coffee lesson 2

How do I store coffee?

Coffee beans must be isolated from air and moisture and light. Probably the best storage containers are made from glass or glazed ceramic, which have the added benefit of being easily cleaned. If glass is used, the container should be kept in a dark location. Alternately, mylar/plastic bags with one-way valves can also do a fine job so long as care is taken to ensuring an airtight seal. These are the packages that Java Momma sends out. Regardless of the container, as stated above, do not purchase more coffee than can be consumed in approximately a week to two weeks post-roast. Beans primarily stale as a result of the loss of aromatic and volatile compounds, which occurs continually with the outgassing of carbon dioxide.

The effects of freezing are disputed. Some feel that the freezing will damage the subtle tastes in the coffee; less disputed is that moisture will condense on the cold beans each time the container is opened. At the least, avoid repeatedly opening the freezer-stored coffee: divide up your coffee supply into multiple containers (with as little airspace as possible) and keep one container out for use, not replacing it in the freezer after it is opened. If you go through a lot of coffee,  you may do well by ordering three or four pounds at a time from Java Momma then dividing the order into half-pound batches, and freezing them all. Take out a pack as you need it, allow it to return to room temperature before opening, and do not refreeze.

Do not store coffee in the refrigerators; they are moist, smelly places.

What about coffee grinders?

Whole bean coffee will always reign supreme when it comes to freshness and flavor. The biggest question we get when asked about switching to whole bean is coffee grinding.  Grinding your own coffee is one of the best steps you can take towards a superior brew. Coffee stales quickly after it is ground; buying fresh coffee beans and grinding the whole bag at home negates the freshness. You want to grind no more than 15 minutes before brew. 

The most commonly found grinders look like miniature blenders, and they operate by chopping up the beans with two or more sharp blades spinning at high speeds. Less common are burr grinders: the beans are placed in a hopper on top of the machine, and they feed between two metal rings (burrs) and down into a bin. One of the burrs is fixed in place and the other rotates a small distance away from it; the beans are fed into a hole in the center of the top burr and are sliced down by the burr teeth as they make their way between the two burrs to the outside, where they are ejected. Manually operated versions can be purchased, as well as the electric models. The hand-cranked models are related to flour mills, but home flour mills will not usually grind coffee well and may become clogged by the coffee oils. 

Blade grinders (also called “whirly blade” grinders) are not able to produce a consistent particle size: the size of the grounds in any particular batch will be quite varied. As a result, coffee extraction will be uneven, with the larger particles underextracting (producing thin, weak coffee), and the smaller particles overextracting (producing bitter coffee); this does not “even out.” This problem is undesirable for brewed coffee and a fatal flaw when making espresso. Part of the problem is that the user cannot control exactly what is being ground: one bean or bean piece may be chopped into smaller and smaller pieces, while another somewhat escapes the blades. This issue may be somewhat addressed by gently shaking the grinder while it is operating. Although certainly better than using stale coffee, blade grinders are best used for your spices. 

Burr grinders can be very economical and are often found under $50. Like this one here. An added bonus is that when you can control the grind you can use the same bag of beans to produce everything from espresso to french press and everything in between. More on that in lesson 3.

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