Do Coffee Beans Go Bad

If you’ve ever brewed a cup of coffee that was flat, lackluster, and devoid of flavor, chances are your coffee was the victim of improper storage. It happens to the best of us.

So to answer the question…

Do coffee beans go bad?

Yes, depending on the type of coffee and your chosen storage method, it can happen in a matter of weeks. But with proper storage, they can preserve their freshness for a long time.

How long do fresh-roasted coffee beans last

Freshly roasted coffee beans will begin to lose flavor and degrade within six weeks. The roasting process alters the structure of the coffee beans causing them to begin deteriorating very quickly, even when well stored.

How long do unroasted coffee beans last

Unroasted or Green Coffee beans can be stored for up to 12 months without a noticeable impact on the quality of the final drink. If freeze-dried and properly stored, unroasted coffee beans can be kept sealed for more than 20 years without a significant impact on quality or taste.

So, what’s the best way to store coffee? That depends on several factors.

  • Is your coffee whole bean or ground?
  • Has it been roasted and degassed?
  • How long do you need to store it for?

If all those questions are a bit confusing, don’t worry! I had the same questions run through my mind so I did quite a research on this topic and only handpicked the most interesting findings.

So, this article is a full guide that will help you make an informed decision and find the best way to store coffee in every situation you might run into.

But first…

Coffee storage requirements!

Here’s the thing, many coffee drinkers don’t really give much thought to how they store grinds or beans.

A majority of people actually leave their coffee in the packaging they purchased it in and keep it on the counter or in a cupboard for easy access.

This is fine if you are drinking coffee regularly enough to consume it before it goes stale.

What’s important here is…

How to reseal the coffee bag

Resealing your bagged coffee will vary depending on the type of bag you have. Many bagged coffees will come with a reusable seal or tape along the top, while others will have a built-in twist tie system that allows you to secure the top of the bag once you have folded it over.

No matter what method you use to reseal your bag, the most important thing is making sure you squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible before you close it.

But if you’d like to increase the longevity and preserve the quality of your coffee, there are a lot of things to consider…

Ideal conditions for storing coffee

The four biggest threats to your coffee, are heat, moisture, air, and light. So, the ideal place to store coffee is somewhere cool, dark, and dry in a sealed container with as little air as possible. Here are some pro tips to help ensure your coffee stays fresh and tasty for the long term:

1. Keep your coffee away from heat or fluctuating temperatures

Heat is the enemy of coffee in all its forms, causing the oils in the coffee to degrade much faster, resulting in stale flavorless coffee.

If you are keeping your coffee on a counter with exposure to sunlight or in a cupboard near your stove, you are significantly reducing its longevity and quality. Even a few minutes of regular exposure to heat is enough to ruin a batch.

2. Be mindful of CO2 build-up!

If you’ve ever bought coffee in a bag, rather than a canister, you might have noticed a small hole in the bag. While many consumers smartly use this as a way to check the scent of the beans they are buying, there’s actually more to it than just that…

Why do coffee bags have holes?

These small holes are one-way valves designed to let out some of the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) released by the beans after they are freshly roasted. This is critical to the design of the bag as without this vent, coffee that has not been degassed will off-put enough CO2 which would quickly build up in the package, likely causing the bag to split or burst.

In addition to potentially causing a huge mess, even the smallest rip in the bag could expose the beans to air and cause them to stale much faster.

If you are considering storing your coffee in an airtight bag instead of a canister or similar, you will need to watch out for signs of expansion to avoid splitting your bag and exposing your coffee to air.

3. Choose the right containers for your coffee

There are a lot of things to consider when trying to select a proper storage container for your coffee. In a nutshell, you need to limit airflow, light exposure, and moisture.

While clear containers such as mason jars and clear food storage bins may look aesthetically pleasing, they expose your coffee to a lot of light, which increases the rate at which it declines in quality.

Many Tupperware or other food storage containers are also not air-tight or moisture resistant, which significantly reduces the shelf life of your grinds or beans.

Look for an opaque container that is air-tight and has a soft plastic or rubber moisture seal around the lid. It took me a bit of time but I was able to find this one on Amazon that is both lovely looking and effective.

Do Coffee Beans Go Bad

Storing coffee beans long term?

