There’s nothing better than a delicious cup of coffee in the morning …
or in the afternoon … or at night …
Most of us can’t even think of getting our day started without a fresh cup. Which is precisely the key to a great cup of coffee — it has to be fresh!
Not sure how often you should buy new beans or where to store ground coffee?
Here’s how long coffee stays fresh (plus seven tips for longer storage):
How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?
Does coffee expire?
Technically, no. Coffee beans do not expire the way other foods and beverages do. Look for an expiration date on a package of coffee and you’re not likely to find one.
What you may find instead is a “best by” or “best before” date. If you use beans that are beyond the “best by” date, you’re not going to get a fresh cup of coffee.
Coffee beans are a shelf-stable good, meaning they can last on a shelf, in their original packaging, for years without actually expiring. Like other dry goods, such as uncooked rice and dry pasta, coffee doesn't go bad, but it does lose its freshness over time.
Coffee beans don’t expire, but they definitely don’t stay fresh forever. In fact, as soon as they’re roasted, they start losing freshness.
Coffee beans go through a degassing process that releases carbon dioxide. This is why almost every bag of coffee has a small hole — so that carbon dioxide can escape. Once they've finished releasing carbon dioxide, they start absorbing oxygen. Once they begin to absorb oxygen, they start to lose their fresh flavor.
Coffee beans don't ever go bad, but they do get stale. To enjoy your beans to the fullest, it's best to use them within three to four weeks of purchase.
Related Reading: Is Coffee a Vegetable?
How Long Does Ground Coffee Last?
Ground coffee is a totally different story.
Pre-ground coffee degasses quicker than whole beans, so it only takes about one week for a package of ground coffee to start losing its freshness.
Most ground coffee stays fresh for about one week after grinding. With the short shelf life of ground coffee, you should always use it within two weeks of purchase to enjoy that fresh and flavorful coffee that you want.
Do you hate the daily process of grinding your own beans?
Many coffee drinkers think it saves time to grind all their beans at once rather than grinding a small amount every day. But all that does is make them lose their flavor faster.
When it’s time to make a cup of coffee with fresh beans, grind only the amount you need!
How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last?
Whether you start with beans or coffee grinds, coffee starts losing its fresh flavor about 15 minutes to an hour after brewing.
You can make it last a bit longer by storing it into an airtight thermos or a lidded coffee mug that seals out the air. When stored in an airtight container with a lid, a brewed cup can stay fresh for about four hours.
Cold brewed coffee has a much longer life.
If you love to cold brew your coffee in the fridge, store it in an airtight pitcher or carafe, and it can last a few weeks! But since the goal of most coffee lovers is to enjoy the most flavor and freshness, we recommend drinking it within the first week of brewing.
Related: The Pros and Cons of the Electric French Press.
How Should You Store Coffee Beans?
There are four things that coffee beans do not like: light, heat, moisture, and air. To keep your coffee as fresh as possible for as long as possible, avoid these four elements.
The only acceptable vessel for storing coffee is an airtight container. That simple airtight seal can keep coffee beans fresh for about one month.
If you prefer to keep your coffee in the original packaging once opened, use it within two weeks of purchase. Just be sure that the “best by” date has not already passed when you buy it.
Where you store it is just as important as what you store it in.
To keep coffee fresh and flavorful, store it at room temperature in a dark, cool, dry space. While it may be convenient to keep a canister of coffee beans on your countertop beside your grinder, that’s the worst place you can put it.
Because if you have a window in your kitchen, you risk exposing your coffee to heat and light.
Rather than placing it on the counter, store it inside a cabinet or in your pantry. The darker the surroundings, the better!
Can You Store Coffee Beans in the Fridge?
There are two questions we hear over and over again:
1) Is it better to store coffee in the refrigerator?
2) How long does coffee last in the fridge?
This is a heavily debated topic, and you’re likely to hear different answers, depending on who you ask.
It’s always better to consume coffee beans when they’re fresh. In fact, storing coffee in the fridge or freezer can actually ruin them.
Coffee beans are porous, and that means that they can absorb odors relatively easily. Keeping them in the refrigerator or freezer with meat, fish, and other foods can cause them to take on the smell or flavor of different foods.
The cold, wet conditions of your refrigerator can even make your coffee beans age faster than they would on a dry shelf.
The cold conditions inside your fridge cause condensation and speed up the oxidation process. This can push the flavorful oils in coffee to the outer surface of the beans. If you absolutely have to store your coffee in the fridge, it’s best to use it within two weeks to enjoy maximum freshness.
So is it better to store them in the freezer?
The freezer does absolutely nothing to keep coffee beans fresher longer. When freezing coffee beans, be sure to store them properly. Store them improperly, and you might ruin them with freezer burn.
So what should you do if you come across a large quantity of high-quality coffee beans?
