Did you ever consider that coffee beans might have an expiration date? Or at least, like most food, a period of time where they taste better and then after that… They start to lose flavor.
The answer is yes. Coffee beans will only stay fresh for a certain time, and then start losing flavor very rapidly. The problem is, it’s very hard to tell when coffee’s stale, as we usually blame the water, the coffee maker, or the brand itself before we even think about it.
Well, we’re all about the beans at Common Room Roasters - so we’ve got a few tricks or two to share with you: you’ll learn exactly how coffee beans last depending on how you store them, and how to store them properly so they last as long as possible.
How long do coffee beans last?
The most widely held notion about coffee is that whole bean coffee tends to keep fresh for about 6 months. This is considering it’s in a vacuum sealed bag. If the bag has not been opened, some baristas say that coffee can stay good for up to three months after the expiration date.
Some disagree, and argue that whole beans just don’t taste the same three months after having been packaged, much less if the bag has been opened.
What both groups can agree is that the loss of flavor is noticeable after the first month. That is one immutable fact that will always stay true - which is why we always recommend buying the exact amount of coffee you know you’ll consume in a month. Don’t overdo it, or else you’ll be drinking suboptimal coffee.
How can I make coffee beans last longer?
So, you’ve seen that our Colombian Fudam Organic is on sale and you’ve bought more than you can drink in a month… of a few months. Well, don’t you worry about the expiration date or about them losing freshness! In this section, we’ll teach you how to keep them fresh for longer.
There are two main ways of making your coffee beans last longer:
Coffee canisters became commonplace in the 2010s - when a rise in awareness about coffee quality that had been building up since the 90s reached the mainstream population and, suddenly, there was a demand for high-quality solutions to coffee storage. Thus, coffee canisters.
Coffee canisters are designed to protect coffee beans from the two things they fear the most: light and fresh air. They usually are made of stainless steel, which is very durable and doesn’t let through any sort of light.
Then, there’s the problem of fresh air. It turns out that it’s better for freshness to have some way for CO2 to leave the canister - this is a normal thing that happens as coffee loses freshness. It turns out that a CO2 valve —a valve that lets CO2 out but doesn’t let air in— is the best thing you can do for freshness.
So coffee canisters are a great solution, and those with a valve are the best possible solution.
Using a coffee canister, coffee beans should last up to three months completely fresh, and up to six months without going stale. It’s the best you can ask for without having to freeze your coffee beans. This takes us to the next section.
The next best solution is to freeze coffee beans. Freezing coffee beans is something that has been around for a while, but arguably it was coffee legend Scott Rao that made it somewhat popular.
The experiment was to see how well coffee could keep its flavor and, specifically, whether coffee would still taste fresh as if it was never frozen in the first place. And it was successful - freezing the beans appeared to have no effect on flavor. So now it was time to see how long they could be frozen before they started losing flavor.
The experiment ended after two years, and it turned out that the coffee beans still tasted like they were completely fresh.
Now, there haven’t been a lot of documented experiments like this, but most baristas follow this example and don’t dare push it further than two years (and there’s rarely a need to), so we can’t recommend that you keep them in the freezer for longer than this. Still, odds are coffee can stay fresh in the freezer for longer. Try at your own risk.
A neat tip when freezing coffee beans is freezing them in small quantities. When you have to take them out, if you do it in bulk, they will all get wet in the process and this moisture will freeze, thus losing quite a bit of freshness.
If you freeze them in “portions”, though, you can just take one at a time as you need them. This way to protect the rest of the beans, maximizing freshness - and making life much easier for you, as defrosting them all would be such a pain.
What can I do today to make my coffee beans last longer?
We get it. You already have a bag of Guatemala Regional Organic, and you need it to last longer already. However, you don’t have a coffee canister at hand. What are some first-aid things that you can do today to make your coffee beans last longer?
While not completely ideal, there are a few ways to make coffee beans last longer without using a coffee canister.
Store in a jar. If it’s a mason jar, then keep it in the pantry, away from the sunlight. Ideally, it would be a ceramic jar. In either case it’s also important you make sure the lid is always closed before putting it away and that it never stays open too long.
Same rules apply: keep in the pantry, away from sunlight and fresh air.
Though the most likely scenario is that we buy on impulse. We see a really good coffee like our Venice Blend and just can’t help it.
Even with coffee as good as this, if you don’t see yourself taking all the precautions to preserve freshness it’s best to just wait - wait just a week or two until you’re out of whatever coffee you have at home, and then buy it. It’s better that way, you will enjoy it better and for longer.
How long does ground coffee last?
If you don’t own a coffee grinder, then you buy ground coffee. Does all of this still apply to ground coffee?
Yes and no.
Usually shelf life is halved when talking about ground coffee: if using a coffee canister, for example, ground coffee stays fresh for a little longer than a month, nothing more. And it’s best enjoyed within two weeks of grinding it.
And when it comes to freezing it - it’s not recommended. For best results (and if you don’t plan on using the coffee for a while) vacuum seal your grounds and portion them out for use. If that’s not an option, use an airtight container that keeps out air and freezer odors which can impart undesirable flavors into your ground coffee.
As you can see, Common Room Roasters is all about bean freshness! After all, flavor is king. And we work so hard to bring you the best flavor, it would be a shame to lose even the smallest bit. To summarize:
- Use a coffee canister. If unable, use a mason jar or a ziploc bag. They can last up to six months fresh.
- Freeze your beans. This will keep them fresh for over a year.
- Ground coffee is best enjoyed within two weeks of grinding.
- Using a Ziploc bag or mason jar is an alternative – albeit inferior – way of storing coffee if you don’t have a canister.
And that’s about it! Quite easy, right?