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Freshly ground coffee is the key to an perfect cup. They're full of the aromatic notes that take a mediocre coffee up to barista-quality espresso. Once you've tried freshly ground coffee, you'll never go back.
However, how you store your coffee grounds makes all the difference. One right, your morning cup will rival a barista-quality brew. Done wrong, your grounds will make a bitter and stale coffee, which is not the best way to kick-start your day.
It's a common misconception that keeping your coffee grounds in the refrigerator will keep them fresh. On the contrary, they'll taste stale a lot quicker. You can freeze them, put them in an airtight container, or seal them in a vacuum bag, but there are a lot of factors that you'll want to control.
I spoke with coffee experts to delve into the science and evidence for how to keep coffee grounds fresh, how to store them properly, and common blunders. Whether you're using a French press, pour over, drip coffee, or espresso machine, this is how you should be storing your ground coffee.
Why use coffee grounds?
Coffee grounds form the backbone of all good brews. They're everywhere too: your barista uses them for espresso, you pack them into your re-usable pods, and you sit them in your drip coffee maker. Even a seemingly magic bean to cup machine is busy grinding beans to make the best possible coffee.
Coffee starts its journey as plump, red or green beans. When the beans are roasted, they turn a mahogany brown. Roasting brings out the aromas and flavors of the beans, whilst dehydrating them. Having a lower water content means that they'll last longer and taste much better when you've ground them.
Genevieve Kappler, Director of Coffee at Roasting Plant, says that 'buying fresh, just-roasted, whole bean coffee is the best option for the perfect brew. Roasted coffee is highly volatile and loses much of its flavor and aroma within 7 to 10 days. So, I'd always recommend purchasing just-roasted coffee in bean form and consuming it within 7-10 days'. She says that whole beans carry the flavor and aroma, but protects them from exposure to oxygen. The shorter time-frame you have between roast and brew, the better.
I asked Kayla Stavridis, Head of Marketing at Barista HQ, what good coffee tastes like. She said to look for 'a rich, robust flavor: the bitterness should be pleasant, not overpowering, and it should balance well with the acidity. When tasting fresh coffee, you should notice a slightly sweet, fruity, or even chocolatey note, depending on the type of bean you use'. In other words, if you're not getting those notes it's either because you're using instant coffee or your grounds have gone stale.
Genevieve Kappler is the Direct of Coffee at Roasting Plant. Here she is a roasting technologist too, so she knows all the science behind what makes a full-bodied brew . She has years of experience behind her, so is well-placed to advise us on coffee content.
Kayla is a self-confessed coffee obsessive. She's immersed in all things related to coffee, so is well-positioned to advise on how to make the most of your cup of joe. Barista HQ is a place for coffee-fanatics to find out more about their brews.
How to store ground coffee
Grinding your beans every day isn't always a possibility, so it's useful to do a batch grind in advance. However, if your grounds aren't stored properly, your they won't taste good, even a few hours after grinding. You need to protect against light, moisture, and warmth. These three key factors can skew your brew's flavors and waste your coffee beans, because they speed up the reaction between your coffee grounds and the oxygen in the air. However, you can easily protect against them.
You should store your coffee beans and grounds in your coffee maker, in a freezer, or simply in the cupboards. You cannot and should not store your coffee in the refrigerator. Lots of people do, thinking that the cooler temperature will slow down the oxidation process. However, the temperature in a refrigerator is perfect for condensation, meaning that your grounds become moist. As they absorb the water, even if the pack is sealed, they'll start to taste stale and a little dusty rather than aromatic and punchy.
If you're using store-bought coffee grounds, make sure to check shelf life, but there's a couple of caveats here. Lukas van Vyve, founder of Emergent Brew, advises that grounds can be used up to of 4-5 months from the expiration date. However, he adds a warning that 'coffee starts to lose flavor as soon as it's ground, so it's best to consume grounds within a month of opening or grinding'.
Lukas is the founder of Emergent Brew, a place for at-home baristas to search for everything from recipes to recommendations. He's a passionate and proficient coffee connoisseur so we trust him for tips and tricks.
Should I put grounds in the freezer?
If you've got lots of coffee grounds and you want to make sure that they don't perish, the freezer is an easy place to put them. Stavridis says that frozen coffee grounds can stay fresh for up to two years if stored properly. I'd be more cautious and store coffee grounds in the freezer for no more than six months - That way you'll never risk a bad cup of coffee.
The freezer is a brilliant storage option because coffee is heat sensitive. Keeping your grounds cold will slow down the degradation process, but if the temperature fluctuates too much, your grounds will suffer. Once your coffee is ground, put it in a sealed bag. If you have vacuum and seal bags like these on Amazon, that's perfect. If you don't, I'd consider investing in them. This will minimise oxygen and moisture exposure. Try to avoid taking the bag in and out of the freezer, because the temperature fluctuations can create condensation, which will affect the taste of your beans.
If possible, place a week's worth of coffee in each bag, then you can defrost them the day before you need them. You don't want to be using them when they're still cold; room temperature is the best temperature for extraction.
Should I store ground coffee in a cabinet?
The next culprit which could make your grounds grim is moisture. Tempting as it is to keep your grounds in glass jars and clear bean hoppers, the sunlight will break down all the flavorful aromas. If you keep them in an opaque, airtight container like these from Wayfair they'll retain much more flavor. Even better, if you have a cool cupboard, you'll be slowing down the reaction between oxygen and your grounds too. Experts recommend not to use a container where the metal might be reactive. Smart options include a set of ceramic canisters like this at QVC, and a marble canister like this at Williams Sonoma. Or this QVC stainless-steel coffee canister, which has a CO2 valve and date tracker.
