Coffee beans don’t really go bad the way other foods do. It doesn’t rot or decay with a pungent smell to indicate it’s unfit for human consumption.
So it can be hard to tell when you have stale coffee just by smell especially if you are not a coffee expert. But you’ll notice a difference in taste. The resulting beverage will be flatter and underwhelming.
If you have a keen nose, the beans themselves smell less intense when they go stale.
To maintain the full flavour of your coffee, it’s essential that you store them properly. Don’t leave them in the bag they came in unless the bag or container is specially designed for long term storage. Read on to learn more on how to store coffee beans.
Why coffee goes stale
After roasting, coffee beans can deteriorate rapidly because of two things: oxidation and release of carbon dioxide.
Oxidation is what causes apples to brown and foods to decay. Coffee bean, when exposed to air, will slowly oxidize and become stale. This causes them to lose their rich flavour and smell.
The release of carbon dioxide, which helps slow down oxidation, also happens slowly. As it escapes, oxidations speeds up.
Grinding coffee goes bad faster because carbon dioxide is released more quickly and there’s a larger surface area for oxidation.
That’s why ground coffee has a far shorter shelf life (just a few hours for fresh ground coffee at home) than roasted coffee beans.
Exposing ground coffee or coffee beans to air (oxygen), heat, moisture or sunlight will make them go stale quicker.
Two ways to store coffee beans
1. At room temperature
For small amounts of coffee beans that you are going to use over the next few days, the best place to store them is at room temperature in an airtight container.
If the beans came in an airtight bag or container, leave them unopened until you are ready to use them. Just make sure to store the bag or container in a cool, dry place.
If the bag is not airtight or if you bought coffee beans in bulk and can’t use them all at once, look for an airtight and opaque container.
You can easily find coffee storage containers online made from metal, glass or ceramic.
Make sure the container seals tightly and is opaque to prevent sunlight from degrading the beans.
Put the containers in a cool dry place away from heat or moisture. A dark cupboard a good distance away from the oven or gas cooker is ideal.
When it’s time to make coffee, grind just the amount you need.
If you don’t have a container, you can also store single-use beans in Ziploc bags. Remove as much air as you can from the bags and then seal them. Store them in a cool and dark place.
2. In the freezer
If you have a large amount of coffee beans that can last several weeks, it’s best to store them in the freezer.
Divide the beans into single-use portions (to avoid thawing and re-freezing) and store them in airtight individual Ziploc bags. Then store the bags in airtight containers.
It’s a good idea to write the date of storage on the container to track how long they’ve been in there.
To use the beans, leave them to thaw at room temperature. Never grind frozen coffee beans.
How long do coffee beans last
- At room temperature: If you’ve stored the beans properly in an airtight container in a cool and dry place, they can last between 1-3 months. But it’s best to use them between 7 days and 21 days after the roast date indicated on the package.
- In the freezer: The beans might stay fresh for several months but it’s best to use them within a month to preserve flavour and avoid freezer burn.
Note: Check the label for the specific expiry date from the manufacturer.
Ultimately, the best tip we can give you is to buy small portions at a time. Only buy coffee beans that will last you a week. Grind those you need for that serving and keep the rest stored in an airtight container.