The difference between a fresh cup of coffee and a stale one is the difference between tasting the rich, fruity undertones and wishing you could deliver your daily caffeine intake via IV instead.
That’s to say: drinking coffee fresh bolsters its savory flavor profile (where you can accurately describe coffee as “nutty” or “chocolatey”) while spoiled beans produce bitter, less flavorful cups (even if those beans are from a high-quality roaster).
You can tell a coffee bean is fresh by the appearance of oils and of gases. The oils create a nice shine on the bean itself (although this is less pronounced on light roasts) whereas you can note the appearance of gases if there is a small valve on its original packaging (which allows the gases to escape).
Luckily, keeping your coffee fresh isn’t rocket science. We’ve listed seven ways to guarantee fresh coffee for your brewing pleasure.
Buy your coffee fresh (not in bulk)
After coffee is roasted, the countdown to staleness begins. If you want fresh beans, you need to buy beans that have been roasted recently — you have no idea how long bulk coffee is kept in their silos. Besides, introducing oxygen to your beans is a great way to degrade their flavor, or even spoil them. Coffee bags are pre-packaged — and sealed — for a reason.
Grind your coffee when you’re ready to brew it (and no sooner)
This tip is for the serious coffee drinkers out there. While you can have fresh ground coffee, it’s already been affected by the introduction of oxygen and is more prone to growing stale on your shelf (it’s more affected by humidity than whole beans, for example). If you must have pre-ground coffee, only buy what you will use in one week and carefully consider how you store it.Keep your coffee beans away from direct sunlight
Direct sunlight is known to immediately cause roasted beans to go stale. Keep your stored beans in a dark spot (preferably in a dark or opaque container) and away from heat.
Keep your beans away from moisture and steam
That means keeping them away from your stove, your oven, even your brewer. Because coffee is hygroscopic it will absorb moisture from the air — which, you guessed it, spoils their flavor and causes them to prematurely stale.
Keep your beans in an airless container
Oxygen is the number one adversary to fresh coffee. You do not want your roasted beans to oxidize. The best way to keep that from happening is to keep your beans in an airless – not just airtight – container after opening — like the Airscape. The Airscape locks out air to keep your beans incredibly fresh and, because its made of stainless steel, the container won’t impart unwanted flavors on your beans like plastic could. Moreover, the Airscape will also lock out moisture (see above).
Wash said container regularly
Roasted coffee beans contain oils (at least the fresh ones do), which will rub off on the surface of your container. The oils then have the ability leach on to your next batch of beans, spoiling them. This also applies to your grinder and brewer. Make sure to wash all regularly.
Be wary of the freezer
The reviews are mixed on this one. Some say that the change in temperature will cause condensation (a.k.a moisture) to form on the beans, which you now know causes flavor degradation. While others claim that as long as you keep your frozen beans in an appropriate freezer-burn resistant container, they’ll last longer than on the shelf. But if there’s even a chance of spoilage, why take that risk?
So there you have it — seven ways to keep your coffee tasting as delicious as it’s meant to be. Happy brewing!