As great as fresh coffee is, it only has a limited shelf life. The better you store coffee, the better it will last (and taste); incorrectly store it and you’ll find that it goes off quickly. There are plenty of myths and bad advice out there, but I’ll take you through the best way to keep your coffee fresh.
How long does coffee last?
First, how long can you reasonably expect coffee to last? The answer depends on whether you have whole roasted beans (green beans, before roasting, last a lot longer) or ground coffee.
Whole beans typically last for up to a month before losing their freshness but are best within a couple of weeks of roasting. Ground coffee will only last a maximum of a couple of weeks, although it’s best within a few days and up to a week after being ground. That’s the reason why I recommend having your own grinder, as you can keep your coffee for longer and maintain its freshness.
Related: How to use a coffee grinder
How can you tell when coffee is past its best?
Fresh coffee will have that distinctive coffee smell. Coffee way past its best will have lost a lot of its aroma, although (unless it’s gone really bad) there won’t be any visual indication. And, coffee that’s past its best can sometimes still smell quite inviting.
More, the proof is in the making. For ground coffee made in a cafetiere, adding hot water should add a frothy foam to the top; if you don’t get this, then your coffee is off. If you’re making espresso from beans or ground coffee, you should get a decent crema. If you can’t get a good crema, then the chances are that your coffee is past its best.
How should you store coffee?
First, do not put your coffee in the freezer. This is a bad idea. Three things can affect coffee freshness: air, moisture and light. The idea of storing coffee in the freezer is that it’s airtight; but, a freezer is quite a humid place for coffee to live and will cause problems. Instead, you should keep coffee in an air-tight, moisture-free container that’s opaque to block sunlight. That’s it.
If you’ve bought ground coffee from the supermarket, they typically come in specially-sealed bags to lock in the freshness. Don’t open these bags until you’re ready to use the coffee, then seal the leftovers in a container as above.
If you’ve bought ground coffee from a speciality roaster or coffee shop, the beans will have been ground to order and put into a paper bag. The seal on these isn’t great, so only buy as much coffee as you can reasonably get through in a week (two weeks at the max).
If you have fresh beans, then it’s similar advice. Commercial roasters use special packs: don’t open them until you’re ready to use the beans. If you buy beans in a coffee shop and they’re just kept in a paper bag, only buy enough beans that you can get through in a couple of weeks.
If you have a coffee grinder, it’s OK to store your beans in the grinder’s hopper. Keep the grinder out of direct sunlight and make sure that you use your beans within a couple of weeks so that you can enjoy them when they’re fresh. Once you’ve got your coffee kept properly, you just need one of our best coffee machines to make the perfect cup.