How to Store Coffee Beans?

You're buying fantastic quality freshly roasted coffee beans, so "how to store coffee beans" is a very good question to ask, and it's one I do wish more people would ask. 

Why is coffee bean storage important?

I can answer this with one word: Freshness. 

If you weren't bothered about freshness, you wouldn't be here as a customer or potential customer of a supplier of freshly roasted high quality coffee beans.

It's really easy to walk into any supermarket just about anywhere, and pick up whatever bag of coffee beans looks the most appealing, or has the lowest price tag, or to just click on a bag of coffee beans while doing your online shop.

I'd imagine the reason you're here, on a website where you can buy stunning freshly roasted coffee beans that are roasted usually on the day of dispatch or sometimes a day or two earlier, is that you're no longer interested in drinking stale coffee.

You've been there, you've done that, and you've worn the T-shirt that is now coffee-stained from spitting out what tasted like last week's bath water.

Coffee stained T-shirt.

But now you've tasted the difference, you know what fresh tastes like and you can't go back to drinking dull-tasting old coffee that was roasted and packaged who knows where or when.

So what a travesty it would be, to buy fresh, vibrant, tasty coffee beans and then store them in a way that means they start to go stale. 

But you're not going to do that, you're here reading a post on the best way to store coffee beans, so all is well :-).

Doesn't whole bean coffee stay fresh anyway?

It's true to say that whole beans stay fresher for longer than ground coffee beans, because when you grind a coffee bean, so much more of its surface area becomes exposed. 

Having said that, even whole coffee beans will go stale when they're exposed to the air, so if you're going to buy fresh coffee beans, it really does make sense to store them as well as you possibly can.

Why do coffee beans go stale?

The main culprit where this is concerned, is Oxygen. Obviously we can't be too negative about Oxygen, we'd be stuffed without it ;-), but when it comes to coffee beans, oxidation is the main cause of coffee going stale, which is the process of the evaporation of the solubles.

These solubles are the plethora of compounds that we want to dissolve with water when we brew it, so if we get to it and much of it has already dissolved thanks to oxidation, this is a bit like trying to re-use a tea bag ;-).

In other words, coffee goes stale because the dissolved solubles that we call a cup of coffee, have already been dissolved in the air when we come to dissolve them in water. 

Oxidation isn't the only cause, moisture changes, high temperatures and direct sunlight can also damage our precious coffee tree seeds (OK, coffee beans has a much better ring to it so let's go with that, despite it being technically incorrect).

So roasted coffee beans goes stale due to oxidation, moisture, direct sunlight and heat.

So how do we store coffee beans to stop them going stale?

In a nutshell, the best way to store coffee beans is in a moisture free, air tight container kept in a relatively cool place out of direct sunlight. But there is a bit more to it than this.

In order to properly explain the "how to store coffee beans" question, we first need to ascertain whether you're talking about long term storage, or short term storage.

We'll get long term storage out of the way first, since I think this is the least common reason anyone would be searching for information on how to store coffee beans. 

How to store coffee beans - long term.

If you're looking to store coffee beans for several weeks, or even months, the best way to store coffee beans, is to freeze them.

There's a catch to chilling your beans though, freezing coffee beans only works if you do it properly, which means following some very important rules:

Don't break the seal

You need to ensure that your coffee beans are properly sealed before freezing. If you don't do that, your coffee beans will get knackered, basically. Moisture will creep in and bugger up your beans, so only freeze properly sealed bags of coffee beans.

Don't put them back, Jack

Once you take your beans out of the freezer, don't put them back, or they'll become damaged by moisture changes. 

Thaw before you pour

 When you remove your bag of sealed beans from the freezer, don't open them yet, leave them to thaw for at least a few hours (I'd recommend leaving them to thaw overnight) before opening them.

Just to contradict myself... there are some experts who swear by grinding frozen coffee beans, some believe them to actually grind more uniformly when they're ground frozen.


To do this though, really you'd need to freeze individual doses, and you'd need to have a relatively high end grinder with a powerful enough motor, as grinding frozen beans may cause grinder stalls (and damage) to more entry level grinders.


How long can you freeze coffee beans for?

Freezing scene with thermometer.

Theoretically there's no upper limit to this, as long as your beans are properly sealed. I've heard of people freezing beans for a year or even longer and claiming to have noticed very little deterioration in taste.

When I say "theoretically", this is because this would rely on the bag being properly sealed, and there being no mishaps over this time such as power cuts or someone being a bit heavy handed when launching the Iceland delivery into the freezer ;-).

How to store coffee beans - short term.

This is what most people probably came here for, as most people just buy enough coffee for the next couple of weeks or for the next month, and yes, buying in bulk and then separating to freeze in smaller bags is one way to save money, but a much more popular way to save money is to simply order by subscription. 

What most of our customers do is to order various bags of coffee over a period of time in order to figure out which are their favourites, and then add these to a fortnightly or monthly subscription, which means a saving of 15%, plus free delivery (if you're spending over a tenner).

How do I start a subscription?

