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How Long Do Coffee Beans Last? The Quest Of Delicious Coffee

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Fresh coffee beans and freshly ground coffee beans are the two ingredients for making an aromatic and delicious cup of joe. Those of us who like fresh ground coffee order coffee beans in bulk. Many people have coffee subscriptions with hopes on quality and fresh beans.

With the focus on freshness, there are some very pertinent questions involved.

  • If you buy beans in bulk, how long do coffee beans last
  • How can you tell if coffee beans are fresh? 
  • What’s the best way to store coffee beans?
  • Let’s answer these questions and see where the solution leads us!

Why Bother With Fresh Roasted Beans?

One word answer: taste

The coffee community generally agrees that fresh roasted and freshly ground coffee beans taste the best. It is this freshness that gives artisanal coffee wonderful taste and aroma. And yes, these properties are directly related to how fresh the coffee beans are.

When buying coffee beans from roasters, you’ll notice the package has space for a “roasted on” date. The freshness clock on coffee beans starts the day they are roasted. Most mass-produced coffee doesn’t have this date. And let’s face it, mass production is rarely concerned with freshness.

If you enjoy coffee and are on the lookout for deliciousness, freshly roasted beans very likely are the answer.

The easiest way to get hold of freshly roasted beans is to get them from a roaster in your city. You’d be supporting a local business and getting pretty good coffee as a bonus. Always look for the date when the beans were roasted and avoid buying anything that is more than a month old.

If buying local is not an option, you can consider coffee subscription services that deliver fresh-roasted coffee at your doorstep.

How Long Do Roasted Coffee Beans Last?

It is generally accepted that buying whole coffee beans is a better approach to great-tasting coffee. And that roasting beans is the day from where the countdown to the best taste starts.

The thorny question is “what’s the best use by date?”

There is no clear consensus on how long do roasted coffee beans last from the day of being roasted. This is largely because each batch of beans is different. The roasting process plays a part too and even subtle changes might affect the taste and freshness of the coffee. Besides, freshness is a gradient and there aren’t any sudden changes in taste after a fixed number of days.

For the most part, we simply accept the recommendation of the roaster. We trust the roaster enough to handle the beans and we can have enough trust in their judgment. In most cases, the recommendation is about four weeks. Some roasters may even go as low as two weeks.

Recommendations for “use by” dates may also depend on the intended use. A somewhat standard timeframe for beans used for brewing coffee is a month. If you intend to pull espresso shots, the suggested time after roasting is two weeks. 

Freshness And Ground Coffee Beans

Once you grind coffee beans, they should not be stored. Ideally, you grind coffee beans right when you want your coffee and don’t let the ground beans sit for more than 20 minutes.

Once ground, coffee beans lose freshness and flavor much faster. It is generally attributed to a greater surface area in contact with air. The exact numbers can be hazy but it is good practice to use coffee beans as soon as you grind them.

If you intend to grind coffee beans for storage, buy ground coffee beans rather than whole beans. A commercial facility will do a much better job at grinding and packaging beans than what a home user could hope to achieve.

Can Roasted Coffee Beans Be Too Fresh?

Roasting Coffee Beans

Interestingly, there is a thing such as using roasted coffee beans too fresh. Once the beans are roasted, they start a degassing process. During this time, the beans release carbon dioxide.

Almost 40% of degassing happens after the first day of roasting. Though the process continues for a long time, most of it is completed within two days. This is one of the reasons many gourmet coffee brands are available in valved packs. The valve allows carbon dioxide gathering inside the package to leave. However, it doesn’t allow air to enter the packaging.

It is best not to coffee beans within the last day or two. Again, you can depend on the roaster to handle this issue. Any roaster worth their salt won’t put the coffee on sale unless it is ready to be brewed.

A very interesting aspect of the degassing process is blooming. While several coffee makers utilize this process, it is most clearly visible with pour over coffee. Adding a small amount of water to the coffee will see bubbles forming. These bubbles represent carbon dioxide escaping from the coffee, or degassing.

If you’ve waited for the right time after roasting, these bubbles also represent the freshness of the coffee. Older coffee doesn’t have any need for degassing and there is no blooming. For fresh coffee, the blooming can be quite lively!

Do Coffee Beans Go Bad?

No, at least not in the traditional sense. Your coffee beans won’t start rotting as conventional perishable food items do. If stored right, you can expect the coffee beans to last months or even years.

The notable loss in this time is aroma and freshness. You could brew a cup using coffee beans that have been sitting around for years. The coffee will lack much by way of flavor and taste, but the beans don’t go bad in the traditional sense.

