The 10 Best Coffee Storage Jars
How Quickly Does Coffee Begin To Degrade
Coffee, like any other consumable food, has a point at which it goes bad. Going bad has a different meaning with coffee than with many other foods, though. When coffee goes bad, it doesn't mean that it is spoiled and could potentially get you sick, but rather that it is past the point of optimal flavor. Coffee begins to degrade from a number of factors immediately after roasting, and the degradation process speeds up considerably once it is ground. This is because grinding beans massively expands their surface area, exposing more of it to the elements in the air that cause it to oxidize.
To help halt the oxidization process, most manufacturers seal their coffee in air-tight packages that have a one-way valve. If the coffee is not exposed to air, heat, moisture, or light, the degradation process is almost completely halted. This is why sealed coffee grounds and beans may have a best by date many months into the future. The one-way valve is needed because coffee releases carbon dioxide for up to one week after roasting.
Once you take your coffee home and open the package, it begins the oxidization process. If it is whole beans, you have a little more time before the negative effects of oxidization become noticeable. This is because the bean protects the compounds and oils responsible for the coffee's flavor and aroma. With whole beans, it can take up to several weeks before oxidization begins to destroy these oils and compounds. Once the bean is ground, though, the coffee begins to lose these aromatic and flavorful compounds nearly instantaneously.
If your coffee beans are properly stored in a coffee storage jar, or other dark, air-tight container, they should keep their optimal flavor profile for about one month. You should consume ground coffee within one or two weeks to ensure it maintains its best flavor.
How To Store Coffee Properly
As we touched on in the first section, air, light, moisture, and heat are the main culprits responsible for destroying the subtle flavors and aromas in the gourmet coffee you've been buying. So when considering how to best store coffee, we must figure out how to store it in a way that it will only minimally be exposed to these elements. If possible, you should only store coffee beans and grind your coffee immediately before brewing. You own a coffee grinder don't you? Well, if not, it is time to get one if you want the best-tasting coffee possible.
Most coffee storage jars can protect coffee from the elements that cause degradation. They are air-tight, which also means they won't allow moisture in the air, such as humidity, to enter either. The majority of coffee storage jars will also be opaque. There are a few models, however, that are not completely opaque. These can helpful for some people as they allow you to see exactly how much coffee you have left at any given time, so hopefully you will never wind up in that dreaded scenario where you can't make yourself a nice cup of morning java. If you choose to buy a model that is not completely opaque, just bear in mind that it won't be able to safely store coffee as long as fully opaque models.
Now that you are storing your coffee in a dedicated storage jar, let's consider where you should keep said jar. Since we know that heat can also cause coffee to degrade, it is important to store the jar in a location that isn't exposed to high heat. Avoid placing it in a cabinet above your oven, as these are often subjected to heat radiating upwards. You should also avoid any countertop that experiences direct rays of sunlight.
For a long time, common household knowledge dictated that we store coffee in the freezer, but this is actually a terrible place to store it. Every time you remove the coffee from the freezer and place it on the counter for a few minutes while you set up up your coffee machine for brewing, condensation will form on it. If you place the coffee back in the freezer after it has come to room temperature, it is almost guaranteed to introduce moisture. And, since it has been proven that storing coffee in the freezer doesn't increase it's shelf life, there is really no point to doing so.
Why Brewed Coffee Doesn't Store Well
Coffee is full of chemical compounds and oils that are responsible for giving each bean its unique flavor profile. Collectively, these solubles are what give coffee its quintessential, somewhat addictive flavor. During the brewing process, these solubles are extracted from the grounds and imparted into the liquid. Even if you've done everything humanly possible to halt the oxidization and degradation of your beans up until the brewing point, there is nothing you can do to stop it after brewing.
The best temperature to dissolve coffee solubles in water is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, as the hot water extracts the flavor from the grounds, it also speeds up the oxidization process and makes the solubles more volatile. The hotter the water, up to a certain point, the more solubles it extracts from the grounds and the more full-bodied the taste of the coffee. This is why cold-brewed coffee has a less acidic and less full-bodied flavor. Unfortunately, the hotter the water, the more rapidly it increases the oxidization process. This is also why cold-brewed coffee stores better, though it still only keeps its optimum flavor for a short period of time.
Since the oxidization process speeds up as soon as the grinds touch water, the time before the coffee's flavor changes decreases. If you've ever brewed a pot of coffee and let it sit for an hour or two before having your second cup, you've probably noticed that it tastes considerably more bitter. Now you know why. Oxidization has degraded the many flavorful oils and compounds.