Light or dark? Metal or glass? In a cupboard, the fridge or even the freezer? How to store coffee is the topic of endless discussions among consumers. It seems like everyone has an opinion and all sorts of people are curious about these things, including many of those who take courses at our @saperecoffeeacademy. Getting it wrong could compromise the coffee-making routine, which is one of our most cherished everyday delights, so we’re going to try to resolve this domestic dilemma.
Unlike other products for human consumption, coffee is not subject to biological deterioration. This means that it does not undergo microbial spoilage that could be harmful to health. However, it must be stored properly in order to prevent – or at least slow down – the decline in its chemical, physical and sensory properties to which it is particularly susceptible.
Glass, aluminium and tinplate (or tin) provide the best barrier available, but they can be impractical and expensive.
Even when it’s sealed, paper packaging is the material with which roast coffee oxidizes fastest.
Low temperatures slow down the ageing process in our beloved beans, but at the same time moisture and condensation have a negative impact on their aroma, whose properties are some of the most volatile and hard to preserve. So what should you do?
First of all, you need to bear in mind that the main obstacles to proper storage of coffee are oxygen, moisture (coffee absorbs it), high temperatures, bright light and smells.
That’s why coffee never comes in transparent packaging and it always says to store it in a cool, dry place. Avoiding everything that can affect the aroma is the main objective in the packaging process. Just think that roasted coffee beans lose their aromatic intensity in two to three days if they come into contact with oxygen and it can take just 15 minutes with ground coffee: in the first 15 minutes after grinding, approximately 60% of the aromas are lost.
Oxygen destroys aromas, turns the fats in coffee rancid and prevents aromas from circulating in the cup.
As mentioned above, odours from other sources can affect the aroma of coffee. A small amount of ground coffee actually makes a great “odour remover” for a fridge. You can also rub it into your hands after you’ve been cooking to remove smells from them.
Now let’s clear up a few things about storage itself.
In addition to undergoing numerous chemical reactions that help aromas to develop, during the complex roasting process coffee produces carbon dioxide, which remains trapped inside its cells even after it’s been packaged.
This carbon dioxide in the cells of the beans can serve as a freshness indicator for roast coffee.
The speed at which degassing occurs is in proportion with the storage temperature of coffee:
- Roasted coffee beans that are stored at a cold temperature = slow degassing.
- Roasted coffee beans that are stored at a hot temperature = fast degassing.
Degassing is the process when carbon dioxide is released from coffee cells, along with the aromas.
From what you’ve read above, you’ll have deduced that the longer you keep roasted coffee beans cool, the slower the aromatic decline will be. That’s exactly right!
However, you need to bear in mind a number of very important details.
Coffee beans can be kept in the fridge as long as they’re in an airtight and chemically inert container (made of glass, aluminium or stainless steel). Basically, a glass jar with an airtight, rubber seal is your best bet!
If you don’t have a container like this, the low temperature in the fridge won’t do the coffee any harm but it will be affected by the moisture, odours and oxygen.
As you will have gathered, the main problem isn’t with coffee beans but with ground coffee. As mentioned above, it loses more than 60% of its aromas in the 15 minutes after grinding takes place.
At Manuel Caffè, we do our utmost to limit this process. We package coffee as soon as it has been ground, vacuum pack it and put nitrogen in the packaging to displace oxygen, reducing the oxygen content to almost 0%.
So how should you preserve your ground coffee at home?
Everything you’ve read so far will have shown you that there aren’t too many reliable ways to preserve ground coffee. Once coffee beans have been ground, the oxidation process begins immediately. Coffee beans also undergo oxidation, but more slowly.
Having said that, we can give you two tips:
– Try to buy small packs of ground coffee so that you get through it fairly quickly. Keep the coffee in a glass jar with an airtight rubber seal and put it in a dark and preferably cool and dry place. This isn’t an officially recognized system for storing ground coffee once it’s open because technically ground coffee should be used straight away, but it’s something extra that you can do to make the most of it.
– You could try buying coffee beans and get a hand grinder. You should be able to pick one up for no more than €20 to €30. This would bring out the best of the aromas in the cup because you would be brewing your coffee straight after grinding it and – most importantly – it would be much simpler to store the beans, as mentioned above.
If you want your coffee to meet your expectations, we recommend that you buy it in a tin (direct link to the shop). The small 125 g tin in the Home Line might be a good option.
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