Drinking stale coffee is one of the worst possible experiences for a coffee lover. Has the following experience ever happened to you?
When you offered your friend a cup of coffee from a fresh pot, you saw her face brighten. “Thanks! I remember what you served the last time I visited. The best!” After her first sip, a frown pinched her brows. She reached for the sugar. Surprised, you asked, “What’s the matter?” as you poured a cup for yourself. “Maybe it’s been standing too long.”“No, I just made it.” Then you tasted the offensive brew and quickly poured it out like muddy water into the sink. “It’s gone stale.” You stared bewildered at the bag of coffee beans you’d ground only minutes before
What happened was that during the past two weeks, oxygen had rendered those aromatic, tasty coffee beans as stale as week-old bread. Your coffee went stale on you. But fret not, there are some very easy and simple steps you can take to ensure your coffee stays fresh.
Recommended Coffee Canister: Coffee Gator Canister
One of the top rated coffee canisters in the industry is made by a company called Coffee Gator. It's more expensive than a regular canister but it's easy to justify the extra cost when you consider just how well it keeps your coffee fresh. What makes their products so unique is that they used extremely high-quality materials to ensure a truly air-tight seal.
That tight paper bag of coffee beans you bought will dry out two or three weeks later. The coffee straight from the bag that tasted as crisp and lively as sweet summer corn becomes like a dry-as-dust, flavorless husk.
How Oxygen Damages Coffee Beans
When those fresh coffee beans meet air, a rapid chemical change begins immediately. Just as sweet corn kernels start to turn into starch as soon as the ear is picked, the uniquely flavorful acids in coffee beans weaken.
The sugars dissipate, and aromatic oils evaporate into the air instead of on your tongue.
Your delicious whole bean coffee has only about two weeks of peak freshness after roasting before exposure to oxygen decomposes the flavorful, aromatic oils.
After this point, the acids break down and become bitter. The destructive process begins as soon as you open that paper bag of fresh beans and inhale the heady aroma. Unless you preserve them quickly, those fascinating and energizing flavors will disappear and become as dry and brittle as once-splendid autumn leaves in November.
How to Prevent Coffee from Growing Stale
When you implement proper coffee storage methods, you’ll be able to preserve those delightful qualities of fragrance and complex tastes.
By following three simple rules you can maintain maximum freshness and flavors of your beans. You’ll be an expert at preserving exquisite coffee flavors in way that even some professionals carelessly neglect.
Rule #1: Cut off the oxygen supply
When roasted coffee meets air, oxygen molecules interact with those tasty acids, sugars, aromatic oils, breaking them down in the same ways that oxygen makes metal rust and turns fruit rotten. You can minimize oxidation by storing coffee beans in airtight containers such as Mason jars and tight food containers. Tightly clipped and zip locked bags also keep beans fresh. (Note: The Corona-19 pandemic caused a shortage of Mason jars because record numbers of people have begun preserving food. They also found that the rubber gasket at the base of the internal lid can be used only once to ensure airtight content.)
Also make sure that your storage containers remain dark by following Rule #2:
Rule #2: Exclude light on coffee beans by using dark containers or storing them in the shade.
Exposure to light – all kinds of light — degrades pigments, fats, proteins, and vitamins in coffee. Light destroys many of the most enjoyable tasty ingredients. Although direct sunlight has the most severe effect, even lamps and invisible radiation like radio waves can harm coffee beans. Paint over or wrap clear containers or store them in a cupboard to prevent exposure to light.
Rule #3 Keep your coffee beans cool
Just as we store perishable food in the refrigerator to slow chemical changes and bacteria, we should keep coffee beans in a cool place to prevent the coffee molecules from breaking down. Avoid storing your bean container near the stove, in direct sunshine, or any source of heat.
The following three rules for preserving your coffee beans are simple and effective. As the saying goes, life is too short for bad coffee. That being the case, don't let good coffee go bad by being careless when storing the beans.
If you want to learn more about this topic, check out our other guide on how to keep your coffee fresh.