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How to Store Coffee Beans: Whole vs Ground

Fresh Coffee Beans

June 26, 2023

Buying coffee is fun! When you order from Cooper’s Cask Coffee, you can make fresh-roasted choices from multiple single origin coffees and from at least 7 different barrel aged coffees

But once they arrive at your door, how do you keep them as fresh as possible? Plus, which stays freshest longest—whole bean, or ground?

Let’s explore the delicious possibilities below.

Whole Bean vs Ground Coffee

It seems like buying your coffee pre-ground would be easier, right? That’s why we offer to grind our freshly roasted coffee beans for you before sending them. It doesn’t matter if you choose our Cabernet Barrel Aged Coffee, or our single origin Guatemala Cold Brew Coffee. Whole bean or pre-ground, we’ll deliver coffee to suit your favorite style of brewing.

It will help with your choices, however, if you understand how coffee goes stale, and how that process affects whole beans vs ground coffee.

How the Roasting Process Affects Coffee Beans

When coffee beans go through the roasting process, hundreds of different chemical reactions occur, erasing some compounds while forming new ones.The roast produces a pyrolysis-like effect, including sugar caramelization and the Maillard reaction.

This heated organic chemical reaction causes sugars to react with amino acids, forming a delicious mixture of compounds unique to each coffee varietal.The time spent allowing the Maillard reaction to go on will greatly change the flavor of the coffee.

The longer the Maillard reaction, the more it increases viscosity and promotes a darker, bolder flavor. A shorter time (lighter roast) promotes acidity and a sense of sweetness. 

This is why the roasting equipment is so very important. Old fashioned roasters heat the roasting barrel while tumbling the beans within it. This type of roaster required master roasters to pay extreme attention to the roast time, temperature, and even the look and smell of the beans.

Modern roasters use heated air to roast the beans. They can be programmed to exacting times and heat, and won’t burn the beans through contact with the actual heat source itself. They make extremely consistent roasts that bring out the best flavors of the beans.

 photo of 4 bags of cooper's barrel aged coffee on mound of beans as one way how to store coffee beans

Coffee Oxidation 

Roasting delivers coffee flavors. But there’s a price: it also makes the beans vulnerable to oxidation. When coffee has been roasted, contact with air causes loss of flavor and an increase in the degradation of the coffee’s innate oils and aroma compounds.

Though the process starts as soon as the beans leave the roaster, the impact of oxidation doesn’t really show until 7 to 14 days after roasting. As coffee experts, we have trained palates to discern when coffee is past its peak flavor time. 

Most people don’t notice a real change in flavor until 3 to 4 weeks after the roast. At some point, they simply realize their coffee has become bland. If left long enough, the oils can turn rancid and the coffee becomes unworthy of a pleasant cup.

If the coffee is ground, it oxidizes more quickly. 

The reason behind this fact is that grinding coffee creates more surface area to come in contact with oxygen. 

Think of a stick of butter put into a pan. If you put it in whole, it takes some time to melt. But cut it up into smaller pieces, and more of the butter is in contact with the heat. It melts faster, and your sauteed mushrooms can join your plate sooner.

So when you grind coffee, you break it up into tiny pieces, allowing oxygen to affect all of the bean, not just the outside of it. 

Related topic: why fresh coffee beans make all the difference

What’s the difference in shelf life between ground beans vs whole beans?

Let’s assume you have the best storage conditions—a cool, dark place in an airtight container. If so, you can expect your coffee to retain its best flavor for the following durations: 

  • Whole Beans—2 to 6 weeks.
  • Ground Coffee—2 to 4 weeks. 

How to Store Coffee Beans at Home

It’s not that hard to keep your beans fresher for longer at home. There are some basic things you can do that allow you to enjoy peak flavor and aroma in both whole coffee beans and ground coffee beans.

Don’t Stockpile

Order the amount of coffee you’ll consume in 3 to 4 weeks. If you drink Cooper’s Cask Coffee, you can subscribe to have your favorite coffee—or coffees—delivered to your doorstep on a regular basis. You won’t run out of coffee, and your coffee won’t run out of time.

