You love fresh coffee, and now you have invested in a brand new coffee machine you can have a fresh coffee everyday, right?
Well it’s not quite that simple, you need to consider how long do coffee beans last?
If you want the short answer : Not very long, most experts agree, they start to lose their freshness around 10 days after opening the pack, not a very long shelf life at all.
If you’ve just bought a kilo of the best coffee beans, you are probably wondering how long you have to enjoy them?
Well there a many things that can affect exactly how long your beans will stay fresh for, and today I will reveal my top tips for maximum freshness
But before we get into that, lets have a look at how to tell if your beans have gone bad (or started to turn) and what makes them go bad in the first place.
How do you know if your Coffee Beans have gone bad
Another way to look at this is, how to tell if your coffee beans are still good? Well like most consumables you need to inspect them and look at the following to tell if coffee has gone bad
When I say taste, I am not advocating you make a brew with beans that have quite obviously gone really bad and are now soft and furry. No I would not suggest you drink that.
What I recommend using your taste for is to see if it has started to turn. Often the first sign your coffee is past its best, is the taste will become more acidic and it will lose the subtleties you love about it in the first place.
Smell is you biggest weapon in the fight against stale coffee, your nose can process and distinguish between thousands of different compounds.
Fresh Coffee smells amazing, coffee lovers know what I mean here. It’s strong, pleasant and makes you want to drink it.
Stale Coffee does NOT smell amazing, quite the opposite. It is dull, lacking that pleasant aroma we all love and is just uninspiring.
Since the sense of taste and the sense of smell are intrinsically linked, you can be certain a coffee bean that smells bad will not produce a good cup.
Freshly roasted coffee beans have a sort of sheen to them, they look shiny and glossy to the eye. They sparkle under light.
This is due the aromatic oils on the surface that start to come out after roasting. There is a misconception that oily beans are bad, when in fact it is the opposite.
No oils = No flavour
Can’t tell if the aromatic oils are still present just by looking at the coffee? Fell them instead, pick a handful up and run them through your fingers.
If you are left with an oily residue, you re good. If there is nothing then your beans are lacking the essential oils.
What Makes your coffee beans go bad?
Coffee is a biodegradable product, and consists of compounds that deteriorate over time. As the compounds change during the breaking down, they will alter and change the way your coffee smells ad ultimately tastes.
Whole bean coffee has a very long shelf life, we are talking years. But during the roasting process you change the structure of the beans and they begin to breakdown.
The main things that alter this process are Oxygen, Moisture, Heat and Light. Exposure to one or all of these things will speed the process up.
Tips to Keep Your Coffee Beans Fresh For Longer
So far we have learnt how to tell if your beans are bad and why they may have turned in the first place.
Once your coffee beans have gone bad there is nothing you can do to get them back. No brewing method, fancy coffee machine or even black magic can help you now, your beans are good for one thing only, throwing away!
So that leaves you with one option, if you want to enjoy fresh coffee for longer : Stop them going bad in the first place.
Well to be precise, delay the start of the decay (you can’t stop it altogether)
1 – Roasted On Date
Any good coffee roaster will print a “roasted on” date on the pack, you need to look at this when buying your beans. If you buy your coffee in a grocery store, it is very unlikely to have a roasted on date, so how do you know when it was roasted?
Two reasons why this is important: one you don’t want your beans too fresh, you should not brew beans in the first few days after roasting. Secondly even if stored correctly they will only last a year or so.
You are best buying beans 10-21 days after roasting.
2 – Buy What You Need
Don’t buy more than you need, this may sound obvious and most people will stick to this rule the majority of the time.
But it is tempting if you find a special bean you like and think you may not be able to get again, to think I’ll stock up and buy lots.
But you need to resist, they maybe the best beans now, but in 8 months when they’ve started to turn, they won’t be good anymore.
3 – Grind Enough For Now
I am a huge advocate of freshness is best, and with coffee, one way to ensure maximum freshness is to buy whole beans and grind as needed.
Ground coffee beans have an increased surface area and this speeds up the process of going bad.
But this is not ironing, you can’t just do a weeks worth on a Sunday evening. No if you want freshness then you need to grind on demand, and only grind the amount you need. And Yes I do mean in the moment, don’t pre grind enough for the coffee you might have in a few hrs.
4 – Proper Storage
After roasting your beans will start to produce carbon dioxide. You should notice on the bag a small valve, this lets the carbon dioxide out, without let oxygen in. You should keep your beans in these special sealed bags for as long as possible.
When the time comes to open the bag, the oxidation process starts, and the clock ticks. This is when it is vital to have proper storage. In fact having a proper coffee storage container is the best way to prolong the shelf life.
You then need to store this airtight container correctly. Keep it at room temperature out of direct light, the container should have an air tight seal.
So How Long Does Coffee Last?
You may have been wondering why all of the above when you just want to know how long does coffee last, well hopefully now you appreciate you cannot just give a simple answer there is a lot of factors at play.
But as a general rule here goes :
How Long Do Whole Un Roasted Coffee Beans Last : These will last the longest, green beans will last up to 2 years.
How Long do Roasted Coffee Beans Last: Once roasting has taken place, and depending on the roast and the storage type, the shelf life of coffee beans is 3-6 months.
How Long Does Ground Coffee Last: Ground coffee lasts from a few weeks to a month once exposed to the elements. But it is at its best for roughly 30mins, after this the coffee changes and the flavor profile will start to deteriorate.
How Long Does Instant Coffee Last : Instant coffee is grounds that have been brewed and then dehydrated. Because of this instant coffee can have a shelf life of 20 years plus.
Some will say you don’t need to wait for instant coffee to go bad, it already is bad. But I think it has a place.
Can you use 2 year old coffee beans?
If the beans are unroasted and green, then yes you can use 2 year old coffee beans, you can home roast them, and then brew a great coffee.
How do you store coffee beans long term?
After roasting store your coffee beans in an airtight, opaque container and store this in a dark place at room temperature.
You are trying to keep them from air, light, heat and moisture.
Can I re-roast coffee beans?
If your aim is to make stale coffee beans fresh again then NO re-roasting them will not make them fresh again.
However if you have light roasted beans and you wish to make them darker, then you can give them a second roast. To do this lightly toast them in a cast iron skillet for 9-12 mins. Just note this way of getting a dark roasted bean is not as good as dark roasting them first time around.
What do you do with coffee beans you don’t like?
If you find yourself stuck with coffee beans that you either don’t like or have gone bad. You don’t have to waste them. There are many alternate uses for coffee grounds. Check out this guide
How can you freshen up coffee beans?
To be blunt about this, you cannot make stale coffee beans fresh again. Once they have gone, you cannot get them back to freshness.
Should you keep coffee beans in the fridge?
Can you keep coffee beans in the fridge? The answer is NO.
Keeping coffee beans or coffee grounds in the fridge will cause them to condensate. This will actually speed up the deterioration and draw out more of the essential oils.
Should you keep coffee beans in the freezer?
You can store your coffee in the freezer, but you really need to ensure they are sealed correctly. I would advise a double bag setup. As you have learnt moisture is not good for coffee, so you need to protect them form the moisture in the freezer.
I would also advise splitting up the batch into weekly portions, so you can get out a small amount at a time.
Please remember to defrost them thoroughly at room temperature before brewing.
Can you store coffee in a Ziploc bag?
I would advice you do not use ziplock bags to store your coffee in. Ziplock bags are highly permeable and will let in both air and moisture, two things you know will speed up the aging process.
Instead use a specially designed airtight container for your coffee.