Let's start out with the most commonly used coffee bean storage methods that are definitely not the best way to store coffee beans:

1: Storing coffee beans in the hopper

Coffee beans in a hopper.


Many people still store their coffee beans in their hopper, and this is one of the worst places you can possibly store coffee beans, in my humble opinion. 

Remember that the enemies of coffee bean freshness are oxygen, direct sunlight and heat, and you'll realize there's at least one major problem with this coffee bean storage solution. 

This problem is oxygen, because hoppers aren't air tight. 

I've seen this misunderstanding in coffee machine and coffee grinder reviews in the past, where customers are complaining that with some grinders there is no rubber gasket on the lid to keep the air out. 

What people tend to forget, is that even if you do have a rubber seal on the lid, you have a gaping hole called a grinds chute, leading to another gaping hole (well, it is a gaping hole where oxygen is concerned) in between the burrs, so you're always going go have air flowing into a hopper.

If you're single dosing, then this won't be an issue, but otherwise I'd recommend just loading up your hopper with the beans you're likely to use that morning, and leave the rest in your airtight storage container. 

Bean to Cup Coffee Machine recommendations

2: Leaving your coffee beans in the reseal bag

This is a better solution than leaving coffee beans in the hopper, because your reseal bag will have a degassing valve, so if it's properly sealed, air will only go one way. 

The issue with reseal bags is that the seals aren't perfect, and it's very easy to think you've sealed it and you haven't. 

3: Storing your coffee beans in the fridge

Coffee beans in the fridge

Keeping coffee beans in the fridge is a big no-no. There are few reasons for this, firstly most people are thinking more short term when they're thinking about storing coffee beans in the fridge, so they're not usually talking about storing only fully sealed bags in the fridge. 

Instead most people would consider the fridge to be a good place to keep your coffee fresh as you do with other stuff, milk, butter, tins of baked beans if your name is Joey Essex ;-), but it's really not.

The main reason for this is that coffee beans will condensate if they're regularly in and out of the fridge, meaning that condensation will form on the beans, which is moisture of course, and they'll actually end up going stale faster than if you left them in the kitchen. 

Another reason the fridge isn't a good coffee bean storage solution is that coffee beans will suck up other aromas, and you don't want your coffee tasting of onions, garlic, cheese and tomatoes... Well, maybe you do, each to their own ;-).

Yes, by the way, the same is true of storing coffee beans in the freezer, but that's the reason for the rules including the fact that they must be fully sealed, air-tight, before freezing.

Is this why your coffee tastes bad?

So what is the best way to store coffee beans? 

As we've ascertained, the enemies to coffee bean freshness are oxygen, heat, light and moisture, so the best place to store coffee beans is in an airtight storage container kept in a relatively cool place.

If you have a solid material container which keeps light out, you can simply keep it out on the work surface near your coffee machine, but if you're using a clear container such as a glass jar, you'll want to keep it stored in a cupboard away from constant light (natural or artificial).

My preferred coffee storage solution is to have an airtight container with a one way valve (so it lets air out but not back in) with a mechanism to push out air when putting the lid on.

There are a number of solutions along these lines, the most popular being Airscape and Coffeevac.

Coffee Storage FAQ

In case I've not answered any of your questions, here's a list of frequently asked questions, some of which may be somewhat repetitious if you've read the entire post ;-), but not everyone does, so this is mainly for the people who skipped straight to the FAQ.

Should I store coffee beans in the fridge?
No, no and thrice no. The fridge is one of the worst possibly places to store your coffee beans, they'll actually go stale faster in the fridge than if you just leave your bag of coffee on the kitchen worktop.

Should I store coffee beans in the freezer?
You can do, for longer term storage, but it's very important that if you do this you follow the rules that I mentioned earlier, namely that the beans are properly air tight sealed, that they remain this way until being removed from the freezer, and once taken out of the freezer they're left in the sealed bag until thawed, and not put back in the freezer.

How long do coffee beans stay fresh?
The staling of coffee beans once roasted, as with any "cooked" product, will happen naturally as time goes by. Keeping your beans stored in airtight storage and away from moisture and light will help to slow down this natural process.

But still, freshly roasted coffee beans are at their most vibrant up to a couple of weeks from roast date, and after this they're still fine to consume for months, but they'll simply gradually start to taste less impressive. 

So I'd personally say try to use your coffee beans within 2 weeks of roast date to enjoy them at their best, but you'll still have enjoyable coffee up until about 4 weeks. 

How long do coffee beans last?

Can I store coffee beans in the hopper?
Many people do, but it's really one of the worst storage solutions for coffee beans. Even if your hopper lid has a seal, there's no seal at the other end, oxygen is free to enter the hopper via the grinds chute and through the gap between the burrs. 

Can you store coffee beans in the bag they came in?
Again, many people do, and in theory as most bags have a lining and a one way valve, it's OK to store coffee beans in the bag they came in if it has a reseal strip, the problem is that these reseal strips aren't very good, they commonly only close partially, or you think you've sealed them and the pesky things unseal themselves as you walk away.