How Long Do Coffee Beans Stay Fresh?

Best Tips for Tastier Java and Happier Beans 

how long do coffee beans stay fresh

Where would we be without one of the most wonderful of nature’s gifts – the incredible coffee bean? This amazing little fruit provides us with that much-needed kick-start to our day, especially after a heavy night out or poor sleep, while packing a powerful punch full of the most amazing flavor. Not to mention the fact that it also has one of the most tantalizing smells in the world!

But how long do coffee beans stay fresh? How do we know when it’s past its best, and how can we keep it smelling and tasting wonderful? We are here to share our coffee knowledge with you so you can keep enjoying a wonderfully fresh cuppa without compromise! We will advise you on how to store your fresh coffee so you can keep enjoying the benefits of this everyday essential at its very best.

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How Long Do Coffee Beans Stay Fresh?

Green Unroasted Coffee Beans

Coffee beans that are fresh from the tree are called “cherries”. They turn a beautiful deep red color when they are perfectly ripe and ready for picking, which in the case of really good coffee, is carried out totally by hand to make sure only the ripest fruits are picked.

Once picked, they have to be washed and then dried in the hot sun straight away to make sure they do not stay moist and start to degrade. Next, the husk can be removed which then reveals what we know as the green coffee bean. At this stage, the beans should contain around 11% moisture, which is the recommended level from the International Trade Center. They are then ready to be packaged up and distributed all around the world.

In this dried state the bean will last approximately 1 year if stored in a dark and dry environment. As the beans are porous, any moisture or strong light will degrade them quite quickly. Temperature and air can also take their toll on the coffee bean, so the correct conditions are really important for a great quality end product. The ideal environment for the green coffee bean is 60% humidity, at a temperature of 60-77F, and in a dark room. So you can see it must be quite a logistical challenge when they have to travel so many miles, and in many cases, across several continents.

Roasted Coffee Beans

how long do coffee beans stay fresh

Once coffee beans have been roasted, they need to be put in the correct packaging as soon as possible to avoid oxidation from the air and environment. Most often coffee is packaged in the airtight foil-lined, plastic, or paper packages that we see in the stores. There is also a type of package that has a little valve on the side that allows carbon dioxide to escape while at the same time keeping air out. This is the best packaging to look for as the coffee will be extra fresh and the burst of smell when you open the package is divine!

However, these packs aren’t designed for long-term storage so once you get your precious pack of coffee beans home, make sure you transfer them to a suitable container ( see ‘How to Store Coffee and Make it Last Longer’ below). Once in the correct container, your beans should stay fresh for 2 to 3 months if stored in a cool place like a pantry but ideally, you want to use them within a month of them being roasted to enjoy them at their very best.

How Long Does Ground Coffee Last?

Once the roasted coffee beans have been ground, they have a much shorter shelf life, about a week, if stored in the same recommended environment as discussed above. The reason for this is because they are much more vulnerable to oxidation and moisture than the whole bean as the internal parts of the ground bean are now exposed. This will rapidly degrade both the aroma and taste so try to get your coffee from a local roaster and always check the date of the roast.

Quick Reference Guide: How Long Do Coffee Beans Stay Fresh


Green Coffee Beans

If you’re a DIY home coffee roaster and purchase green coffee beans, they can last up to 1 year in a dark and dry environment.


whole bean coffee

Roasted Coffee Whole Bean

Your whole bean coffee can stay fresh for several months if it is stored properly, always airtight, in a cool, dark, dry environment.


freshly ground coffee - how long does it last

Freshly Ground Coffee

Ideally, grind just enough whole bean coffee for the brew you are making, and store the remaining whole beans as noted above. This will give you the very best taste, aroma, and overall coffee-drinking experience. If you must grind and then store, use them within 1 week for the best taste.


how long do coffee beans stay fresh

Pre-Ground Coffee

If you store your pre-ground coffee in the pantry it should last about 3 to 5 months.


 How Long Does Coffee Last After Brewing?

how long do coffee beans last

Freshly brewed coffee has that incredible feel-good aroma and taste to it that should ideally be enjoyed just after brewing. But although you can keep coffee for a max of 3 days in the fridge, it will of course not taste or smell as good as it should. If kept at room temperature it will change its smell very quickly and lose a lot of its taste, and if you have put milk in it, do not keep it any longer than a few hours at room temperature.

