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Coffee Storage


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#1 Al_Dente

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 05:38 AM

I know I'll be told I should be roasting my own beans, or only buying small freshly roasted quantities, but does freezing your beans degrade the flavor or save it?
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#2 phaelon56

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 07:26 AM

It saves it within reason and if proper packaging, freezing and thawing techniques are deployed, it's the next best thing to home roasting or buying fresh from a local microroaster. I'll save myself some keystrokes and take the liberty of pasting in a reply I posted in a different forum some months ago:

"Properly packaged and sealed beans in a good cold freezer will deteriorate more slowly than beans at room temp, even beans stored in commercial vacuum sealed bags with a one way valve. Proper sealing and storing in individual containers that are only opened after they are defrosted (one at a time as needed) will eliminate the issues of condensation and also contamination from other foods, smells etc.

Refrigerator storage is always a bad idea due both to exposure to other food smells, condensation form opening and closing the container etc. - NEVER refrigerate coffee.

The practice of using freshly roasted beans and storing in an opaque airtight container is unquestionably the best choice but for some of us it's not always possible. If you have no good local microroaster or one that's convenient, you're not home roasting and also don't want to incur the extra shipping costs of getting mail order beans every 7 - 10 days.... buying fresh roasted beans in larger quanitities and sealing/freezing beans is the next best option.

I have actually done a side by side comparison. I had a 1/2 lb vacuum sealed bag of Torrefazione Italia's Perugia whole bean espresso blend that had been placed in the freezer after being wrapped in another plastic bag (placed it in there just after receiving the shipment). About three months after doing this, I discovered another 1/2 lb bag from the same shipment that I had stuck in the cupboard at room temp and overlooked. I opened both bags and made some espresso shots. The frozen and thawed beans were (to my taste) indistinguishable from the taste and characteristics that they possessed when I first opend a bag from the original shipment. The beans from the vaccuum sealed bag that sat at room temp for three or four months were stale and flat tasting with no crema (vs. fresh taste and decent crema on the frozen and thawed beans).

It's a fact that there is absolutely no way to PREVENT the gradual deterioration of the essential flavor components of roasted coffee beans but IMHO and based on personal experience, freezing does help slow down the process significantly (disclosure: now that I home roast and have also relocated to a town with an excellent local microroaster I no longer bother to freeze because I don't need to).

#3 jsolomon

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 12:51 PM

Because I just make coffee for 1, 1 cup at a time, I buy coffee from a local roaster 1 pound at a time, and then, usually in 1/2 pound lots. It lasts me about a week, but by the end of the week, even in the whole beans, I can taste a difference if I leave them at room temperature. So, I pop everything in the freezer and grind the cold beans necessary for a cup straight from the freezer. Within the limits of blade ground coffee, I can't taste a difference from day of purchase to end of bag roughly 1 week later.

Also, I use the 1 cup melitta filter holders which make tremendously good coffee, IMO.
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#4 mikeycook

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Posted 18 November 2003 - 01:25 PM

We used to grind beans straight from the freezer, but were told to be careful because a frozen bean is a lot rougher on a grinder (we have a self-grinding Capresso). I would recommend letting the beans warm a little before grinding them, but otherwise the freezer is a good option.
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#5 m(a)ce

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 07:08 PM

I would echo the sentiment of buy coffee frequently rather than storing it long term. Also, keep it in bean form until you are ready to use. As soon as coffee is roasted it starts a rapid deterioration of quality. Once you grind it, the coffee oxidizes and becomes stale.

My keys to keeping coffee froish:

-->Buy freshly roasted coffee; I would say you should use (optimally) within 7-10 days of roasting (and in my opinion no sooner than 1-2 days so the coffee can degass)
-->Buy all that you will need within that period
-->Grind as needed
-->Store coffee in airtight container, away from moisture, heat & sunlight. All of these will accelerate your coffee to tasting like arse.

Hope it helps.

