Cooling & Storage: Extending Roasted Coffee Freshness

Updated Nov 26, 2023 • Donna Lu

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Coffee Roasting Best Practices (Part 5 of 5)

The cooling and storage practices of roasted coffee are just as important as the handling and roasting of green coffee. How you cool and store roasted coffee before brewing a cup will significantly affect that cup's overall taste, body, and aroma. With poor handling of these processes, the effort put in properly handling from the farmer to the roaster will be in vain. 

Plus, you'd have wasted your dollars! This guide shares a clear and straightforward guide to roasted coffee's healthy cooling and storage practices. Whether you like to roast coffee at home or own a roastery, this guide is a game changer!

Importance Of Cooling The Roasted Coffee 

Cooling roasted coffee is an integral part of the roasting process as it affects the coffee's overall taste, body, and aroma. As soon as the coffee beans are done roasting, you need to cool them immediately to prevent the alteration of the quality and aroma. 

Moreover, cooling makes it easier to proceed with other processes, like degassing and proper storage (ensuring the roasted coffee's quality lasts longer).  After all, enjoying coffee is all about the flavors and aroma – doing a lousy job at these two components can genuinely affect your coffee-drinking experience. 

According to coffee experts, you get the full flavors of food, including coffee, at room temperature. Contrary to what many people perceive, eating “delicious hot food” is not always factual. This is because the high temperatures are pretty good at making the wrong side of food, including a lousy cup of coffee. 

The best way to truly explore the taste and flavors of your coffee is to try it at room temperature. In many cases, roasted coffee that skips the cooling process will likely produce a lousy cup of coffee. 

In this video: The Importance of Cooling Roasted Coffee Beans with Peter Wolff, you will get an in-depth explanation about the cooling process with some tips and tricks.

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Best Practices For Cooling The Roasted Coffee 

Roasting can be done in two ways based on the purpose of your roasting. If you are roasting beans in a commercial roastery or coffee shop, you most certainly want to use a professional roaster to maintain the quality. On the other hand, if you are roasting beans for yourself at home and lack a roaster, you can use alternatives. These include tools such as a skillet or popcorn machine, to mention a few.

Using a Roaster

If using a roaster, the cooling stage occurs within the machine. Immediately after the roasting stage, You should start the spinning cooling cage and air intake fan, which forces the beans to be launched into the cooling area. 

Depending on the batch size, the cooling stage usually lasts about 5 to 12 minutes. Water and air are used to cool the roasted beans swiftly. On the other hand, the short cooling duration ensures the beans are cool ideally, without overdoing it.

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Using Tools around the Home 

As mentioned previously, roasting beans at home allows you the space to experiment. Since you can work with even smaller batches, you can test out different roasting vessels when you don't have a roaster. However, it's worth noting that you will always get a different consistency or roasting precision than you would with a roaster. Investing in a small coffee roaster is ideal for small-scale home use.

If you are roasting using other tools, immediately transfer the beans to a metal colander after roasting. You will need two metal colanders for this task (metal is a better material option than plastic since it won’t meal from the high bean temperatures). Shake and move the beans between the two metal colanders as the beans cool down, and their chaff collects. 

Using manual methods like this means you have to remove the chaff manually. Chaff is simply the dried husk that forms on the surface of the coffee beans during roasting. Ensure you cool the beans and blow off the chaff near a sink or outdoors to reduce the mess this task produces.

Note: The roasting process usually causes the beans to decrease in weight. The longer you roast the beans, the more weight they shed. This usually happens due to oxidation, although the volume remains the same. However, after cooling, the beans tend to recover their weight. You will notice that the softer robusta beans take longer to recover than the Arabica beans (which also take shorter roasting times).

Metal colander

Don’t Forget to Degas the Beans!

After cooling, the following steps are degassing and storage or grinding (and brewing!). Like the cooling step, degassing is essential and shouldn’t be skipped. Degassing, or resting, refers to relaxing the coffee after roasting before storage or grinding to improve the flavors. Degassing your coffee ensures that you extract all the best flavors from the coffee. 

The reason why degassing is essential is that it helps to remove excess carbon dioxide from the beans to harness optimal flavors. During the roasting process, the Maillard reactions that brown the coffee beans also result in the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the beans. After the roasting process, most of this carbon dioxide remains trapped inside the roasted coffee beans. 

After cooling, transfer the roasted beans into a clear unscented container but don't cover them. Leaving them to uncover allows for optimal degassing since the carbon dioxide will have enough room to escape. Leave the beans in the unopened containers for at least 24 hours to enable degassing. 

Leave the beans in a neutral-smelling area to prevent the porous beans from picking up the aromas of the surroundings – you don't want coffee smelling like onions! Further, the surroundings you leave the beans overnight should have a temperature range of 64.4 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit with mid-level humidity (around 55 to 65%). 

