Where do you keep your coffee? Some people firmly believe keeping whole coffee beans in the freezer is the way to go. Others say that’s completely wrong. So, who is right?
It’s getting a bit confusing, though if you want to know how long whole coffee beans will last in the freezer, they’ll be good for several months. But before you chuck your newly-purchased package of awesome whole roasted coffee beans in the freezer, there’s a bit more to know about it than that. After all, you DO want the freshest cup of coffee every time, don’t you?
Just like any coffee lover knows how abominable it is to have to settle for gas station coffee (or equally as bad, the kind of complimentary coffee you get at the oil change place or in any waiting room virtually anywhere), you don’t want to have bad coffee in your home. Coffee isn’t just for waking up…it’s a ritual for the mind and body. Good coffee sets the tone for the entire day and even if that day turns out to be hellacious, you can at least say you had good coffee.
If your goal is fresh coffee (and it should be!) then keep reading to find out how long whole coffee beans last in the freezer and the best practices for coffee storage!
How long will whole coffee beans last in the freezer?
If you properly store your whole coffee beans in the freezer, they should stay fresh for a good 3 to 4 months. They’ll still be safe to use after that time period, however, they might not be as fresh.
You definitely won’t die, but your taste buds might be disappointed after those few months fly by. While experts are at odds about storing coffee beans in the freezer, all of them can agree that coffee needs to be consumed as quickly as possible after that roasting period.
When you buy those whole roasted coffee beans, as soon as you open the original bag, the timer starts ticking. And yes, you definitely want those beans to be whole. Check out this post on ground coffee and you’ll see exactly why coffee should be ground up only just prior to brewing for maximum freshness and flavor.
Some people say the coffee beans should go in the freezer while others say the fridge. And others say it’s fine in airtight containers in your cabinets! But the thing you need to know about is that coffee absorbs moisture, odors, and tastes from around it.
Most of the home storage containers you’ll select will still allow little bits of oxygen to leak into it in the freezer. This is why, even with your best efforts, you’ll still find those nice steaks covered with freezer burn.
For this reason, many argue against the freezer theory. They say that the fridge is a better place as long as the container is airtight. Again though, think of those smells. If you have leftover fish in your fridge from Monday night and come Friday, it’s still sitting there because no one wants to eat leftovers (no matter how delicious they were), then that odor will permeate your coffee. Brew de salmon, anyone? No thanks!
If you’re going to freeze your coffee though, it’s recommended that you only pull out what you need for about a week, and then freeze the remainder so that no condensation forms on your frozen coffee beans.
Should you freeze your coffee beans?
Professional coffee experts say no to freezing your coffee beans. There’s a science behind their answer too. See, for our steaks, chicken, and even our leftover pot of chili, freezing can be a very beneficial way to avoid food waste. Coffee doesn’t spoil though. It simply loses freshness.
Inside coffee beans, there is water trapped inside. By putting these beans in the freezer, you’re freezing that water. The water will expand once it becomes frozen and cause the bean to crack. Should it get to this state, your coffee beans won’t taste as good anymore.
Again, you’re not going to die from it. It’s not quite the same as eating rancid food. But you’ll lose that quality.
Still, plenty of other experts will fight to the death about freezing or not freezing coffee beans. It’s like plenty of other arguments where you can only be on one side and whatever side that is, you’re wrong. Case in point: candy corn. People either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground with candy corn. You pick a side and stay there. You will be embraced by those on your side and loathed by those on the other.
Candy corn might seem silly, but it illustrates the point here…there are two distinct sides and depending on who you talk to, you could be shunned no matter what side you’re on.
It’s more serious in the business world. There was once a small coffee shop owner in Baltimore that froze the excess of coffee beans it had bought from a large roaster. When the roaster found out the coffee shop owner had frozen their beans, it wouldn’t sell to this shop anymore.
So, should you freeze them? It really depends on you. You can put them in your freezer as long as you take the precautions to wrap them well and keep them airtight. But do know that the water inside the beans can expand and crack those beans which means your coffee won’t taste quite as good as it did before.
Why Do Coffee Beans Need to be Fresh?
Quite simply, coffee beans need to be fresh because of the taste. Some things are just better when they’re fresher. It’s the reason why some people will practically cause an accident to pull off the road, leave the car running, and run into Krispy Kreme when they see the ‘Hot’ light on. Those donuts taste like pure heaven when they’re fresh off the line.
