Storing Brewed Coffee

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Just about any serious coffee drinker faces a dilemma sooner or later. We’re all creatures of habit, and our morning coffee routine is no exception. Waking up without our favorite espresso, latte or pour-over leaves us tired and grumpy, and generally starts the day on a sour note.

Of course, there are alternatives. Single-serve machines from Keurig and Nespresso make it possible to get delicious coffee on demand. A pour-over or French Press requires only enough time to boil water and allow your brewing method of choice to do its work. In a pinch — God forbid — there’s always instant. But what if you like to sleep in, or if your method of choice is more time-consuming? Cold brew and single drip coffee are lovely, with a nuanced flavor that makes coffee drinking a joy, but it’s nobody’s idea of efficient. Even your trusty Aeropress still requires sufficient time to boil water, which doesn’t seem like much unless you’ve rolled out of bed at 7:10 with a 7:35 train to catch.

The good news is, you don’t have to add coffee stress to the list of other morning-related worries. All you need is your favorite coffee, an airtight container, and sufficent space in the fridge.

First things first: Make a sufficiently large batch of coffee (or, if you’re using a Toddy, Aeropress, or favorite cold-brew method, enough concentrate) to last you about a week. You’ll need to stick to black coffee. For one thing, the addition of sugar, cream, or milk keeps your coffee from storing properly. For another, it doesn’t fare well during reheating, especially if you’re using something like half and half that has a higher fat content.

Second, you’ll want to use an airtight container to store your coffee or concentrate. We’d recommend something in glass, which cleans easier, and won’t stain or retain flavors; if you prefer plastic, we suggest having one container that will be used strictly for coffee. We don’t suggest metal, since the acid content of the coffee — especially when stored for extended periods of time — interacts with the metal in the container. If the container isn’t quite airtight (as tends to be the case with plastic pitchers and some carafes, especially if they’re older), use a layer of plastic wrap to prevent exposure to the air and to prevent smells and tastes from the refrigerator from seeping into your coffee. I love coffee. I love curried chicken. I generally prefer that my coffee doesn’t taste like curry, chili, or whatever else might be lurking on the shelves.

Third, keep whatever you’ll need in the morning laid out the night before. Whether you’ll be having your coffee at home (in which case, your favorite cup will do) or taking it with you (keep your travel mug clean and ready), a little advance prep means a bit less stress in the AM.

Finally, keep everything clean between uses. By most estimates, coffee will last at least a week in the fridge (or longer if you freeze it). If you make a batch for the week on Sunday evening, we’d suggest dumping whatever you haven’t used by Friday morning (the coffee should still be safe after that, but won’t be as fresh or taste as good). Better still, work with smaller batches every few days for optimum freshness and taste. In either case, wash your storage container thouroughly with hot, soapy water, and make sure it’s dry before storing. And keep those mugs from piling up in the sink, since nobody likes doing dishes on their day off.

So there you have it — all you need for a quick cup of coffee in the morning, with a minimum of fuss. Best of all, you don’t even have to heat if you don’t want to. These steps will work just as well if you’re making iced coffee (though the same caveats about milk and sugar still apply — add, don’t store!).

Photo Credit: Petr Kratochvil | Creative Commons Public Domain