Ahhh, coffee.  It’s one of the most popular drinks in the world.

If you’re a fan, you may have begun to wonder about how to improve the flavor of your favorite coffee drinks.

You may have even invested in an espresso machine you can use at home in a bid to reduce the number of trips you make per week to your average Starbucks or another local coffee shop.

The short answer is that fresh coffee is better coffee. But as you’ll see in this article, there’s a lot more to it than that simple phrase might imply. We’ll take a look at the problem from every angle and tell you not only how to store coffee beans but reveal a number of other tips and tricks that will help you improve the overall flavor of your favorite drink.

If that sounds good to you, read on!

How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

Note: The word “beans” in the heading above. While you may have initially gained a fondness for coffee by drinking pre-ground, you probably already know that freshly roasted coffee beans produce a better-tasting drink.

In the very best of circumstances, coffee that has already been ground can only retain its freshness and flavor for about 1-2 weeks. And even then, all during that time, the flavor of the drinks you produce with it will continue to degrade. So whenever possible, if you’re serious about your coffee, you want to grind your own beans.

That then leads to a new question: are your beans already roasted, or are they un-roasted?  

In terms of answering the question ‘how long do roasted coffee beans last?’the short answer is about a month with proper storage.

Contrast that with the answer to the question ‘how long can whole bean coffee be stored?’ — which is about one year — and a strategy begins to take shape. Unroasted beans can be kept for significantly longer periods of time. So if you want the ultimate in both freshness and longevity, you’ll want to invest in high-quality beans and roast them yourself.

If you aren’t able to roast your own beans or you just don’t want to go to the trouble, check to see if you have a local roaster near you. If so, you’ll be able to have the best of both worlds.  You can still buy your own unroasted beans and have someone perform that step for you.

Basics You Need to Understand to Keep Coffee Beans Fresh

With the above information in mind, the next thing to understand is the elements you’ve got working against you. There are four primary things you have to worry about when it comes to figuring out how to store coffee beans. Those elements are:

  • Air
  • Heat
  • Light
  • Moisture

The presence of oxygen inevitably leads to oxidization, which, in turn, leads to the drying of essential oils and loss of aroma. The other three elements, heat, light, and moisture, act as accelerants. Any of those three will speed the loss of aroma and the loss of essential oils, which will ultimately leave you with stale coffee.

Brown roasted coffee beans

Given the elements above—although solving for exposure to air is the main goal—in order to be truly viable, your storage solution will need to guard against all four of those items at once.

How Not to Store Coffee Beans

Given the “Big Four” mentioned above, lots of people immediately gravitate to the idea of keeping their coffee beans in the refrigerator or freezer.

While that idea looks good on paper, it’s got issues. Yes, it handily solves the heat problem, but it invariably introduces moisture when you pull the beans out of the fridge or freezer to actually use them. So really, the fridge/freezer just trades one problem (heat) for another (moisture), which winds up being no solution at all.

Other storage locations that are nonstarters are anywhere close to an oven or a window.  Laundry rooms are bad ideas, too, because they’re subject to wild temperature fluctuations—any time you turn the dryer on.

So, Given All of the Above, What’s the Best Way to Store Coffee Beans at Home?

If you’re buying beans that have already been roasted, your very best bet is to store them in the bag they originally came in and keep them in a dedicated pantry or perhaps a closet under the stairs.

The reason is that once roasted, beans produce carbon dioxide. And most coffee bags are designed to include gas release valves, which allow the gas to escape without letting air in.

It’s also important to note that you don’t want to use freshly roasted beans right away. In the first few days after roasting, they produce quite a lot of carbon dioxide, and using them during that period will give you a sour-tasting brew.

A handful of roasted coffee beans being poured into a sack full of coffee beans

Optimally, you want to use your beans a few days after roasting but no more than two weeks. Beyond that, flavor degradation becomes noticeable.

This, then, brings to light the point that you shouldn’t buy vast quantities of roasted beans all at once.

Buy a couple of weeks’ worth at a time, so you’ll be able to use them all before the flavor starts to degrade.

If you can’t store them in their original container, then your next best option is to invest in airtight, opaque containers. A search on Amazon using the term “Coffee Vault” will reveal a number of good options. But be sure to ignore the clear ones, which aren’t as good as the opaque ones since they allow light to touch the beans.

Where unroasted beans are concerned, given their greater longevity, you have more flexibility.  You can buy in larger quantities, but the storage methods remain the same. The bag they came in is your best bet and, barring that, some type of airtight, opaque coffee vault.

Conclusion on How to Store Coffee Beans

As you can see, there’s a lot more to working out how to store coffee beans than first meets the eye.

In addition to guarding against the “Big Four,” there’s also consumption volume to consider and a surprisingly broad range of places you definitely don’t want to store them.

It’s not a difficult problem, but coffee beans can be fairly unforgiving. If you abide by the advice given here, however, you’ll enjoy consistently amazing coffee!

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