How long does coffee last & storage tips to keep beans fresh
By the end of this article you will know exactly how to detect stale coffee, how long different types of coffee lasts and the best storage solutions.
I am also going to give you expert tips for prolonging the freshness of your beans, as well as a roasted vs unroasted comparison.
But first, here are the stale coffee signs to look out for…
How to tell if your coffee has gone off
Stale beans are easy to spot once you know how.
You may think the key indicator is taste, but it’s a little too late once you’ve brewed and tasted a cup of coffee.
Of course, taste is one way to detect a staleness, but there are many more:
1. Taste – We’ll start with the most prominent feature of stale coffee, how it tastes. The first thing you should notice about the taste of stale coffee is that there is a serious lack of flavour.
The wide variety of juicy, chocolatey, winey, or spicy flavour? Gone.
All that might be left is an intense bitterness, meaning quite literally, stale beans will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
2. Appearance – Do your beans look dull and matte? Well, they shouldn’t. Freshly roasted beans should have a glossy appearance due to the lovely aromatic oils present, that look a little something like this…
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These oils are delicate and vulnerable, and over time the beans will dry up and lose this deliciousness.
3. Residue – Feel the coffee beans and see if a residue is left on your hands. This is another simple way to see if the oils are still present, rather than trying to check by just looking.
4. Smell – Or lack of it. Stale beans will lack in that beautiful aroma we all long for when brewing.
5. The bag – Although we put a lot of work into the design of our bags, we don’t blame you for not giving them the attention they deserve and being distracted by the beauty of beans.
However, when checking for freshness, we recommend you have a closer inspection. Does the packaging have an air valve? (Tiny holes punched through the bag) After roasting, coffee needs to continue releasing gases to stay fresh. No air valve = not too fresh.
How long does coffee last?
Different types of coffee will have marginally different shelf lives, depending on how they are grown, harvested, processed etc.
The two main options that you can purchase have very different best before dates that you need to know about. Keep reading to find out how long beans and grounds last…
How long do coffee beans last?
Freshly roasted beans last up to around 3 months. Although this can vary across different blends and roasts.
Personal taste and storage methods are also huge factors that affect whether a coffee has gone ‘bad’ or not.
How long does ground coffee last?
Fresh ground coffee lasts around a few weeks or up to a month.
But, why is this so different to beans?
Ground coffee is a whole different story. Let me quickly explain what happens when whole beans are ground…
Coffee is packed full of delicate oils, aromas and flavour molecules which are all safely stored away inside the bean. Once they are roasted, they start to come to the surface and some of the aromas and oils are released.
Once they are ground, the surface area becomes much larger and even more of the oils and aromas are exposed to the air. Therefore, ground coffee goes stale much quicker than whole beans.
Can I freeze fresh coffee?
As we’ll get into in our storage tips, fresh coffee should be stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place. A kilner jar in the back of your cupboard is a good idea for fresh ground coffee or beans.
Freezing coffee is not recommended as it can sometimes create a flat profile and may diminish the brightness of aroma, oils and flavour.
To avoid freezing, opt for a small batch roaster that hand roasts their coffee fresh everyday. At Adams + Russell we roast in small batches and deliver to your door within 7 to 10 days for the optimum freshness. You can then enjoy your coffee for up to 3 months before it starts to lose any key characteristics.
Let’s delve a little deeper and explore the freshness of roasted vs unroasted…
Roasted vs unroasted coffee beans – which stays fresher?
Unroasted beans will stay fresher for much longer than roasted.
When we talk about unroasted beans, we mean green coffee. By that we mean raw beans in their natural unroasted state. It is how they arrive at our roasters in hessian sacks, like this…
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If you ever bit into a green bean, you’d probably break your tooth. This is an indicator as to why they stay fresher for so much longer than roasted.
The roasting process makes coffee delicious, but also much weaker and more brittle. It changes the structure of the beans which causes them to lose flavour more quickly over time.
Green coffee (unroasted) can last around 2 years or more. Roasted beans can last for around 2 – 6 months, again depending on the type of coffee and your taste preferences.
If you want to make the most out of your beans, keep reading to find our expert storage tips…
How you should store fresh coffee…
When storing your coffee, you want to avoid (or minimise) moisture, light, heat and oxygen.
Although you may want to display your beans in a glass counter on your work top for everyone to see, the heat and light will aid in your coffee losing freshness quicker.
Here are the two best options for storage:
Storage option #1: If your coffee come in an opaque bag that has a seal, the easiest option is to simply keep them in there.
Storage option #2: If the bag isn’t high quality or doesn’t have a seal, use an opaque air tight container. It doesn’t necessarily have to be designed to store coffee, any kitchen jar will do.
Whatever you use as storage, make sure it is kept in a cool, dark and dry place (a kitchen cupboard is perfect!)
Now you’ve got the basics for storage, here are some bonus tips to keep your coffee fresh for even longer…
Tips for keeping coffee fresher for longer…
There are plenty of dos and don’ts for making it last that little bit longer. Here are our expert tips:
- Buy your coffee as fresh as possible. This may be difficult to do if you don’t know exactly when it has been roasted, but your best bet is purchasing from a local roaster. At Adams + Russell we roast in lots of small batches to ensure the best quality and freshness.
- Buy whole beans and grind at home. Once ground, they lose freshness much quicker. Grinding at home gives you the freshest flavour and makes your bag of coffee last a lot longer.
- Only grind your beans when you need them. Also try to grind the exact amount you need. This is easier said than done, but it gets easier with practice. It may be tempting to grind in big batches to save time for future brewing, but this will just make the coffee lose freshness more quickly.
- Buy less more frequently. The bulk buy options may be tempting, but are you really going to drink it all before it goes stale? This doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of some great offers, as ordering 2 or 3 small bags at a time is an easy way to maintain freshness.
- Don’t store them in the fridge. The fridge is not cold enough to prevent them from going stale and may affect the flavour and aroma. If you’ve bought beans in bulk and aren’t going to use them up in time, try storing them in the freezer. (Double bag them to make sure no moisture gets in)