If you love coffee, then you probably know that the quality and freshness of the beans used when preparing a cup are of great importance. In this post, you will find out how long would coffee beans last before they lose their flavor and essentially going bad. The shelf life of coffee beans depends on whether they are green or roasted, ground or whole, and, of course, on the storage conditions.
Usually, there isn’t an expiration date printed on a coffee package, but how long after the roast date can you put your coffee beans to use? Should you throw them away after, say, a month? Or probably a year? Is it a good idea to freeze the beans? Do coffee beans stored in a nitrogen-flushed bag last longer? What happens after you open the vacuum-sealed coffee bag? Is there a way to completely prevent flavor deterioration and make the shelf life of coffee beans infinite?
Before I move on to answering all of those questions, I should tell you that there isn’t a strict rule that you should follow. Generally, the more effort and precision you put into the storage of coffee beans, the longer they’ll last.
How Long do Coffee Beans Last?
If your coffee beans weren’t exposed to unusual amounts of humidity, high temperatures, and direct sunlight, it’s safe to brew coffee long after the expiration date. The beans will still contain caffeine (if that’s your main concern).
With that being said, the flavor and the aroma would degrade significantly with time because of a chemical reaction with oxygen, known as oxidation. Oxidation makes coffee beans go stale and overall unpleasant.
In this article, when discussing the shelf life of coffee, I’ll be referring to the period within which coffee beans remain fresh in terms of flavor and aroma.
In that line of thoughts, here’s how long coffee beans last:
- In general, roasted coffee beans last for 2 weeks after roasting. You can extend the period within which they’re fresh to a month if you keep them in an airtight opaque container with a one-way valve.
- If in a sealed vacuum-packed bag, roasted whole beans’ shelf life extends to 3 to 5 months.
- If kept in an unopened one-way valve nitrogen-flushed bag, whole coffee beans will remain mostly fresh within 12 months past the roast date.
- By properly freezing roasted coffee, you can extend its shelf life to up to 3 years.
- If exposed to oxygen, it takes only 15 minutes for ground coffe to start losing a notable portion of its flavor.
- If kept in an unopened bag ground roasted coffee lasts for about 2 to a maximum of 4 months.
- After opening, if kept in its original packaging, it’s best to finish ground coffee within a week. After that, the staleness and unpleasant rancid flavors may take over. You can preserve the freshness of ground coffee for longer by storing it in an airtight container.
Coffee’s volatile aromatic compounds, oils, and other flavor components oxidize with time, which causes flavor deterioration. The speed of this process depends on many factors, such as the type of coffee beans, roasting degree, etc. So it’s safe to say that there’s no unambiguous answer to the question of how long coffee beans last.
In the following sections, I will share more information on coffee storage, the shelf life of green, roasted, and ground coffee beans, and how you could make your coffee actually last longer (i.e. preserve its flavor for longer).
If you’re in a hurry, check out the following infographic, where you can find a quick summary of the shelf life of coffee beans:
With that being said, it’s worth noting that green, roasted, and ground coffee beans can, in fact, go bad.
Some people don’t care about flavor and aroma as much and don’t mind brewing with old coffee beans. They just care about getting their morning dose of caffeine. There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, different people have different priorities and preferences.
Still, if you’re one of those people, make sure that you check your beans (ground or whole) for mold. Throw them away in case you sense that something is off in terms of smell or taste.
Even though it’s generally safe to drink coffee made with expired beans, there’s nothing wrong with trusting your instinct and avoiding the use of products that seem suspicious.
Green Coffee Beans Shelf Life and Storage
Photo by Maksim Goncharenok from Pexels
If you’re one of those people who buy green coffee beans and roast them at home, then you definitely want to have your coffee while it’s still at its peak potential.
Also, if you’ve already found coffee beans that you love, it’s normal to be interested in buying larger amounts. This way you’ll have your favorite beans at hand ready to be roasted, at a lower price per pound. But how to store them and is buying 132.3 lbs (60 kg) of green coffee beans at once a good idea?
To give a proper answer to this question, I need to explain how long would green coffee beans last:
If still vacuum-packed, green coffee beans can last for several years, even if stored at room temperature.
