If you’re wondering how long your coffee beans will actually last, you’re not alone.
As someone who used to work as a barista and is a passionate enthusiast of fine coffee, I get asked about the shelf life of coffee beans quite frequently.
Below, I will explain how to ensure that you’re grinding your beans in time to get the best possible cup of coffee.
Can Coffee Beans go bad?
Coffee beans do eventually go bad; like all food items, they will become inedible after a certain period of time and are best within two weeks of roasting.
A new and unopened bag of coffee beans can technically be consumed within 2-3 years if it’s been stored in the freezer and within 6-9 months if it has been kept in a cool and dry pantry, while opened bags should be ground and consumed within 6 months if stored in a pantry and within 2 years if stored in the freezer.
That being said, if you’re trying to get the most out of your coffee beans, there are a few things that you’ll want to know.
First off, coffee beans are best enjoyed fresh. They have many unique properties and characteristics that help to give them their complex flavors and tantalizing aromas.
Three weeks from the day that coffee beans are roasted, they begin to lose their taste, take on the qualities of the air around them, go stale.
Experts say that the prime time to grind and brew your coffee beans is within 10-14 days of first opening their packaging.
The label and expiration date on your bag of beans is another important factor to consider.
About Coffee Bean Shelf Life
Coffee beans are like any other food; they are subject to the laws of nature and will begin to degrade over time.
While coffee beans do technically last longer than many other food items, their taste is best when they are fresh.
Coffee beans are complex and have material properties like carbohydrates (which go stale) and lipids (which go rancid).
Other organic compounds found in coffee beans will begin to break down over time as well.
This can result in coffee beans that have bland or rubbery flavors, unpleasant aromas, or that begin to grow mold.
It’s understandable to wonder how long you can realistically expect to extend the life of your coffee beans.
Below, I’ll go over a few FAQ’s about coffee bean expiration dates and tell you how to utilize the most efficient storage methods.
This way, the next time you grind you brew a cup of coffee, you’ll be confident in knowing that your beans are well within their expiry limits and have the best possible flavor.
When will my coffee beans actually go stale?
Staleness in coffee beans is caused by exposure to water in the air. Coffee beans are very porous and easily take on water.
The time that it takes for your coffee beans to go stale will depend on a few factors:
- How long your bag of beans has been open
- When your coffee beans were actually roasted
- Whether you live in a humid or arid climate
- Where you are storing your coffee beans.
When did you open the bag?
When you purchase a bag of coffee beans, they will likely already be a few weeks old. Coffee beans are roasted and then rested to help them release the CO2 gasses that they form in the roasting process.
This takes a little while to happen. After all of the CO2 has been released, coffee beans will start to reabsorb the air around them. In their packaging, coffee beans aren’t exposed to any air.
As soon as you open a bag of coffee beans, the clock starts ticking. You’ll have around 2 weeks before the air begins to cause your coffee beans to go stale and 3 weeks before they really start to taste bad.
Where do you live?
If you’re living in a very humid or tropical area, you can bet that any coffee beans exposed to the air around them will begin going stale significantly faster.
More humidity means more water in the air. More water in the air means more microscopic water molecules infiltrating the tiny pores of your beans.
How are you storing your coffee beans?
If you only store your coffee beans in the bag they came in, they will go stale a lot faster.
Most packaging is designed to be protective during the shipping process and keep out air in the short-term.
Once the airtight seal on a bag of coffee beans has been broken, environmental factors like humidity can start to take effect.
For more information read my post about how to store coffee beans the right way.
How can I tell if my coffee beans have gone bad?
If your coffee beans are expired, it’s a bad idea to try to brew them into a shot of espresso or cup of coffee, period.
You should always try to brew your coffee beans as close to the roasting date as possible. You can find out if your coffee beans are fresh by doing the CO2 test.
• Try The CO2 Test
When coffee beans are first roasted, they fill up with carbon dioxide. They then get degassed and packaged.
Since coffee beans will still emit some amount of CO2 for the first week or two after they’ve been roasted,
you can perform the CO2 test to find out if they’re fresh. All you’ll need is a plastic zipper bag.
Just put your beans into the bag, seal out all of the air, and let them sit overnight. If in the morning, the bag has air in it again, your beans are fresh.
You can watch this video to better understand how the CO2 test works.
That being said, if you are simply in need of a cup of joe and have no other options, you can still drink coffee beans within their expiration date as long as they have been stored in a cool and dry place and don’t show signs of decay or degradation.
So what do these signs look like? Well, this can vary. You’ll need to check the appearance, smell, and (sometimes) the taste of your coffee beans to find out.
• Look for Mold and Mildew
Moldy coffee beans will have white or gray spots on them.
