Freezing Coffee Beans – Is It Good or bad?
Storing coffee is probably one of the least researched domains. If roasting, grinding and brewing have evolved into great sciences, storing is still debated and each person has their own opinion. Many of the opinions though, are just unfounded, and are pure speculations pushed with confidence, but no real evidence, by coffee connoisseurs.To freeze or not to freeze coffee, this is probably one of the most controversial questions in the coffee world. I freeze coffee, I always did as my tasting buds and my nose told me. They always told me the frozen coffee beans were good, and they were as good as the fresh ones, but more on the subject later.
How To Store Coffee Beans or Grounds
- Airtight Container
All experts agree that one of the most important things when storing coffee is to make sure the recipient is airtight, and no oxygen is allowed to get in the bag or can. That is true but you need to take coffee from your recipient every day, and every day there will be an air exchange in the recipient. That unless you are a restaurant or a coffee shop and you finish your bag by the end of the day.
- Freezer or Pantry?
Many experts will tell you that storing coffee in the pantry is the right way to do it. The fridge or the freezer storing are just wrong ways to do it. Some are vehement about it, some are just saying that "it doesn't feel right". If you keep small quantities of beans, the pantry is a good place to store them, always in airtight containers. The trick would be here to buy coffee in small quantities then use a coffee vault like Friis, or Tightvac.
- Freezer and Pantry Storage
The reality is that a combination of two methods, the freezing and airtight storing is the best way to go. Freezing is the best way to store beans long term, there is no doubt, no matter what "the experts" say. Here is a link to an article that shares the results of and experiment on freezed vs not-freezed coffee beans: To Freeze or Not to Freeze. This is the only resource that uses an experiment to support the conclusion. The guy actually wanted to prove that freezing is bad for beans, but he just couldn't. The National Coffee Association says that freezing coffee is bad for coffee beans because contact with moisture will deteriorate coffee. There is some truth in their affirmation, however, in my personal experience the beans stored in the freezer will stay perfectly dry if handled properly. The key is to us an airtight bag, or container, and to return the beans in the freezer as fast as possible, after using it.I have changed my method of storing beans lately to minimize the risks. Now I keep the big bag in the freezer, and I only take it out once per week, when I refill my airtight container. The airtight container will keep my beans perfectly stored for a week and even a little more. But when I buy a 1 lb bag from my favorite roaster, there is no way I am going to let that in the pantry for a month. That goes in the freezer.
- How about Fridge Storing?
Fridge storing is not good for beans. Under no circumstances you should store coffee beans in the fridge, the better option is on the counter, or anywhere in the kitchen, but away from the heat.
- How to Store Ground Coffee?
First of all try to not store ground coffee at all. Grind only what you brew. But if you must store it, here are some advice. Ground coffee cannot be stored in the freezer. Because ground coffee has a lot of more contact surface, and absorbs humidity very easy, we need to avoid temperature changes that will allow condensation. The best way to store ground coffee is in airtight containers at room temperature or slightly lower. Again, avoid drastic temperature changes when handling. The best routine is like in the case of beans, two airtight containers, one for daily use, containing coffee for a few days, and one for long term storage, from which you transfer weekly into the other can.
A coffee vault designed to keep your coffee beans fresh for longer periods. The vault is airtight, so that the aroma of the coffee is locked in. Equipped with a "freshness valve", allows air to go out as CO2 is released. Disregard the marketing inflated claims about CO2 aromas damaging. Look at this can as a great airtight container, that will not allow air in. CO2 doesn't cause any aroma loss, period. The explanation behind how this works is that CO2 is continuously released by the roasted beans, and as it is released, it displaces the oxygen in the container. The less oxygen in the coffee vault, the less oxidation, and aroma loss. CO2 is an inert gas that will not interact with the coffee beans during storage.ConclusionThis coffee vault is great for storing coffee, but not for the reason stated by the seller.
Freezer vs Pantry Coffee Storage
There are a lot of discussions about the freezer storing coffee, and the are vehiculated a few reasons against this.Let's take a look at the reasons of the opponents of freezing coffee:
- Myth: The freezer is a moist place, and because coffee is porous will absorb the moist.
Truth: The freezer cannot be a moist place because the moist freezes, coffee is porous though.