If vacuum sealed and frozen – the shelf life of green coffee beans is virtually infinite.
Once opened, green coffee beans can be stored for 2 years in a cotton/burlap bag at a cool, dry place. The beans shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight.
Furthermore, temperature and humidity variations may cause mold growth, therefore making the unroasted coffee beans go bad.
With that being said, if stored in optimal conditions, green coffee beans may last for even longer than 2 years without losing most of their flavor.
Anyway, there aren’t hard and fast rules that apply to the time you can store green coffee beans.
Most coffee enthusiasts that I know would try to finish a bag within half a year. They usually keep the green beans in the kitchen cupboard, inside the already opened vacuum-sealed bag, and use a clip to close it. These people would roast a batch every 10 days or so until the bag is empty.
Others would buy a maximum of 1 year’s worth of green beans.
Freezing Green Coffee Beans
Another way to extend the shelf life of green coffee beans is to store them in the freezer. Not many people freeze their green coffee beans primarily because of logistics. Freezing makes sense if you are to store large amounts of green beans, so you’ll need a lot of space in the freezer.
Realistically, there are a few people who have that much freezer space available.
Furthermore, it’s better to have the beans split into weekly portions in Ziploc freezer bags, which will take quite a bit of time and effort (especially considering the volume).
By portioning you can avoid freezing, defrosting, and re-freezing, which may ruin the coffee beans. You should take out the Ziploc bag about 24 hours before roasting and let the green beans thaw. Once defrosted, the week’s worth of coffee beans is ready to roast.
Even though the method of storing green coffee beans in the freezer is rather uncommon, some passionate coffee lovers believe that there’s no better way to preserve the intrinsic flavors of the coffee.
Some would even argue that the flavor of the beans is better when the coffee was frozen before roasting.
You can actually have a cup of coffee that was made with beans that were stored in the freezer prior to roasting in George Howell’s coffee shops.
He’s definitely an authority in the world of coffee, so I wouldn’t doubt his judgment.
Nevertheless, I believe that he has a dedicated high-quality freezer for storing green beans. Obviously, I don’t. So whenever I start roasting my beans at home, I don’t plan on storing them in the freezer.
What’s the Shelf Life and Proper Storage of Roasted Whole Coffee Beans?
Photo by Sarah from Pexels
Once roasted, coffee beans start to oxidize at a higher pace and therefore – lose their flavor and aroma much faster compared to green beans.
To get a better understanding of the shelf life of roasted coffee under different storage conditions, we need to shed light on the process of coffee degassing.
Degassing may negatively affect coffee extraction if you grind and use the beans right after they’re roasted. In the first few days after roasting, coffee beans release gases more rapidly. While brewing, the CO2 gases exit the freshly roasted grounds, forming bubbles. Those bubbles can disrupt the contact between ground beans and water, thus leading to uneven extraction.
Therefore you should wait for a few days for the coffee to degas after roasting, and then grind it and brew it. Depending on the brewing method you use, this period may be between 1 and 5 days.
For example, if you make your coffee in a French press, your beans are ready for use 1 to 2 days after roasting. If you are to use the beans for espresso, you should wait for 5 to 7 days after the roast date.
With that being said, you don’t need to wait for the roasted beans to degas completely. After all, if the ground beans you use for your pour-over coffee form bubbles, that’s a good thing. It means they’re still fresh. Actually, coffee oxidation occurs at a slower rate after roasting, because carbon dioxide plays a protective role in flavor preservation. In other words, coffee beans beans lose their flavor slower while they’re still degassing.
The process of degassing in roasted coffee is considered an indicator of coffee freshness. If you’re not sure whether you’ve been sold freshly roasted coffee beans or not, place them in a Ziploc bag, squeeze out the air as much as possible, close the bag and leave it overnight. If the bag puffs up, then the beans are freshly roasted and still degas.
With all that in mind, the best way to store freshly roasted coffee is in an airtight, opaque container with a one-way CO2 valve.
The valve lets the CO2 exit and doesn’t let any oxygen in.
If you like shopping from your couch you can purchase one such container on Amazon here. I made sure to choose the right product in the link.