They’re still pretty good after they cool down. If, by some miracle, you have any remaining the next day, they’re decent but not as good. You can microwave them and they’ll somewhat resemble that fresh, hot taste that makes them taste like heaven on earth but not really.
Fresh coffee is the same. If you went to a café and they served you old coffee, you’d know it. It has THAT taste. Conversely, when they grind the beans in front of you and brew your cup, you can taste that difference. It’s astounding. The same results can be had in your home kitchen. Fresh coffee vs stale coffee is a very dramatic observation.
If you think the coffee you make at home doesn’t taste as good as the coffee you get at big coffee chains like Starbucks or even your local family-owned café, the biggest reason for it is you’re using stale coffee. Most people are guilty of this. They buy the pre-ground stuff (noooooo!) or grind up more than they need and don’t store it in an airtight container (ahhhhh!). On top of that, many people don’t clean out their coffeemakers enough (ewwwww!). If you’re guilty of that infraction, read this post to learn how to clean your coffeemaker easily and get better-tasting coffee from it!
After your coffeemaker is fully clean, buy a bag of whole roasted coffee beans. You can ask when it was roasted. Always choose the most recent option when available. And then, if you don’t have a grinder, get one. There are great tips for grinders in this article so check it out.
How you can store your coffee
Whether you believe coffee goes in the freezer or not, there are some things you must do to preserve the integrity of your coffee. Namely, you want to avoid exposing your coffee to light, heat, moisture, and oxygen.
Those glass storage containers are terrible for coffee. It might make for a pretty presentation, but the coffee won’t taste good. If it’s the style you’re going for, use old, cheap beans to fill those up with for your display and save the good stuff for brewing.
To really preserve your coffee beans, here’s what to do:
- If it came in an opaque bag with a seal, keep it there! Easy!
- If the bag isn’t opaque, doesn’t have a seal, or you accidentally broke that seal (we have ALL done that!), then store them in an airtight container that is not clear.
- Once the beans are safely inside of something that is opaque and tightly sealed, keep it out of the light and in a cool place. Kitchen cupboards are ideal.
Want to keep your coffee fresher longer? Keep reading!
Tips for keeping coffee fresher for longer
When you follow these storage tips, you should always have fresh coffee. But these bonus tips will ensure the coffee you brew at home is always on-point with the flavor.
– Buy it as fresh as humanly possible
The fresher the beans, the better the coffee. Always seek out beans that were roasted most recently. You should seek out a roaster that does small batches. This way, you always get the best quality and freshness in every bag.
– Always buy whole roasted coffee beans
Again, if you’re buying pre-ground coffee, you’re committing one of the cardinal coffee sins. Coffee always tastes best when you grind only what you need right before brewing it. Plus, it will make your coffee last so much longer too.
– Just grind what you need
Only grinding up what you need for the brew at hand is the best way to keep your coffee fresh. While you might think grinding up more than you need will save you time, you’re really not saving THAT much time. It takes seconds to grind your coffee beans before brewing. You’re not saving hours of time like when you do meal prep.
By grinding what you need, you are guaranteed a fresher cup of coffee every time. It can be tricky to eye out what you think you need though. A small kitchen scale can help you weigh out the perfect amount for every pot.
– Stop buying it in bulk
Unless you’re running a coffee shop of your own or you have a family of 10 coffee drinkers, there’s no reason to bulk-buy your coffee beans. It sure seems tempting, but the likelihood is that the beans will get stale before you can brew it all. Instead, buy smaller bags at a time.
– Please don’t put them in the fridge
While most people argue about freezing coffee beans, whatever side they happen to be on, they can agree that the fridge is one of the worst places for coffee beans. Your refrigerator isn’t cold enough. And while the water in the beans won’t freeze (which is good), it has the potential to draw in more moisture (bad) and odors (even worse).
You can store your beans in the freezer though. You should double bag them in freezer bags to ensure that no moisture gets in which should keep the beans from having problems.
Coffee beans have the potential to last several months in the freezer if they are wrapped protectively. Coffee experts say though that this isn’t the best idea since the water inside the beans can expand and crack the bean and cause them to lose flavor.
Your goal with coffee at home should be keeping it fresh. For this reason, you should never buy pre-ground coffee, buy more than you need, or grind up more than you’re going to brew at the time. When you follow these rules, you’ll always get the kind of coffee at home that you spend $5 or more on when you’re out at a café. Imagine having coffeehouse-perfect coffee in the peace and quiet of your home every day!
Plenty of people will argue to the death about the great frozen beans debate, but if you’re taking care to keep moisture out of your stashed beans, they will last!