It should go without saying that fresh coffee is good coffee. Here are some tips from a barista to keep your coffee fresh at home and while traveling.
1. Use Quality Equipment to Store your Coffee
If freshness is a priority for you, find a good place to put it. If your coffee bag is made out of paper, it will stale quickly. The most protective bags for coffee are called "foil gussetted".
This means that there is an extra protective layer of aluminum foil on the inside of the bag. It provides a barrier from oxygen (staling agent) and moisture (potential mold agent).
The one-way degassing valve featured on high-quality bags (above) keep oxygen out and freshness in. These bags are some of the best on the market. If you want to keep your coffee as fresh as possible, it may be worth looking into vacuum sealed canisters such as these from Planetary Design.
These 16 oz coffee canisters
force air out and keep freshness in. Keep coffee on your counter with this tin that fits an entire one pound bag of coffee.
2. To Freeze or not to Freeze?
There has been a lot of debate lately on whether or not it's best to freeze coffee. It boils down to a few factors:
How long are you planning on storing it?
Do you have the proper packaging?
If you're keeping a high stock of coffee beans and don't plan on using them for a while (2 weeks+), you might want to stick them in the freezer. Only do this if you have proper air-tight equipment mentioned in #1.
3. Grind Your Own Beans
The best smell in the world is freshly ground coffee.
When you buy whole bean coffee, not only are you getting the freshest coffee possible, you also have more control over the brew.
4. Brew Single Servings
A big ol' pot of drip coffee is awesome for a bad case of the Mondays or the office, but nothing beats coffee for one.
5. Watch the Bloom
Single-serve brewers are great because they allow you to spot-check the quality of your coffee.
The blooming process does a few things:
Saturates the grinds to make way for proper extraction
Shows you how fresh your coffee is
The fresher the coffee, the better and bigger the bloom. Note that coffees roasted darker will bloom larger.
On the Go
6. Order Espresso-Based Drinks
The truth about a lot of coffee shops is that they are made to handle high volume. More often than not, coffee is brewed days before and the leftovers are dumped into pitchers to use for iced coffee over the next few days. Next time, order an iced americano. Known sometimes as "fancy iced coffee", fresh espresso shots are poured over ice and topped with chilled water. It's a guaranteed fresh cup every time.
7. Check the Meter on the Coffee Pot
Some coffee shops have timers on the pots to let the baristas know how long the coffee has been sitting. Each forth of the circle represents 15 minutes, and each full circle represents a full hour. If these are displayed in your coffee shop, be sure to take a look. If it's over an hour, I'd opt toward an espresso-based drink.
8. Use a Travel Mug instead of a Paper Cup
A good travel mug won't leave residue from the cup beforehand.
Paper cups are not ideal if you want coffee to taste awesome. You never want your drink to taste like the vessel that it's in. Bring your travel mug to the coffee shop. You'll save a ton of paper, and some shops even offer a discount for those using a mug.
9. Talk to the Barista
Build a good relationship with the person that serves you your coffee.
When you go to a shop, ask "where do you get your beans?". From there, you'll find a lot about how important freshness is to them. If they can pinpoint when the beans in their hoppers have been roasted, chances are you're dealing with a quality coffee shop. Transparency is key to a fresh cup.