To freeze or not to freeze; this has been the debate for years in the coffee industry. The practice of properly storing coffee beans has divided everyone into factions and for years, the faction that was considered the most sacrilegious were the ones that favored the practice of freezing coffee beans. However, times have changed, and freezing coffee seems to now be in style.
Now, you might be part of the few still not convinced to follow this recent trend. Beyond acceptability, you want to be sure if it is okay to freeze coffee. If it is, how do you do it right? Are there any benefits to storing coffee in a freezer?
The Case Against Freezing
Who would have thought that coffee beans could stir so much politics within people? However, before we let things go nuclear, be aware that this isn't an 'us vs them' narrative. The concerns of the anti-freeze delegate are as valid as our insistence on sending those beans to a cold waiting room
Amateur baristas are not the only villains in the shelf lives of the average coffee beans. When roasted, coffee beans become their own enemies. They turn absorbent and are easily affected by the elements. That is why you are advised to store them away from heat, light, moisture, and air. Note that there is no mention of cold.
In the freezer, they absorb all the other flavors. The most important element in your coffee can be messed up when it isn't stored properly. Also, if you are knowledgeable enough to store it in an airtight container before placing it in the freezer, you can still risk condensation when you open that can of coffee.
This is why asides from the airtight containers, you are also advised to buy in small quantities. Coffee can spoil easily.
How to freeze coffee beans properly?
Coffee can spoil easily.
Yeah, yeah. We get it. The fear is understandable but what happens when you don't buy in small quantities and you are not sold on the options of letting it go stale, binging on coffee all night, or throwing it away? The heavens forbid.
This is when desperate times call for desperate measures. One of such measures is freezing coffee to extend its shelf life. There is a way to do it. So how do you properly freeze coffee?
1. Get an air-tight container
The rule of thumb here is to ensure that whatever you are storing the coffee in will keep it away from air. It could be a zipper bag or container with a vacuum seal, as long as it is effective for what is required. Also, do your best to make sure it is opaque.
2. Store in small batches.
The shelf life of coffee beans is ridiculously short after freezing. The moment you take it out of the freezer, you have anywhere between 4 to 7 days to consume it before it loses its flavor and becomes stale. Dividing the coffee beans into small batches will ensure that you do not have leftovers that exceed that time period.
3. Place everything in the Freezer
This is self-explanatory. Place all your opaque airtight containers into the freezer and take great care to label them 'do not open'. This is especially important if you forget things easily or you share your fridge with either friends or family.
4. Take your time
Every time you have to take out coffee from the freezer, do not open it immediately. We discussed condensation some moments earlier. When the coffee hasn't adjusted to room temperature, the sharp change in temperature and pressure will expose the beans to moisture. So, take your time when opening the container. It's your coffee and it is certainly not in a hurry.
The Shelf Life Of Frozen Coffee Beans
The shelf life of Frozen Coffee beans is very long. The moment it is stored properly enough in your vacuum-sealed container and inside the freezer, you don't have to worry about its flavor or taste for at least 3 to 4 months. However, that is just an estimation. It will be okay for longer than that.
Benefits of Freezing Coffee
Now that you know how to store coffee properly, let us explore the major benefit of freezing coffee.
The most efficient way to preserve the flavor of food products is by freezing them. There's hardly anyone that doesn't know that. Coffee is not an exception to this rule.
One major concern that coffee aficionados have with roasted coffee is that it almost immediately begins to lose its flavor after the roasting process. It begins to taste stale and dated. In days the difference is apparent, in weeks, it is undeniable, and don't get me started on what happens to a month-old roasted coffee stored in a dry dark pantry.
To be honest, the task of preserving its flavor can seem self-defeating and that's why you should freeze it. Freezing traps its flavor in a time capsule almost literally. The roasted coffee won't age except when it is brought out and back to reality. At that point, you are required to consume it or watch it finish the job. Standards for fresh-tasting coffee vary from palate to palate but you won't be able to deny how close to the real thing it will taste.
Unfrozen or Frozen?
No one wants coffee to go stale and you might have gotten so used to unfrozen coffee that the thought of freezing it terrifies you. However, let's compare frozen coffee with unfrozen coffee and see which one lasts longer.
When unopened or sealed, unfrozen ground coffee stored in the pantry can last for as long as 3 to 5 months while ground coffee stored in the freezer will last for as long as 2 years. When opened and unsealed, both frozen and unfrozen ground coffee last the same 3 to 5 months.
The most common mistake that you can make while freezing beans is not dividing them into smaller portions before freezing them. The moment you remove them from cold storage, you should consume them or use them for other purposes. Do not refreeze except you are content with a subpar quality of coffee.
This post was first published in 2021 but it was updated in 2023 just for you.