Happy Brewing!

#6 phaelon56

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 07:05 AM

We used to grind beans straight from the freezer, but were told to be careful because a frozen bean is a lot rougher on a grinder (we have a self-grinding Capresso). I would recommend letting the beans warm a little before grinding them, but otherwise the freezer is a good option.

It really is best to repack the larger quantity (be it a half pound bag, a pound or even larger) into smaller bags/packages like ziplocs. I tend to pack it into bags that provide for about a three day supply. Thawing at room temp BEFORE opening the package is important. Moisture is a primary culprit in reducing the quality of roasted coffee. Separate small packs eliminates the chance of moisture getting in when you pull some from the freezer. I used to just pull beans straight fromt he freezer from a large container and grind them frozen but I've shifted gears and now do the repacking and thawing - I think it helps a bit.

#7 MGLloyd

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 09:11 AM

Hmm. I home-roast about 90% of the coffee we drink in the house. The quantity roasted depends on whether it is for drip or espresso. My wife drinks a lot of drip coffee, so I usually have more of that on hand. I try to roast quantities that will be used up within a week, bearing in mind that my favorite espresso blends (Malabar Gold, Liquid Amber, Moka Kadir) generally need to age about 3-4 days for optimum quality.

I store all of our coffee in air-tight clamp-seal glass french preserve jars that I buy at Cost-Plus World Imports or Pier One. We go through a one-liter jar of drip coffee per week and about a 0.25-0.5 liter jar of espresso per week. I store the jars in the freezer. Whether I am grinding for drip using the KitchenAid whirly blade or for espresso using the Rocky doserless, I pull the jar out, grind the beans frozen and put the jar back. The jar is out of the freezer for all of a minute.

I have to say that so far, Rocky or the KitchenAid have never choked on a frozen bean. The issue of bean quality by freezing or room storage temperature has been debated endlessly. My personal opinion is that there are so many other variables that have a bigger impact on taste that if you use small quantities within a short period of time, freezing or not probably has a much smaller impact than, say, grinding whole beans at the time of service versus buying coffee pre-ground.

My $ 0.02 USD.

Edited by MGLloyd, 08 December 2003 - 12:22 PM.


Regards,

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#8 phaelon56

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Posted 08 December 2003 - 09:21 AM

I think your points are well taken, Michael. For me it's a matter of convenience - I actually find it easier to just have one jar or package out and available at room temp all the time. Until I can finally start doing my own roasting again (in just a few short weeks), I've been making do with buying half pound lots of fresh roasted espresso blend from a local roaster and been very happy with it.

I do expect to be roasting and freezing more for use as drip coffee in the future as I only make drip coffee at home on the weekends or if comapny is over.

#9 maxmillan

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 09:03 AM

My favorite coffee is 250g fine grind and prepacked. I can only drink coffee on the weekend so this can last me for quite some time.

I squeeze the air out of the package once opened, wrap a thick strong elastic to close it, stick it into a freezer bag, squeeze the air out of that, and put it into an air tight plastic container and store it in the freezer each time.

I know that moisture can still get in but hoped that this method would keep my coffee longer than leaving it out on the counter with the above method.

I hear that as long as you use the coffee within a short time it's okay to store in an air tight container on the counter. But I hear that if you plan to keep this coffee for more than a week then it's better in the freezer (or should that be in the fridge?) My friend tells me that storing it in the freezer, regardless, ruins the coffee.

What is your experience or opinion on this?

Edited by maxmillan, 10 April 2004 - 09:04 AM.


#10 phaelon56

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 10:25 AM

Obviously.... having fresh roasted whole bean coffee on hand is ALWAYS the preferred method and it should be ground just before brewing. If your circumstances or preferences dictate that you use the prepackaged bricks you're describing, I suggest freezing in small containers.

Get some ziplocs and immediately after opening the vac packed ground coffee, separate it into one day / one pot portions in individual bags. Squeeze the air out of each, throw all together into one larger ziploc and then freeze. Only remove one bag at a time as needed.

