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A typical bit of advice on the subject says:

Store your herbs and spices in a cool, dry place. The ideal temperature is one that remains fairly constant, averaging right around 70° F."

You're also supposed to keep them dark and dry.

I do this by keeping my spices in a drawer, but I'd really like that space for something else, and to put my spices in opaque magnetic jars on the fridge. The opaque jars would keep out the light, and the cap would keep out the moisture, but my fridge is only two feet away from the stove, and there's probably more light, moisture, and temperature variation there than there is in the drawer.

Is this difference worth worrying about?

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  • "Worth worrying about" is subjective. How quickly do you use your spices? How concerned are you about their quality?
    – Juhasz
    Jul 13 '20 at 23:33
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    Fair question. On speed, it varies a lot. I use cinnamon a lot faster than cumin. Probably the answer on quality is "not very". At least, I haven't made a serious mission of inventory management, and still feel like my spices do the job. Jul 13 '20 at 23:48
  • I'd worry about humidity in a fridge. Also, when you open a cold jar, moisture is going to condense on the inside as well as the outside. Jul 14 '20 at 23:58
  • @WayfaringStranger: I mean to put them on the fridge, stuck by magnets, not in the fridge. Jul 15 '20 at 11:50
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The small temperature variation is probably not as important as buying whole spices, then toasting and grinding small amounts when you need them. Pre-ground spices lose their flavor and aroma very quickly.

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  • That's a helpful way to look at it. How would you suggest doing this conveniently? I have grinders, but they're a hassle to clean well enough that there's no trace of the previous contents, so it'd be inconvenient to use, say, 5 different spices in a dish, grinding each one as needed. And the grinders only work well with a fair quantity of seeds, so it's hard to grind just a teaspoon's worth at a time. Jul 13 '20 at 23:52
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    I have a grinder that simply requires a tap out and wipe with a paper or cloth towel. I also have a mortar and pestle for small amounts. It might take a little more time, but it is worth it. If you are using the spices in the same dish, they are going to mix anyway.
    – moscafj
    Jul 13 '20 at 23:58
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Consistent temperature isn't really important, what they are trying to communicate with that is that they store better if the temperature doesn't go above 70°f, although even that isn't right. Cellar temperature is best for most herbs and spices, but that's unrealistic for most people as they need their spices to hand and they don't cook in a basement. Higher storage temperature will increase how quickly your spices lose flavor, it's the amount of time they spend at higher temperature that matters, not heating-cooling cycles, it's better they get hot and cool than stay hot all the time.

You approach will work fine as long as you keep them out of the sun, opaque containers will heat up a lot in the sunlight even if they don't allow UV through. Just be aware that you will lose potency a little faster.

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  • Also note that degredation due to temperature or light varies a lot with what kind of spice. Whole cloves will last for years even under poor conditions, whereas dried chives lose their flavor even stored in a 60F cellar for 6 months. You might consider putting your spices on the fridge, but putting your dried herbs somewhere else.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 15 '20 at 1:07
  • "opaque containers will heat up a lot in the sunlight": good point, but I don't think there's direct sunlight on the top of my refrigerator. There's light in the room, but no direct rays from sun to containers, I think. Jul 15 '20 at 11:54

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