Believe it or not, ground coffee begins to stale within around 20 seconds of being ground. This is because the surface area of the coffee particles is so small, oxygen can do damage faster than it can when the coffee is still in bean form. Since ground coffee doesn’t last or stay fresh for very long, we recommend using some countermeasures to slow the degradation and make your coffee last longer.
We’ve put together a list of the best ways to ensure your coffee stays fresh longer.
Grinding Coffee on Demand
Since ground coffee begins to stale so quickly, at Triple Bar, we recommend you always grind the coffee on demand, right before you brew. This means only buying whole bean coffee and grinding it yourself. To go this route, you’ll have to invest in a grinder.
Types of Grinders
There are two main types of grinders: blade grinders and burr grinders. Blade grinders are really fast, but tend to scald the beans as they slice them. They also have issues with consistency, since you continuously chop the beans until you stop the grinder.
Burr grinders are the best grinders for consistent coffee. They have a set of burrs that crush the beans as they drop in from a hopper above. When the beans are the right grind size, they slip between the burrs and into the grounds bin below.
Hand Grinding vs. Electric Grinding
After deciding to invest in a burr grinder, you’ll need to decide whether you want to get a hand crank grinder or an electric grinder. Both grinders have their own pros and cons.
Hand Crank Burr Grinders
A hand crank burr grinder is a 100% manual grinder where you rotate an arm on the top and grind all the coffee in the hopper. This type of grinder is great for an individual who only plans to drink coffee in small quantities (1-2 cups) because it requires quite a bit of manual labor to get your ground coffee. Most people start out with this type of burr grinder since they’re pretty inexpensive. Check out a detailed review of one of our favorites: the Hario Mini Mill Slim.
Electric Burr Grinders
An electric burr grinder is a fully automatic grinder that you put beans into, press a button, and get ground coffee out. These grinders are great for people looking to save time in the morning or who brew coffee for larger groups (or themselves). Nearly everyone who gets into coffee ends up investing in an electric burr grinder. We have loved many electric burr grinders over the years.
Sourcing Fresh Coffee
Another great way to make your coffee last longer is to buy coffee that was more recently roasted. Freshly roasted coffee doesn’t begin to degrade until 2-3 weeks after the roast date. We notice a pretty big change in flavor just after the second week.
Sourcing freshly roasted coffee is easy. While not all grocery stores carry freshly roasted coffee, you can always go to your local coffee shop or coffee roaster and buy freshly roasted beans. They will know exactly when the coffee was roasted. We don’t like to buy anything that was roasted more than a week ago.
If your local grocery store carries specialty coffee, you can usually find the roast date written on the bottom of the bag. We recommend buying beans that were roasted within 10 days of your purchase date. If you can’t find the roast date, odds are it was not roasted within the last 10 days.
Another way to get the freshest beans is to roast your own coffee at home. It’s super easy and really fun! Take a look at this post we wrote to learn more.
Storing Your Whole Bean Coffee
Grinding right before you brew and buying fresh coffee are great ways to make your coffee taste better, but you’ll want to be sure not to neglect how you store your whole bean coffee in between cups. While whole bean coffee stays fresh much longer than ground coffee, it’s important to try to preserve it as best you can.
There are several factors that contribute to the degradation of whole bean coffee. A few of the big ones are sunlight, oxygen, and temperature.
To eliminate sunlight and temperature, you can simply keep your coffee in a glass jar or other sealed container. It’s important you put the coffee in a dark, cool place to keep the beans fresh longer.
If you want to take the freshness to another level, you can pick up a vacuum sealed coffee canister. These canisters let you suck or push all the air out of the container to slow the oxidation.
Another option is a coffee canister with a one-way valve. These canisters don’t do anything for the oxygen that’s already inside of the container, but they do prevent any new oxygen from getting in. If you purchase (or roast your own) fresh coffee, it tends to release CO2 for the first couple of days. This CO2 will push the oxygen and other gases out of the container as it ages. We find that this keeps the beans fresher, at least until the coffee stops releasing CO2.
While you can’t do much to increase the shelf life of pre-ground coffee, you can do other things to prevent against stale coffee. Some of these things are super easy, like storing your beans in a dark, cool place away from damaging sunlight. Others require more of an investment, such as purchasing a burr grinder or sourcing fresher beans from a local coffee roaster.
Our favorite ways to ensure we brew the most delicious cups of coffee are to:
- Always grind right before you brew (with a burr grinder)
- Buy the freshest beans you can or roast them yourself
- Store your whole bean coffee properly and consume within a few weeks of the roast date
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the section below or email us at [email protected].