How to Store Coffee Beans (and Keep Them Fresh)

So what’s the best way to store coffee beans? This question usually sparks quite the debate among coffee fanatics, and everyone seems to have their own theory. 

So what’s the best way to store coffee beans? This question usually sparks quite the debate among coffee fanatics, and everyone seems to have their own theory. 

One thing is for sure, though: every coffee lover wants to sacrifice as little as possible of their coffee’s aroma during storage.

In this article, I’ll explain how to store coffee beans and keep them fresh for as long as possible. I’ll also try to debunk some common myths about coffee storage. 

Here’s one thing right off the bat: coffee beans have no business being in the fridge or freezer!

Common Coffee Storage Myths

Let’s start by clearing up a few of the most common myths about how to store coffee beans, which include the following violations (or at least should be):

  • Coffee has a long shelf life.
  • Coffee can never go bad at all.
  • Coffee should be kept in the fridge or freezer.
  • Coffee that’s pre-ground keeps just as long as whole beans.

I hereby declare all of the above to be complete nonsense! Nothing could be further from the truth.

Factors That Affect Coffee Freshness

coffee pack opened from top

Fact: coffee is porous and absorbs aromas very easily. 

So anyone storing their coffee in the spice cupboard is just asking for trouble. Not to mention, using a smelly plastic container is just as bad as storing coffee next to stinky cheese. 

In other words, you should always store coffee beans as far away as possible from everything that gives off a scent, smell — and especially a stench.

Coffee is extremely sensitive to light.

Fact: exposure to UV rays and extreme heat or cold will cause coffee to degrade fast.

Because of this, you shouldn’t store your coffee beans in glass or transparent plastic containers left out in the open. I use a plastic coffee storage container and keep it deep in a dark cupboard.

Coffee and oxygen aren’t friends.

Fact: coffee beans are as susceptible to the effects of oxygen as other perishable foods. 

Oxidation happens during prolonged exposure to air, causing the molecular structure of the coffee to break down. That means you’ll quickly end up with stale coffee unless you use an airtight container.

Coffee’s biggest enemy is moisture.

Fact: moist, humid environments are ideal for bacteria and enzymes that break down food. 

Because of this, coffee exposed to moisture will quickly begin to lose its flavor. Not only that, but you run the risk of brewing coffee with moldy beans — and no one wants that.

Pre-Ground vs Whole Bean Coffee

fine coffee grinds in a bowl

As soon as you grind coffee beans, you’re in a race against time. And by grinding coffee, you’re creating a much larger surface area for oxidation to work on, so the coffee will start to lose its delicate aroma more quickly. That’s why you should always store whole coffee beans and grind them fresh each time you brew.

Should I Store Coffee Beans in the Fridge?

You should never store coffee in the fridge. 

Refrigerators are home to many undesirable odors that delicate coffee beans can absorb. After all, who wants to drink coffee or espresso that smells and tastes like Swiss cheese and peppered salami? Gross.

Arne holding a big cheese while brewing coffee

The condensation that accumulates due to temperature fluctuations in the refrigerator is another big problem. Condensation can speed up oxidation, pushing flavorful oils in the coffee to the outer surface of the beans. 

Moral of the story: moisture kills coffee immediately! So please don’t sentence your beans to death by putting them in the fridge.

Can I Freeze Coffee Beans?

Storing coffee in the freezer will achieve absolutely nothing when it comes to preserving freshness. Not only that, but it’s cold and damp in there — and you know what moisture does to coffee beans! So do yourself a favor and forget everything you’ve ever heard about storing coffee in subzero temperatures. 

Good coffee beans are simply too good to freeze. Then again, in the case of cheap coffee from the supermarket, it might be that it can’t really get any worse.

Shelf Life and Best-Before Dates

How long roasted coffee lasts depends on several factors, including the roast profile, varietal, roast date and how you stored the beans. 

Some coffee roasters even boast an exceptionally long minimum shelf life of certain coffee beans. And yes, I’m sure you could still drink that coffee even years later without adverse health effects.

The question isn’t whether it’s still drinkable, but if it still tastes good.

Even with the best packaging, coffee begins to lose some of its aroma immediately after roasting. That’s why it’s always a good sign when the roaster specifies the roasting date on the bag. 

Roast date of bocca coffee beans

But what’s also important to know is that freshly roasted coffee needs to “rest” or “degas” for a few days. While that happens, the fresh coffee beans release the carbon dioxide that builds up during the roasting process. 

Any barista worth their salt will tell you that it’s difficult to extract a well-balanced espresso with beans that haven’t had time to rest, and the same goes for any of the preparation methods you might use at home. That said, you should try to use up a bag of beans within two to four weeks of the roast date.

There are some smaller coffee roasters who write a very short best-before date on their beans, and most of them are likely to list the roast date, too. This combination is definitely a good sign.

5 Tips: How to Store Coffee Beans

coffee beans close up

As we’ve seen, there are many factors that can cause coffee to lose its flavor and aroma. Below are my five tips for how to store coffee beans and maintain freshness for as long as possible.

  • Use an Airtight Container

I always recommend keeping your coffee in the bag you bought it in, carefully resealing it after every use. What’s even better is to then put that bag in an airtight container. 

So as tempting as it might be to store coffee in a pretty glass jar, your beans will last way longer if you use an opaque, sealable coffee container — yes, specifically for coffee — that won’t give off any odors.

  • Store Coffee Away From Light

Because moisture, heat and light can all make coffee go stale, you should store beans in a cool, dark place. This could be a cupboard or pantry, but make sure to keep coffee away from your garlic. You also should be mindful that your storage area should be far from potential heat sources, such as an oven.

  • Use Whole Beans

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: only use high-quality beans and grind them right before you use them! 

Ground coffee loses its flavor much more quickly than whole beans, so buy only as much coffee as you’ll consume in a week or two and make sure you’ve got a coffee grinder in your kitchen.

  • Don’t Keep Coffee in the Fridge

Just a few minutes in the fridge is all it takes for your coffee to start acting like baking soda — absorbing all the odors and flavors that surround it. Not only that, but the moist environment will cause your cheese- and leftover-flavored beans to go stale. Unless that sounds good to you, keep your coffee out of the fridge!

  • Check the Roast Date

Just as you wouldn’t buy expired food, you should always check the roast date before buying a bag of coffee beans. Plus, remember that super fresh coffee releases carbon dioxide for a few days, so it might not be ideal for certain preparation methods right away. 

I hope I’ve helped you with my tips and suggestions. How do you store your coffee? Does your coffee have a roasting date listed, and has the roaster added a best-before date? Let me know about your experiences with coffee storage in the comments below. 

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