So I've done some research on this matter, but I haven't turned up detailed explanations into the pros or cons of freezing whole bean coffee. I've found one commonality, in that the coffee should only be frozen once. I'm hoping to learn about the science behind why we should or shouldn't freeze coffee to preserve it for a short amount of time. Speaking of time, what is the maximum length of time it can be frozen? I want to tell my customers accurately when they ask me. Up till now, I've just told them to store in airtight containers out of direct light. Some have asked about freezing but I've always taken the stance against. It's time for me to clarify what I thought I knew.

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Once I got involved with Specialty Coffee, I also took the stance against freezing coffee beans, recommending instead the practice of only getting enough coffee to last up to 2 weeks, max. I still recommend getting less coffee at a time, but I recently read something to make me change my tune regarding freezing coffee beans.

In his book, "Everything but Espresso", Scott Rao advocates freezing beans that you cannot use before they begin staling, which would be 2 weeks. A week might be better. According to him, there's no moisture to freeze, so the only thing that happens is the outgassing and aging process slows to a crawl. He does state, that once removed from the freezer, it should not be refrozen.

Since I don't want to refreeze, if I need several different varieties to serve guests, I bag my coffees in smaller quantities with labels.

The people I've worked with and myself have at least twenty years of experience freezing coffee and it's perfectly fine.

 

First off, there is very little moisture content to expand and break down the cell structure of the beans (try freezing green beans or tomatoes and you'll see what I mean).  Holding period frozen is in terms of years and the day post roast that you freeze the coffee will be the same when you thaw the coffee.  Meaning you could freeze coffee at its peak six days post roast, freeze it for five years, then bust it out and you're still on day seven.

 

If you want to be strategic about it, figure what day the coffee is just about to peak then freeze your coffees on that day then whenever you need it, the coffee will always be peaking.

My parents freeze their coffee beans and I've never had an issue with it. However, I bought my dad some of the blend we use at work for Christmas- which he froze. I noticed a toast-y kind of taste in the beans when I used the previously frozen beans, a note that comes through in the coffee they normally freeze. I can only presume that's to do with freezing!

 

Having said all that though, the coffee was perfectly drinkable and the extra flavour was on top of the normal flavour profile, rather than in place of any other notes in the coffee. Science wise, all that has been said about moisture content sounds realistic. So it's a case of freezing not ruining the coffee, rather altering it a bit.

when you open your freezer, you know all that fog you see in the freezer. that's moisture. I'd be more worried about that moisture infiltrating your coffee, strange aromas and all, than the coffee oils freezing. Still I don't really understand this debate. There should be no reason to freeze the coffee anyway.

 

John-

That moisture is in the air when you open the freezer.  Moisture actually in your freezer crystallizes into ice.

 

Considering that the moisture you are mentioning is in the ambient environment around you, I would "worry" more about the coffee sitting in that environment than in a frozen environment.  And those "strange aromas" do not act as they do in a refrigerated environment - or haven't you noticed that there isn't a need to put baking soda in your freezer?  It's too cold an environment.

 

And there are plenty of reasons to freeze coffee.  



John Berkness said:

when you open your freezer, you know all that fog you see in the freezer. that's moisture. I'd be more worried about that moisture infiltrating your coffee, strange aromas and all, than the coffee oils freezing. Still I don't really understand this debate. There should be no reason to freeze the coffee anyway.

 

Cool. Thanks for the input folks. The next question then would be, what are the proper measures to talk once removed from the freezer for use? Again, I've heard two different stories on this one.
i notice you didn't actually state any of the "so many reasons." it doesn't hurt the coffee at all. in fact, our decaf would be way worse if we didn't freeze it, because it goes stale within a couple days.

Mike said:
Are we really talking this way... So many reasons this is a bad idea! I think the guy from Hell's Kitchen says it best" F*** No! " And other curse words!!!! We are promoting coffee as a culinary art folks.

So many reasons, but none presented.

 

Whether or not you freeze should be determined by the exact factors impacting your business.  It may or may not be the right choice for you but that's not for us to decide.

Roast Magazine had a great article a few years ago about this very topic.  that's as much as i can help though, sorry.  I do not remember when it was published.

Rao's book talking about freezing coffee is not new information. Michael Sivetz is a noted coffee professional who has been advocate of hermetically sealing and freezing roasted coffee for decades. George Howell has tested and knows and speaks about the benefits of freezing both roasted and greens. I've been freezing roasted coffee for decades, greens for a decade. The proof is in the cup. Ideally retail coffee would be in a freezer case not at room temperature and actually know of one store that can actually afford to do it and is doing it.

 

Have you done blind taste tests of previously frozen versus not frozen? Have you tested and pulled shots of one year plus vac' sealed and frozen coffee yielding 90% crema and delish shots? I have.

 

Simply going by I heard this and that over the years by people who themselves haven't done any testing means squat, other than the blindly ignorant following the blindly ignorant.

Mike said:

Are we really talking this way... So many reasons this is a bad idea! I think the guy from Hell's Kitchen says it best" F*** No! " And other curse words!!!! We are promoting coffee as a culinary art folks.

My parents freeze their coffee at home so it doesn't go stale- obviously, being home baristas mean they don't do nearly the volume of a cafe. It means they can still buy 500g at a time. They always put the beans in snaplock bags to freeze.

 

There's a reason! Freezing decaf seems to be a good idea as well, especially if you're not in a high volume cafe. My work doesn't freeze any beans though- we go through so much coffee we have a problems with beans being too fresh rather than too stale and we don't have a freezer to boot!

We practice small inventory and high turnover, so we don't have any beans that are going stale in house, however it's for my education, and the proper education of customers that have asked about it. There may be times that I personally would freeze coffee. Case in point, had I done this research earlier there would be a few pounds of Ethiopia Sidamo Special Prep in my freezer, and now there's no more left on earth. Crap.

 

Back to my new question, can you take the beans directly out of the freezer and brew? Do you need to let them warm up first? I've found articles taking both sides of this one. Mike M., Jay, you both seem to have the most experience so what are your thoughts?

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