Of course, each time you open the container to take out some beans, you’ll be letting some oxygen in. However, storing your roasted coffee beans in such a container (and at a cool and dry place) significantly limits oxidation and therefore helps the coffee to remain fresh for a lot longer.
If stored in such conditions, whole roasted coffee beans can last for over a month after roasting without their flavor being significantly compromised.
That being said, the duration of degassing and the rate at which coffee loses its aromatic compounds depends on many factors. Those include the exact type of coffee beans, the roast profile, and the roasting conditions.
How Long can Roasted Coffee Last in an Unopened Store-bought Bag?
Even if the coffee bag is unopened it’s best to use the roasted coffee beans within six weeks after the roast date. Still, it’s generally considered that an unopened vacuum-sealed bag of roasted whole coffee beans may last for up to 3 to 5 months at room temperature, without its flavor being crucially compromised.
On the other hand, nitrogen-flushed coffee bags with one-way valves are better at keeping roasted coffee’s freshness compared to vacuum-packed bags. A one-way valve nitrogen-flushed bag of roasted coffee may last for up to 12 months at room temperature if kept unopened.
Of course, don’t forget that the freshness preservation also depends on the roast profile, roasting conditions, type of beans, etc.
Anyway, one-way valve nitrogen-flushed coffee bags are widely used by large coffee manufacturers.
Nitrogen is a food-safe, heavier than oxygen inert gas that is used to flush oxygen out of coffee bags in factories.
So the nitrogen flushing prevents oxidation and as long as the coffee bag is kept sealed the flavor loss will be drastically minimized.
Furthermore, the one-way CO2 valve used on the bag makes it possible for manufacturers to package the coffee beans right after they’re roasted.
If there’s no such a valve, the gases won’t be able to escape the bag, and it will puff up and, likely, explode.
One-way valve nitrogen-flushed coffee bags not only extend the shelf life of roasted coffee beans but also make it possible for the beans to be packaged right after roasting.
Coffee beans that are packaged in vacuum-sealed bags have the oxygen removed from the bags which obviously prevents oxidation.
However, there’s no one-way valve used on them. So manufacturers have to wait for the coffee to off-gas for at least 24 hours before vacuum-sealing the bag. During this time the roasted coffee is usually exposed to oxygen, so it goes somewhat stale.
It’s safe to say that roasted coffee beans that come in a nitrogen-flushed bag with a one-way valve will last longer than coffee beans that come in a vacuum-sealed bag.
Author’s note: No matter whether it’s kept in a vacuum-packed or a nitrogen-flushed bag, the flavor and aroma of roasted coffee will degrade with time, even if you’ve never actually opened the package.
With all being said, some people don’t mind brewing coffee with 2-years old roasted beans.
There’s nothing wrong with that – after all, not all of us care that much about the coffee’s flavor and aroma. More often than not, the average coffee consumer cares about their coffee’s caffeine content.
So if you’re just wondering whether it’s safe to have coffee that’s roasted 2 years ago:
It’s totally fine, as long as the coffee’s been kept in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Author’s note: Some people would use old coffee beans only for cold brew coffee as this method of brewing is rather forgiving. So if you have a bag of old roasted beans, you may want to try brewing a batch of cold brew.
How long do roasted coffee beans last after opening?
If stored in a cool, dry, and dark place with limited exposure to oxygen, roasted coffee beans can be used within 2 to 3 weeks after opening. It’s safe to brew coffee with them even after the third week, but the flavor deterioration will be significant at that point.
Keeping Roasted Coffee Beans in the Freezer?
Roasted coffee beans may last longer if kept in the freezer.
Whether the coffee bag is still unopened or not, you can extend the period of coffee freshness if you freeze the roasted coffee beans.
Nevertheless, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind if you want to freeze roasted coffee beans:
- Most freezers for home use don’t go cold enough to completely prevent the process of oxidation. Even if you freeze your coffee beans their volatile aromatic compounds will still oxidize with time, but much slower.
- It’s not recommended to freeze, take out, thaw, and re-freeze coffee beans. You should also avoid opening the frozen bag of beans, taking a portion of them out, and putting the rest back in the freezer. By doing so, you’re introducing oxygen and moisture to the beans which may make them stale faster.
