As the weather becomes more brutally cold, we all think about purchasing as many groceries as we can in bulk, including coffee, as a means of avoiding frenzied trips to the store through snow and ice. When you get everything home, you’ll wonder which items should be stored where in order to keep them as fresh as possible for use whenever you need them. Coffee beans used in your espresso machine can go bad whether they’re whole or pre-ground so it’s important that you store them properly. When you do, you’ll be able to enjoy a hot, fresh cup of espresso in your home while you watch the snow fall through the window.
Whole Beans vs. Pre-Ground
Storing coffee beans is a lot easier when you purchase them whole instead of already ground up. This doesn’t mean you can’t buy pre-ground beans at all. If you’ll be using the grounds right away, pre-ground coffee can save some time and some coffee shops will even grind up a bag of whole bean coffee right there in the store for you. There is an argument among espresso enthusiasts that flavor is affected by the choice to use pre-ground beans but in the end that’s all a matter of personal preference. The bottom line is that long-term storage works better if your beans are whole instead of pre-ground.
Keep Your Beans Dry
Once you get your beans home, it’s important to decide which ones will be used quickly and which will go into storage for some time. It may be a compelling choice to simply toss sealed bags into the freezer but this could end up destroying the integrity of the beans and their flavor after they’re put through your espresso machine. Unpack the beans and put them into an airtight container that is completely void of moisture. This factor will keep the beans fresh because even in the freezer, moisture can compromise your beans. When even small droplets of moisture freeze in the container, they’ll melt as the beans unfreeze later and that can cause mold or other bacteria to form.
Another option is to use a vacuum sealing food storage machine. This is the best way to store any food in the freezer and coffee beans are no different. Lay them in a flat layer on the material and then use the machine to pack them with a vacuum seal. When you’re ready to use them, defrost one packed layer at a time for grinding.
Invest in a Premium Grinder
If you’re going to be freezing or storing whole beans long term, you’ll need a grinder that does more than chop up the beans into different sized particles. An espresso machine needs finely ground beans that pack together tightly into the brew basket in order to get the bold flavor associated with gourmet level espresso. The coffee you try so hard to keep fresh is likely to suffer some diminished quality if you don’t use a good grinder.
The main difference when it comes to purchasing a new grinder is between the burr grinder and the blade grinder. The blade variety will chop up the whole beans into tiny pieces of inconsistent sizes while the burr variety will grind the beans between two surfaces into more uniform particles. The blade tends to cost less and is easy to operate and clean and the burr grinder lasts longer and performs better even though it costs more and can be more difficult to clean. The choice is once again a matter of preference but espresso machine lovers will always tell you to choose the burr grinder.
The winter is the perfect time to brew up a drink with your espresso machine that comforts and soothes using your favorite flavors. Sometimes you’ll use spices, other times syrups, and in some cases you’ll use both. If you’re purchasing any of these things in bulk, the simple answer to storage is to look at the instructions on the packages. Different brands and ingredients have varying storage requirements. Generally speaking, they should be put in a clean and dry place that will not incur much heat or cold above that of room temperature. It’s a good idea to check on those ingredients you don’t use as often on a regular basis to ensure they’re not clumping, crystallizing, or otherwise going bad.
Milk and Creamer
One of the best ways to enjoy your espresso machine is by making lattes using steamed milk but milk is not something you can purchase in bulk to be stored. There are some alternatives that can be substituted and will still give you an excellent latte. Almond milk and coconut milk are sold in boxes that can be stored for far longer than cow’s milk or goat’s milk. You’ll have to refrigerate each box after it’s opened but you can still purchase several boxes at once to be stored in the cupboard or pantry for use when you need them. As with any ingredient, refer to the package for expiration dates and storage instructions.
The other alternative is powdered creamer. This can’t really be used in the construction of lattes but it will serve as a flavoring and lightener for any kind of espresso drink. The advantage is that powdered creamers last a very long time and have minimal maintenance requirements in storage.
Warm Your Mood
A gourmet beverage from your espresso machine will warm more than your hands and your mood. The aroma and feeling you get from the familiar and delicious concoctions you love can warm the moods of everyone you serve in your home. Use these guidelines to store coffee beans and you’ll always have fresh espresso to create the beverages that make winter feel good again. Watch the bitter cold melt away from the comfort of your kitchen and never worry about having to go without a hot cup of gourmet espresso no matter how much snow is on the ground.
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