How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

June 13, 2024

5 MIN READ

Contents

    Coffee bears unique characteristics, allowing its drinkers to experience it beyond the taste. Many coffee drinkers love this unique beverage for its intoxicating aroma, taste, and fresh mouthfeel. But, just how long can one enjoy these prized characteristics–synonymous with fine and fresh coffee?

    This comprehensive guide dives deep into the intricacies of coffee longevity. The guide further explores how long green beans, roasted coffee beans, and ground beans last–and the best ways to extend their longevity.

    What is the shelf life of coffee?

    The best coffee beans can last anywhere between a few days and up to 12 months. The answer to how long coffee beans last varies due to several factors.

    Primarily, coffee beans at different stages come with their own shelf life. But, the more processed the coffee is, the shorter its shelf life. For instance, green coffee lasts longer than the ground.

    Does coffee expire?

    Definitely not! There is no official expiration date for coffee beans. Rather, the beans lose their most important qualities.

    Over time, they lose their freshness, distinctive and easily noticeable aroma and taste; resulting in stale coffee beans.

    How long do coffee beans last–green, roasted, and ground coffee

    How long do coffee beans last? The exact answer varies, depending on the coffee type. Coffee, in different states, comes with a distinctive shelf life.

    Raw coffee beans have the longest shelf life

    Raw (or green) coffee beans last the longest, retaining their freshness for up to 12 months. This is because they are in their natural state, with their compounds and oils unaltered. Before roasting, coffee beans lack the distinctive coffee taste or aroma.

    Nonetheless, you need to store them in the right environment to retain their freshness and ensure the beans last. Raw beans that have lost their freshness will develop a cushiony texture with a grassy, earthy, and unpleasant aroma.

    Green coffee is best stored in cool, dry, and dark conditions. Further, you want to store these beans in a non-porous sack to prevent moisture build up. Alternatively, store them in an airtight and opaque container.

    Tip: Heat, moisture, light, and oxygen (air) are the biggest enemies of coffee–at any state– it will cause it to go stale prematurely.

    Whole roasted coffee beans

    Whether freshly roasted coffee beans or store-bought pre-roasted, whole coffee beans can last up to a year from the roast date, however, the shelf life decreases and roasted coffee beans last about a week to a month once you open the bean coffee bags.

    If you opt for store-bought options, check the packaging for the roast date to ensure you get freshly roasted coffee. You don't want to buy coffee that has been sitting on shelves for months. Unlike green beans, roasted pre-ground coffee experiences a chemical change, with their compounds and oils oxidized.

    This means that immediately after the roasting process, the roasted beans start to lose their aroma as carbon dioxide builds up. These two factors drive the beans to their eventual loss of freshness (once you open their sealed bag or container).

    Fortunately, oxidation, aroma, and coffee freshness loss happen in 4 to 18 days. Like green beans, keeping your roasted whole coffee beans away from light, heat, oxygen, and moisture prolongs their freshness and shelf life.

    Roast level vs longevity 

    The roast level does in fact impact shelf life. But, you will typically notice this with freshly roasted coffee beans prepared at home. For commercially available coffee, coffee roasters degas their beans effectively, reducing this issue.

    Here’s how it works:

    Roasting coffee for longer (getting it to a dark roast) means the coffee will stale or degrade much faster than shorter roasts (light roasts). This is because dark roast compounds and oils have been fully combusted and oxidized.

    Therefore, very little gasses remain before the beans lose freshness and flavor. Coffee roasters mitigate this problem by sufficiently resting (or degassing) the beans based on their roast level. Dark roast beans rest longer than light roasts.

    The resting stage is essential as it helps to prolong the shelf life. As a general rule of thumb, rest fresh light roasted coffee for a day and dark roasts for up to 3 days. Degassing helps to release as much carbon dioxide from the beans.

    This is what helps to create that beautiful coffee flavor and aroma during brewing. The lack of carbon dioxide means the brewing efficiently extracts all the flavors. 

