Nothing beats a good cup of freshly ground coffee in terms of aroma and taste. But for most of us, a freshly ground cup is a pleasure saved for going to our favourite local coffee shop, and we generally drink pre-ground coffee when at home.
Although it is wonderful to drink roasted coffee beans freshly ground, having a grinder or a bean to cup machine means further expense and time you need to spend on making a cup of coffee when sometimes speed and ease is the most important thing on our mind.
If you drink coffee at home, you may have wondered how to store ground coffee beans and how long you can keep them before their freshness and taste starts to diminish. We have added tips and information below about storing ground coffee which we hope will help you enjoy that freshly roasted taste for longer!
Types of Beans
There are many different stages to the coffee process before you get to the point where most of us open up a packet of ground coffee, and the ability to keep beans fresh for longer follows this process timeline.
The first stage in the process, where all coffee begins, is with whole coffee beans that have not yet been roasted. These are called green beans.
Because they are whole, they are not as prone to losing their freshness or flavour. As long as beans are kept free of moisture inside their packaging and direct sunlight, they should have a shelf life of up to one year.
Whole Roasted Beans
Once coffee beans are roasted, the coffee starts to lose freshness, but roasted coffee should last between 6 and 9 months with the right container. It is always best to enjoy freshly roasted coffee as close to its roast date as possible.
Ground Coffee Beans
When coffee beans are ground, they start to release all of their aromas, which will diminish the longer you leave between grinding and drinking. Vacuum sealed coffee will retain some freshness, but once the bag is opened, you are on a countdown of quality and taste!
The optimum time to drink ground coffee once opened is two weeks, but it will last up to a month if carefully stored.
Coffee Storage 101
Many factors impact keeping your coffee fresh. These are where you store it, what you store it in, and even what packaging the ground coffee is purchased in.
There are several theories as to where the best place to store ground coffee is. Our view is that the best place is on a pantry shelf or in a kitchen cupboard. The ideal environment is where light is kept to a minimum, and the temperature is consistently cool.
To avoid fluctuating temperatures, be careful not to choose a cabinet next to your microwave or oven, as these can cause the temperature to rise, and you will be left with a bag of stale ground coffee.
It is also essential to store your coffee away from exposure to moisture, as this can also cause it to go stale. Placing a container on top of your fridge should be avoided as it expels heat and moisture as it works.
Another school of thought about storing ground coffee is that the best place, once opened, is in the fridge. However, taking ground coffee in and out of the fridge means that fluctuating temperatures create moisture, which can mean your coffee loses its flavour and aroma.
Additionally, coffee beans contain nitrogen, which is absorbent. Storing coffee in the fridge could mean that it ends up absorbing all your fridge smells, which are unlikely to be as aromatic as the freshest coffee!
To Freeze or Not to Freeze
There is quite a lot of disagreement about whether or not freezing ground coffee is a good thing. The argument for freezing coffee beans is that it stops the clock effectively on the coffee losing its freshness.
Frozen ground coffee should last longer, especially if vacuum sealed. However, improperly stored coffee in the freezer could get freezer burn, and you may also be exposing it to water molecules which can cause it to go stale.
What to Store Ground Coffee In
The container you store your coffee in is just as important to its freshness as where you store it. It is tempting to store coffee beans in full view, as it gives your kitchen the coffee shop feels, but this is not a great solution. Coffee beans need cool temperatures without exposure to too much light.
If you choose to store coffee on your worktop, next to the kettle and mugs, the best storage solutions for coffee are airtight containers made from opaque glass or plastic, as this keeps the light from causing damage to it. Another option is to use a food-grade metal canister. Ceramic jars would also work well.
If your airtight container does happen to be glass, make sure that you follow our tips above in terms of keeping it in pantry storage or in a cupboard.
A further tip to keep your morning cup tasting fresh is to store coffee in its original packaging in an airtight container. Even once you have opened vacuum-sealed packaging, its lining is designed to keep the natural oils within the coffee and keep light out.
On the other hand, even the packaging your fresh beans or coffee grounds come in is subject to some debate. Typically, it is vacuum-sealed, or the coffee packaging has a valve that allows the coffee to breathe.
When considering vacuum-sealed coffee, it is important to understand that as part of the packaging process, the ground coffee has to be left to release any carbon dioxide gases produced as part of the roasting and grinding. Without this period of ageing, the gases could be released when the coffee is packaged, causing it to explode and burst.
So, although vacuum sealing is thought to retain the freshness of the coffee, it also entails leaving the coffee to age for a while to protect the packaging. On the other hand, a valve sealed bag of coffee does not require that pause before being sealed, so it may be better at keeping your coffee fresh!
Other Tips for Keeping it Fresh
How and when you buy and consume your coffee can also help keep it fresh. It might be that you like the convenience of pre-ground coffee beans first thing in the morning when you most want a quick hit of caffeine without having to grind your whole beans. If that’s the case, we suggest you buy only as much coffee as you need for, say, a two week period, so you are minimising the coffee storage timescale.
Having so much ground coffee that you need to keep it stored for longer periods, where it is subject to prolonged exposure to air and light, will make it much harder to keep it fresh.
You can then store whole beans, which keep for longer, and grind them for fresh coffee when you have the time to enjoy it. After all, there’s nothing better than a perfect cup of coffee that has been freshly ground.
Final Coffee Storage Contemplations
We hope that we have provided you with some practical tips and advice on storing ground coffee so that you can enjoy a wonderfully aromatic cup of coffee without needing to grind your own all the time.
Our top tips for storing your coffee for longer are to keep it in its original packaging in an airtight container and to keep that container somewhere at a cool room temperature and out of sunlight.
In terms of packaging, remember that vacuum sealing coffee has to be done once the carbon dioxide has been released, so your coffee may be older than you think, even though this method helps it to stay fresh once it is packaged.
Whether to freeze ground coffee is something that gets debated a lot, but our view is that it can damage coffee and expose it to moisture. Keeping a bag of coffee in the fridge or freezer has issues; it exposes the coffee to other foods which it can absorb the smell of, and refrigerator temperatures may not be as beneficial as keeping it at room temperature.
To enjoy a cup of coffee with maximum freshness, purchase small amounts of ground coffee regularly so that you are not storing it for more than a month, and maybe also keep beans to enjoy that freshly ground taste at home as well.
Tom is a former chef turned full-time food blogger. He has always been passionate about food, and loves nothing more than experimenting in the kitchen and sharing his recipes with others. Tom’s blog is one of the most popular food blogs on the internet, and he has won numerous awards for his cooking. When he’s not blogging or cooking, Tom enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.