The debate over whether to freeze coffee beans has been ongoing for years. For me, with nearly two decades in the specialty coffee wholesale industry, I've witnessed many changes and shifts in coffee storage practices and advice. Early in my career, it was agreed that freezing coffee was not ideal. But why the sudden shift at that time? 

The early 2000s, marked a significant shift in the Australian coffee scene. Consumers began to demand higher quality beans, moving away from supermarket offerings that were often imported and packaged months earlier. Their palates craved more nuance, sweetness, acidity, and balance, much of which could be directly related to ‘freshness’. Consumers also wanted to know more about the origins of their coffee and the people who grew it.

In response, local roasters started sourcing finer quality green beans, focusing on traceability and mastering roasting techniques to highlight the unique attributes of each origin's prized beans. The traditional 'Italian roast' fell out of favour, making way for a preference for nuanced flavours. Roasters knew that in order for the consumer to enjoy the riches of these improvements in sourcing and roasting, the freshness of coffee was increasingly relevant to the experience desired.  

Notably, as the quality of coffee improved, so did the price. So, to enjoy the best qualities of the roast, the investment needed to match the experience – hence, it was agreed, that hence forth: Fresh is Best!

Purchasing small amounts more frequently was the only way to savour flavour, and maximise the experience. 

Practically, this meant recommending consumers to store coffee in an airtight container, away from sunlight, in a cool, stable environment. No more freezing the coffee!

Recently, there's been renewed discussion about freezing coffee to maintain freshness without compromising its qualities. 

So, one year ago, Montville Coffee took up this familiar debate, and we took it into our own hands to run an experiment, and share our findings with our own followers. 

The question is: When (if ever) should you freeze your coffee beans?

Here are some reasons you might choose to freeze your beans:

  • You prefer to buy in bulk less frequently, perhaps due to convenience, price, or shipping concerns.
  • You live in a remote area.
  • You've found a rare, prized bean during your travels and want to save it for a special occasion.
  • You find yourself with an excess supply of stored beans and are not sure what to do with them. 

To explore this, Matt, Kevin, and I (Sean)  conducted the following experiment. Twelve months ago, we stored a series of bags of a roast of our Woodford blend in three different ways:

  1. 23/06/2023 - In the bottom drawer of our kitchen.
  2. 23/06/2023 - In the freezer, with the intention of defrosting these beans three days prior to use.
  3. 23/06/2023 - In the freezer, without defrosting before use.
  4. 22/05/2024 - Freshly roasted, left on the kitchen bench for three weeks.

The day finally arrived for us to sample these four espressos and assess the impact of freshness, with the variables of room temperature ageing, freezing, and defrosting. How will the coffee's flavour and overall experience be impacted?

Here are our findings:

Date of Espresso Sampling: 11/06/2024

23/06/2023 – Stored in the bottom drawer of our kitchen

Upon opening the bag, the coffee emitted a strong aniseed and oily aroma. Visually, the beans were dry, brittle, and noticeably discoloured. The extraction was thin and lifeless, with a pale crema that lacked any noticeable gasses. The flavour was woody with a flat, leathery finish, devoid of acidity or sweetness.

Score: 1/10







23/06/2023 – Stored in the freezer, defrosted three days prior to use

This coffee did not release any notable aroma, presenting as neither lively nor spoiled. The beans appeared visually unspoiled. The extraction was good, with a golden crema that poured consistently without falling flat at the tail end. However, the flavour was where this cup fell short. It had a strong, bold, and full-bodied profile with deep dark chocolate notes, but lacked any acidity and sweetness to balance and elevate the experience, resulting in a heavy and very unbalanced finish.

Score: 4/10


23/06/2023 – Stored in the freezer, used without defrosting

The coffee, cool to the touch, had a mild aroma of sweet chocolate and hazelnut, reminiscent of a Toblerone stored in the fridge. The beans presented well, without any oily qualities, and appeared stable with true colouring akin to a one or two-week-old aged coffee. The extraction was remarkably good, producing a rich, well-degassed espresso that poured smoothly. The coffee hosted a round body, with hints of sweetness, and a touch of acidity. It presented flavours of chocolate, liquorice, and soft cherry. Although the sweetness was not pronounced and the acidity appeared late, the overall espresso was unbalanced but exceeded expectations.

Score: 7/10



22/06/2024 – Freshly roasted, left on the kitchen bench for three weeks

The coffee roasted three weeks ago met our expectations for the Woodford Blend. It was well-degassed, suitable for home use, and showcased a rich golden crema, alive and vivid with escaping gasses during extraction. The cup qualities were clear, refined, and balanced, offering a complete palate journey. The body was dark chocolate with sweet liquorice, a hint of spice, and mild acidity, holding the palate in harmony. Qualities were clear and pronounced.

Score: 10/10



Our learnings

Although this experiment was not extensive, it was controlled and conducted by three of our QA specialists. We all agree that fresh coffee remains the best practice, and buying small amounts regularly leads to a more satisfying home coffee experience. However, we were pleased to learn that freezing coffee can retain its qualities for extended periods (up to 12 months!). The key takeaway is to avoid freezing coffee only until use and then keeping it defrosted. Instead, keep the coffee frozen and only take out what you need when you require it. Keep the remaining beans in the freezer. This approach helps maintain some of the highest qualities possible with fresh coffee when long-term storage is necessary.

So, if you love our Festive Blend and want to save a bag for Christmas in July, or if you're off for a 12-month working holiday in Antarctica, freezing coffee can be a handy tip after all.

June 26, 2024 — Sean McGowan