To freeze or not to freeze coffee beans?
Traditionally, storing coffee in the freezer was considered to be good practice. Then specialty coffee came along and said it was atrocious. Now, new research seems to suggest freezer stored coffee has merit.
So is freezing coffee beans a good idea? The ultimate goal is to preserve coffee as fresh as possible for as long as possible.
This one’s going to be a little more technical, but we will try and keep it as simple as we can.
What Kills Fresh Coffee Beans
Let’s quickly review what we know for certain about coffee bean storage. There are non-negotiable requirements when it comes to food storage of any kind, so any claim that’s made about freezer storage has to be consistent with these.
- Oxygen kills coffee and any other kind of food. A tight seal to reduce the free flow of oxygen is always best when storing food.
- Light kills coffee. Whether from the sun or a lamp, light breaks down organic cell structures and results in flavor and nutrient loss. Ultraviolet light, X-rays, and radio waves are invisible to our naked eye, but they still affect the world around us, including our food and coffee. Opaque storage containers are ideal.
- Heat kills coffee. Warm environments cause food to decay more quickly than cold ones. The same is true for coffee. Cold beans decay slowly, while warm beans decay quickly.
- Humidity kills coffee. Humid environments encourage bacterial growth and can alter the moisture level of the beans rapidly, which destroys flavor.
If we are mindful of these requirements, your coffee beans will stay at peak freshness for as long as possible. Now, what about the arguments against storing coffee beans in the freezer?
Storing Coffee Beans in the Freezer
The main argument made by the specialty coffee community centers around the idea that there is a large amount of humidity in refrigerators and freezers. And this argument is undeniable because of one fundamental principle: roasted coffee beans have a low moisture level. Low moisture level means that the beans are prone to absorbing moisture from their environment (called hygroscopic). And as mentioned above (Requirement #4), when they soak up moisture, the original flavors become tainted, muddy, and plain weird.
To make things even worse, this humidity comes packaged with flavors from nearby foods in a freezer. Coffee that’s soaked up the aromas of garlic or lasagna is not something you want to wake up to in the morning.
You may be thinking to yourself that you can easily avoid all of these things if you just store the beans in a dry, airtight container in the freezer. No. When you open an airtight container that was just pulled out of the freezer, condensation rapidly forms on the surface of your food or coffee beans. This condensation brings about all the humidity issues we’re talking about immediately.
Now, there is one (and only one) way to make freezer storage work for coffee beans. If you have more beans than you can use in the next two or three weeks, then long term storage freezing can preserve the flavor and fresh qualities of those beans if you store them in a truly airtight container. You will need to repackage your beans because the bag that your beans come in is not air tight. And store them in smaller batches. When you take the beans out of the freezer, make sure that they thaw to room temperatures before opening the container in order to avoid condensation.
Just remember that excellent coffee storage only really works if you’re starting out with freshly roasted coffee. And be sure to avoid 4 things at all cost – oxygen, light, heat and humidity. Then you will be able to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee every time.
We at Planet Coffee source coffee beans from some of the world’s best farms. They’re environmentally conscious, pay proper wages to local farmers, and grow great tasting coffee beans. And we roast them locally in order to achieve peak freshness for your office coffee needs.