Keeping grounds from light: in your machine
This is a bit of a cheat. You can buy coffee makers where the bean hoppers are tinted or hidden from sunlight. This means that you can keep a week's worth of beans in your machine as long as it's airtight. If it is, this is the easiest option. Your beans are ground minutes before use and they're well-protected by an expert appliance. This isn't every coffee maker, so check carefully. If your coffee doesn't taste full-bodied and fresh, your hopper might not be as good as you think. Also, make sure not to overload your bean hopper: never put more than a week's worth of beans in. As a precaution, keep your coffee maker out of sunlight (not in the window), so that it has the best chance of preserving your grounds.
Kayla Starvridis told me that coffee makers integrated grinders 'simplify the process and ensures that you're always brewing with the freshest grounds'. Short of that, she re-emphasised that a quality grinder is a 'must have if you want to grind your own beans, as freshly ground coffee has a superior taste. My personal favorite is a burr grinder, as it grinds beans to a consistent size'.
De'Longhi's bean hopper is well sealed. It makes a range of sixteen, incredible coffees, all of which are freshly ground. The taste reflects the grinder: it's brilliant.
If you like hands-on, barista-style coffee, you'll want an espresso machine. This strikes the balance of quality and price. The airtight, tinted bean hopper is perfect for storage too.
This is our favorite coffee maker. Not only is the integrated bean hopper well sealed and concealed, it makes incredible coffee. It's fully automatic and easy to use too.
How long will they stay fresh for?
There's no fixed time period for which your coffee grounds will be at their best. If you've bought ground coffee from the store, check the date and guidance on the packaging. Cary Wong, the Director of Coffee at Partners, says 'if unopened, the packaging you bought the coffee in will keep it fresh for a long time. Some companies even sell airtight oblique containers like this one which we created with Miir'. He also recommends the Fellow Atmos Vacuum Canister which is also available at Amazon. If you've ground coffee yourself and stored it properly, your coffee can last anything from two weeks in your cupboards to six months in the freezer. Mistakes happen and these don't need to go in the bin. Your plants will thank you for some coffee grounds. Make sure to store and brew them properly to make the most of the flavor.
Cary is responsible for the presentation and service of all Partners' offerings. He serves as the "palate" for Partners Coffee, ensuring standards are met for the coffee program and the presentation of all product lines. With 5 years of specialty coffee experience, he is entrusted with assessing education, training, customer service and coffee quality in collaboration with Partners' Green Coffee Buyer, Cafe Managers, and Business Directors.
What is the best way to store ground coffee?
In the freezer, in a vacuum packed bag, your coffee can last up to two years. However, you'll need to carefully portion your grounds so that you're not always defrosting and refreezing your grounds. I would keep my coffee as beans for as long as possible and then grind them just before I need them.
Should you keep ground coffee in the fridge?
Never keep coffee grounds in the refrigerator. This is the perfect temperature for condensation, which will ruin your coffee. Instead, keep them in a cool, dry, dark cupboard or a freezer.
What is the best container to store ground coffee in?
An airtight, opaque ceramic or glass container. We recommend these porcelain containers from Wayfair in particular.
How long can you store ground coffee?
Anything from two weeks to two years depending on how you store it. Coffee will last longer as a whole bean rather than grounds. It'll last longest in a vacuum bag in the freezer.
Is it okay to store ground coffee in plastic containers?
If the container is airtight and opaque, plastic is fine. We would recommend glass or ceramic as better options, but plastic is fine.
What do bad coffee grounds taste like?
It might taste bitter, overly acidic, unbalanced, or a little stale. This is likely because you have left your coffee grounds open to air, light, and heat. It could also be because you are over or under brewing your coffee though.
Does keeping ground coffee in the freezer keep it fresh?
Yes. You can keep ground coffee in the freezer for up to two years according to experts. Make sure that it is in a vacuum sealed bag and that you don't take it in and out of the freezer often. The fluctuating temperatures can make it taste stale.
Can I store coffee grounds in the fridge?
It's not the best place to store them, but it's also not a disaster. It's better to have them at room temperature in a sealed container, but if they have to go in the fridge, make sure that they are well-sealed. If you use them within two weeks, you shouldn't notice that the taste changes too much.
Should I use pre-ground coffee?
After speaking with Genevieve Kappler, from Roasting Plant, she has advised us not to use pre-ground coffee. She says that 'a vast majority of pre-ground coffee has already lost most of its flavor and aroma, and acquired funky, unpleasant, off-tastes. So, buy whole beans and save yourself the trouble of drinking poor tasting coffee.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, using freshly ground coffee is the best way to make your brew. If you keep it protected from light, heat, and oxygen, you'll keep your coffee fresher for a lot longer. I'd seriously consider investing in a grinder, because then you have control over the freshness of your grinds, resulting in a more flavorful cup. If that isn't an option, you can't go wrong with keeping them in the freezer.
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Laura is our eCommerce editor. Before Homes & Gardens she studied English at Oxford University. Alongside her studies, she qualified as a barista and trained as a master perfumer. This makes her our certified expert for all things coffee, candles, and fragrance. She has passed our five-step tests to become a certified Customer Advisor, making her our resident expert. Laura has worked for luxury retail brands, reinforcing the importance of quality and style over quantity and fads. She looks for products which have been designed with thoughtful finishes.
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