Coffee, How-to Guides

How to Store Your Ground Coffee

ground coffee

Coffee has taken the UK by storm. Gone are the days of having a builders tea to perk you up, espresso is now the name of the game. With the increased prevalence of high street coffee chains such as Starbucks and Costa, UK residents are getting more and more hooked on that espresso high. It all adds up though with those daily coffee runs. Studies in America show that millennials spending on coffee outweigh their yearly savings for retirement.

This surge in popularity has led to an increase in spending on coffee machines, with nearly a third of Brits owning a pod machine and many more traditional espresso machines making their way into people’s homes. This naturally leads to more and more coffee being bought and stored at homes, be that beans or pre-ground coffee. Coffee shops go through coffee so quickly, storing it isn’t that big an issue but that is a different story for those brewing at home. Here we’ll look at the different ways to store your tasty coffee and what will work best for you.

Brewing your Ground Coffee at Home

There’s a variety of ways to brew a coffee at home, with differing levels of effort for you to undertake. The most obvious choice is instant, but if you like coffee even the slightest bit you’ll know this method produces at best very mediocre coffee.

The next most common method many will think of is using a drip coffee machine. These machines can produce a decent cup of coffee, along many others brewing methods. This icludes the french press, the V60, melitta filter, Aeropress, Moka Pot, Chemex and many others

Whole Beans or Pre-Ground Coffee

We always suggest to buy your coffee in the form of whole beans. This difference matters because of not only taste and versatility but also with storage. Coffee beans stay fresh for longer than ground coffee due to the surface area. Ground coffee has a greater surface area than the beans, leading to the coffee perishing quicker.

We all understand that having ready to go ground coffee is the more convenient option for many. Grinders cost money and take time, those of us who aren’t morning people need coffee as speedily as possible. So here are ways to store this delicate coffee form in the most efficient way.

Why Your Ground Coffee Perishes

To keep that taste as long as possible there are a few ways to best keep espresso ground coffee. The most damaging element to coffee is the air and more specifically, the oxygen present in the air. This explains why all coffee packaging is vacuum sealed. Air and oxygen works to damage coffee via a few different mechanisms. The first is the absorption of moisture out of the air. The second is the loss of moisture into the air and both are sped up by a higher temperature.

Oxygen and the process of Oxidation can play a major role in determining the shelf life of ground coffee. Oxidation is the process of oxygen pulling away electrons from another molecule. This is usually associated with metals, but it has a role to play in the life of coffee. These molecules, with an uneven number of electrons, become unstable and begin reacting with other molecules around them. Called free radicals, these volatile compounds are the root cause of browning, aging, rusting, and in the coffee world, staling.

Ground Coffee Staling

Coffee staling is the process in which the Coffee starts to lose its flavour. It is hard to pin down an exact science behind the staling of coffee, mainly because coffee flavour is constantly changing. This means when conducting chemical or sensory analysis, coffee must be considered a moving target (hyperlink embedded). However, many identify the primary enemy of roasted coffee as oxygen and the process of oxidisation. It is debated by many as to exactly when it comes into contact with oxygen, but is best to play it safe and expose the coffee to oxygen as little as you possibly can.  

Oxidation can not only responsible for loss of some aroma compounds, but also the formation of off-flavours, such as rancidity. Reducing oxygen to 0.5% in a coffee container could increase shelf life by 20-fold. One research group found that for each 1% oxygen increase there is an increase of the rate of degradation of 10%. Even at very low levels of oxygen in packaged coffee (<2%), this oxygen has been found to migrate into coffee and facilitate oxidation reactions.

ground coffee

How to Store Your Ground Coffee

Storing espresso ground coffee should be done under specific conditions to keep its life. Ground coffee is highly perishable and keeps its best flavour for only few seconds after they have been ground. Coffee shops go through coffee incredibly quickly, so this problem isn’t really a thing for them.

It is rather interesting that so many people have used so much ground coffee for so many years, and there is no universally understood method for the “best” storage of ground coffee. Many people don’t think about it at all (and they usually drink dried-out and/or stale coffee) and have merely become accustomed to the lacklustre flavour of improperly stored coffee.

Therefore, the best way to keep ground coffee or whole beans fresh is to store the coffee on a pantry shelf in an opaque airtight container away from light, heat, and moisture. The most efficient container is a vacuum sealed one, the equipment is now readily available to you from many stores making it easier now than ever.

Can You Freeze Ground Coffee?

Frozen ground coffee can last and keep its freshness for up to two years if the coffee has been vacuum-sealed, but not more than six months if it has not. And when not frozen (e.g., for in-pantry storage), vacuum-sealed coffee can keep its freshness for five to six months. But if the coffee has not been vacuum sealed, it will not keep fresh for more than a month.

You should only freeze coffee that you’re not going to use for long periods of time, at least a month. When you freeze the coffee you use every day, the fluctuating temperatures create moisture in the packet, which can leave your morning cup tasting like cardboard.

So vacuum sealing will prolong the life of the coffee by a factor of 4-5X, and freezing it (after vacuum sealing it) will extend its lifetime by another factor of 4-5X. But it is not a good idea to freeze the coffee without vacuum sealing it first. This is because moisture inside your freezer can permeate the coffee and crystallize, thereby imparting various freezer odours to the coffee when it is eventually used.

When you want to use coffee that you have vacuum-sealed and frozen, open the bag and remove only as much coffee as you will use in a week or so, then re-seal the bag, and return it to the freezer.

In general, you should not keep ground coffee (that is not vacuum-sealed, nor frozen) for more than 2-3 weeks. Only buy as much coffee as you are likely to use in that period of time. Refrigeration of coffee shouldn’t be done, this is because, at refrigerator temperatures, water molecules in the air within the canister will condense at these temperatures, and permeate the coffee.

Once coffee’s original packaging is opened, coffee loses its freshness quickly. For that reason, you’ll want to put your coffee into the right container as soon as possible. If you must store coffee in containers rather than vacuum sealed bags, avoid reactive metals and instead opt for glass or ceramic containers.

Take Home Knwoledge

Maintaining this standard of storage of your coffee will ensure that every cup of coffee you brew will taste as it should. Failing to follow these precautions will leave you constantly wanting more from your coffee. Don’t waste your precious coffee through improper storage!

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