Every coffee drinker hopes to brew the perfect cup. A cup full of flavor and aroma provides a luxuriously smooth respite from the day. The best cup depends on the beans, and the fresh beans taste the best.
How Long do Coffee Beans Last or Stay Fresh?
The Coffee beans will stay fresh for a fair amount of time. In fact, freshly roasted coffee beans need to rest. The term rest for coffee refers to the period when carbon dioxide accumulated during the roasting process escapes from the freshly roasted beans. But after this, the fresher, the better.
It might go without saying, but the closer to the roasting date you use the coffee beans you purchased, the better they will taste. And beans that are locally sourced, roasted in small batches, or of organic origin are tastier still. They are better because of the shortened time between their roasting day and when they brew a cup for your enjoyment.
Coffee from specialty roasters will also lose its flavorful, aromatic properties in a few weeks, while other whole coffee beans can keep the flavor slightly longer. Whole roasted coffee beans last much longer than ground coffee, no questions asked. Whole beans will last anywhere from 2 to 8 months, though the average is 3-6.
There are quite a few other factors besides where and how you get your beans that affect the flavors in a cup of coffee. You should know the key factors that have a noticeable impact on your coffee. How much of an effect they have and how quickly they lose flavor directly results from coffee bean storage.
What Affects the Freshness of Beans?
There are influences that you can protect your coffee from to keep it from losing the warm, rich notes imparted by roasting. To preserve the flavor for as long as possible, you must invest in good storage.
Roasted Coffee beans are naturally porous. The roasting process increases the bean volume to double while its dry mass is vaporized leaving large pores. Porous beans will soak up the flavors and aromas of anything they are exposed to. This issue happens when you store coffee beans in damp areas. Coffee storage needs to be somewhere dry, preferably sealed off to moisture.
You want to make sure that you control the humidity and moist air surrounding the beans. Never store beans in a place like a laundry room, garage, or other areas where moisture can find its way in. Even a sealed bag can’t prevent condensation.
Sunlight could be the great, unknown enemy of coffee. It causes your coffee beans to degrade when exposed to UV and other rays that come from sunlight. This process is called photodegradation. Photodegradation is the term used to describe a process whereby light breaks down the organic constituents of the coffee bean.
Photodegradation causes the pigments, vitamins, fats, and proteins to break down, which can speed up the decay and result in stale coffee beans. Photodegradation will happen with exposure to almost any form of light, so it is best to keep your beans somewhere dark and away from any sunlight.
Exposure to oxygen takes your coffee beans from great to gross in days. While your coffee may not taste spoiled or even awful, the fresh aromatic quality coffee beans have, when you first open the bag, will disappear if the beans are over-exposed to oxygen.
Exposure to the oxygen molecules in the air causes the organic molecules to undergo the chemical process of oxidation. Oxidized coffee will start breaking down, causing it to lose the flavor elements that provide a delicious cup. Oxidation is one more reason to pay attention to properly storing coffee beans.
Why Are Roasted Beans So Popular?
What is the appeal of a roasted coffee bean? Until roasted, the beans are stored green. The storage keeps coffee beans fresh until the coffee supplier needs roasted beans. This ensures the beans taste freshly roasted for as long as possible instead of leaving them sitting roasted in a warehouse waiting.
Coffee would taste nothing like it does if the beans went unroasted. The process brings out the rich flavor notes deep within these stored beans. Green beans don’t have the same characteristics that roasted beans have. They are flat, spongy, and have a grassy scent.
Roasted beans produce the coffee taste we know and love. Roasted beans are popular because that is the proper way to get the full potential from the beans. It also preserves the flavor at the peak of taste for your morning pick-me-up. Roasted is the way to go, leading to its immense popularity.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Coffee
Getting the most from your coffee beans will depend on different things. The two main areas of concern for the best coffee have to do with storing the bean and brewing the stored beans into coffee.
If you store the beans right, then the coffee yielded from those beans will taste better when you make a cup. Coffee storage should keep the coffee as fresh and free as possible from light, moisture, and air.
The other part of the coffee equation is brewing the coffee. Most coffee experts will agree that to brew the perfect cup of coffee, you need to :
- Grind your beans right before you are going to use them.
- Make sure the water is hot enough to extract flavor.
- Use the beans by the best date on the package.
