Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Coffee Storage Review: Vacu Vin Coffee Saver

I've spent the last several years trying to figure out how to keep my coffee beans fresh for longer than about a week.  I love trying different coffees from all over the world, but they went stale within a week or so, and then I was stuck drinking bitter, stale, mediocre brew until I ran out.

Coffee's enemies:  Heat, light, moisture, and oxygen.  I needed something that would address moisture and oxygen. Heat and light aren't a big deal, as my house doesn't get hot, and my coffee is stored in a light-tight cupboard.

My first experiment, back in 2011 was the Vac Vin Coffee Saver:
Pic shows grounds being stored in the VacuVin.
Terrible idea - grounds go off faster than whole beans, plus
more grit is available to get caught in the seal.
I love the Vacu Vin company - I've had great luck with their wine savers, and pumping out the extra oxygen seemed like a no-brainer.  The kit comes with an extra-big air pump, which makes pumping out the air much faster than with the standard size that comes with the wine stoppers.  Great choice on the company's part. I had the taller canister pictured, plus a shorter one about 1/2 the height (bought separately) that I kept at work.

But... it didn't take long before I was dissatisfied.  Often, I'd open the canister, and discover that the vacuum had been lost overnight.  I'd find other storage for my coffee, put it through the dishwasher, then after a few days, it'd happen again.

The best advice I got, was to run a bead of cooking oil (I used a cotton swab) along the two layers of the seals, and that worked pretty well, for a time. After about 2-3 weeks, a piece of grit would get caught in the seals, which let air leak back in. So, I'd brush out the seals, and re-oil them.  That level of maintenance isn't the end of the world (I make my coffee using only manual methods), but sometimes the oil would keep it sealed reliably for a few weeks, and at other times, just a few days.

And ... my week of fresh coffee before it started tasting bitter and stale wasn't prolonged, not as far as I could tell.  It's better than storing them in an open bin. It is probably even better than storing them in a mason jar on the counter, as the Vacu Vin is darkened - like built in sunglasses for your beans. But beyond that? Nah.  After a year or so, I gave the canisters to my brother.

Note: I've seen comments online that suggest that storing beans in a low-pressure container will cause the oils to migrate out (be sucked out??) of the beans, and make them go rancid sooner.  As far as I can tell, that's just speculation, with little basis in fact. My beans didn't get the slightest bit shinier or more oily-looking when stored in the Vacu-Vin.  I just didn't find that it kept them any fresher than any closed jar.

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