We suggest inviting some friends over, making a few pots, and drinking it fresh. But if you want to keep them for yourself, you can preserve beans in the freezer for about two weeks.
Just be sure to contain them in a dark, opaque, airtight container.
How to Know if Your Beans are Fresh
Since coffee doesn’t have an expiration date, how do you determine if it’s fresh? There are different tactics for identifying when the coffee was roasted, including the use of Julian dates.
Many people will look at a package of coffee dated 032119 and assume it had a roast date of March 21, 2019. If they're using Julian dates, that's not the case.
A Julian date of 032119 indicates that the roast happened on the 321st day of the year 2019, meaning November 17, 2019. Taylor Lane coffee beans packed in cans come with Julian dates, but our bags of coffee have best-by dates.
The trick to buying great coffee beans is to look for ones that were roasted as recently as possible. That way, you’ll get the longest possible life and freshness out of them.
By keeping your coffee stored in its original bag, you can simply look at the package to learn the Julian date or best by date. But if you like to keep your beans in your own airtight container, there are some ways to tell if beans are fresh just by looking at them.
Knowing about Julian dates makes you even more of a coffee connoisseur!
Test Your Beans for Freshness
First, look at the surface area of the beans. If you see a glossy finish or an oily residue, they may be past their prime.
The second test is to smell them. Regardless of the type of bean, it should have a strong aroma. Beans lose their intoxicating aroma with time. The less they smell, the older they are.
But the coolest way to test the freshness of coffee beans is to do a mini scientific experiment. Don’t worry — this test doesn’t require any beakers or Bunsen burners. All you need are a few beans and a Ziploc bag.
Put a few of your beans into a Ziploc bag, press out the excess air, and seal it tight. Let it sit overnight. In the morning, if the bag has puffed up, you’ve got fresh beans!
How do you know? Because the bag will expand if the beans are still releasing carbon dioxide. And if they’re still releasing carbon dioxide, they’re fresh.
7 Tips to Make Your Coffee Last Longer
Daily coffee drinkers, like us, cannot imagine not having a fresh assortment of our favorite coffee on hand for whenever the mood strikes. If you’re looking to extend the life of your precious beans, here are seven things you can do to make them last longer.
1. Store it in a Cool, Dry Place
Is your only goal is to enjoy the freshest coffee possible? Store your beans in a cool, dry place. Prolonged exposure to moisture, heat, and air is far from ideal.
2. Don’t Store it in Glass Jars
While it may look pretty in mason jars or glass canisters, you should never store coffee in jars that let in light. That is unless you like stale coffee.
Know what you should do with those glass jars though? Make some coffee extract! Learn how in this article: How to Make Coffee Extract for Flavoring.
3. Only Buy What You Intend to Use
Whether you like to French press an entire carafe every morning or enjoy a shot of espresso after dinner, the best cup of Joe is the one made with fresh beans. Rather than stocking up on enough coffee to last the entire year, buy only what you intend to use in the next few weeks.
By buying in smaller quantities, you’ll always be able to enjoy the freshest, most flavorful cup.
4. Store in Small Portions
If you are dead set on freezing your beans, do so in small batches in small, airtight containers. Consistent opening and reclosing of a large container will only expose your beans to more elements. Stashing them in small batches will keep your unused beans better protected.
5. Don’t Store Coffee Near a Window
Like air and moisture, light and heat can also ruin coffee beans. No matter how fresh they are at the time of purchase, storing them near a window will cause them to lose freshness and flavor quickly.
6. Store in a Non-Reactive Container
Some people prefer to keep their coffee in its original packaging. Others prefer to transfer it into their own containers.
If you put yours in a separate container, make sure it's a non-reactive material. The best container options for coffee storage are ceramic, glass, and non-reactive metals, such as stainless steel and tin.
7. Buy Unroasted Beans
Beans slowly start to lose their freshness as soon as they’re roasted. So if you have the skills to roast them yourself, you can store unroasted beans forever.
But the process of roasting coffee beans isn’t for everyone. DIY roasting just isn’t a viable option for most people. It’s much easier to buy freshly roasted varieties, like our premium Organic Sonoma Roast and Organic Sweetwater Blend.
Do you have too many beans on hand to drink? Why not eat them instead? Check out 5 Delicious Ways to Eat Coffee.
Does coffee go bad? Technically, no … but it will lose its freshness and flavor over time.
The taste of old coffee is not at all appealing. So real coffee lovers should know that, even though it doesn't expire, coffee's ideal shelf life is only a few weeks.
Fresh coffee is the only coffee worth drinking. And now that you know how to keep it fresh, do so. Take the necessary steps to preserve your beans. Grind your beans in small amounts as needed and properly store them.
Or, if you’re around Sonoma County, pop in our store and let us pour you a fresh cup!
With these tips and tricks, you'll never have to drink a stale, old cup of coffee again!