Roasted coffee deteriorates rapidly when exposed to air, even after being transferred from the original package to an "air-tight" container. If it's pre-ground the process is even faster. It's a natural oxidation process and can't be stopped but you can delay the effects with proper freezing. Opening the package from the freezer to remove small amounts from a larger container introduces moisture into the contents every time you open and re-close it - not good. By the way - always allow the small bags of ground coffee to come to room temp before opening.

#11 Java-Joe

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 10:33 AM

I was about to answer you, but got distracted and Phaelon56 beat me to the punch. I agree with everything he says. I will only add two comments.

One, look for those new "snack" size zip-loc bags. They're 6.5 x 3.75 and are perfect for small pots of coffee. Frankly, I've never thought of storing it individual servings. That's a good point, Owen. That way you're not dipping into the entire package every time you need some jeaux!

Two, and I may get some arguement from some, but I believe it's ok to store your coffee in the fridge. Unless someone knows of a study to compare coffee quality from being stored in the fridge vs the freezer, I say put it where you have more room.
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#12 balmagowry

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 11:45 AM

Best of all, perhaps, is one of those vacuum-sealer things - mine is a Tilia Foodsaver - though it could get to be a lot of work if you're storing individual-pot batches - lately I've been compromising when I get pre-ground, storing it in sealed 1/2 lb bags. But I have a question - what about storing the beans? I buy mine in 3-lb (well, they used to be 3-lb - now they're 36-oz) bags. I used to just take out enough for a pot, then re-ziploc the bag and put it back in the freezer. But if that's not good enough for ground, I bet it's not good enough for the bean either. Suggestions? Again, I don't think I have the patience to Tilia-seal individual-pot batches (might do it once or twice, but I know I'd run out of momentum and enthusiasm by the third time) - but short of that, does it make sense to do 1/2-lb bags of beans? or does it matter less with the bean? is ziploc good enough? the problem with the Tilia thing, of course, is that it doesn't re-seal unless you run it through the machine again... which I could do, come to think of it, since there'll be less in it.

#13 phaelon56

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 01:24 PM

Any time you open a package of anything that's in the freezer and put it back in the freezer, moisture is introduced. It just happens that coffee is more negatively affected by moisture than certain other food products. I didn't know that ziploc's were available in a smaller size now - that's good news. The vacuum seal machines should definitely help preserve freshness, especially when freezing.

Java-Joe's point about refrigeration is one I agree with for portions that are in a sealed air-tight container and will be used in their entirety when removed but personally I'd be disinclined to keep a container of ground coffee or beans in the fridge and keep digging into it for more - every time it's opened... in goes more moisture. If keeping coffee for more than 7 - 10 days after opening the orogianl factory sealed package, I still think freezing is the way to go - regardless of whether it's whole beans or pre-ground.

Some of this may well be conjecture on my part but I have adequate freezer space and for my needs... freezing is just as convenient as refrigerating.

#14 maxmillan

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Posted 11 April 2004 - 12:53 AM

Thanks for all your suggestions. Proportioning coffee in smaller packets is an excellent idea. My freezer is so packed with baking ingredients it'll be nice to store this in the fridge.

The vacuum device is usually on sale here so I'll keep an eye out for it. Now I can consider buying the Blue Mountain coffee beans which is deeeeeelicious. I agree that grinding your own beans is the BEST.

:biggrin:

Edited by maxmillan, 11 April 2004 - 12:54 AM.


#15 phaelon56

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 02:06 PM

Now I can consider buying the Blue Mountain coffee beans which is deeeeeelicious.


