If you brew your own coffee at home, you may have experimented with various roasts and brands from a range of prices. Maybe you refuse to buy anything but Starbucks blends, or perhaps Folger’s is the perfect choice for you. Whatever your choice in beans may be, you for sure want to make sure that these beans stay fresh so that every time you brew, you’re guaranteed to have a great tasting cup of coffee.
So, what exactly is the best way to store your grounds? Coffee may not have an expiration date, but its quality of flavor will decrease the longer you let it sit.
The first thing to consider is whether or not your coffee is ground or whole bean. When coffee is ground, its surface area increases, leaving it more exposed to air and moisture that will eventually cause it to become stale. If you really, really want to have the freshest possible brew, invest in a grinder so that you don’t have to purchase pre-ground coffee.
The whole bean will last several weeks. Coffee that is pre-ground will last about one to two weeks once opened. You may notice that a lot of bags are vacuum sealed. This is to ensure that absolutely no air gets in the bag and starts sucking away that precious flavor before you even purchase it. Consider buying an air-tight container (not a clear one though, as light also affects freshness) that keeps out moisture and store it in a cabinet or someplace away from light.
But what about coffee that’s already been brewed? It’s pretty commonplace in a break room (or even a restaurant or diner) to see a half-full pot that’s been sitting since the morning. While it’s safe to drink, you won’t be getting the same quality in flavor. Brewed coffee, on average, is good for 30 minutes after its made.
The reason behind this, like with its whole bean and ground counterparts, is oxidation. Air and coffee truly are not friends. If you want to make your coffee last, seal it in an airtight thermos.
If you brew coffee in a French press, the amount of time will be cut even shorter. Even after pressing on the plunger, the coffee continues to brew. This can make it become very bitter in no time, so if you use a French press and don’t plan on drinking the whole pot, consider pouring it in a separate container.
If you make iced coffee at home (by brewing your coffee double strength and then diluting it with ice or water), it will be good for less than a day.
Some people may stick their grounds or beans in the freezer to help keep them fresh. There is some debate as to if this really works. While it may not be foolproof, it is an option if you just don’t go through that much coffee. If you do decide to freeze your beans, make sure that they aren’t given a chance to thaw, as this causes moisture which will then be trapped in the bag, thus affecting the freshness of the beans and going against the whole reason for keeping them in the freezer.
An open bag of beans will last about two years in the freezer, unopened, up to three. Ground beans will last about three to five months in the freezer if it is unsealed, whereas an unopened bag will last up to two years. While there’s no guarantee that freezing will save the freshness of your coffee, it is a generally accepted method of extending the longevity of the product.
What to do with expired coffee?
If it really pains you to waste your brewed coffee, there are a couple things you could do.
Pour your leftover brewed coffee in an ice cube tray. Next time you make iced coffee, you can use these cubes in your beverage without diluting it with regular ice. Alternatively, you can use these coffee cubes as a browning agent when making gravy.
For a refreshing pick-me-up, throw that leftover liquid gold in the blender with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, milk, vanilla extract, and ice. Blend it and enjoy your homemade java milkshake.
If you’re baking a chocolate or vanilla cake and want to add a surprising spin to a classic flavor, use coffee instead of water to give it a tasty mocha flavor.