Should I Store Coffee in the Freezer?
Your mom probably does it. Your college roommate may have suggested it to you. Even some bags of coffee you find in the grocery store recommend it.
It’s the question that’s sure to come up when talking about prolonging the life of your coffee.
Should I store coffee in the freezer?
This article walks you through the pros and cons of storing coffee in the freezer.
We’ll help you determine if coffee freezing is an old wive’s tale or a gold nugget of storing wisdom.
First Things First
We can’t talk about freezing coffee, or coffee storage at all for that matter, without first mentioning this one thing:
Choose the freshest grind all the time.
What we mean here is that new, whole bean coffee, freshly ground, gives off stronger and more complex flavors than coffee that has been pre-ground.
What we don’t mean is that you have to buy coffee the day after it’s been roasted. In fact, many whole bean coffees stay fresh for up to a month after they’re roasted (properly stored, of course).
So when in doubt, always go for freshly bought, freshly ground beans. Your mouth will thank you.
Why the Freezer?
Ok, so what if you can’t get through a whole bag of that fresh coffee quickly enough? Is the freezer a better option than letting the coffee get stale?
Let’s look at some reasons you might consider freezing coffee.
Buying in bulk tends to save money. So if you love your coffee but don’t love the price, you might buy your coffee in bulk.
But unless you can get through the bag in a month or less, you may want to consider the freezer as a way to extend the life of your coffee.
Maybe you don’t want to use a Keurig machine, but you also don’t want to take the time each morning to grind up your coffee. Is freezing pre-ground coffee a quick alternative?
You’re in love with too many different coffees to be stuck with one kind every day until it runs out. So does freezing allow you to switch up your coffee flavors without wasting a bag?
4 Elements Coffee Hates
Whether you want to save money, save time, or switch up the flavors, we’re all asking the same question: does freezing coffee extend its shelf life?
In order to answer this though, we need to understand what makes coffee go bad. You’ve probably read the phrase “store in a dry, dark, cool place” before on a coffee bag.
So let’s start there.
Coffee gives up its flavor to moisture. And while we love this when we’re trying to brew it, anything else means our coffee won’t taste right when we do get to brewing.
So to keep our coffee at its best, it needs to stay dry until ready to brew.
Sunlight and roasted coffee don’t mix. Light causes coffee to lose its flavor more quickly, leading to stale-tasting coffee once you finally brew it.
This is why you don’t find good coffees packaged in clear containers. So we’re smart to do what coffee companies do and store our coffee in a dark place.
There’s a reason why we brew coffee with hot water instead of cold (unless you’re making cold brew coffee). Hot water extracts the flavors from the beans quickly.
But in the same way, warm environments, like the area next to your stove or in front of a window, can cause early extraction of flavor too. It’s best to avoid warm environments.
Browning, aging, rusting, and staling. For all the benefits we gain from oxygen, it delivers huge negatives too, especially to food.
So even if you keep your coffee in a dry, dark, cool place it’ll go bad if not kept in an airtight container. Away with you, oxygen!
So, Is the Freezer Your New Best Friend?
Proper storage helps keep your favorite coffee at its peak until you’re ready to brew it.
Duh, right? Proper storage of anything helps it be its best.
So what we want to know is if the freezer keeps things dry, dark, and cool enough for our airtight coffee to stay good.
And more than that, maybe help it stay good longer than if we just stored it correctly in the kitchen.
The freezer stays dark (unless the door is open) and it’s certainly cool. And there’s not a lot of research out there saying that it’s too cool for coffee. So check for dark and cool.
But the real kicker here is dry. Is the freezer dry enough to be a considered a good storage option? Coffee columnist Erin Meister suggests that it’s not.
Freezers preserve food by removing heat and evaporating moisture. “But the balance of moisture both inside and out of your coffee beans is pivotal and delicate: mess with it, and you risk seriously altering and/or damaging their ability to brew their best.”
The especially damning part of using the freezer for storage is that when you take your coffee out and open the bag, condensation immediately forms on the beans, messing up that balance of moisture.
So what’s a coffee lover to do? Throw out the freezer option? Not just yet. If we’re able to avoid that frustrating condensation, the freezer is still a viable option. Here’s how.
3 Steps to Freezing Coffee
Pre-grind the Beans
But wait, we just suggested earlier to always use whole beans. The exception to this rule though is when you plan to freeze them.
“Freezing directly after grinding allows the coffee to hang on to the delicate aromatics that start seeping out as soon as the beans get cracked open.”
So if you’re going to freeze, pre-grind those beans. It’s the only time we’ll suggest it!
Only Freeze the Amount Needed
To avoid the condensation problem, only freeze the amount you need for one brew and store it in separate air-tight containers.
Otherwise, you’ll invite moisture into the bag each time you open it, effectively wetting the beans multiple times.
Thaw at Room Temperature
Again, the big problem with the freezer method of preserving coffee is the humidity and condensation. Thawing at room temperature before opening your container helps to keep the grounds dry and fresh.
One thing to keep in mind though: taking the time to grind, store, and thaw the coffee may not be the way you want to spend your time.
So instead of freezing, consider buying small batch coffee from a local roastery, sharing bags of coffee with other coffee-loving friends, or signing up for a coffee delivery subscription.
So there you have it. Freezing coffee can be done, despite what your barista friends might tell you.
Interestingly enough, people in the far corners of the coffee world are playing around with freezing different types of coffees, cold grinding, pre-grinding an hour before brewing, and other methods.
Because in the end, the best way to do anything with coffee is the way you like to do it. Sure, some methods probably do taste better to more people.
But coffee preferences belong to each individual taking the time to make it. That means you. So tell us, how do you prefer to store your coffee?