Best to check the label carefully and buy from sources you can trust if it's Jamaican Blue Mountain you refer to. There's lots of stuff being passed off as JBM that is not and also a fair amount that has the word blend in fine print. It need only have a few percent real JMB to be labeled as a JBM Blend. The same sad situation applies to Kona coffee. I see Kona Blend all over the place. I know that Mavis Banks is one of the few true JMB estates and I can't recall the name of the other one or two. A true JMB is in the opinion of some not worth the high price it commands (the price is due to scarcity - small growing area and high demand) but I really like it. It is one of the most well balanced cups I've ever had and worth having although I can't afford it as my daily drink.

#16 clothier

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 02:09 PM

Best of all, perhaps, is one of those vacuum-sealer things - mine is a Tilia Foodsaver - though it could get to be a lot of work if you're storing individual-pot batches - lately I've been compromising when I get pre-ground, storing it in sealed 1/2 lb bags. But I have a question - what about storing the beans? I buy mine in 3-lb (well, they used to be 3-lb - now they're 36-oz) bags. I used to just take out enough for a pot, then re-ziploc the bag and put it back in the freezer. But if that's not good enough for ground, I bet it's not good enough for the bean either. Suggestions? Again, I don't think I have the patience to Tilia-seal individual-pot batches (might do it once or twice, but I know I'd run out of momentum and enthusiasm by the third time) - but short of that, does it make sense to do 1/2-lb bags of beans? or does it matter less with the bean? is ziploc good enough? the problem with the Tilia thing, of course, is that it doesn't re-seal unless you run it through the machine again... which I could do, come to think of it, since there'll be less in it.

love the food saver.

so many ways it can save you money, time, and taste.

buy one today!

#17 russ parsons

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 02:30 PM

i buy my coffee from supreme bean here in southern california. they sell in 1/2-pound vacuum-sealed pouches, which works out perfectly for me. with a one-pound pouch, halfway through i'd have to adjust the grinder one stop finer in order to get the right espresso. the 1/2-pound pouch eliminates that. i store them in the freezer until i open them, then keep them on the countery in a sealed container. probably not the very best way, but it works just fine.

#18 phaelon56

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Posted 13 April 2004 - 06:37 AM

Fresh beans - either fresh roasted or from a vac sealed package that was fresh when it was frozen.... should be fine on the counter for 5 - 10 days depending on how fresh beans were. I keep my week's supply of whole beans in an opaque airtight container on the kitchen counter - works fine for me but 10 days is the limit and that's from the time of roasting.

#19 bbq4meanytime

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Posted 16 April 2004 - 08:33 AM

Isn't anyone here form the anti-freezing shcool of thought? I was always told to NOT freeze your coffee baens. I drink pretty fresh roasted (usually no older than 10 days from roast date) that I get form a local artisan roaster and grind my beans fresh for each pot to the extent that matters. I have several friends serious coffee friends who roast/blend their own coffees and they too said to never freeze it, that airtight sealing at room temp was the recommended approach .

I don't recall the technical rationale for not freezing (I suppose I can find out), but they were pretty adamant and said the coffee aficianado publications recommend this. Anyone else here?

#20 phaelon56

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Posted 16 April 2004 - 08:58 AM

There is indeed a distinct anti-freezing school of thought. It's been debated endlessly in alt.coffee more than anywhere else but for many of us it boils down to this: do we have a capable and readily available local microroaster from whom we can get a restock of beans every 5 - 7 days in small amounts and therefore always be assured of having fresh beans on hand at all times? If the answer is no then freezing is a good option provided it has been done properly. I'm beating a dead horse here but the major culprit in degradation of coffee (after oxidation which is the #1 factor) is exposure to moisture. Freezing in small packages that are not opened until they are thawed and therefore don't allow moisture to be added to the beans that remain in the freezer is the best bet if you must freeze.

