How to Store Ground Coffee
How to store ground coffee
Whether you're a regular cup of joe drinker or a starting coffee connoisseur, this is a great place to discover some nifty tips and tricks to keep your ground coffee at home, stay fresh for longer.
I’ve met a lot of people who took the trouble of driving to a local coffee shop at 6 in the morning to buy a ready-made cup. I also know some who purchased high-end (and expensive) machines that prepare their coffee for them.
What do these people have in common? They don't realize that in crafting a delicious cup of coffee, the right storage is just as important as the brewing process.
Why is Coffee Storage Important?
It took me a while to recognize the importance of properly storing my ground coffee, and how the appropriate storage helps in preserving its quality, aroma, and flavor. Not many people know this, but coffee can and will go bad, without the proper storage conditions. Ground coffee is most especially sensitive to different external conditions – heat, light, air, and moisture – causing it to turn stale after exposure.
This explains why ground coffee sold at stores is meticulously packed – or even vacuum-sealed. In this article, we will drill down all the possible approaches you could apply to keep your coffee away from these external conditions and to prolong the shelf life of your coffee.
Your Coffee Storage Location Also Plays a Key to its Freshness
The best place to store your ground coffee would be in the pantry. Choose a spot that is furthest from your windows (if there’s any) – a dark corner in your pantry room would be a great place to start. And of course, avoid storing it alongside wet ingredients or in a high-temperature setting. Remember that coffee hates moisture and heat too!
Which Container Should You Use?
Now that we’ve selected a good storage location for our coffee grounds, let’s identify the right containers to use because it’s most definitely not the storage bag that came with it! Transfer it immediately to a separate container upon opening.
Keep in mind the external conditions I mentioned earlier – heat, light, air, and moisture – when choosing a storage container for your ground coffee. Opening that bag already exposes it to enemies #1 and #2 – air and light. From a general point of view, the most practical and convenient way to combat these would probably be to get an opaque glass container with an airtight cover. Ceramic containers would do fine as well - whichever container material you choose, verify that it is not accompanied by a funky smell so your coffee does not absorb the scent.
I know I already told you to find a dark location to store it but, we can’t be too complacent, right?
You might be wondering, what would you use if only clear glass containers are available to you? Good question. Normally, these types of containers are not recommended because clear containers allow light in, but it would work just as fine as the opaque variety so long as it’s located in a dark area in your home.
Methods in Storing Ground Coffee
Let’s dive deeper into the proven and tested methods you might want to consider to preserve the freshness of that delicious ground coffee.
Storing Coffee at Room Temperature
In terms of temperature, there’s still much debate among experts about the ideal temperature levels for storing coffee. There isn’t yet an established temperature range that is most appropriate – there are those that prefer to store coffee in temperatures as high as 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, but there are also some that advise putting coffee in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this point, it would be your judgment call. An important thing to consider is your geographical location and climate as this can impact your surrounding temperature conditions – if you live in hotter/wetter countries, it might be best that you lean towards a lower temperature range and gradually increase as needed.
The proper storage conditions will make a big difference in the way your coffee tastes, and the amount of time that it retains its freshness.
Store Your Coffee in an Airtight Container
A good visualization that might be helpful to you is air exposure of sliced apples. Sure, it looks fresh and juicy upon slicing, but leave it out for a while and it will turn brown. Its taste and texture might even be a little different from how those originally were upon slicing it. The same concept applies to coffee.
Opening the coffee pack and leaving it out for a while will surely make it go stale quickly. Transferring it to a container is not enough - if you recall, we’ve already discussed earlier, using airtight containers as the ideal storage for coffee. It can be difficult to tell how ordinary container seals would maintain the ground coffee; airtight containers are most effective (not to mention, inexpensive) in keeping the coffee away from these harmful external elements.
Choose an Opaque Container
Hello, darkness, my old friend, indeed. Aside from storing your coffee in a dark location, opaque containers provide additional protection against the light. There are probably other ways to prevent light from reaching the product but opaque containers are usually, easily accessible to many - which explains why this remains a popular storage container choice.
Keep Your Coffee in a Dry Environment
Major companies often invest in storage facilities, especially if it's located in naturally humid countries, to maintain a certain level of humidity in that surrounding environment. On average, coffee should be placed in areas that are within 50 to 70 percent humid. Otherwise, the flavor turns bad. Picture this, huge containers of coffee could be wasted in a matter of hours. The right humidity levels must be set within the coffee storage facility to prevent this.
In the same way, your coffee at home can also turn moldy if placed under humid conditions. Keep your coffee in a cool, dry place. After all, getting your ground coffee wet would be the quickest way to ruin it.