This goes for mildew as well. Never ever drink moldy coffee; you could get really sick. Mold is caused by water getting into the storage container of your beans.
If you suspect that your coffee beans have gotten wet, you can smell check them for mold as well.
Moldy coffee beans will have a “woody and wet” aroma.
You may also want to put a few beans on a piece of paper. If the paper gets a wet spot underneath your beans after 1 minute, they’re probably moldy.
• Check for Rancidness
Coffee beans are full of oils and lipids. Pretty much all lipids will go rancid eventually.
Rancid coffee beans will look foggy or have white residue on them. They’ll lose their shine or begin to take on a really bad taste.
If your coffee beans look or feel really dry and have no odor or an unpleasant one, they might also have gone bad.
How long does vacuum sealed coffee last?
Whole bean roasted coffee that has been vacuum sealed can last for about 6 months.
Unlike roasted coffee, which starts to lose its taste after only a few weeks after the roasting process, green unroasted coffee beans that have been vacuum sealed last a lot longer.
If you store green and unroasted vacuum sealed coffee in a cool and dry place, it can last for years.
Don’t be surprised if your vacuum sealed bag of roasted beans has air in it within a day.
The CO2 created in the roasting process is responsible for this.
Is there anything I can do to extend the shelf life of my coffee beans?
I am glad you asked! Yes, storing your coffee means correctly can most definitely help them to taste better for longer.
Once you’ve opened your beans, you can store them in a couple of ways. Though there’s a lot of debate in the coffee community about this, I am going to give you the facts from my own personal experience.
Coffee beans can be stored in a CO2 valve canister or frozen.
Use a CO2 Canister
Since coffee beans emit CO2 after they’ve been roasted, storage can be a challenge.
Special canisters for coffee beans like the Coffee Gator Stainless Steel container have valves that let CO2 escape without allowing any air to get in.
These canisters are not only great for keeping your coffee beans fresh, but they’re also stylish and handy.
I prefer to have my coffee beans out on the countertop right next to my espresso machine and grinder.
Coffee canisters also help to keep coffee beans at a stable temperature and away from light.
Yep, light. Light exposure can cause your coffee beans to go bad faster. Just remember not to keep your canister open for too long or air can get in and mess your beans up.
Consider Freezing Large Bags of Unopened or Fresh Beans
Freezing your coffee beans can also help you keep them fresh for longer. If you’re going to freeze your coffee beans, however, you absolutely have to do it the right way.
Otherwise, you’ll destroy their flavor. You have to keep them in a totally airtight container in your freezer.
An opaque container is ideal. With freezing, reasonable portion sizes and thawing are very important.
You have to freeze your beans in portion sizes that you can actually use.
This is because once you thaw your beans, you can’t re-freeze them. You should use thawed coffee beans within a week.
Also, you have to completely thaw your coffee beans out before letting them get exposed to air.
This can take up to 12 hours. Only after you have wiped the condensation off of the container and let your beans get to room temperature can you open the airtight seal of the container you’ve put your coffee beans in.
Otherwise, they will suck that condensation up like a vacuum. This can destroy the delicate flavors. So, if you are going to freeze your coffee beans, you should:
- Freeze them within a day or two of opening their packaging
- Use an opaque and airtight container
- Get all of the air out
- Only thaw them once
- Thaw them to room temperature
- Thaw them in smaller portion sizes
- Use them within a week
Avoid Staleness And Keep Your Coffee Beans Fresh and Tasty
In summary, coffee beans can last for a long time if they’ve never been opened. After that, they tend to start tasting stale within a couple of weeks. You can still technically brew older coffee beans, just be sure that they aren’t expired or tainted.
After that, they tend to start tasting stale within a couple of weeks. You can still technically brew older coffee beans, just be sure that they aren’t expired or tainted.
If you are particular about the taste of your coffee, consider freezing your freshly opened coffee beans in small and usable weekly portions or using a CO2 valve coffee canister.
While usually, I like to get fresh coffee beans at the store every two weeks, when I do purchase a big bag of high-quality coffee beans for my household, I tend to freeze the bulk of them. This way I can thaw out one portion at a time every week and save the rest of the bag for later. I find that my frozen beans are good for around 4 months.
Once thawed, I like to keep my beans in a coffee canister with a CO2 valve like this one.
Many of these canisters even have a handy calendar wheel so you will know exactly how long you have until your beans start to taste bland.
Coffee beans can be stored for a long time but they taste better when ground within the first few weeks after they’ve been roasted. Freezing your coffee beans or storing them in a canister with a CO2 valve can be very helpful as well.
I hope that this information has been helpful! I’d be happy to hear your feedback.
How long do you like to store your coffee beans before grinding them? Are there any tips that you’ve found helpful when trying to extend the life of your beans?
Please feel free to share or leave your comments!