Michael Sivetz of

Sivetz Coffee Roasters

is acknowledged by many to be extremely knowledgeable regarding coffee freshness and preservation/storage issues. He comments

2) By placing freshly roasted beans in a hermetically sealed container, can or bag, with or w/o low oxygen packaging at less than -10 F in a commercial freezer, will stop the release of CO 2 gas as well as aromatics, and stop any chemical reactions therein, and the fresh roast flavor is largely preserved, as verified by taste tests. This condition begs for selling the roasted beans out of freezers, which is simply a marketing method not yet applied on a large scale. From a quality preservation point, it has been proven on a small scale. It is also the method to use when making taste comparisons with aged and oxidized beans.


I suggest reading the entire section at their web site regarding

Coffee Packaging

Obviously, commercial freezers that get extremely cold are recommended but the fact remains that freezing CAN retard the degradation process in coffee. It does not suspend it or prevent it - simply slows down the process. Home freezers don't reach the same cold temps as commercial freezers but for long term storage it still makes a difference and is better than leaving coffee at room temp in an airtight container for more than 10 days.

Again... the question is this: how can I prevent store-bought or purchased roasted coffee from going flat and stale so quickly if my circumstances (geographic location etc) dictate that I buy a few pounds at a time but I don't use it up quickly enough? The answer is freezing and proper techniques must be deployed.

I do home roasting and I don't freeze coffee as a general rule but if I'm going to be out of town for a week and want fresh roasted degassed coffee available on my return for the first morning cup or espresso? I throw some in the freezer before I leave and take it out to thaw the evening that I get home.

It is not and never has been a question of fresh roasted unfrozen vs. freezing coffee. Fresh roasted is always going to be better - duh! The typical person who rants against freezing is typically someone who has access to and always uses fresh coffee withing 5 - 10 days of its roasting date. Not everyone is afforded that luxury and discussion of freezing techniques is still warranted.

I will advise that I've personally done A/B tests and can confirm that it really works, within reason. I would imagine that 6 - 8 weeks is the maximum time for which coffee should be frozen but I've had both coffee and espresso that had been in the freezer longer than that and was still very good. Not quite up to the level of fresh roasted non-frozen but far better than something that was fresh roasted, and never frozen but allowed to get more than 10 days or so past the date of roasting.

#21 bbq4meanytime

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 07:13 AM

phaelon, thanks. I understand the distinction now. Plus I just got some more fresh roasted beans over the weekend. Don't think I could

edit typo

Edited by bbq4meanytime, 19 April 2004 - 07:14 AM.


#22 phaelon56

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 09:01 AM

You're welcome. The same point has been made about meats - that frozen will never match fresh in terms of tase but more specifically in termsa of texture. With coffee I think we have and advantage - if it's frozen properly and soon enoug after roasting, there's a good chance of getting a cup (or an espresso shot) that's pretty darn close to fresh (i.e. not frozen) within reason.

The costs of shipping makes buying fresh roasted beans by Internet or mail order a costly proposition fro most if us - a useful practice to counteract this cost issue is to buy in larger quantities, thereby distributing the cost more effectively. There are also folks who really like certain Italian bar brands, such as some of the LaVazza selections, which are typically sold only in one kilo or two kilo bags. It's crucial to portion and freeze such coffee immediately after opening the large vac sealed bag.

Somewhat on topic is the eG discussion that took place recently about the practice of freezing fish to kill parasites before it is thawed and served as sushi (which most people assume is raw and has never been frozen). There are special "flash freezers" that accomplish this in a manner that our ordinary home freezers cannot. So.... as soon as Ronco introduces that Nuclear Home Freezer, count me in and I'll begin experimenting with coffee freezing again.

#23 Marlene

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 09:01 AM

I keep pre-ground coffee in the freezer, (the stuff I use in my percolator). We have a Grind and Brew Cusinart coffee maker, and I keep my beans in a sealed Tupperware container on the counter next to the coffee machine. Since I make two or three pots of coffee a day, it doesn't make sense to keep beans in the freezer, opening and closing the container all the time, letting in moisture.
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#24 phaelon56

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 10:05 AM

it doesn't make sense to keep beans in the freezer, opening and closing the container all the time, letting in moisture.


