So, using the guide from the last post, you’ve found some coffee beans you like. Once you’ve got your package of delicious coffee, there’s two things to worry about: storing your beans and grinding them.

The actual storage of the beans is pretty simple. Keep em in an airtight container, away from light if possible. Where it gets trickier is the shelf life of the beans. For optimal coffee deliciousness, unground beans should be used within a month and ground beans should be used within a week, or a day if possible. To the average drinker, however, if your coffee sits around longer than that (within reason) you probably won’t notice. But in any case, the fresher the better.

As for grinding — ideally you should have your own coffee grinder, and grind your beans right before you brew them. I’ll ‘fess up here, I don’t even own a grinder. I get my beans ground when I purchase them, because it’s not a huge taste difference to me and the convenience is worth it. In this, as in all things, your mileage may vary.

However, the important thing is to use the right grind for your brewing method. If you’re using a French press, you need a very coarse grind — otherwise the coffee will clog up the press or sneak through the filter and make your coffee gritty. If you’re using an espresso machine, you need a much finer grind, or the pour will be way off. If you’re using a regular coffee machine with a paper filter, you’ll need a grind in the middle. Check the instructions on your equipment, or even the grinder itself — most grinders (especially the big ones in grocery stores) are labeled with the types of machine each grind is for. If you’re getting your coffee ground at Starbucks when you buy it, tell them what kind of machine it’s for.

But wait, what if you have a Keurig machine or other pre-measured single-cup coffee brewer? Then trying different types of coffee might be even easier — there’s a lot of “variety packs” available with different roasts, coffees with added flavor, etc. If you work in an office with one of these machines, give it a try or ask your coworkers to point you to what they like. These machines have the convenience of not worrying about grinding beans or brewing a whole pot when you just want a cup, but on the downside there’s a lot of waste and the premade cups are often more expensive than buying beans by the pound. These cups are super easy to store — in fact, they even make special display racks for them.

That’s the bean basics for you coffee drinkers. Tune in next week when I give some love to the tea-drinkers!

tl;dr summary:

  • Don’t let your beans gather dust
  • Use the right grind for your equipment