You can spend $20 a pound for premium coffee, but unless you’re mindful of roasting dates, bagging techniques, and expiration dates, you won’t get the most bang for your buck.
BUYING AND STORING TIPS
To determine how long coffee maintains ideal flavor after roasting, we bought 30 bags of beans (all from the same batch, packaged within hours of roasting in one-way valve bags). Over two weeks, we used our haul to prepare two pots of coffee daily: one made with beans from a just-opened bag, the other using beans stored on the counter in a sealed zipper-lock bag with the air pressed out. A few very discriminating tasters noticed a change in taste after just a few days of storage; many tasters noticed a deterioration after 10 days; most tasters agreed the coffee tasted markedly less fresh after 12 days. Bottom line: Opened beans stored in an airtight container should be used within 10 to 12 days.
If you finish a bag of beans in less than 10 to 12 days, store them either in the original bag or in a zipper-lock bag away from heat and light. If you plan to keep beans longer than this time frame, store them in the freezer to limit contact with air and moisture. (Never store coffee in the fridge, where it will pick up off-flavors.) For the best results, portion beans (whether storing on the counter or in the freezer) in small zipper-lock bags in one-day allotments to keep air and moisture exposure to the barest minimum.