Check that your chosen storage location for your ground coffee is not anywhere near liquid pantry ingredients, your kitchen sink, or other areas that may be in contact with any type of liquid.
Keep Humidity and Temperature Conditions Constant
So you’ve got your coffee storage temperature and humidity in check. You also nailed my other storage suggestions - what now?
Bear in mind that it doesn't stop there. Regularly check the temperature and humidity levels in your chosen location. A nice range would be at least once a month. This is because fluctuations in temperature and humidity could cause the formation of 'wet zones'. In other words, if the temperature and humidity within your selected storage change too much or too often, or both, unwanted moisture could form inside, directly impacting your coffee. And if you let it wait even longer, that moisture that formed can be 'redistributed' within your container - ruining an even larger portion of what could have been a great 'morning wake-me-up.
The current debate still revolves around freezing coffee as a means of storage approach. While this remains a controversial opinion, freezing coffee is also considered an ingenious way of storing coffee and preserving its quality for longer.
However, a word of warning! As you may have already realized, freezers can put your coffee at risk of developing moisture if the wrong freezing measures are applied. Aside from this, coffee is hygroscopic - this means that coffee is highly absorbent and would most likely absorb the moisture and taste it obtained from its surrounding air. If you’re freezing your coffee alongside other frozen meats, don’t be surprised to catch a whiff of that funky frozen meat smell while you drink a cup of joe in the morning. Yikes!
Nevertheless, I won’t deny that freezing may still prove to be a good substitute for the coffee storage recommendations I shared with you earlier - never fear! Keep reading below as I’ve compiled some measures you could take to have an effective coffee freezing experience.
Use the Freezer for Long-term Storage Only
Keeping your coffee in a freezer guarantees that the product remains within a certain range of cooler temperature, in a dark place that you would not normally access as often as you would a refrigerator. Pulling it out repeatedly would expose your coffee to fluctuating temperature levels, which would put the product at risk of developing unwanted moisture.
Put Coffee in a Completely Airtight Container
Preferably, coffee should be unopened before putting it in the freezer. But let's say you didn't realize you wouldn't be able to consume your coffee as quickly as you initially thought, you would use an airtight container.
An excellent way to block air and moisture from entering or forming is to use an airtight container, then placing that container in your freezer.
Keep Coffee in a Deep Freeze
Deep freezing your coffee is essentially the same as freezing, except in this case, you are freezing the coffee for a much longer period. A rule of thumb is if you plan to store the coffee in the freezer for more than a month, deep freezing would be the way to go about it.
Brew the Coffee Immediately After Taking it Out of the Freezer
We do not like moisture. Period. Taking a frozen container of coffee out of extremely low temperatures would certainly attract moisture as it attempts to thaw away all the surrounding ice from all those days, weeks, or even months of storage. Before this newly formed moisture completely ruins your coffee, it would be best that you brew it and consume it right away.
Do Not Refreeze Coffee
About the previous discussion point, only pull out an amount you would be able to consume right away - refreezing the unfrozen coffee would redistribute the moisture it gained from the thawing or melting process, with the additional damage caused by massive air exposure the moment you took it out of the freezer.
If this happens, the worst part about this is that since coffee is not meant to be moist, putting it back in the freezer, or whichever storage method you opt for after thawing it, would likely result in molds forming within the coffee. It would certainly be too nasty for anyone to drink - it goes straight to the trash!
Avoiding Common Coffee Mistakes
Don’t Store Coffee in a Refrigerator
While freezers lock the coffee within a fixed low-temperature range, refrigerators have a relatively higher temperature range compared to freezers - and you most definitely open the refrigerators more often. Chances are, if the improper temperature levels don't ruin your coffee first, the temperature fluctuations will sure do. As you may have already known, the fluctuations could attract moisture formation within your coffee, which is why I highly advise against putting it in the refrigerator. You might want to rethink about doing this and find alternative locations for storage.
Buy Small Amounts of Coffee
Remember the freezing tips I talked about? Those are good ways to keep your coffee fresh for longer but, one of the best suggestions would still be purchasing coffee in smaller quantities.
Ideally, coffee should be consumed within 1 to 2 weeks - it might be more preferable that you make frequent purchases in much smaller batches rather than piling up on the coffee stock. This would save you a lot of money as your coffee won't go stale easily.
Buy Valve-sealed Bags Rather than Vacuum-sealed Bags
Vacuum-sealed bags are a classic way of packaging coffee as it removes the air surrounding the coffee - so long as it is tightly sealed and remains unopened, the vacuum method prevents air from seeping back into the package. There is no doubt that this is a good way of protecting your coffee from moisture and air. However, it could be improved - this is where valve-sealed bags come in!
