I have been on a mission from God (for you Blues Brothers fans), to figure out how to keep coffee fresh. When buying 3 bags of coffee, I want that 3rd bag to taste indistinguishable from the first bag. Below is how we figured out how to package our super fresh roasted coffee and keep it that way for months.
Stale Coffee vs Fresh Roasted Coffee
All fresh roasted coffee starts going stale and bitter immediately after roasting. Unfortunately, a vast majority of coffee sold in the United States has been sitting in warehouses or on store shelves for months if not years. No wonder coffee in the US typically tastes so bad.
But let's say that you get lucky and buy 3 bags of real fresh roasted coffee. By "fresh", I mean coffee that was roasted less than 1 week ago. In that case, your first bag may tastes divine. But in a few weeks, when you get around to drinking that 3rd bag, it's not going to taste quite as good as your first bag. If not packaged correctly, even my coffee won't taste as good after a few weeks. So, how do we keep Lake City Coffee's whole bean coffee so incredibly fresh? Read on...
Mad Scientist On The Loose
With freshness in mind, I wanted to know exactly what packaging and oxygen absorber combination would work best. Below is an overview of my experiments.
1. I armed myself with:
- A dozen or so 100cc Oxygen Absorbers (they come in 100cc, 200cc, 300cc, 500cc, 1,000cc, etc.)
- 1 Qt Ziploc Freezer Bags
- Fresh Roasted Coffee
- Sharpie Pen
- 1 Qt Mylar Bags & Heat Sealer (Click Here)
2. I marked each bag with the Sharpie and then filled each bag with either whole bean or ground coffee.
- Cupboard – Mylar Bag – Whole Bean
- Cupboard – Mylar Bag – Ground Coffee
- Cupboard - Ziploc Bag – Whole Bean
- Cupboard – Ziploc Bag – Ground Coffee
- Frozen – Mylar Bag – Whole Bean
- Frozen – Mylar Bag – Ground Coffee
- Frozen – Ziploc Bag – Whole Bean
- Frozen – Ziploc Bag – Ground Coffee
3. The final step was to open the Oxygen Absorber bag, pull out 8 oxygen absorbers, then reseal the original Oxygen Absorber bag. You don’t want the oxygen absorbers exposed to the air for more than 5-10 minutes. It actually takes about 2 hours for an oxygen absorber to absorb as much oxygen as it can. So, in this process, haste is good, but don't worry if the absorbers site there for a short time.
4. Then, I put an oxygen absorber in each bag of coffee and sealed the bag.
5. I then tossed the cupboard bags in the back of a cupboard and the freezer bags into the freezer. Finally, I tried my best to forget that they were there.
Taste Testing Preserved Coffee
After 7 weeks in the cupboard and freezer, I pulled all the beans out and started making coffee. To begin with, I ground all the whole beans using the same grinder set on medium-fine. Since I prefer super smooth coffee, I then used the AeroPress brewing technique. I also used identical insulated mugs to maintain the same temperature.
As my baseline, I compared each cup of coffee to this week’s freshest roast, which was only three days ago. So, I made each cup as identical as possible. Keep in mind that under normal conditions, I can tell the difference between this week’s roast and last week’s roast, much less coffee roasted 7 weeks ago. Normally, month old coffee, even mine, might still taste good, but it’s noticeably different from fresh.
That being said, what was the result? The oxygen absorbers worked great! Every package, Ziploc or sealed Mylar; cupboard or frozen; worked very well. The difference between the 7-week old coffee using the oxygen absorbers was at least 95% as good as this week’s roasted coffee. The oxygen absorbers definitely made a big difference.
So, which packaging method was best? Surprisingly, it was the ground frozen with the oxygen absorber. Also a big surprise was that we saw no difference between the heat sealed Mylar bags and the Ziploc bags. Keep in mind that the difference between the frozen ground coffee and the frozen whole bean coffee was nominal. I could tell a difference, but it was minimal at best. To be honest, I personally just toss an oxygen absorber into the whole bean bag, put that bag into a Ziploc, toss it on the freezer, and call it good.
Lake City Coffee's Packaging
Interestingly enough, all fresh roasted whole bean coffee will outgas CO2 for several days after roasting. In an air-tight bag, this outgassing puffs-up the bag. This is a very good thing. Here's why:
- CO2 is an inert gas, thus preserving the freshness of the bean.
- The pressure of the CO2 gas keeps the beans from getting crushed by rough handling during shipping.
- Since the pouch is air-tight, all of the bean's oils are preserved. This fact alone is essential. Those oils are where all the bioflavonoids, antioxidants, caffeine, aroma, and flavor reside.
As a result of our experiments, Alisha and I decided to package all of our coffee using air-tight, triple sealed, resealable, zippered, coffee pouches. At the bottom of each pouch, you'll find 1 oxygen absorber.
As of this writing, to the best of my knowledge, Lake City Coffee is the only company using air-tight bags with oxygen absorbers. All of our competitors are using bags with "so called" one-way valves. These one-way valves do not work and are nothing more than 100% marketing hype.
How Long Will Lake City Coffee Last?
As a rule of thumb, our new packaging with O2 absorbers will keep your fresh roasted coffee tasting the following percentages as good as the day it was roasted:
- Cupboard 3 weeks = 98%
- Cupboard 6 weeks = 95%
- Freezer 2 months = 95%
- Freezer 4 months = 95%
- Freezer 6 months = 90%
- Freezer 12 months = 90%
Lake City Coffee
Alisha and I (Russell) started Lake City Coffee shortly after meeting in 2015. We quickly moved from courting for marriage into business partners. Not only did we both have a passion for coffee, but we also had a love of people, especially "our" kind of people.
If you're looking for some exceptionally fresh roasted coffee and some fun people to work with, then you're in the right place.
Update - October 15th, 2021
I know this is going to surprise the hell out of you, but I just found, in the back of my cupboard, several Ziploc and sealed mylar bags of whole bean coffee with an oxygen absorber in each. These bags were dated June 2nd 2020, the day I started this article's experiment in preserving coffee beans.
Yep folks, that would be over a year in the cupboard. Having just run out of coffee. (I know. I know. I's a cobbler's kids kind of thing.) But I used my AeroPress and made a cup of coffee from year old coffee beans.
Guess what, it wasn't bad. Not the best coffee that I've ever had, but still pretty darn good. I'd say it was at least 75% as good as 2 day old fresh roasted coffee. All that to say this. Those oxygen absorbers are awesome!