You're correct but it's even worse to keep pre-ground coffee in the freezer if you're going to open and close it and then return the container to the freezer. The greatly increased surface area of ground coffee should (at least in theory) increase the amount of moisture absorbed in a very significant way. When it comes to sotring a vac sealed can or bage of pre-ground coffee prior to opening it, the freezer is a good choice.

#25 Marlene

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 10:08 AM

I don't keep pre-ground coffee in the freezer and open and close it. I keep the vacumn sealed bag in the freezer until I'm ready to use it, then transfer it to a airtight Tupperware container. I only use pre-ground in my percolator and I usually only use the percolator during RV trips.
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#26 Katie Meadow

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 07:01 PM

Both my husband and I have cut back on coffee, so we don't drink it every morning. We buy a 1/2 pound in the bean maybe every three weeks and have been storing it in the freezer, taking out and grinding only as much as we need for a given pot. It's been suggested that grinding frozen beans doesn't maximize flavor and that instead I should take from the freezer about a weeks's worth of beans, whatever that might be, keep it at room temp in an airtight container and grind per pot as always.

I checked the coffee threads and couldn't much find info there devoted to storing coffee beans. How long can beans be at room temp without ill effect? What type of container preserves beans best at room temp? I don't want to be too fussbudgety about this, but I think of coffee as a special treat now, and want to get the most out of my cup.

#27 sanrensho

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 11:03 AM

I personally don't freeze my beans nowadays, because I usually go through whole beans in less than a week.

Regardless of whether or not you freeze, I would suggest buying even smaller quantities of freshly roasted beans. I buy a 1/4 lb about every 5-7 days and simply store in a ziploc.

If you go down to a 1/4 lb, perhaps that will minimize the need to freeze your beans (and take them out of the freezer each time).

Edited by sanrensho, 16 July 2008 - 11:04 AM.

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#28 MGLloyd

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 03:41 PM

I have been homeroasting for many years now. I store my whole roasted beans in a clamp-top preserve jar in the freezer. I take out only what I need for a pot, replace the jar in the freezer, grind and brew.

Since the frozen coffee beans thaw quickly from the heat of grinding and/or when the first bit of hot water hits them in the brew process, I don't think that any flavor is lost by grinding them frozen. In my experience and to my palate, keeping the beans at room temperature stales them more quickly.

Edited by MGLloyd, 16 July 2008 - 03:42 PM.


Regards,

Michael Lloyd
Mill Creek, Washington USA

#29 weinoo

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 04:00 PM

I have been homeroasting for many years now.  I store my whole roasted beans in a clamp-top preserve jar in the freezer.  I take out only what I need for a pot, replace the jar in the freezer, grind and brew.

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I think the biggest problem with this methodology is the condensation that occurs on the beans every time you remove them from the freezer and open the jar. I think it's much better to store a 5 - 7 day supply of FRESHLY-ROASTED beans in an air tight container at room temperature.

Of course, it the beans you're buying were roasted 3 weeks ago, and they haven't been vacuum packed, nothing is going to make them taste as good as fresh beans.

My method is when I receive my beans (usually roasted 2 days prior) I take out a 5 day supply or so, then use the food saver to vac-pac 1/4 lb. bags. The night before I run out, I pull a bag out of the freezer - and the beans stay in perfect condition for the next 5 days, in a simple mason pint jar.
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#30 barrett

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Posted 16 July 2008 - 05:41 PM

oxygen is the worst thing for roasted coffee, in the freezer or not, it will continue to oxidize and lose flavour, and should be used as soon as possible. weinoo's method is probably best, as the condensation worries are valid.

as to the time limit, that depends on your own tastes, but a cool, dark place is what I suggest. Some coffees get really flat and boring after a day. Today, I sampled a couple of coffees that were 10 days off roast, opened once, and resealed in vacuum bags - not vac'd though. They were great.
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