How to Store Coffee the Right Way

coffee storage containers

A lot of effort goes into growing, shipping, roasting and packaging coffee to ensure a great-tasting cup. However, the benefits of those efforts can be lost at the very end of the line: in your own home! The way you store coffee has a profound impact on its taste and shelf life, so here we will explore the best ways to keep your beans fresh and delicious — plus a few pitfalls to avoid.

What makes coffee go bad?

The first step in learning how to store your coffee is to understand what causes coffee to lose its freshness and flavor. Coffee is sensitive to several environmental factors, including air, moisture, light and heat. Coffee readily absorbs surrounding smells and moisture, which will negatively affect the flavor (“leftover garlic pizza” is not a tasting note you want). Light and heat both introduce energy into the coffee, speeding up oxidation and spoilage.

How do I properly store coffee?

Now that you understand the enemies of coffee freshness (light, moisture, heat and oxygen), you can do what it takes to minimize their effects. Store your coffee in a cool, dry place, like your kitchen cupboard or countertop. Keep it in an opaque, airtight container — you can even keep your coffee in its original packaging, rolled tight and enclosed in a resealable plastic bag. If you want to go the extra mile, try a vacuum canister to remove excess oxygen and moisture between brews. Be sure to keep your container away from the stove, or above the refrigerator or microwave, as these appliances all generate heat which can affect the beans!

What to avoid:

Keep it out of the fridge. This is a common misconception! While refrigerators do keep many things fresh, coffee is not one of them. Coffee will quickly absorb the moisture and smells in your fridge, causing it to spoil and take on the flavors of the foods around it. The cold doesn’t increase the shelf life of the beans, either — room temperature is just fine.

Keep it out of the freezer, too! Similar to storage in the fridge, the freezer does provide help in dealing with some of the elements that damage freshness. But these are often negated by increased exposure to moisture, including moisture caused by condensation as you move coffee in and out of the freezer. Similar to the fridge, there is also the risk of the coffee absorbing smells from the surrounding foods in the freezer.

Avoid buying coffee that is already stale. Not all coffee is packaged equally, and it might have lost freshness before you even get to it! Keep an eye out for a tightly sealed bag that is made to resist light and moisture. The bag should also have a one-way seal to allow CO2 to escape after the roasting process. If the bag lacks a one-way valve, it means the coffee was allowed to sit for a number of days to off-gas before it was packaged. In other words, the coffee went stale before it even went in the bag! You can also look for nitrogen-flushed bags, which help remove excess oxygen from the bag before it’s sealed. Finally, you want to purchase coffee that was roasted as recently as possible. Buy direct from a roaster or look for best-by dates to make sure your coffee isn’t past its prime.

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge to store your coffee right, you’ll be able to get the best out of your beans every time you brew.

Do you have any other tips for storing coffee? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Sally G | 7th Jan 20

    We have been using Fellowship Blend, 1-lb. bag for 60 cups in our percolator urn (1/2 bag of decaff for 30 cups). Reading the post about buying in bulk today, I though about buying the bulk 5-lb. bag instead, though it would be more complicated for our volunteer coffee-makers on Sunday mornings. Not sure exactly what I am asking, other than are we using the ideal proportions? I could preportion the bulk bag with a few reusable containers. . . .

    • Kate Chess | 7th Jan 20

      Thanks for your comment, Sally. The main advantages I see for you are variety (if you think folks would like to experiment with different origins or roast levels) and freshness. If you DO decide to give bulk a try, make sure to grind the coffee more coarsely for your percolator than you would for a standard drip brewer at home. Fellowship Blend is already designed for this brewing method. We recommend the 1 pound to one urn ratio you’re already using, though personal tastes vary — your congregation might prefer stronger or weaker.

  2. Helen Loch | 23rd Nov 18

    Question: How many Tbsps. of ground Caramel Toffee coffee does it take to brew 36 cups in a coffee brewing large urn? Thank you for your response.

    • Kate Chess | 28th Nov 18

      Hello, Helen. It sounds like you are using a percolator to brew. If that’s the case, we STRONGLY recommend you use a coarse ground coffee like our Fellowship Blend instead — drip grind coffee like Toffee Caramel is ground smaller and will taste bitter in your machine. If you like the toffee flavor, you can buy flavored syrups to add to the brewed coffee from our customer service team. You can call them at 774 776 7366. Hope this helps!

  3. Valerie Allen | 20th Jun 18

    I buy from equal exchange because I trust them to send the freshest coffee to their customers or put on sale anything less.
    I have never in the years I’ve used equal exchange been disappointed in my coffee quality.
    I drink it black, no added ingredience to foul up a rich dark bean I order. I make it one cup at a time to enjoy the pure rich flavor.
    Without my morning ritual To start out my day; I would be sad, very sad. 🙂

  4. Nichoals Travers | 7th May 18

    If coffee is sealed an unopened does freezer storage extend shelf life? aka buying in 6 1lb bags and keeping them in the freezer until opened?
    cheers from portland!

    • Kate Chess | 7th May 18

      Hi Nichoals. If your coffee is still sealed, you just need to worry about intense light and heat. No need to risk the moist freezer.

  5. Jim Frye | 19th Sep 17

    “Finally, you want to purchase coffee that was roasted as recently as possible. Buy direct from a roaster or look for best-by dates to make sure your coffee isn’t past its prime.”
    Could Equal Exchange print the roasting date on the package, or would that be too discouraging? Similarly, the olive oil could have a bottling date.

    • Kate Chess | 9th Dec 19

      Hi Jim,
      All our coffees and our olive oil actually DO have best-by dates, though the location where it’s printed on the package varies from product to product. What type of coffee are you looking at? Call our Customer Service team for instant help finding the info: 774 776 7366.

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