Author, Darren Oliver, Brewtoria Staff Writer
It feels strange the first time, but trust me. Start making some room in your freezer.
We all know a “liberal freezer.” That’s someone who’ll freeze just about anything. Even for the brave, it’s unusual to put coffee beside frozen peas and carrots. It won’t be such a jarring idea after we explain the aging and freezing process. Anybody who buys coffee and brews at home should know about this technique.
Aging food is fashionable, but coffee hasn’t had its time on the catwalk yet.
Oxygen: Our Best Friend And Enemy Of Coffee Flavor
I’m a huge fan of oxygen, I can’t get enough of the stuff. For coffee beans, oxygen kicks off the aging process. Having our beans away from air and sunlight in a freezer can stop the clock, at least for a while.
Put your science cap on. Let’s discuss what’s happening at the molecular level.
A Flavor And Aroma Robbery
Oxidation affects everything. We usually see its effects on bread when we don’t eat it fast enough. When oxygen meets some lovely, roasted coffee, a siege begins. The beans contain precious oils, chemical compounds, and acids that are vital for flavor and aroma. These “solubles” break down with every second they’re exposed to oxygen. Vacuum sealing is one way to avoid this.
Light, medium, and dark roasts are equally at risk.
Age Your Steaks [Not Your Coffee]
Dry aging meat brings out spectacular flavors and texture. By exposing the meat to air in a moisture-free chamber, the muscles become more tender. Natural enzymes begin to break down collagen, and moisture also makes a graceful exit. Flavors become even more concentrated with this water content out of the way.
That all sounds great, but why can’t we expose our beans to air in the same way?
Moisture-free air has a positive effect on beef. Even though it degrades the meat’s outer layer, the inner portion receives an upgrade. Just like aging cheese, that protective outer layer is a key part of boosting flavors.
It doesn’t work like that for coffee. The oxygen steals flavor and leaves beans bland. Coffee’s aging process happens after roasting and should be stopped at peak flavor.
Your Mason Jar Isn’t Helping If You’re Doing This
They look great, but here’s why a mason jar isn’t protecting your beans from oxygen. Coffee is a daily (or hourly) activity for most people. Every time you spin the top off your faux-rustic mason jar, you’re letting the enemy in. It’s still slightly better than leaving your beans exposed to air, but you’re letting the flavors escape. You should only have a week’s worth of beans in a jar you regularly open.
Letting coffee beans pass their prime is a venti-sized tragedy.
Coffee Beans Have A Secret Best Before Date [Don’t Miss It]
We are not talking about beans from your local grocery store. Finding the peak flavor from store-bought coffee isn’t feasible. Those beans were roasted so long ago that they’ll be writing autobiographies any day now. If the beans sit on a shelf for months, it doesn’t matter what kind of packaging they’re in.
You should always grind your own whole beans. Brewtoria explains exactly why, right here.
You’ve got to get out there a bit and find a local roaster. They work with a much shorter time frame. Roasting is a process that requires attention and passion. There are multiple stages, like drying, flavor development, and caramelization.
A roaster lovingly collects coffee beans
Knowing exactly when your coffee is roasted is going to be important. The only way to get peak flavor from your coffee is to be there in the beginning, like a loving parent. 8-14 days after roasting, your coffee reaches its maximum flavor profile.
Why 8-14 days, you ask? Your freshly-roasted coffee is a little gassy, and I’m not trying to be rude. CO2 gas builds up during the roasting period. Like a gaseous blanket, it shields coffee beans from oxidation. You can also see bubbles of CO2 during the brewing process, known as a coffee bloom.
They’ll release CO2 for about 7 days after roasting, but a lot will be trapped inside the beans. Scientists in white lab coats would call this off-gassing or degassing. It affects a lot of things, from car paint to coffee.
- Light Roasts: Up to a 10-day resting period
- Dark Roasts: Up to an 8-day resting period
If you’re buying online, make sure the coffee is roasted to order. You should be able to get the beans within a week, which is perfect timing.
Capturing Your Bean’s Peak Flavor Profile Before It’s Too Late
Star Wars fans will remember when Han Solo was frozen without his consent. After a bit of chilling out, he returned with peak flavor to star in several sequels.
The only way to judge the peak flavor is to taste your coffee. Absolute torture, I know. Here’s a great brewing guide if you’d like expert guidance.
On the 8th day after roasting, grind up a small number of your beans. Close your eyes and try to be aware of the flavor profile. In the days that follow the 7-day resting period, there might be a little CO2 hanging around. That’s not always a bad thing. CO2 levels affect acidity and aroma, we seek a balance.
It’s time to halt the aging process. Unfortunately, this won’t work for you and me, only the beans.
- Step 1: Get an air-tight container. You can use plastic bags, as long as the seal is very tight. Glass containers also work well.
- Step 2: Ration those beans. You want to open your jars or bags as little as possible. Measure out a week or less of beans, then bag it up.
- Step 3: Into the freezer. The time has come.
These Containers Are Best For Freezing Coffee
Test your containers to see if they are as airtight as they claim to be. Do a simple test by filling them with water. If you see water escaping, don’t use the container for your precious coffee beans.
These glass jars with screw-down lids are great for freezing coffee
Glass or plastic containers with snap-on or screw-down lids do well in freezers. We recommend them because they’re more robust than plastic bags. You might unknowingly tear a tiny hole in a plastic bag and ruin a whole batch of coffee beans.
How Long Can Coffee Beans Stay In The Freezer?
I can’t emphasize how vital the container’s integrity is. If flavors from your freezer make their way into your coffee beans, it’s going to be disastrous. There’s no shame in using two airtight bags, you’ll thank yourself later.
Frozen coffee can stay well-preserved for a few months. Some experts claim that you can freeze coffee for two years, but there’s no reason for that. If you need to freeze your beans for that long, you’ve bought too much coffee.
For anybody keeping coffee beans at home, freezing is excellent for locking in flavors. All of us at Brewtoria hope you’ve enjoyed reading this aging and freezing guide. Check out our blog, where we’ve got tons of articles for connoisseurs and coffee beginners.