After 24 hours, examine your beans – if you notice visible dripping or condensation-like oils around the surface, leave them again for another 24 hours. Leaving visible moisture on the beans will affect the taste of your brew. 

If you store them, you may reduce their longevity and even risk mold build-up. Sealing the beans in storage prematurely can also cause CO2 pressurization, which can rip off the lid of the storage container or bag,

What Happens When you Skip the Degassing Process?

Skipping the degassing process increases the chances of having poorly extracted coffee. This, in turn, means you will end up with a bad and sour-tasting cup of coffee. Remember, the Maillard reaction turns flavorless green coffee into brown, roasted, and delicious scented coffee beans ready for brewing! 

The reaction transforms over 800 compounds in the beans, including chlorophyll, causing them to decompose due to oxidation. While this process forms the flavorful browned beans, they also bring on other components to the beans. As oxidation occurs, carbon dioxide is formed and trapped in the beans at the end of the process.

Now, both oxidation and carbon dioxide are essential but in moderation. Oxidation depletes the beans and causes them to be stale. However, turning the beans from unflavored green beans to delicious brown beans is crucial. 

On the other hand, naturally produced carbon dioxide replaces the oxygen from oxidation to prevent the beans from being stale. Further, this same gas protects the beans during storage by replacing the oxygen. But, too much carbon dioxide isn’t good, either. Excess carbon dioxide creates too much crema and a sour-tasting cup of coffee. So, the degassing process helps to balance out these gasses! 

Carvetii Coffee Roasters made a very straight-forward video explaining the degassing process:

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Proper Storage Techniques for Roasted Coffee 

After the degassing process, you can grind and brew your coffee or seal the beans and store them safely. 

Grinding and Brewing

If you want to brew coffee, you can grind the beans. However, give the beans at least 24 hours to rest before grinding and brewing for a full-bodied and flavorful cup of coffee. Ground coffee can also be stored in an opaque, airtight container in a cold, dark, and dry place for at least 7 days.

Ground coffee is more porous due to its high surface area after grinding. So, after seven days of storage, your ground coffee will lose its freshness, and oxidation will kick in and becomes stale.

Storage or Packaging for Distribution & Sale

On the other hand, you can proceed with storage or pack your coffee (ready for sale). Ideally, you want to store coffee beans in a cool, dry, dark area housed in an opaque, sealed container or bag. If you are using a backpack, sealable and opaque hermetic bags (they seal out oxygen, moisture, and light) are ideal!

Storing coffee beans in these conditions helps to preserve their longevity and quality, delaying degradation.

Biggest Enemies to Roasted Coffee Storage

Roasted coffee beans will last you a good while if you protect them from these critical factors;

  • Air: After the degassing process, oxidation kicks in. You need to seal the beans to cut out the reaction. The longer the beans are exposed to air (oxygen), the more they become stale and degrade in flavor.
  • Moisture & humidity: the porous nature of coffee beans makes it easy for them to absorb moisture from the surrounding, draining out their flavors and aroma. As they continue drinking water, they can become susceptible to fungal activity and suffer from mold build-up.
  • Heat: Heat causes oils from the coffee to move to the surface. This, in turn, causes the beans to lose flavor through the beans as the oils are sweated out. The volatile oils evaporate, taking away the flavors and aroma.
  • Light: Exposure to light causes the beans to go through photodegradation. UV rays from light break down chemical components of the beans, causing them to lose flavor and aroma while becoming stale.

These four elements tend to speed up oxidation and deem the coffee stale.  With proper storage, however, you can avoid this problem.

Coffee beans in a pan with unnamed coffee bags

How To Maintain The Quality Of The Roasted Coffee

The best way to maintain the quality of roasted coffee is by storing the beans the right way. Ensure the beans are never exposed to air, moisture, heat, or light. Ideally, keep the beans in an opaque, airtight container or sealed bag at room temperature in a cool, dry, and dark place. 

You must have noticed roasted coffee beans placed in a bowl or basket in the open at a home or coffee shop setting. Contrary to what you may think, this is usually for aesthetic purposes, and the fresh aroma lasts a few hours to days. This coffee is never meant for brewing and consumption. 

If left unopened, stored ground coffee will maintain freshness for up to 5 or 6 months. This doesn’t mean the coffee expires, however. Roasted coffee beans can last indefinitely when properly stored. But, they are at their best quality and freshness for the first 5 to 6 months. 

After opening the container or resealable bag, the remaining beans will be exposed to air, bringing the shelf life to a few weeks to 3 months. If you run a coffee shop, you are advised to use up the opened bag or container of roasted beans for at most 3 weeks.

coffee beans inside the coffee bag

Meet the expert

Donna is a coffee lover and freelance writer from Tanzania. Coffee runs deep in her family, tracing its roots to her grandmother’s running of their first coffee farm in the mid-70s. During the summer seasons, she enjoys writing and co-running her grandmother's small robusta coffee farm with her sister in northwest Tanzania.

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