How do you store coffee?

Quick, what are the two most destructive things on earth?

I will give you 10 seconds to come up with them.

1. . .2. . .3. . .4. . .5. . .6. . .7. . .8. . .9. . .10

Okay, what are they?

I can only guess at some of the answers you might have come up with: Guns, nuclear bombs, George W. Bush (if you are a Democrat), single-payer health care (if you are a Republican).

I might pick ignorance, but actually, the two most destructive things on earth are water and air. Water, given enough time, can move mountains. Air, or more specifically oxygen, combines with many materials to cause destruction in the form of rust, or in some cases, fire.

As you can imagine then, if you are trying to preserve your coffee beans, you do not want them to come into contact with either air or water (heat and light are two more things that coffee beans should stay away from). If  you can remember this, you have a pretty good idea of how to store coffee. Ideally, you would not store your beans for very long, but if you must, then these tips will help you get the best flavor out of them.

Do you leave the beans in the bag you bought them in and throw them in the cupboard? I have to confess of being guilty of this too. Storing beans in the bags expose them to lots of oxygen, which reacts with the flavor compounds and oils in the coffee to break them down. Find an air-tight container to store the beans in.  Flour storage containers with a rubber seal work well. They do a pretty good job of keeping air out, much better than a folded-over bag.

Some people store their coffee beans in the refrigerator. Storing beans in the refrigerator is not a good idea. Actually, it is a terrible idea. First, the beans are very absorbent and they pick up many of the flavors swirling around the fridge. You do not want your beans tasting like onions or yesterday’s chicken casserole. If that’s not enough reason to discourage you from putting your beans in the fridge, consider that taking the beans in and out of the fridge each day promotes condensation inside the bag, exposing your beans to moisture. This is bad news. Do you like the taste of mold? You won’t like it in your coffee either.

If not the refrigerator, what about the freezer? No mold there, right? There is some debate about whether storing the beans in the freezer is permissible. According to The Joy of Coffee, by Corby Kummer, you should think twice before doing this. Freezers also have odors in them (have you ever put a box of baking soda in the freezer to absorb them? I thought so), even though they have fewer odors than the fridge. If you take the beans out of the freezer for any length of time, condensation quickly forms inside the storage container. Therefore, if you insist on storing your beans in the freezer, take them out, measure the beans quickly and put them back in the freezer as soon as possible.

If nothing else, remember this rule: The best way to store coffee is to put it into an opaque, airtight container in a cool, dry place. It sounds simple, but it is an easy rule to break. Of course, no matter how well you store them, the beans are still going to be exposed to some oxygen and moisture, and the best way to avoid having stale, tasteless beans is to use them. Drink deeply and drink often (and support your local roasters)! Your taste buds will thank you.

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