounts more often, store in an air and light tight container and at a constant temperature. And really try hard to consume your coffee with-in a month or so from the date on which it was roasted.