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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This conversation has fascinated me. I'm putting a sealed bag of coffee in the freezer this afternoon, and I'll post here again in 365 days with the results of the blind tasting we do with a freshly roasted bag.

It'll be the longest episode of Mythbusters ever.

Since I'm a bit too cheap to actually swipe inventory from the company to fuel my home coffee needs, I usually have a few sample bags of coffees that change on an on-going basis.  I keep all of those coffees in the freezer.  When it comes time to brew up some coffee, I pull the bag from the freezer, weigh it out and then go to town.  No "thawing", just straight brewing.

 

Now, the hardcore measurement people may start calling out that the frozen coffee leads to a more dramatic water temperature drop but I think that's bunk.  Granted, I've never taken the time to test the temperatures, nor do I really care to.  Afterall, it's my personal coffee and I'm happy with the results.  Again: how does it taste?

 

To allay any fears, bear in mind that the frozen coffee is run through a burr grinder which generates heat and thus "warms" the coffee.  This abates a drastic temperature drop.

 

Once weighed out, the bag goes back in the freezer until next time.

 

Now, when dealing with frozen coffee in a professional environment, pretty much the same applies.  For our operations, we started freezing coffee as part of our program years ago as our roaster is quite far away and we needed to find a better way to keep shipping costs to a minimum while maximizing the life of our coffee inventory.  And freezing has proven itself to be a worthwhile approach.

 

A coffee frozen on Day Six will retain all of the Day Six characteristics when removed from frozen storage days, weeks, months and even years later.

 

I was first introduced to the notion of freezing coffee by a grower/roaster I was working with back in 2002.  He related a story where he had frozen roasted coffee only to discover the forgotten bag three years later.  He pulled it from the freezer, tasted it and it was as good as when it was fresh.  From there, I started doing my own small batch testing.

 

"He should be quite well protected. If he survived the freezing process, that is." - C3PO

In October 2009, I put the freezing method to the test once again using a bag of 8 Estrellas that I had received from Square Mile Coffee in April 2009 during SCAA Atlanta.  I took it home, left it sitting out for about a week, drank a cup, made detailed tasting notes and then tossed the coffee in the freezer.

 

Six months later, during cupping training for the then-new baristas for Spro Hampden, I pulled the frozen bag out and served it up for a blind cupping.  When we reviewed the tasting notes compiled by my baristas and compared them with the tasting notes I had written back in April, the similarities were astonishing.  The coffee had suffered very little, if at all, during the freezing process.

 

Based on taste tests like these we have maintained the practice of freezing some of our coffee inventory.



Jeff Hoeppner said:

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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