Is there a better smell on this whole, beautiful, green and blue globe than a just-opened bag of freshly-roasted coffee? Not if you ask me. Much like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne, the invisible explosion of aroma that races out of the coffee bag is every bit as much a part of the experience as the first sip. It is a ritual of love–a moment to savor all on its own, but also a signal of the joys that will follow: grinding, brewing, and drinking.
But before I even get there, there’s a second part of the ritual. Once the bag is opened and my olfactory senses are busy taking it all in, it’s time to transfer the beans to my coffee canister. Pouring the beans from one vessel to another releases a second burst. When the bag is first opened, there is a lot of built-up gas that the beans continue to release for several days after being roasted. For this reason, I think it’s during the pouring of the beans that I get a truer sense of the particular aromas of the coffee I’m about to consume, even though it’s not as powerful as the initial bag-opening.
Just like with any culinary endeavor, “fresh” is not just a buzzword. It is the difference between good and great. Grandma didn’t make no gumbo with months-old onions, celery, and bell peppers that she chopped up two weeks ago, did she? Unfortunately though, grandma perhaps did make coffee with beans that were roasted months ago, and ground weeks before she bought them. Somehow, seemingly only in recent generations have we begun to rediscover the difference freshness makes in coffee.
Of course, if you’re going to start with fresh coffee, you want to follow good practices for keeping it fresh (as much as possible anyway). The enemies of freshness are oxygen, light, moisture, and heat. This is why you want a good coffee canister in the first place. Ceramic is best, and an airtight seal is a must. Coffee kept in its original packaging, even with a clip or tie, will allow way too much oxygen, and will be noticeably less aromatic even within a day or two.
Another advantage of these ceramic canisters is that they are usually totes cute, like the one pictured here: <https://goo.gl/images/9NJsQj
Many coffee enthusiasts have debated about whether freezing is effective or not, though the majority seem to suggest avoiding it. The biggest problem with freezing goes back again to the container. If it’s not airtight, freezing will certainly make things worse, as whatever other aromas or flavors are floating around will be readily absorbed by the beans. Also, frozen condensation may impact the quality. The best practice is to try to only buy as much coffee as you need for a week or two at a time. If you absolutely need to store some beans for a longer time, run a little experiment. Try freezing a portion of them, while keeping another portion stored in the ways discussed here. After a few weeks, try brewing both batches side-by-side and see if you notice a difference in quality.
Whatever kind of container you use, keep it away from windows, ovens, and any place not temperature-controlled.
Most importantly of all, do whatever you can to protect your experience of enjoying one of the greatest aromas in the world. I chose to focus on smell here, but of course, everything that affects aroma will also affect taste to the same degree! Start with fresh-roasted beans (when you buy from a great, local roaster like Cafeciteaux, freshness is guaranteed!), grind just before brewing (a topic for another article), and always keep it fresh.