Valve-sealed bags are a more recent and way better storage method than the vacuum-sealed approach. The vacuum removes the surrounding air during the initial packaging process, but it might be difficult to tell if unwanted air is squeezing back into the package. Valve seals not only remove the air within the package but also prevents air from getting back in.
Tips for Storing Ground Coffee
Here are some final storage tips to prolong the life of your coffee.
Check the Roast Date
If you’re like me, then you might have been confused before about what roast date means - I first thought it referred to something similar to an expiration date! I almost threw away what could be a great cup of joe.
Roast date is not the same as shelf life - it is not the day coffee goes bad, but the approximate time when the coffee is at its peak quality - the perfect date range to brew as that is the day it is most flavorful.
Lock Out Moisture
With everything you've discovered about proper storage locations, as well as the most preferred storage containers to use, combine those ideas to make sure that no moisture could ever reach your ground coffee stock. Avoid your refrigerator as the varying temperature attracts moisture or if, knock on wood, your coffee already caught moisture, putting it in the refrigerator can encourage redistribution of moisture within the package. Lockout moisture by remembering these three words - dark, dry, place. Your coffee will surely thank you for it.
Vacuum Sealing and Freezing
Vacuum sealing and freezing are a match made… for your coffee (not in heaven, but your coffee might just taste like one!) I recommend that if you're planning to pile up on vacuum-sealed coffee packs, put them in the freezer instantly to guarantee longer freshness.
Store Your Coffee in the Right Place
Choose the darkest spot in your pantry. Not near the window, or beside your stove or oven, but an untouched dark corner somewhere in your kitchen. If you cannot find one, I suggest placing it in a dark cupboard instead - be sure to find one that you won't access as frequently as your other pantry ingredients!
Pick the Perfect Container
Aside from picking the right place to store your coffee, a container is just as crucial! Other than finding a dark corner in your kitchen, use an opaque container as an additional measure in preventing light exposure. Glass container would be the perfect container choice, but other materials like ceramic would also be fine. But, be mindful about coffee being highly absorbent - carefully confirm that the container you’ve chosen won’t transfer scent or flavor to your coffee. If you used to put garlic in that container and decided to switch it with coffee instead, that strong garlic smell might get quickly picked up by your coffee.
I know this article is about storing ground coffee. However, I still highly recommend that as much as possible, avoid having to store so much coffee in your home. As I’ve mentioned a few subsections ago, purchase small batches and purchase as often as needed. You’ll retain the freshness of the coffee more and you certainly will save yourself from all the hassle of preventing it from going bad quickly.
Support your local farmers and local shops! ‘Nuff said.
If you’re still not convinced, one thing to take note of is that locally produced coffee has certainly been made under similar climatic conditions as yours (recall my explanation earlier about how geographical locations can also impact humidity and temperature surrounding stored coffee?). There’s a much higher chance that locally produced coffee would sustain its freshness better and longer (given the appropriate storage conditions, of course), and that it’s newly made (some local coffee roasters would grind the beans for you).
How Long Can You Keep Ground Coffee?
The shelf life of coffee depends on a variety of factors - surrounding external conditions like heat, moisture, air, and light can shorten the shelf life. Assuming that you have already performed all the tips and tricks listed throughout this article, what else is there to consider?
For starters, an unopened coffee pack certainly offers an advantage against opened coffee packs. Once opened, expect that your coffee will taste great for about 1-2 weeks; you might want to reconsider your other coffee storage options beyond that point. If you choose to proceed with the freezing approach, the shelf life of your coffee could be extended to at least a month.
Congratulations! You are close to getting the perfect cup of joe every morning. In this section, let’s recall and summarize everything we’ve learned so far.
At this point, you might now have a better appreciation for the different storage considerations - even more so once you realize how fast one coffee drinker could reap the benefits from these suggestions.
Note that these recommendations would be more effective when combined; these do not work as well as I suggested they would be if applied alone. Essentially, one recommendation cannot function without the other. For example, transferring to an opaque, airtight container might not save your coffee from being ruined if you placed it within an extremely humid location.
Purchase in smaller batches, and just buy as often as you need. Despite popular opinion, coffee can and will expire. Most especially, coffee will lose its quality even way before its expected expiration date. It is best consumed within 1 to 2 weeks. Confirm this by reading through the original package - it should indicate the recommended shelf life. Beyond that, you might need to take extra measures.
Freezing is the most common way to go about it; ensure that proper freezing methods are followed though, and this method could extend the shelf life of your coffee to months. Another less popular, but better approach - valve-sealed packages. If you can find one that suits your taste, choose this instead of vacuum-sealed ones.