If you’re as serious about your coffee flavor as me, you understand the importance of fresh beans. But, when it comes to keeping your beans fresh, the process isn’t as simple as you might think. Vacuum-sealing is a method I see many roasters use. But I’ve often wondered, is vacuum-sealing alone sufficient for maintaining the freshness of your beans?
On average, properly vacuum-sealed coffee beans will last anywhere from three to six months. This does not include additional methods for storing your beans, such as freezing or using a bag with a one-way valve.
So, vacuum-sealing does keep your beans fresh for longer than, say, tossing them into a mason jar or a sandwich bag. But what’s the reason for this? And is there more you could do to keep those beans fresher for even longer? Keep reading if you’d like to find out!
How Effective is Vacuum Sealing VS. Other Methods?
No doubt you’ve seen pictures of coffee beans in hinge-topped jars or bottles adorning the countertops of modern kitchens. But, while this may look cool, trust me, nothing could be worse for those beans.
When it comes to preserving roasted coffee beans, there are four big enemies you should always try to avoid:
Oxygen is especially detrimental to the flavor of your beans. When exposed to air, even freshly roasted coffee beans can start to lose their flavor within minutes! Storing beans inside one of those trendy hinge-topped jars will slow this process, but not by much. Because you’re trapping air inside the jar along with the beans, oxidation will still occur, if a little more slowly than if the beans were left sitting out on the counter. In that case, the most you can hope for in terms of maintaining freshness is about two to three weeks tops.
When introduced to moisture, coffee beans will begin to break down. Even in the smallest amounts, moisture will degrade your beans, turning them flavorless and, eventually, rancid. That’s why it’s imperative to keep coffee beans as dry as possible. And while a regular sealable container will help, wherever there is air, there is moisture.
When storing coffee beans in a clear container, you risk exposure to sunlight. While this may not seem like that big of a deal, sunlight and coffee beans do not get along. The UV rays oxidize the surface oils of the coffee beans, causing them to quickly spoil. Exposure to sunlight can also lead to the last entry on The Big Four list…
Yes, heat is bad for your beans! To understand why it helps to think of coffee beans as no different than most other common foodstuffs. Heat speeds up the aging process, turning coffee beans stale faster. To preserve freshness, a good rule of thumb is, the cooler the better. A room-temp jar on your countertop, therefore, is not the best option.
So, to avoid The Big Four, you should always strive for the following conditions: Cool, dark, dry, and airless.
Vacuum-sealing your coffee beans in an opaque bag and storing them in the pantry is a great place to start and can keep your beans fresh for up to six months. But, if you want to keep them fresh for even longer, there are a few other simple things you can do. However, as with anything in life, there are pros and cons.
Freezing Vs. Refrigerating Your Beans
Is freezing a good option? Well, it depends. On one hand, freezing your beans can extend their shelf life for up to three years! On the other, if you plan on dipping into your coffee beans regularly, you run the risk of exposing them to moisture.
Every time you take your beans out of the freezer and expose them to room-temperature air, condensation will begin to form. Therefore, it’s important to reseal the bag quickly and put it back in the freezer before the condensation has a chance to get started.
Proper planning also helps to minimize the amount of time your coffee beans spend outside of the freezer. Parsing out a week’s worth at a time ensures that you expose the beans to the air as little as possible without compromising your coffee’s freshness.
When it comes to freezing your beans, freezer burn is another concern. Food stored in the freezer becomes freezer burnt when exposed to air, ruining the flavor. To avoid this fate befalling your beans, make sure you reseal them properly, vacuuming out all the air before returning them to the freezer.
If this is all starting to sound like a little much, you might be tempted to store your coffee beans in the fridge instead. Don’t! According to Elyssa Goldberg over at Bon Appetit, the refrigerator not only fails to preserve your beans, but it actually ages them faster! Instead of freezing the beans, the fridge only makes them super cold, which causes them to condense and push their oils to the surface, essentially kicking the aging process into overdrive. Before long, you’ll end up with stale, flavorless beans.
So, if you’d rather not go through all the trouble of freezing, you’re better off keeping your sealed beans in the pantry, as long as you still take care to reseal them after every use.
The Best Container for Storing Roasted Coffee Beans
If, like me, you’re roasting your coffee beans at home, you may need more than a standard vacuum-sealed bag for storage. Coffee beans can release gasses for up to three weeks after roasting. This means that storing them in a regular vacuum-sealed bag without ventilation could cause the bag to inflate and even burst. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid this.
I use a sealable bag with a one-way valve to store my freshly roasted beans. That way, after allowing them to degas, I can transfer them straight to the freezer without worrying about excess gas causing the bag to rupture, ruining my beans.
The only drawback here is the price. Vacuum-sealed bags are already a little pricey, and vented bags cost even more. So, if you’re worried about your budget, you may want to stick with the regular vacuum-sealed bags. Just make sure to properly degas your beans before sealing!