how long do coffee beans last and how can you keep them fresh

How long do coffee beans last and how can you keep them fresh?

A mug of flavoursome coffee brewed with freshly roasted beans is a highlight of the day for many people. However, anyone who knows their way around an espresso machine will tell you how a bad brew can quickly ruin your experience.

If your beans aren’t stored correctly, they can go off surprisingly quickly. In this article, we'll guide you on how to make the most out of your coffee beans, discussing how long they last and the best ways to keep them fresh.

Do coffee beans expire?

Sorry javaphiles, but all good things must come to an end, and coffee is no exception. Regardless of whether it's whole or ground, all coffee will eventually expire.

This is because, scientifically speaking, coffee is made up of different compounds including carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids. As time goes by, these compounds start to break down, which can cause changes in the flavour and overall quality of the coffee.

How long do coffee beans stay fresh?

Unopened coffee beans

Bags of coffee beans are typically labelled with a roast date, which, as the name suggests, indicates the date when a particular batch of coffee beans was roasted. An unopened bag of coffee beans can last for up to 12 months if stored correctly. However, the earlier the roasting date, the less fresh the coffee will be. Therefore, it is advisable to transfer the beans to an airtight container and use them as soon as possible, ideally within a month of the roasting date.

Opened coffee beans

At Beans, we ship our coffee in convenient zip-lock bags that are perfect for short-term storage. Once your beans are opened, they will start to lose their valuable freshness within a month, so it's best to use them as soon as possible.

However, if it takes you longer than a week to finish a bag — hey, we’re not judging — we recommend moving your beans into an airtight container. This will keep them fresh for longer — normally for up to one month.

How do you know when coffee beans go bad?

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to determine when coffee beans have gone bad, even for those with an untrained nose. Fresh coffee beans will smell of exactly that — fresh coffee, and should be wonderfully aromatic, often with smoky, nutty, herbal, or fruity elements — heaven in a bag.

On the flip side, stale beans will have a dull, cardboard-like, or even mildewy smell. If you're unsure whether your coffee beans have gone bad, you can always brew them as normal. Stale beans will produce a less-than-ideal brew with a more sour or bitter taste than usual. And if you notice any signs of mould, it's definitely time to bin your beans.

How do you keep coffee beans fresh?

To keep your coffee beans fresh and flavourful at home, it's best to store them in an airtight, opaque container that minimises air and light exposure. While food storage bags can work, a sturdy resealable container with a one-way valve to release any built-up gas is ideal.

Once you've sealed your beans in a suitable container, it's important to store them in a cool, dry place away from heat and direct sunlight. The arch enemies of your fresh coffee beans, warmth and sunlight will react with the compounds in your beans, making them lose colour and flavour. So avoid common household locations such as window sills, ovens, microwaves, and radiators — you’ll end up with bitter beans.

While many people assume that storing coffee beans in the fridge will help preserve their freshness, this is not recommended. In fact, the fridge can actually accelerate how quickly the coffee goes stale, by creating condensation that adds moisture to the beans.

How to store coffee beans at home →

How long does ground coffee last?

An unopened package of ground coffee will typically stay at its best quality for about a year at room temperature. Once opened, exposure to air will speed up the oxidation process, which will start to impact the flavour of your coffee within a month. Therefore, it's crucial to keep opened ground coffee in an airtight container to maintain its freshness.

For maximum freshness, we always recommend purchasing whole beans and grinding only as much as you need at the time.

If you're ready to try a brand new brew, we invite you to join our club. Our coffee-matching quiz is the ideal way to get started.