Will Freezing Coffee Beans Make Them Last Longer?

There is definitely divided opinion on this one. According to some, the process can work very well, provided the beans are kept in absolutely airtight conditions.

Some folks feel that freezing them introduces extra moisture which in turn affects the flavor and aroma, but others have found it to be a really good solution when it’s been necessary to buy coffee beans in bulk. 

And, grind them straight from the freezer, taking out only what you need for the current brew. Yikes, the purists out there are cringing like crazy but before you shoot it down, there is some science that agrees with the method on this one!

The enthusiasts state that doing it this way and brewing the coffee immediately after grinding gives a great, rich-tasting cup of coffee with all the amazing notes of aroma present. Give it a try and draw your own conclusion.

How to Tell If Coffee is Bad

Both whole coffee beans and ground coffee can go bad, but mostly from a flavor/aroma point of view. Because the coffee we use is a dried product containing very little moisture, it doesn’t grow mold as such, unless it is left in a very damp place for quite a long time.

But if your coffee is exposed to air, heat, light or high temperatures it will lose both its rich aroma and taste and be replaced by a rather stale version. Both the taste and smell will be lacking in the deep, velvety, fruity tones of wonderfully fresh coffee, so keep this in mind when pondering how long coffee beans last and stay fresh.

So give your container of coffee a good sniff! If you suspect it may have been lingering a bit too long and if you don’t get that wonderful feeling that you normally would from smelling a freshly opened pack, then it has most likely gone stale.

When you drink coffee made with stale beans or grounds it will be severely lacking in flavor. It tastes kind of flat without the usual deep, rich tones and can quite often taste bitter – pretty disappointing stuff!

How to Store Coffee to Make It Last Longer

OK, so knowing what you now know, it’s all about the storage right? But what is the best type of container? Well, you need to get one that is hermetically sealed, which means completely airtight and moisture-proof.

On top of that, it must be opaque and not a clear container otherwise the coffee will be affected by light. So ideally a dark-colored container is the best for keeping both beans and grounds fresh.

Keep this container in the pantry, or as mentioned before, in the freezer, especially if you want to store it there for longer than a couple of months. You can then take what you need each time and grind it up fresh to use right away.

But whatever you do, don’t leave it sitting on the countertop to warm up – get it straight back into the freezer before it gets affected by the temperature change.

If you want to store brewed coffee, keep it airtight, and chilled, but only for a max of 3 days. Some efficient coffee-lovers brew a large pot of coffee and rather than shaking through the whole day from over-consumption,  put the rest of it in a jar.

Once it’s cold, pop it in the fridge or even make ice cubes from it in the freezer. It makes a wonderful addition to a coffee-banana smoothie either later on, or the next day. It tastes like an awesome creamy frappuccino – especially if you add a dollop of peanut butter – totally amazing!

Tips for Keeping Coffee Fresher Longer

When considering how long do coffee beans stay fresh, there are a number of simple things you can do. Here are some practical tips to help you protect your precious little beans and keep them tasting their finest:

  • Try to buy whole coffee beans rather than grounds as they stay fresher for longer. Invest in a burr coffee grinder or mill – they’re not that expensive but make a huge difference to the quality of your brew.
  • Grind your coffee beans as you need them, and don’t be tempted to do the whole pack in one go. This will help to keep them nice and fresh in their unbroken form.
  • Buy smaller amounts instead of special offer bulk packs. If it is ground coffee you’re buying you really only want to buy enough for 2 weeks. This way you know it will stay tasting nice and fresh for that duration.
  • Get your coffee from a local roaster or order it online. You will be able to see the date it was roasted and store it accordingly.
  • Try to purchase your coffee in valve-sealed packs as you will be getting the very freshest flavor and aroma.
  • Keep it cool, dark, and dry. So no storing it in a cabinet next to an oven or other heat source. Also, keep it away from any windows and light.

Perhaps these fascinating coffee bean freshness facts have you pondering what type of whole bean coffee would be the best to try. No worries, my friend. We’ve got you covered there!

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Conclusion

So how long do coffee beans stay fresh? It’s all down to you now with your newly acquired knowledge about how to buy, store and use this incredible little bean. A good coffee is worth splurging on so buy quality, enjoy the amazing aroma and superb taste but whatever you do, never so much as even glance at a jar of instant coffee again!