Freshness is the key to coffee. Like bread, once roasted coffee is exposed to oxygen, it starts to slowly go stale, losing its flavour and aroma. So unless you like your coffee lifeless, cardboard-like and papery, do read on.
We do everything we can at Taylors to keep coffee fresh, including grinding beans straight into packs that are then flushed with nitrogen to drive out as much of the oxygen as possible. Each pack even has a special valve to keep the freshness in and oxygen out. But what happens once you’ve opened a pack?
Different people have different ideas on the best way to store coffee – and we’ve always advised that its best kept in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. But, when we received a tweet from a customer who queried this advice, we decided to put it to the test.
Taking several packs of our best-selling Rich Italian from the same batch, we put the contents of one pack in a plastic airtight container, another in a caddy, and the other we simply sealed with tape. We did this three times, placing one set in a cool dark cupboard, one set in a fridge and another set in a freezer.
Two weeks later, our coffee buyers blind tasted the lot to compare their aroma and flavour with a freshly opened pack from the same batch. The difference was pretty startling.
All three that were stored in the cupboard were by far the flattest in flavour and had the weakest aroma. In fact, the poor aroma of the coffee grounds alone made it incredibly easy to pick them out before even tasting them. While the coffees stored in the fridge or freezer had kept more of their freshness and character, it was difficult to tell them apart. As expected, the unopened bag was the most characterful and freshest of all.
Two weeks later, after four weeks of storage, we tasted them again. The cupboard-stored batch were unsurprisingly all completely stale, but the coffees from the freezer were considerably fresher than the fridge-stored coffees, and the closest to the freshness of a newly opened fresh pack. The airtight plastic container also proved best for storing coffee in.
Finally, after a total of six weeks, we took the last set of packs out of the freezer and these were a little flat in aroma and taste.
In short then, our experts found that the best place to store coffee depends on how long a pack usually lasts you. If you are going to drink it within 2 weeks, the fridge or freezer are equally good. Any longer, and the freezer’s best. But whatever you do, always store coffee in an airtight container if possible – and never in a cupboard unless you have no choice.
Of course, for the fullest flavour, aroma and character of any coffee, we recommend you drink it as soon as possible after opening the bag. And with a coffee as delicious as Rich Italian, it’s unlikely to hang about for long.