    Ground coffee beans have the shortest shelf life

    Ground coffee beans stay fresh the least–typically between 3 and 7 days once the bag is opened. This explains why many coffee lovers prefer to freshly grind their beans. This is because you only grind what you need and store away the rest.

    But, when sealed in their bag or container, ground-roasted coffee lasts for up to 3 to 5 months. Ground-roasted coffee beans last the least due to their high surface area and fully broken-down compounds. This state leaves the coffee even more susceptible to coffee-hating elements, like oxygen, moisture, light, and heat.

    It's also very easy for ground coffee to pick up nearby smells as the high surface area increases its porosity.

    How to store coffee beans properly

    Consider the key factors during storage to ensure a long coffee bean life. Balance out the moisture and humidity to keep coffee at the freshest level. Too much and too little moisture or humidity result in a faster staling process.

    An airtight or vacuum-sealed container can help combat this issue. Similarly, vacuum-sealed or airtight storage keeps oxygen out, preventing further oxidation. Temperatures correlate with humidity and condensation–both of which increase moisture buildup.

    Store your beans at a temperature of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the best results.

    If you store your beans on the countertop or other well-lit spaces, invest in opaque coffee bean bags or containers. Alternatively, store the beans in a dark cabinet or pantry room as light speeds up staling.

    Storing coffee beans for optimal freshness and longevity: the do's and the don'ts

    Never freeze coffee beans. Coffee is porous. Freezing coffee beans makes them pick up smells in the freezer–like that frozen salmon! Further, frozen coffee beans build up moisture due to low temperatures, which causes condensation.

    Practice sustainability and avoid discarding your stale coffee grounds or beans. Instead, use them in recipes that don't depend too much on the freshness and aroma. These include cold brew, coffee-flavored desserts, and even DIY products, like coffee scrubs.

    While coffee is usable beyond its freshness window, exercise extra care during this time. Consuming rotten coffee can pose serious health risks. Observe the surface for any visible signs, like mold build-up. Further, smell the beans or grounds (foul smells indicate rot) to ensure it is safe to use.

    Stock vs time

    Always buy your coffee in small amounts if purchasing coffee for individual consumption. Ideally, you want to consume store-bought pre-ground coffee within a few days. Whole bean bags can last you for up to a month. 

    Similarly, business owners should stock up on small batches to ensure they sell them all within a short period. This explains why coffee lovers prefer small-batch roasters. However, if you are starting an online coffee business with no inventory, there’s an even better solution.

    Suppliers, like Supliful, allow you to ship the freshest coffee to your customers. This allows you to maintain your brand image and reputation with customers associating it with reliability, consistency, and quality. 

    Supliful manages order fulfillment for your private label coffee, ensuring you receive fresh coffee only when your customers place an order. This means you never have to hold onto the same coffee stock for months.

    FAQs

    How do you know when roasted coffee beans go bad?

    A physical observation can tell when coffee beans have gone bad. While good coffee is rich and dark in color, bad coffee develops a dull brown color. Bad coffee also shrivels up from its once-plump appearance. Sometimes, the coffee may even develop a foul smell and have mold or spores build up. If you notice this, it's time to discard the coffee.

    Are 2-year-old coffee beans still good for drinking?

    Coffee beans will stay fresh for up to a year at most. But, drinking coffee after 2 years in storage can still be safe. After all, the old coffee doesn't necessarily go bad or expire after this period. It simply means that the coffee loses its peak freshness, aroma, and taste. While these beans won't make a stellar cup of coffee, you can still use them in other preparations. You can use them for cold brew, coffee-based foods or desserts, and beauty products, like scrubs. But, perform a physical observation to ensure there aren't any signs of rotting.

    When should you throw out coffee beans?

    Never throw away coffee beans, unless they have gone bad. Discard beans if you notice significant deformities or color change, mold build-up, or foul smells. Otherwise, you can use your beans for other preparations, beyond a fresh cup of coffee.

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