- Myth: Coffee will absorb odors in the freezer.
Truth: The freezer don't hold many odors, because odors are basically transported through vapors, and vapors freeze inside a freezer. If you keep your coffee in an airtight bag as you should, you will protect the beans from any potential odors.
- Myth: Storing coffee in the freezer will expose the beans to extreme temperature differences.
Truth: Yes, if you take it of the freezer and keep out it for an hour. Why would you do that?
- Myth: Freezing coffee damages the volatile oils in coffee.
Truth: The experiment that I linked to earlier in the page, showed that we cannot distinguish between the coffee which was stored in the freezer and coffee which was stored in the pantry.
Vacuum Coffee Container
The Tightvac coffee container, is just an incredibly tight container, that allows you to remove the air excess. Contrary to the name suggestion, it doesn't create a vacuum, it just allows the excess air to be removed by pushing a button. The container works great as it is airtight, holding about 1 lb of coffee.
How To Store Coffee Beans Long Term
If you want to store coffee long term, the best option is to store green coffee. Green coffee is a lot more stable than the roasted beans, and allows longer shelf time. You still need special packaging and a low temperature to avoid any problems, but you can safely store coffee for years this way. The procedure implies packaging your coffee beans in plastic bags that will be vacuumed immediately. Then all the bags resulted, will go in the freezer. When you take your coffee beans from the storage, you need to let the package warm up, then you can roast your coffee beans as you would normally do. They will be as fresh as as possible, with the best aroma possible. In all fairness, with green beans you could probably store them in a pantry, using an airtight container, and you won't loose anything. Green coffee beans are pretty stable, and they can be kept this way for at least a couple of months.
I personally don't roast my beans, because I don't have the time. I prefer to buy them roasted. If you don't want to roast your beans, and you want to store them long term, you will follow the same procedure. The difference is when you take them off the storage for use. When you take the beans out of the freezer, you will need to transfer them directly in an airtight container, to avoid contact with the air/oxidation. Just keep in mind that long term storing roasted beans is not the best option anyway. The roasted beans start to change the second they get out of the roasting pan/facility.
One interesting thing about storing coffee in the freezer is the release of the oils. Once you bring them to room temperature, the beans start to release the oils within a day or two. The same beans that start to release the oils within a week or two. That means you can keep them in the freezer for a long time without any adverse effect, but once you got them out you have to use them fast. When you open a new bag, you can probably keep in your airtight coffee container enough for 10 days, before storing in the freezer. However, when you take from the freezer you need to take only for a few days.
Oily Coffee Beans – What Does It Mean?
Oily beans are not necessarily a bad thing.
I heard people blaming oily coffee for poor brewing results, and some people even saying that coffee was rancid because of the oil. None of these is true.
The oil in the coffee beans is very important for the end result of the brew.
Coffee beans contain oil, the oil is released in the roasting process and it only gets released with the darker roast. Without the oil in the beans, espresso would have no "crema", the foamy layer would be nonexistent. A lot of the aromas and flavors of the darker roast beans come from the oils. So oil in the beans is normal.
Why don't we always see the oils if it's normal?
The oils start to surface the coffee bean between 3d day and three weeks. So you could have beans roasted 2 weeks ago and see no trace of oils, yet the oils are there, they just didn't surface. There is a saying that if there is no oil on the beans, the coffee is either too young or too old.The darker the roast the faster the oils get to the surface, with Spanish roasts bringing the oils out from the first day after roasting.
The oils are released in the roasting process after the second crack.
So roasts that don't involve a 2nd crack will be oil free. The aroma of these roasts is more earthy, and the beans are more stable, retaining the flavors for longer time. In other words the presence of oils is not indicative of a stale batch, but rather an indication that the batch should be consumed fast, because of the lower shelf life of the dark roasts. After the oils are released, the shelf life gets very short, since the oils start to evaporate the minute they surface the bean.
One interesting thing about frozen coffee beans is that they start to release the oils immediately after thawing.
So freezing reduces the kitchen counter life of the coffee, but it prolongs the overall shelf life. That means that you can only transfer beans from the freezer to the pantry, for a few days.
Ok so you probably guessed my position regarding the freezer storage. I want to know your opinion about this, and so do the readers of this page. Please, give us your feedback on this.