Hello. My name is Jarhead Survivor. I’m a coffee addict. WTSHTF, I need the peace of mind of having long term coffee storage sealed away in my prepper pantry.
If there’s a recommended daily allowance of caffeine I surely take in five times what they suggest. I’ll drink three cups of coffee first thing in the morning. There’s nothing better than getting up in the morning and having a delicious hot cup of dark roast while my son is eating breakfast. I’ll wait until noon time for my next two or three cups. Then I’ll have another cup or two around 2:00 pm. And then another cup or two – or even a cappuccino – around 7:00 pm. Just enough to smooth me out and put me to sleep. Crazy?
I’m a slave to the coffee bean, but that’s not such a bad thing. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t do drugs, and I don’t smoke cigarettes. This is my one addiction and I don’t mind feeding it some first class java.
If we enter a survival situation, I won’t survive without coffee. And if I do, it will be so ugly that everyone around me will wish I was dead. I know I’m not alone here. Food and Wine magazine cites a survey that says 64% of Americans drink a cup of coffee every day. I drink enough for the other 36%.
How do I get long-term coffee storage?
Why try figuring this out myself when there were professionals all around. I called a local coffee shop and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hi. I’d like to ask you a question about storing coffee.
Young Woman: Okay. Go ahead.
Me: What’s the best way to store coffee long term? Can I vacuum pack it?
Young Woman: How long do you plan on storing it for?
Me: Oh I don’t know. How about five years?
Young Woman: Hahaha!
Me: No. Seriously.
Young Woman: Seriously? (long pause) Well. If we grind coffee and don’t use it within fifteen minutes we throw it out.
I gave up on that attempt. Next I called that bastion of Canadian coffee, Tim Hortons. If anybody is going to know how to store coffee long term it’s gotta be Tim Hortons. I changed my approach because the other girl thought I was insane.
Me: Hi. I’m a writer and I’m doing a piece on coffee prices going up and how to store coffee long term.
Tim’s Rep (a woman): How can I help?
Me: Well, how long will those big cans you sell last if I bought them and put them in my basement.
Tim’s Rep: About a year.
Me: Ok. Is that a rough guideline or does the coffee go bad after a year? Is that a “’use by” date?’
Tim’s Rep: What?
Me: For example: Could I store the coffee for five years?
Tim’s Rep: Yes.
Me (brightening up): Really? That’s great.
Tim’s Rep: Yes. The coffee can be stored for one year.
Me (confused): You just said five years.
Tim’s Rep: Yes. The coffee is good for one year.
Me (staring at the phone): Oooookay. But, can I store it for five years?
Tim’s Rep (getting exasperated): Yes. The coffee will be good for one year.
I’m not sure what happened there, but something that seemed so simple suddenly seemed like a daunting task. I had to do this the hard way – a lot of web research. Here is what I found out…
Start with Fresh Coffee Beans
For the ultimate way to achieve long-term coffee storage, you have to start with the freshest beans you can find. Unless you live on a coffee plantation, that means buying unroasted, green beans. You’re probably not going to be buying these at your local Starbucks, but you can order them online. There are all types of varieties to be had. Unroasted beans are apt to last a year or more – probably more.
Be Prepared to Roast Green Beens
Buying unroasted beans, of course, means you have to roast them yourself. That can be done in a skillet, as I did in the preceding link, or you can buy a coffee roaster. A simple ceramic coffee roaster will cost you about thirty dollars. A fancier model will cost you well over one-hundred dollars.
You’re not going to be able to replicate the roasting process of a large commercial roaster in a skillet or a ceramic roaster, but a fancier model will make a much better, more fresh roast that is hard to beat… unless the power goes out! That’s when you’ll be using a ceramic roaster or cast iron skillet.
The same goes for grinding coffee beans. You can buy a basic electric grinder, but again, if the power goes out… If the power goes out, you’ll need a hand-crank grinder. I prefer those, but in a pinch, you can always crush the roasted beans in some other, more primitive fashion. They won’t be very uniform that way, and thus lack in perfected taste, but you’ll get the caffeine you need.
Storing Green Coffee Beans for the Long Haul
Coffee beans’ greatest enemies are air, moisture, and light. The first thing I recommend is eliminating the air – ALL of the air. To do this, you need to take your beans out of whatever package they came in and use a quality vacuum sealer to make certain all air has been removed. It’s the only way to be sure. Then you want to store the beans in a dry area away from the light. For many people, this is conveniently a pantry.
The Five Steps to Long-Term Coffee Storage
- Buy green, unroasted coffee beans.
- Use a vacuum sealer to remove all air.
- Store the beans in a cool, dry, dark place.
- Have a way to roast the beans.
- Have a way to grind the beans.
Storing Coffee Beans Without Roasting
Maybe you’re not looking for such extreme storage. Maybe you just want to know how to keep over-the-counter coffee fresh longer.
If you want to store ground coffee, either freeze it or put it in an airtight container, but don’t let it sit longer than a couple of weeks for maximum freshness. Once you’ve taken coffee out of the freezer – don’t refreeze it!
Don’t refrigerate – due to its porous nature it will pick up moisture and flavor from anything else you might have in there (fish, for example). Once you grind coffee it starts to lose flavor right away. It’s good for about two weeks.
I read several comments by people on various boards and blogs saying that they’d stored canned coffee for years and when they opened it up and used it it was fine. This probably depends on the coffee, and your definition of “fine.”
I’ve got a couple of the #10 cans full of coffee in my basement that I’ve had for a long while with my other #10 cans. I decided to try a can of French Roast. If it’s French roast it can’t be half bad right? Ha! It tasted like it had been strained through an old jock strap. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.
– Jarhead Survivor
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