Roasting removes nearly all moisture from the beans. This is especially true for dark roasts, though lighter roasts lose a considerable amount of moisture as well. 

Second, the beans are rich in caffeine and don’t exactly provide a hospitable environment for the growth of bacteria.

The biggest risk to coffee beans not stored properly are moisture and improper storage. Allowing beans to be exposed to moisture can lead to mold growing on the coffee beans and ruining them. In such cases, coffee beans do go bad.

In case you have poorly stored beans, the best course of action is to skip coffee made from them. You can look for weird smells and telltale signs, but a poorly stored coffee is not worth the effort. 

How Long Do Green Coffee Beans Last?

Green Coffee Beans

Coffee beans are resilient. Even the unroasted green coffee beans have a surprisingly long shelf-life. There are no fixed times, but green beans will last long, even months if stored in cool and dry areas.

One big difference compared to roasted coffee beans is that green coffee beans can go bad. They are plant products full of moisture and susceptible to bacteria and mold. While caffeine does slow down decay, it won’t help much if the beans are poorly stored.

How To Store Coffee Beans

Storing Beans In A Freezer

I’m not a particularly big fan of this method. Although, there are a substantial number of people who swear by this claim. Apparently, storing roasted coffee beans in a freezer can keep their freshness and aroma intact for anywhere between 3-6 months.

For storage, put the beans in an airtight container and place it in a freezer. When you’re ready to use them, bring the beans out of the freezer and let them thaw to room temperature. I suggest against putting the coffee beans back into the freezer. 

Every time you put them back, moisture is added to the container. Pretty soon, you’ll start getting coffee beans with lines of frost on them. As they thaw, they’ll become wet and soggy. Those are exactly the qualities none of us want in our coffee beans. 

Heck, you’d be lucky if you don’t get frosted beans the first time you get them out of the freezer. Sure, there are things you could do to remove the moisture content from the airtight container before placing it in the freezer. 

I still don’t think it’s worth the effort. I’d rather store coffee beans in a cool and dry place. Sure, I might risk losing some flavor and aroma, but it’s better than running the risk of frosty beans looking to get soaked.

Storing Coffee Beans In A Jar

The conventional method of storing coffee beans is, in my opinion, the correct way of how to store coffee beans. Ideally, the jar you choose should be airtight and opaque. Oxidation ruins the flavor of beans pretty fast, so it helps to use an airtight container. As a bonus, this also protects the coffee beans from moisture.

Direct light is also a problem, so it is better to choose metallic or opaque containers. This means that mason jars are not the best option to store your coffee beans. However, if you choose a mason jar, keep it in a closed cabinet away from light and moisture.

Here are some coffee bean storage canisters you can consider.

Death Wish Coffee Airtight Canister

This canister comes from the makers of one of the strongest coffees available on the market. Death Wish Coffee Airtight Canister is made from stainless steel and painted black. The company’s skull logo in the center gives the canister a pretty cool appearance. 

The canister is vacuum-sealed to further help in keeping the coffee beans fresh. You can store one pound or 16 oz of coffee in this canister.

Planetary Design Airscape Coffee Storage Canister

Planetary Design Airscape Coffee Canister has a brushed stainless steel exterior that gives it a very elegant and modern look. There’s a choice of colors and sizes available, so you can find one that fits your decor and taste.

The canister uses an airtight lid to keep the coffee beans fresh. As an added feature, they’ve also included a two-way valve. If your fresh coffee beans are still degassing, you can use this valve to get rid of excess carbon dioxide. The medium-sized canister can hold 1lb of whole bean coffee.

Kitchables Coffee Canister

Much like the Planetary Design Canister, the Kitchables Coffee Canister has a brushed stainless steel exterior and a two-way valve. Its airtight lid keeps the coffee beans fresh and protected. If necessary, you can use the valve to remove carbon dioxide buildup caused by degassing.

Turning the valve allows carbon dioxide from inside the canister to leave but doesn’t allow oxygen to enter the canister. A scoop is included in the canister for convenience. Kitchables canister can store one pound of whole bean coffee. 

Keeping The Coffee Beans Fresh

The key to better-tasting coffee is coffee beans that have been roasted fresh. You can grind them right before you prepare coffee and enjoy a beverage that’s better than average. If you’re worried about how long do coffee beans last, don’t be. 

Roasted coffee beans last a very long time. However, it’s best to use the beans within a few weeks because coffee beans lose their flavor and aroma the longer they are stored.

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