- To make roasted coffee beans last as long as possible you should split the beans into daily portions and freeze them in bags sealed with airtight zippers (like these bags by Ziploc). If that seems like too much of a hassle for you, split them into weekly portions instead and put them in Ziploc bags. Try to squeeze the air out, seal the airtight bags, and place them in the freezer. Each week you can take out a bag, let it thaw at room temperature overnight without opening, and then put the beans in an airtight container. They will still be fresh within the next 7 days. Grind the beans right before each brewing cycle.
Author’s note: Some people prefer grinding the beans while they’re still frozen, as this may improve grind consistency.
- There’s no need to freeze a batch of freshly roasted coffee beans if you are to finish them up within the next 14 to 21 days. Just keep the beans in an airtight container with a CO2 valve (like this one by Coffee Gator) and grind right before brewing.
- After freezing and defrosting roasted coffee beans, you should use them within the following 5 to 7 days.
Freezing roasted coffee beans may extend their shelf life by up to 3 years.
What about Ground Coffee – How Long Does it Last?
Once you grind roasted coffee it starts to oxidize and goes stale extremely fast, because of the larger surface area that’s exposed to oxygen.
Generally, once ground, the flavor and aroma of roasted coffee start to diminish notably only 15 minutes after grinding. An unopened bag of ground coffee usually lasts for 2 to 4 months past roast before losing most of its flavor. After opening, you should use the ground beans within 7 days if you’re storing them in their original packaging. By doing so you will still be able to enjoy most of the coffee’s pleasant flavor and aroma.
Anyway, by storing your ground beans in an airtight container with a one-way valve, you will keep their freshness for longer.
The barista trainer who thought me a lot about coffee would always say that ground coffee should be used within a maximum of 3 hours past grinding. Also, according to him, opened nitrogen-flushed bags of roasted whole beans should be used within 3 days after opening. This is the rule that he would always follow for his coffee shop.
This 3-hours-ground/3-days-whole rule has been stuck in my mind for years now.
I don’t always follow it as I usually grind right before brewing, but I store my whole roasted beans for about 2 weeks (sometimes 3).
Anyhow, it’s always better to brew with freshly ground coffee instead of buying a bag of preground beans.
If you’ve never tried brewing your coffee with freshly roasted beans that have just been ground, I recommend giving it a shot.
I know that it might seem like too much of a hassle to grind your beans at home, especially if you’re not that passionate about coffee.
I assure you, it’s totally worth it.
With that being said, if you’ve kept moisture out of your ground beans and you’ve stored them properly, it’s pretty much safe to use them even 2 months after grinding. However, their flavor and aroma would’ve already diminished and you will get a dull and unpleasant cup of coffee.
Striving for Long-Lasting Coffee: Recap
In this post, I tried to include the basic guidelines on how long coffee beans last and tips on how to store them to remain fresh for longer. By taking advantage of my recommendations you may improve your coffee’s flavor and enjoy it even more.
Don’t forget that the more effort and precision you put into the process of making coffee (from choosing the beans to storing and brewing) the better the final result.
Nevertheless, you don’t have to do everything a coffee snob does, so don’t feel overwhelmed.
If you’ve just been introduced to the world of good coffee, start by taking small steps.
For example, get a nice burr grinder to grind your beans at home instead of buying pre-ground beans. Once you make that switch you will feel the difference in flavor and aroma intensity and I’m sure that you will become even more passionate about coffee.
You will then start to experiment with different beans and brewing methods and you will always try to make your next cup of Joe better than the last one (which is a lot of fun and, oddly enough, brings a sense of satisfaction and peace).
For those who don’t plan on going down that road, that’s totally fine too. At least you now know that you should store your coffee away from heat, light, and, most importantly, moisture to prevent mold growth.
If there’s no sign of mold and you don’t mind the diminished flavor – brew a cup with the ground beans that you’ve had for months. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Other than that, you may be interested in checking out the post where I explain how long coffee can sit out to find out whether you can drink day-old coffee without experiencing any negative consequences.
That being said, drop me a comment below if you have any questions! I’ll happily answer all of them.