How Long Does Coffee Last?
Despite being a staple of nearly every home, there’s a lot of confusion around how to store coffee… “Can coffee go bad?” “Where should it be stored?” “How can I keep it fresher for longer?”
We thought it was time to weigh in and share our thoughts on the matter, from the journey of the green crop, all the way to your home.
As an agricultural product, there are thousands of miles and dozens of people involved in your coffee’s journey before it reaches a roaster, let alone your cup! This is where the coffee freshness question begins, and it’s what can make the biggest difference in taste.
Most coffee growing countries have one harvest a year, which means that unless you are drinking this year’s crop, your coffee is likely already a year old. Although green coffee doesn’t have the same knockout aroma as roasted beans, a fresh green crop is distinctly grassy and herbal and smells lively and bright. Older coffees begin to lose this brightness, and will eventually take on an aroma a bit like pencil shavings – woody and dull.
If your green coffee isn’t fresh, you are fighting a losing battle. We buy fresh crop coffees which are sealed in GrainPro bags, which create an extra barrier between the green beans and the elements.
Next up is roasted coffee. In the roaster, coffee undergoes a series of chemical reactions and is very active even once it is packed into bags. Roasted coffee gives off carbon dioxide, which can often mask the complex flavours of coffee if brewed immediately after roasting – we think of it as the taste equivalent of white noise! In this sense, you could argue that coffee can sometimes be too fresh…
It varies from person to person, but we think that coffee is at its peak anywhere from 3 days to 1 month after roasting. Coffee doesn’t go ‘off’, but it definitely loses its sweetness and complexity as it ages. After around 3 months post-roast, there’s a steep dropoff in the quality of the flavours in your cup. We send out freshly roasted coffee so that you can decide for yourself when to brew, according to what you prefer.
Another consideration when it comes to freshness is whether or not you have whole bean coffee in your bag. Coffee is packed full of volatile flavour and aroma compounds, which can be driven away by oxidation. The more surface area available, the quicker this happens (as in the case of pre-ground coffee). Grinding your own coffee as and when you need it is the single biggest step you can take to ensure your coffee stays fresher for longer.
So, you have fresh crop coffee, freshly roasted, and ground on-demand. What’s next? Time for a bit of myth-busting…
- There’s no need to keep your coffee in the fridge. With their porous surface, coffee beans will just soak up the smells of whatever you put them in with. Unless you want tasting notes of leftovers and cheese, steer clear!
- Storing your coffee in the freezer isn’t the worst thing, but shouldn’t be your go-to. Only do this if you happen to have a surplus unopened bag, that you won’t be able to drink over the course of the next 3 months. If you do pop a bag in the freezer, only put it in there once! Thaw out the bag, and then store at room temperature. A freezing/thawing cycle will attack your beans with condensation and will leave them tasting dull.
- The best advice we can give for home storage is to keep your whole bean coffee in an airtight container, away from sunlight – simple as that. If you can, try and buy little and often, so that you know that you are always getting the freshest coffee you can.
To learn even more, our Dave Burton, our Head Of Coffee put together a video (and an experiment) to go more in-depth into coffee freshness. Check it out below.