Freezing Coffee: I would do anything for coffee, but I won’t do that…
[Note: This is a guest post by longtime RSR fan from Omaha, Spencer Gaskell. A few weeks back I saw him documenting his experiences with freezing coffee on twitter so I asked him to prepare this writeup on the experience, which he graciously did. Thanks, Spencer!]
What’s something in the coffee world you’ve experienced that seemed wrong in theory, but somehow works? Maybe it is some weird flavor combination, or perhaps it is an odd preparation method. Whatever the case, if you dive deep into coffee, chances are, you’ll have an experience like this eventually. And if you’re a fellow coffee nerd already, it’s probably happened over and over again.
Freezing coffee is a terrible idea, right? Coffee is best 5 days to 3 weeks off roast. You have to grind fresh, use good water, and follow specific parameters. There’s no way you can just toss coffee in the freezer and forget about it for a year and still be able to enjoy it. Right? Riiiiight?? [Editors note: He's right]
Enter pandemic. All of a sudden, going out to experience other people’s crazy coffee experiments gone well isn’t really an option. So what to do? Well, obviously the answer is to go down the rabbit hole of coffee content on YouTube!
You may have gathered by now that I’m gonna tell you it’s okay to freeze your coffee. And you’d be right. So, how do you do it correctly? The short and sweet answer is that you eliminate as much air as possible and freeze as cold as you are able. But I’ll outline my process here...
The 6 Steps to Freezing Coffee (Well)
- Buy coffee from your favorite roaster (i.e. Ross Street Roasting)
- Divide coffee into two week portions and put into vacuum seal bags
(Wait 3-5 days after roast before you do this so you don’t have to wait for off gassing later)
- Vacuum seal the coffee - This eliminates as much of the air as possible and removes moisture potential. Freezers are dry, so they suck water out of the air and it forms ice, which then melts into your coffee when you defrost it
- Put the sealed bags of coffee in the freezer - A deep freezer is great. Colder freezers slow the oxidation, loss of aromatic compounds, etc. more than a domestic freezer
- When you’re ready for more coffee, take a bag out of the freezer the night before you want to use it. Let it defrost overnight before opening.
- Open, grind, brew, enjoy.
Suddenly, there are no limitations to when you buy coffee! Think special releases, sale prices, or your new favorite coffee. Also, there’s no limit on how much of it you buy. Two pound bags? Absolutely! What about 5 pound bags? Not just for wholesale anymore! In fact, there’s no point in freezing the coffee if you only buy one normal sized bag at a time.
Shortly after discovering I could freeze coffee (April 2020), I stocked up with a two pound bag of the Gold Mountain Brix Breaker from Nicaragua, one of the award winning coffee’s from Ross Street. I had purchased some in November 2018 (and ordered more in September 2019), and it checked all the boxes for coffees I love. It was a fruit bomb, natural processed coffee with sweetness for days. Once the bulk bag showed up, I packaged it up and stuck it in the freezer. But then I got other coffees and did the same thing. At some point, I reorganized the freezer. All of a sudden, one bag of it ended up at the bottom of the stack. But, eventually it got discovered, albeit a whole year later. So what do you do with year old frozen coffee? Well, when it’s really good, you open it up and try it out.
I’d seen enough information on freezing coffee along the way that I was fairly confident it was still going to be pretty drinkable. But it still seemed so wrong, so it was going to take actually experiencing this truth to accept it and tell other people.
After busting into it and brewing a cup, I immediately remembered how much I liked the coffee to begin with. I wish I had taken notes when I had it so long ago, to have a better reference point, but it was still a super sweet, super fruity, cup of happiness.
As I kept drinking it, it kept changing. Which reminded me I had a similar experience the other times I had this coffee. I’m not usually one to wax poetic with my tasting notes, but sometimes a great cup of coffee just speaks to you and the words start flowing. Blueberry hibiscus herbal tea. Fermenty brown banana note in the finish as the cup cools. Super complex, super fun, hard to put down, and I didn’t want to see it go.
Even though I had plenty of experience to be able to say freezing coffee works, I’m now fully convinced it is a great plan. I’ll continue to freeze coffee without worrying that I’m doing harm to my continual pursuit of the “perfect cup.”
A lot happened over the course of a year. It was a weird time living through a pandemic. But plenty of good things happened. I even bought an espresso machine and grinder. And yet, perhaps the best thing to happen to me was discovering how to freeze coffee.