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Coffee beans contains over 800 different compounds that are responsible for the aroma and flavor that wakes us up in the morning and keeps us going all day long. These compounds include lipids, simple sugars, amino acids and antioxidants.
Heat, moisture and air extract caffeine from the ground beans and into our cup of joe, but they also release it into the environment which causes stale ground coffee. Freezing would theoretically delay this process, but is it a good idea to store ground coffee in the freezer? Read on for more information.
Understanding how coffee and moisture works
Water accounts for about 45-55 percent of the weight of unprocessed coffee beans and their moisture content must be reduced to 11 percent before they can be marketed in order to maintain optimum flavor and prevent bacteria from growing. Finally, the dried beans are roasted and ground which reduces their water content to only 3 or 4%.
The water molecules within it transition from a liquid to a solid when we put ground coffee in the freezer, but they continue to move very slowly. The water molecules gradually rise to the ground coffee surface where they either crystallize or evaporate into the dry freezer air. As the coffee loses water, in its environment it also seeks to absorb other water molecules.
Overtime, this water molecules exchange permanently improves the coffee taste. Coffee taste and aroma compounds dissipate into the freezer with the water molecules and take their place with the flavor and aroma of other foods. If there was no way to avoid this cycle, it would not be a smart idea to store ground coffee in the freezer. Fortunately, for over a year, there are ways to freeze ground coffee and enjoy great taste.
Preserving flavor by freezing your coffee beans
Tou can preserve its flavor by following these three rules:
Choose a container
Since coffee absorbs the flavors and aromas that surround it, it is of utmost importance that you choose the best storage container. The best options include glass or ceramic containers. Not only do they not hold flavors, but no moisture or air enters or exits the container if they have well-sealed lids. However if you have limited freezer space, they may be impractical. Plastic is functional but it is also permeable, unfortunately. Depending on the quality of the material, the degree of permeability varies but they all allow some air and humidity to enter and escape.
Plastic also absorbs flavors, meaning plastic containers and bags used for other foods are definitely unacceptable for coffee storage. New plastic containers or those intended for storing coffee only, as well as freezer bags are alternatives that can be used. However, you may want to consider double bagging your coffee and even wrapping plastic containers in plastic wrap to reduce its natural permeability.
Remove as much air as possible
Freshly roasted coffee beans are left open to “degas” or release carbon dioxide in the air for 2-12 days. Nevertheless, once the carbon dioxide is gone, oxygen enters, and starts to destabilize the coffee’s flavor compounds. If the oxidation continues unchecked, in a few hours ground coffee loses most of its flavor. To preserve the flavor, you need to remove the air that needs to be stored from around the coffee. Pack your ground coffee tightly into its container and, if possible, seal it with vacuum if you are using bags.
Divide your ground coffee in small quantities
Freezing large quantities of ground coffee, or even coffee beans, saves us time and effort, right? Yes, but the flavor and aroma of the coffee takes up a toll. Each time we open a frozen coffee container, air mixed with flavor compounds flees as new air and moisture enter. This new oxygen and moisture increases oxidation in the coffee grounds and encourages the formation of ice crystals. Taking extra time and care to freeze coffee in smaller amounts, such as the amount you’ll use in 1-2 weeks, will reward you with optimal flavor whenever you grab a cup of coffee.
Coffee flavor changes with age
Some coffee aficionados enjoy aged coffee and even experiment with aging it in wooden barrels to add a new dimension to the taste, but most of us enjoy our fresh coffee. Freezing decelerates but does not stop the process of aging. If you plan to freeze ground coffee for more than a year, take the time each month or two to taste your frozen coffee and record the flavor changes you notice. You could even want to experiment with storing the coffee in various containers. The experience you gain from doing this will help you know how long you want to freeze it, and the best way to pack it, in addition to ensuring that every cup of coffee you brew will be its best.