Find a Cool, Dry Home

Store your beans in a cool, dry place out of sunlight and away from heat sources. Unfortunately, kitchen cabinets aren’t always the best choice, as they may be near a stove or hit by sunlight. 

For a cool location, you might think the refrigerator or freezer would be the ultimate “cool” choice. However, a refrigerator is actually fairly humid inside of it, not to mention full of food odors. Coffee infamously absorbs both humidity and odor.

The freezer might seem less humid, but the intense cold can cause airtight containers to leak, and force the oil from the beans.

Remember: Airtight Is Just Right

Because oxygen is the enemy, putting the coffee in an airtight container is a no-brainer. However, the container must have a one-way CO2 vent, because freshly roasted coffee produces CO2.

Sometimes the best airtight container is the Cooper’s Cask Coffee bag it came in.

photo of cooper's Single Serve Cups as an alternative for how to store ground coffee beans

The 3rd Choice: Single Serve Cups

If you have a K-Cup style coffee maker, Cooper’s Cask Coffee offers a 24-Count Barrel Aged Variety Pack, and a 12-Count Bourbon Barrel Aged Pack. These have longer shelf lives than regular ground coffee, because each single serve cup is completely airtight.

Stale Coffee Work-Arounds

Let’s consider a worst case scenario: a friend of yours wisely went to our Gifts page and sent you a Black & White Single Origin Coffee Box Set. Lucky you! You know how to store coffee beans, so you put it away safe and sound. Then, because your birthday was so fun and you had so much going on—you forgot where it was!

Four months later you find it. The beans are well past their peak freshness. What do you do with them now?

Don’t toss those stale darlings yet. Here are some humble suggestions that might re-enable the pleasure of your favorite java.

Make Cold Brew Coffee With Them

The cold brew process takes coarsely ground coffee and lets it steep in cold water for 12 or so hours. This brewing style is much less acidic than hot brewing, and also reduces bitterness. 

Your cold brew won’t have the full flavor of truly fresh beans, but it could help alleviate much of the stale overtones for a tolerable cup.

Chocolate Choice

Take chocolate, melt it over low heat, stir in your beans, and immediately let it cool. Voila! You’ve got home-made luxurious chocolate covered coffee beans. Sure, they’re fancy. And you don’t have to tell anyone the beans are stale. They won’t notice as they go “mmmmm.”

Other Dessert Options

Here’s the scoop on your stale scoop: strong flavors and sweetness mixed with those old coffee beans can give them new purpose. They stop being the dominant flavor and become part of a melding of flavors, so that the stale parts are masked and unnoticeable. Some suggestions include:

  • Coffee cake (with actual coffee in it)
  • Coffee Ice Cream
  • Tiramisu
  • Coffee Bean Brittle (like peanut brittle)
  • Fudge (‘Dark Chocolate Espresso’ is a great hit at holiday parties)

You can also use those beans to infuse liquors. See? All is not lost; you just have to get deliciously creative! 

We Guarantee Freshness

Our master roasters write the roasting date on every bag of coffee ordered through our website. You’ll know how fresh your coffee is, whether you order whole beans or ground. Now that you know how to store coffee beans, you can keep either as fresh as possible.

However, you have 30 days after your purchase to be wholly satisfied with your coffee experience. If you’re not, our satisfaction guarantee lets you trade out that coffee for a different one, or get a refund. We want you to be 100% happy with your Cooper’s Cask Coffee order.

Related topic: how to make the perfect cup of coffee.

Don’t Forget Our Gear

Want to try whole beans, but don’t have a grinder? Check out our Gear page for a great selection of burr grinders. You can choose whatever grind size you want, and enjoy the freshest cup possible.

Of course, you can also find several brewing machines and kits, scales, and more. You know how to store coffee beans; and now you know where to go for the tools that make great coffee!

Brew a Cup of Cooper’s Today

Now that you know how to store coffee beans and ground coffee, it’s time to order your favorite! We have over 7000 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon for our products. If you order from the website, your coffee arrives even fresher! 

Contact us for more ideas on how to store coffee beans. Use our coffee finder to discover the right flavor of coffee you’d want to store!

Small batch, big satisfaction.That’s Cooper’s Cask Coffee

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