Freezing Your Coffee Beans is No Longer Taboo and a Great Way to Save on Money and Flavor
Here’s the latest on why freezing your coffee beans is no longer considered a taboo. Discover who is doing it, and an unexpected benefit that saves money and may enhance the beans’ flavor.
Have you ever had a cup of coffee from a just-opened bag of beans that fell flat on your palate? There are several reasons why this happens. It could be due to poor bean selection, poor processing after the bean was picked, roasting gone wrong, a leaky commercial bag on the shelf, or just too much time had passed between commercial roasting and cupping in your home.
However, it also could be that you bought the bag of beans too long ago and it has over-aged in your cupboard. Even worse, you may have stored that bag of beans in the fridge with the intention of preserving its freshness. Either one is a bean-flavor killer.
Coffee beans are hydroscopic, meaning that they will absorb moisture and odors just like that box of baking soda your mom used to put in the fridge when she cooked liver and onions. Even unopened, moisture and odors from other foods will eventually get into the bag and ruin what otherwise could have been a great cup of coffee.
So, why do some people put coffee in the fridge? Bad advice perhaps. Or, it just seems to make sense that storing anything in a cooler environment will magically keep it fresher longer.
Unfortunately, while that may work for some foods, it does not for coffee.
In fact, the generally accepted rules of storing coffee are:
1. Coffee begins to lose a significant amount of its aromatic properties about 3 weeks after its roast.
2. Buy only as much coffee as you will drink for the week; Do not hoard coffee like toilet paper.
3. Keep your coffee in its original bag, stored in a space away from light, heat, moisture and air flow.
4. Do not store coffee beans in the fridge.
5. Do not store coffee beans in the freezer.
However, number five just may need some caveats applied to it.
Coffee Bean Freezing Success
According to a recent article from Roast magazine, while some roasting companies are experimenting with freezing green coffee beans as a way to preserve flavor and store beans beyond what would normally be their prime, other roasters in café venues have researched whether freezing roasted coffee beans until ready to brew is possible. It turns out that it is.
One of the problems roaster/cafes face after receiving their 60-70 kilo bags of green beans, is that each day after processing, green coffee beans age and chemically change with respect to their roasting profile. This in turn necessitates a constant reworking of the roasting conditions until the entire lot is used up.
Another problem is that of supply and demand. If customer demand drops while already-roasted beans age, some cafes have to mix older beans with newer beans to save on costs, but at risk of serving not-their-best brews.
What some roaster cafes have discovered is that it is possible to roast the entire batch at one time under one roasting profile and then vacuum pack and freeze away the roasted coffee until the time it is actually needed for brewing.
In fact, according to Howard Bryman of Roast magazine who interviewed the owners of Proud Mary Coffee this year and last year in complimentary articles about the process, the owners designed a wall mounted hopper encased in a freezer that keeps frozen roasted beans preserved until the moment they are needed in their brewing system below the novel freezer encasement.
Aside from a lessening of aroma following the grind, the taste appears to be all there once hot water greets the freshly ground frozen beans. Plus, there appears to be an advantage to grinding beans while still frozen:
“I think the biggest impact can be the extraction itself. The frozen beans will shatter into a far more even particle size, so the potential to get a higher extraction is actually easier. I’ve noticed with one of our high-end Brazilian lights we actually got much more clarity and character and flavor from the frozen sample then we did room temp…There’s a reason that the WBC competitors are freezing their coffee. If you’re looking for a little edge, there’s a little edge there.”
“The negative that I would speak to would be maybe the aromatics off the grind are not as fragrant at first, until the hot water hits it. It feels like there is a slight reduction in the aromatics, but the character in the cup seems to be absolutely still there,” stated Nolan Hirte of Proud Mary Coffee.
Freezing Your Roasts at Home
So, can this be applied to the coffee drinker at home? There’s no reason why it should not, but it may take some experimentation of your own to find what works best for what you have at home.
Here are some tips to get you started:
• Buy your fresh roasted coffee beans if possible from a local roaster, and let the beans rest (de-gas) naturally between 8-12 days following the roast. You may want to consult with your roaster their recommendation and the actual age of your batch from them. If you only have access to commercially roasted and bagged coffee beans, check the roasting date and go from there.
• Invest in a vacuum sealer and good quality vacuum pouches designed for freezer conditions. Vacuum seal the purchased coffee beans in small single-use packs and store in the freezer. Vacuum packing will not only prevent food odors and moisture from getting to your beans, but it also reduces freezer burn by protecting the bean from being exposed to the cold, dry air.
• If you do not have a vacuum sealer, you can try using an air-tight container for dipping in and out of as needed, but it will not work as well as a vacuum-packed bag. The cheapest alternative is to use a freezer bag and try rolling the bag to force out as much air as possible before sealing it shut; but again, it will not work as well as using a vacuum sealer.
• Go straight from freezer to grinder with your frozen beans. Do not wait for them to thaw before grinding.
• Be forewarned that this may only be extending the best-taste life of your coffee beans up to perhaps not more than 2 months or so. Again, you can vacuum seal batches in small packs and try your own cupping to see how time varies with taste depending on the method used in your kitchen and discover what works for you.
Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on the connection between coffee and healthy living. For continual updates about the benefits of coffee on your health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
“Freezing Coffee The Proud Mary Way: How To Lock In Peak Flavor” Howard Bryman | April 3, 2020, Daily Coffee News by Roast magazine.
“With Frozen Hoppers, Proud Mary Coffee Stops Time at Peak Quality” Howard Bryman | November 14, 2019, Daily Coffee News by Roast magazine.