There has been much discussion on here over the years as to what is the best way to store our precious roasted beans once we've worked our magic on them and turned them from green to brown. As is to be expected among a community this large there is no single method of storage that everyone agrees with. However, with that said, pretty much everyone agrees that roasted beans should be stored in a cool dark location in a container that prevents air from getting inside it.
Located in this forum you will find discussions on pretty much every storage method/system that you can think of. Following is a list and description of the most commonly used/recommended ones with a brief list of the pro's and con's of each. This list is not intended as an exhaustive compilation but simply as a introductory presentation of the most common. For in-depth discussions of these and other methods please see the rest of the threads/posts in this forum.
Foil/Mylar bag with ziplock closure and a one way valve
This is far and away the most common method used and recommended. Variations include heat sealing the bags, especially for long term storage (The ziplock closure while very good is not completely airtight.), using a bag with no valve, and using a straight poly ziplock bag. Bags can be cleaned using paper towels and alcohol rather than soap or other chemical to prevent any flavors or smells being left behind from the cleaning. To extend the life of the foil/mylar bag use a cheap twisty tie type sandwich bag (With-out using the twisty or if you do use it put it on loosely.) to put the beans in which is then put into the foil/mylar bag.
- Bags are easy to acquire
- All excess air is easily removed from the bag
- Bags are reusable and will last a long time
- Takes up minimal space both empty and full
- Blocks all light
- Bags with no one way valve that are heat sealed can split a seam from beans out-gassing
- Bags eventually need to be replaced
- Straight poly Ziploc bags don't block the light and can't be heat sealed
This would include mason jars and porcelain/ceramic/metal containers. These containers generally come with a screw or clamp on lid with a gasket that forms an airtight seal. Variations include lids with one way valves built into them either from the factory or as a Mod.
- Airtight to prevent air infiltration
- Porcelain/ceramic/metal ones block light
- Lasts virtually forever
- Excess air can be eliminated using an Airscape brand container
- Airtight - Risk of glass/porcelain/ceramic containers breaking or even shattering from internal pressure build-up from beans out-gassing
- Excess air in container
- Clear glass ones do not block light
- Takes up same amount of space no matter how full
- Glass/Porcelain/Ceramic containers are subject to breakage
Vacuum Sealed Containers
These can include both bags and solid containers. Use of the cheap twisty tie sandwich bags to hold the beans can extend the life of the vacuum bags.
- Solid containers are reusable for years
- Vacuum packing can extend the shelf life
- Vacuum bags are probably the best option for long term freezing of beans should you choose to do such a thing
- Excess air in solid containers
- Does not block light
- Vacuum packing affects and/or degrades the beans flavor - Exactly how much is up for debate and subject to individual tasting preference, sensitivity, and abilities
- Bags tend to not last very long due to the heat seal moving further down the bag every time beans are used
- Bags are moderately expensive to use due to original price and their short life span
- Vacuum machine is expensive
- Containers are on the pricey side
Paper Fold Over Bags
These are the paper bags, either lined or unlined, that some coffee shops send you home with your coffee in. The ones where you fold the top over and hold it in place with what is basically a large twisty tie.
- Blocks some light - How much varies between designs
- Not airtight
- Don't last long
The hopper on your grinder. This typically works best for those who go through their beans quickly and have a mild ambient environment. i.e. cool to moderate temperature and lower humidity. The grinder should also be out of any direct sunlight and away from any heat source.
- No added cost for bean storage
- Prevents popcorning when grinding
- No digging out and measuring of beans for each cup
- Excess air in with beans
- Does not block light
- Typically has higher wastage than measuring/grinding per cup
- Beans age/stale faster
This is the most common place people store their beans. Use a cabinet or cupboard out of direct sunlight and away from any source of heat or humidity. Do not use the cupboard above your brewing machine, toaster, hot water pot, stove, refrigerator, or any other device that generates heat. This includes a cabinet with a light fixture mounted anywhere on it. Use a cabinet away from a sink or dishwasher so as to avoid exposure to high humidity.
- Everybody has such a space
- Beans are out of the way
- Keeps valuable counter space open
- In extreme environments cabinets may be too warm for optimum storage
- In extreme environments cabinets may be too humid for optimum storage
Typically only used in extreme environments (High heat and/or humidity.) or when one has more beans than they can use before they go stale.
- Can keep beans from going stale longer than when stored outside of the refrigerator
- A good alternative in extreme environments
- Beans and their container must be brought up to ambient temperature before the container is opened to prevent condensation from forming on the beans and the inside of the container
- Storage containers can't allow any air to leak into them
- Many feel the beans flavor is degraded
- Beans can absorb flavors/odors from the foods in the refrigerator
Typically only used when one has so many roasted beans on hand that it will take over a month to use them all. Usually a storage method of last resort. Freezing beans is the one time that most can agree that vacuum packing, in a bag, is a good option.
- Can be a better option than throwing beans away because they went stale before you could use them all
- Degrades the flavor of the beans
- Beans can absorb flavors/odors from the foods in the freezer
- Containers must be airtight with as little air as possible in them to minimize freezer burn
If you have a question on the storage of roasted beans a great place to start is with a search of this forum to see if your question has been asked before. The odds are very good it has! You can find the search box on every page near the upper right corner. To search just this forum use the Advanced Search function.
Java "Store what/how/where?" phile
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