Monday, January 15, 2024

Coffee Storage - 10-step method for cheaply preserving coffee beans

    Oxygen, light, humidity, and heat are the enemies of the bean. 

    I've been experimenting (though not very methodically) with bean storage for years, and because I don't roast my own beans, nor live close to a roaster, I rely on mail-order for my freshly-roasted beans. 

    But ... postage is expensive, and I can often get free postage if I order more than $50 or $75 worth of coffee at a time, and that's great and all... but I have one cup of coffee per day. It takes me a bit over two weeks to finish one bag, and six-eight weeks to finish all the coffee I buy to get the free shipping. And by then, it's it's lost that lovin' feeling (er, gone stale).

    So, what's a girl to do?


    1. Empty half of one bag into a small Airscape canister for use that week.  

Definitely go for the metal or ceramic version,
as the glass Airscape exposes the beans to light.

    2. I empty the other half of the bag into a 16-ounce/pint/470 ml wide-mouth canning jar (NOT the regular mouth - more on that below). I prefer the amber jars to the regular jars, to shut out more light. This size holds about 1/2 a 12-ounce bag of coffee very nicely.

4 Pack amber:
$15 - 12 pack clear:

    3. Place the flat canning lid on the jar.

    4. Place the wide-mouth lid of a FoodSaver jar sealer onto the jar, pressing down until it's fully-seated.

The FoodSaver Jar Sealer kit comes with both wide- and regular-mouth lids. 
The wide-mouth version works great. The regular one does not.
$12 -

    5. Using a cheap automotive hand-pump (or an electric Food-Saver pump, but that's more expensive), vacuum seal it to 20 psi. (There are pictures at the end of the article that show how to connect the pump to the FoodSaver lid).

Technically this is called a "Brake Bleeder Kit Hand held Vacuum Pump Test Set"
$18 -

    I find that depending on the weather, it takes 40-60 pumps to achieve the desired vacuum level. To save my hands, I rest the handle farthest from the gauge on the table, and push the other handle up and down until it reaches 20 psi on the gauge.

    6.  Press the tiny pin on the barrel of the pump. This will release pressure outside of the jar, causing the lid to seal down. You'll probably hear a tiny ping. 

    7. Remove the jar sealer lid. The flat lid should be sealed down. Screw a canning ring on tightly.

    8.  Place the jar in a dedicated mini-fridge. I can already hear the horrified gasps of coffee enthusiasts everywhere, who will tell you that the coffee will absorb odors, or go stale more quickly due to the humid environment. But this is a dedicated mini-fridge that holds only coffee, cream, and simple syrup. The coffee is well-sealed in the jar, so that should also protect it from the humidity, and it's also dark and cool, further protecting the beans. I also suspect that they'd do fine in a regular fridge, but that's up to you.

    9. When I need a fresh jar of beans, I take it out of the fridge the night before to let the beans come up to temperature overnight (If you open the jar while the beans are still cold, humidity in the air will condense on the beans and they really will go stale very quickly).

    10. Pry open the flat canning lid, and empty the beans into the Airscape for use over the next few days.  Enjoy.  

    The beans seem to hold their flavor far better than with any other method I've tried (vacuum bags, Vacuvin or even the Atmos, etc.).  But ... maybe I just got tired of trying things? I'd love for others to test out my method and tell me what they think.

    The flat canning lids are indefinitely reusable.  If they stop holding pressure, it might be because coffee-bean bits are preventing a good seal, so wash them in hot soapy water, and that should fix it. Eventually, you may need to replace the flat lids, but I've been using the same set for 3 years now, and they are doing fine.  I usually pack the jars about 5 days after roasting, but the beans will give off some CO2 in the next few weeks, and by the time I open the jars, the seal is often much weaker than it was on the day I sealed them up.  Only rarely is the jar fully equalized, but the ring lid should keep things airtight.

Forgetting to take a jar out of the fridge:
I regularly forget to take the jar out of the fridge the night before. When I discover that I don't have enough beans for my morning cup, I take the fresh jar out of the fridge, and set it aside for the next morning. Then I grab a bag of beans I keep in the freezer and opening the bag as little as possible, I take out just what I need for that day. 

Connecting the handpump to the FoodSaver jar sealer:

Click to enlarge

    The tubing that comes with the jar sealer has an adapter on both ends. Plug one end directly into the lid. The hand pump comes with a bunch of little black rubber adapters and short pieces of tubing. Find an black rubber adapter that will accommodate the jar sealer adapter, and plug the other end into a piece of tubing, then connect that to the pump.