When you grab a bag of your favourite whole beans or ground coffee from your local coffee shop, you may be wondering about how long it’s going to last for, or at least when you should drink it by to get the most out of the beans.
Don’t worry. You’re not alone.
There’s a lot of confusion about how long coffee lasts and what goes wrong with it if stored for too long or incorrectly. The reality is that the vast majority of people know very little about how their favourite beverage deteriorates over time.
We’re determined to clear up the confusion once and for all – here you can find everything you could possibly ever need to know about freshness, storage best practices, fresh-roasting dates, and much more.
Why your coffee storage method is important
Fresh coffee beans are vulnerable to four main enemies. Improper storage can lead to a diminished life span, a different taste and aroma, and may prevent you from enjoying the best of what your beans have to offer.
Air – The oxygen in the air oxidizes both ground and whole coffee beans, making them go stale. So, grind only as much coffee as you need and use it right away.
Moisture – If moisture gets into your beans, they’ll go stale. Store your beans in an airtight coffee container.
Heat – It’s important to keep coffee beans in a cool place or at room temperature, never next to a heat source. If beans are exposed to heat before you grind them, they will lose their flavour.
Sunlight – After roasting, coffee beans undergo a series of chemical reactions—if they’re exposed to sunlight, these chemical changes can happen too quickly and the coffee will lose its flavour. Using an opaque container can help mitigate this risk.
How long do whole beans last?
If whole, roasted coffee beans are stored properly, they can last for several months, or sometimes even years, but the quality will decrease significantly.
It’s always important to check the roast date on whole coffee beans.
The best time to drink coffee is within one month of roasting. After this time, you can still enjoy the coffee, but there will likely be less flavour and aroma present in your brew.
Roasted coffee keeps losing flavour and aroma over time, so it’s best to look for freshly roasted beans at your local roaster or specialty coffee shop and try and consume them within a few weeks.
However, remember that coffee needs to degas after roasting, so it’s best to let the beans sit for about a week before brewing. Note that this time period does change depending on the brew method, with filter coffee requiring a shorter wait time than espresso.
How long do ground beans last?
Ground coffee can be purchased either in vacuumed sealed bags from the supermarket or as freshly ground whole beans from your local coffee shop or roaster.
A vacuum-sealed bag of coffee grounds should stay fresh until the manufacturer’s best-by date.
Once opened, ground coffee should be kept in an airtight container at room temperature. It will stay fresh for one to two weeks if you keep it away from light, heat, and moisture.
How to store coffee beans to make them last longer?
We always suggest buying whole coffee beans if possible. Whole beans protect against the four enemies of coffee: they keep it from getting oxidized, and when the beans are ground, they release their flavour faster than pre-ground beans.
If you want to keep your coffee beans fresh for longer, store them in an airtight container.
Storing coffee in a sealed container is even more important when buying pre-ground coffee since the exposure to oxygen becomes greater.
Buying whole beans and grinding them right before you start brewing gives you fresh coffee on the spot.
Is it okay to drink coffee that’s gone off?
Usually, whole coffee beans that are kept for many months will still be safe to drink, but the quality will decrease and they will taste stale.
Coffee doesn’t deteriorate in the same way that many other foods do, so it shouldn’t grow mould or make you sick.
Should I freeze my coffee beans?
Some people believe that storing coffee beans in the freezer can help prolong their freshness.
If done correctly, freezing coffee beans locks in the flavour, keeping it much as it was right after roasting. To freeze whole coffee beans, pack them in an airtight container, preferably a vacuum-sealed bag so you can remove as much air as possible.
However, we recommend storing small quantities of beans in a cool, dark, dry environment, such as a pantry.
If you’re not going to drink your coffee right away, make sure you store it in an airtight container. Otherwise, it may lose flavour from freezer odours or moisture.
What about storing it in the fridge?
It has been found that vacuum-sealed refrigeration can make coffee beans last much longer than other methods of storage.
However, it is generally not advised to keep your regular supply of coffee in the fridge, as the temperature fluctuations can dry out the coffee and leave it tasting flavourless.
This is mostly due to temperature changes that can cause moisture to build up inside the package, which will affect the flavour of the coffee.
How long can you keep instant coffee after opening?
Because instant coffee lacks the oils that cause coffee to go stale, and it often contains preservatives, it can last a long time in storage.
To be stored properly, a canister of instant coffee should be placed in a cool, dry, dark area of your home.
While you should always check the best before date, the shelf life of instant coffee has been reported as anything from two to twenty years.