I reached the level of coffee snob some years ago. I don't think I'm quite to the level of coffee geek, but I continue to work on it.
As you may recall from previous columns, I've been a home roaster for many years now. While my family and I seriously enjoy a good cup of coffee, the real reason I looked into this hobby in the first place was not to achieve quality but to save money. Gourmet coffee of excellent quality is not cheap. The day I spent $19.95 for 12 ounces of Costa Rican La Minita Tarrazu roasted coffee beans was the day I said: "This is crazy. There has to be a better way." And there is.
It started with 10 pounds of raw green coffee beans purchased from an online coffee dealer. From there, I increased our too-frequent orders to 25 pounds to get a quantity discount. The first time I ordered 50 pounds, I said it again: "This is nuts. Why am I not buying directly from the grower?" And with that, my husband and I became authentic coffee importers. We buy a full bag from the La Minita plantation. We're talking 150 pounds of coffee at a time. We've had to learn the proper way to store coffee -- raw beans, roasted beans and ground coffee. The goal is to make sure those 150 pounds of beans remain fresh and amazing right to the last one.
While there are plenty of myths out there, here's the simple truth when it comes to storing coffee:
*Raw Green Beans
Green coffee beans remain fresh indefinitely provided they are kept at room temperature in a dark location. Raw beans need to breathe, so a brown paper bag or burlap bag is ideal. Raw beans should not be vacuum-sealed.
*Roasted Coffee Beans
Small-batch roasting is ideal, which means I rarely have more than a pound of roasted coffee beans on hand at any time. Store roasted coffee beans in any container with a tight-fitting lid, and then keep it in the cupboard or pantry.
Roasted coffee beans are at their peek flavor up to two weeks of roasting. At three weeks, they become semi-fresh. At four weeks, they're just OK. Older than a month and roasted coffee beans deteriorate to the point of becoming bitter.
Ground coffee is a staple in many homes. Just add a few scoops to your coffee maker and you're all set, right? That depends on what you consider a good coffee! As convenient as it is to purchase ground coffee, it will never taste as fresh as when you grind your own and then brew it immediately. Once ground, coffee should be consumed within two hours. If you must pre-grind, store small batches in tightly sealed containers or packets in a dark place. And remember that the clock it ticking. It will decline in flavor as time goes by. Air is the enemy, so keep those small containers closed tightly. Once you open a container of ground coffee, use it immediately.
*Refrigerate or Freeze?
Never refrigerate coffee -- raw, roasted or ground. That creates moisture, which is coffee's worst enemy, turning it bitter and awful. I don't even recommend freezing coffee, but if you have so much you believe you have no other choice, freeze in small batches in tight-lidded or vacuum-sealed containers. Once you remove a small container from the freezer, just set it on a shelf to thaw. Do not refreeze.
Interested in learning how to home-roast coffee? Keep reading, as I'll be sharing my secrets and resources in an upcoming column very soon.
Mary Hunt's column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at creators.com.