How Long Do Coffee Beans Last And Does It Go Bad
I’m the kind of coffee fiend who’d usually makes the mistake of brewing more than I can consume in one sitting. Hours later, though, after a shocking sip of what was perfectly brewed coffee, this thought comes to mind: Does coffee go bad?
If you’ve been ‘surprised’ by your brew going rancid, or your beans not living up to your super high coffee standards, read on and discover how your most favorite thing in the world can ‘go bad’, and how to deal with it:
It Starts with the Beans
What is your coffee before it became that deep, dark cup of goodness? The journey starts all the way from its raw ‘beans’, which are technically the seeds of the coffee cherry. As is, these green beans are not fit for grinding or brewing.
They have to go through the roasting process, which subjects them to very high temperature, bringing out the caffeol that produces the coffee aroma and the beans’ distinct flavor. It is right after roasting that your coffee beans are considered at their ‘freshest’.
From this point forward, the roasted beans face their greatest enemies in the environment - oxygen/air, moisture, heat, and light.
The compounds in coffee quickly react to these elements and hasten the process called oxidation, which affects the concentration of important coffee oils in the beans.
The longer the newly-roasted beans are exposed to the air, the faster they oxidize, sacrificing their taste (adding that unwanted bitterness) and aroma. This is what roasters try to avoid by packing and delivering their beans as soon as possible after roasting.
Ask any coffee expert and they will tell you that freshly-roasted beans should always be consumed within a week to a month at most after to make the most of its quality.
How do you Keep Roasted Beans Fresh?
Now that you’re aware that newly-roasted beans can eventually lose their freshness, it is important that you also know you’re not entirely helpless. You can begin by taking more conscious effort in properly storing coffee beans.
There are three important factors to consider in storing your coffee - first and foremost, is to keep it away from exposure to air or oxygen. The most convenient, and what you will most likely find in supermarkets and some coffee shops, are valved packs.
Valued packets of coffee beans are equipped with a special hole that allows the release of carbon dioxide, without letting any air in that can make the beans go stale. These are not meant for long-term storage though, so always check on the roasting date stamped on the pack.
Another storage option (suggested to us by our friends at the National Coffee Association USA) is airtight, opaque jars. While mason jars can beautifully showcase your shiny brown coffee beans, they let too much light in, which can also affect the quality of your coffee.
Instead of clear containers, you may go for especially-designed ones called coffee vaults, which are typically made of stainless steel and secured with lids to keep the vaults airtight. The following 2 coffee vaults are great options if you don't already have one:
Once you have a good-sized, airtight container, it is important to avoid exposing it to high-temperature or hot environments. This include areas like your windowsill, the cupboard near your stove, or the counter space beside your toaster.
Heat can accelerate the non-enzymatic browning and degradation of the aromatic properties of your beans, which also makes them go stale faster.
Moisture figures into the equation when you place it in cold places, like your freezer.
Even if it’s sealed tight in a quality coffee vault, taking it out, opening it, and returning it in the freezer, can cause temperature changes that allow condensation to form on the beans.
If freezing is at all necessary, set aside the coffee beans you do not plan to use or grind for at least a week, and make sure to place your beans in a guaranteed airtight container. You can also divide them into small portions, so you only unfreeze what you need.
This video gives a great insight of how to store your precious, freshly-roasted coffee beans.
What about Ground Coffee?
The next stop in your coffee beans’ journey takes place in a grinder. This is where you process your beans to achieve the size and texture that are right for brewing.
Coffee experts suggest that you use ground coffee for brewing within thirty minutes from grinding.
This is because the grinding process further hastens oxidation in your coffee, which in turn reduces the freshness and strength of its flavors. If immediate brewing is not possible, store your ground coffee as you would your freshly-roasted beans.
And in case you are curious, yes, your brewed coffee can go stale too - even faster than whole beans and ground coffee!
This is because the water it comes in full contact with help release more solubles, causing coffee to oxidize at an, even quicker, accelerated rate.
Keeping your brew in a thermos may keep it hot and ‘fresh’ for a bit longer, but you’ll already notice a change in taste no more than an hour later - it becomes a bit more sour and a little bitter. If you want more fresh coffee to consume, brew only as needed.
So yes, your coffee can indeed ‘go bad’, as its oils, acids, and other chemicals can succumb and react to its natural ‘enemies’ in the environment. Just like any other organic food item, coffee requires proper storage and handling so you can maximize its freshness:
Keeping it Fresh:
- Always purchase freshly-roasted beans.
- Be ready with proper storage containers for your coffee.
- Keep your stored coffee away from oxygen, heat, and moisture.*Grind only the amount you need for your brew.
- Brew only what you can consume for the next hour.
So yes, the answer to the question 'does coffee go bad?' is YES - but now that you've just learnt how to keep it fresher, for longer, you'll not have to worry about a stale and bitter brew. Keep it fresh and you'll keep yourself happy. Head back to our homepage for more coffee related tips, tricks and inspiration!