Having reached the level of coffee snob some years ago, I don't think I'm quite to the level of coffee geek yet — but I continue to work on it. That's how much I love really good coffee!
As you may recall from previous posts, 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 took up this hobby in the first place was not to achieve quality; it was to save money. Excellent quality, gourmet-level coffee does not have to be expensive if you import and roast your own beans.
We now import a full bag of raw coffee beans from the La Minita Tarrazu plantation — 150-200 pounds of raw green coffee at a time. We've had to learn the proper way to store raw beans, roasted beans and ground coffee. The goal is to make sure those beans remain fresh and amazing right to the very last drop.
WHAT ARE GREEN COFFEE BEANS?
Coffee beans in their raw, natural state are referred to as green coffee beans. You might not recognize them as coffee because of their grayish-green color. Green coffee doesn't smell like coffee, either.
HOW DO I STORE RAW GREEN COFFEE BEANS?
Green coffee beans remain fresh almost indefinitely, provided they are kept at room temperature in a dark location. Ideal green coffee storage conditions are 60 F and about 60% humidity. Higher humidity can encourage mold growth within the beans while super dry conditions (below 20%) will dry the beans out, causing them to develop a "flat" taste once roasted.
Raw coffee beans need to breathe, so storing them in a brown paper or burlap bag to allow for air movement is ideal. There are bugs and larvae that might be attracted to the burlap material (I have never experienced anything like that), but almost nothing will eat green coffee.
ONCE ROASTED, HOW LONG WILL COFFEE REMAIN FRESH?
Roasted coffee beans are at their peak flavor within two weeks of roasting. At three weeks, roasted coffee beans become noticeably semifresh. At four weeks, just OK. Older than a month, roasted coffee beans deteriorate to the point of becoming bitter.
Small-batch roasting is ideal, which means I roast coffee once a week and rarely have more than a pound of roasted coffee beans on hand.
HOW DO I STORE ROASTED COFFEE BEANS?
Store roasted coffee beans in any container with a lid, and keep it in a cupboard or pantry. Vacuum sealing roasted coffee beans in Mason jars extends their useful life considerably — up to several months.
WHAT ABOUT GROUND COFFEE?
Ground coffee is the 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 good coffee.
As convenient as it is to purchase coffee already ground, it will never taste as fresh as when you grind your own and then brew immediately. That ground coffee from the store may have been ground months ago before making its way through distribution, warehousing and then finally to the supermarket shelf.
SHOULD I REFRIGERATE COFFEE TO KEEP IT FRESH?
No, never refrigerate coffee — raw, roasted or ground. Refrigeration creates moisture, which is coffee's worst enemy, making it bitter and awful.
Further, each time you open a refrigerated container of coffee to remove some, you expose it to warm air. When you close it up and put it back in the refrigerator, you've created more moisture — which makes for horrible coffee.
DOES FREEZING COFFEE PRESERVE ITS FRESHNESS?
While refrigeration is too moist for coffee, the freezer is too dry. The general rule for green coffee storage is this: If it's comfortable for you, then your coffee is happy, too.
I do not recommend freezing coffee, but if you have so much you have no other choice, freeze in small batches in tightly lidded or vacuum-sealed containers. Once you remove a small container from the freezer, just set it on a shelf to thaw. Never refreeze.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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