- Grind the beans to the proper size coffee grounds for your coffee maker, depending on the brewing method.
- Use the correct ratio of coffee to water, about 1-2 tablespoons per 6 oz of water.
Plus, the savvier you are about coffee storage, the more likely you will have a delicious brewed coffee.
How Long Coffee Beans Last in an Unopened Store-Bought Bag?
In a vacuum-sealed store-bought bag, you will get about 6 months of shelf-life before the flavor of the coffee degrades. You can extend the time frame if the coffee bags possess a one-way valve to let the gasses released during the rest period escape.
There are ways to extend the life of the coffee, but often leaving the coffee in the bag that it comes in will help preserve it the longest. After all, the purpose of this bag’s design is preservation. Plus, avoid degradation by air and oxygen by leaving coffee unopened.
Storing Techniques for Coffee Beans
Several techniques help extend the life of the whole roasted coffee beans. Also, some storage techniques seem great but in actuality aren’t the best.
Freezing Coffee Beans
People will freeze their coffee beans to extend their freshness and flavor believing this is the best way. If you freeze your beans, there is a right way to go about it and a way that could shorten the amount of peak freshness the beans have.
If you freeze coffee beans so you can keep moisture away from them, they last two to three years stored in the freezer. Seal beans well, though. Use an airtight container or freezer bag to do so. The opening and closing of the freezer door present the opportunity for moisture.
The problem is that the temperature fluctuations will form condensation on the beans, which means moisture. If you remember from before, moisture will cause porous beans to absorb flavors and smells, and you don’t want coffee absorbing freezer smells or tastes.
Sealable bags like a Ziploc bag may not do better to preserve the coffee than the bag you purchased it in. Sealing and unsealing is an easy way for air or moisture to enter and get sealed up with the coffee.
If you are sealing for a longer period, a vacuum-sealed coffee bag or a sealed container with a release valve to release carbon dioxide is better at preserving freshness. The vacuum-sealed bag will be better at helping the coffee avoid light and moisture, which we know affects coffee’s freshness and flavor.
Sealed, Opaque Container
Storage of coffee beans in a container that is opaque and, preferably, has an airtight container lid to help prolong the coffee’s freshness is the best. The opaque container will keep out the light that causes photodegradation, and the sealed lid will keep out moisture and oxygen, keeping coffee at peak freshness for a few weeks.
It is also important to note the best-by date on the bag and also the roasting date. These are so you know how long you can expect the beans to stay fresh and aromatic for great coffee.
Signs to Look for When Coffee Has Spoiled
Coffee doesn’t spoil similar to many foods. There are several ways to recognize that coffee has gone bad.
When you brew a cup of coffee, you expect the flavor to be rich and full-bodied. If your coffee tastes bitter or sour, then it has probably spoiled, and you might want to re-think brewing more from those old coffee beans.
Suppose you feel you want to add a lot of sugar to the coffee to cover it up. That is one sign you shouldn’t cover up; find fresher beans instead.
How coffee that is past its peak freshness looks does not differ from how fresh coffee looks. Some people claim that older coffee has a more dull appearance to its outside husk.
This change in appearance could be because of the loss of the essential oils found in the coffee beans, or it could be a trick of the light. Mostly, even experts will claim they look almost indiscernible from one another.
Residue refers to the outside of the beans and how they feel when you touch them. Fresh beans will have an almost oily feeling and leave a slight amount of residue on hands when picked up. These are the essential oils that fresh coffee possesses and that helps to create a flavor profile.
If the bean feels any other way besides slightly oily and slippery to the touch, rethink using them, as the cup they create may not taste the way you’re hoping it will.
The smell is the easiest way to tell if the coffee you have is okay to drink or if the beans have gone past their freshness period.
Normally, beans will have a lovely, aromatic scent. The aromatics of the coffee are important for tastiness, and these are part of the flair. Smell affects taste, so the better they smell, the better the flavor will be.
Beans that have gone bad will smell a bit like burnt carbon. The distinct smell is nothing like fresh beans and should be easy to perceive as different from the rich smell that fresh coffee emits.
Coffee beans can stay fresh for months. Remember, the best way to protect the flavor and integrity of your favorite beans is through proper coffee storage. Remember that fresh coffee goes in a dark, cool, dry place and your coffee should have a decent shelf life. It should at least last until you get the next bag.