Whether you don’t drink enough coffee to use it before it goes bad, or you like to keep a variety of flavors and roasts on hand, you might want to be able to store your coffee for a long time. If you need to keep your coffee fresh and flavourful without a time crunch, store your beans or grounds in an opaque moisture-proof air-tight container, away from any heat sources.

There are a lot of methods to ensure the best result from long-term storage, here’s what you need to know about each of them.

Storing coffee beans in the freezer

Storing coffee beans in the freezer is one of the most popular methods of keeping coffee fresh over a long period, but it has also been met with its fair share of criticism.

Freezing an unopened pack of coffee can extend its life by a year or so beyond its initial sell-by date, but will cause a loss of flavor over an extended period.

Pulling coffee in and out of the freezer will also increase the rate of flavor loss and quality degradation.

So if you’re really interested in freezing your coffee long-term, keep in mind there are many dos and don’ts related to this particular topic which I fully detailed here.

Storing coffee beans in Tupperware

You can store coffee beans in a Tupperware container in a pinch, but without the added protection of a bag, you run the risk of exposing your coffee to light and air.

If your coffee came in a canister, you’ll get much better results from leaving it in the original packaging.

Storing coffee beans in grinder hopper

If convenience is a priority to you, you can store your coffee beans in your grinder hopper, but as you may expect, this does little to preserve freshness. If you absolutely must store your coffee in the grinder hopper, measure out no more than you can drink in a day to minimize the loss of quality.

Can you store coffee beans in a plastic bag?

Coffee can be stored in plastic bags to varying degrees of success depending on the coffee and the bags used.

Foil-lined plastic Ziploc-top valve bags can be bought in bulk and can preserve your beans in a cool location for around 6 to 9 months.

Cheaper plastic valve bags can be used to effectively store coffee for up to three months.

Regular plastic food storage bags are not recommended for long-term coffee storage as they are likely to burst without a way to vent the gasses produced by the coffee.

If the coffee you purchased came in a quality valve bag packaging, leave your coffee in the original package until you are ready to use it for the first time, then repackage it in another valve-bag or an airtight, opaque canister.

Due to the natural oils contained in coffee beans, each valve bag should only be used once, as the oils will build up along the inside of the bag and cause the coffee to go rancid.

For the same reasons, coffee canisters should be carefully washed and dried in between uses.

Vacuum sealing coffee beans

Vacuum sealing your coffee beans is a much newer storage method that has risen in popularity as home vacuum sealers become more widely available. The method isn’t without its merits, but the benefits mostly apply to fresh coffee beans.

Coffee that has been roasted or ground has undergone changes that will cause the coffee to begin deteriorating regardless of storage method, and processed coffee that hasn’t been properly degassed will quickly expand and unseal even the highest quality of vacuum-sealed bags.

How long will vacuum-sealed coffee beans last?

If properly prepared and degassed, coffee can be stored in a vacuum-sealed container for up to 6 months before the quality and flavor begin to decline. Placing the vacuum-sealed coffee in the fridge can extend its shelf life to a year without noticeable loss of flavor or staling, while freezing the vacuum-sealed coffee will keep it fresh and flavourful for a few years, provided that the packaging remains unopened.

Whole bean coffee will begin to stale within a month of vacuum sealing and should be consumed quickly to avoid quality loss.

Now, Vacuum sealing coffee beans is an excellent way to extend their longevity and reduce the space needed for storage, though it does come with a few caveats.

Is it good to vacuum seal coffee beans?

While you can vacuum seal whole fresh coffee beans, it’s typically only done with ground coffee which has been degassed for at least 12 hours to avoid CO2 build up and reduce the risk of your package bursting.

Proper vacuum sealing also requires tools which I will talk about in a bit, so if you don’t need to preserve your coffee beyond a few months, it may not be worth the investment.

How to vacuum seal coffee beans

Properly vacuum sealing your coffee beans will need two things:

  • A vacuum sealer (Recommended one on Amazon)
  • Vacuum seal bags. (Recommended ones on Amazon)

If you have both of those things, the process is quite easy and can even be cost-effective.

Start by dividing the coffee you want to store into small batches, this way when you’re ready to use it, you aren’t unsealing more than you need to. Unsealing your coffee bags removes the benefits of the vacuum seal, so it should only be done when you are ready to use them.

After you have divided your beans, put them into a fresh unused vacuum sealing bag and start up your vacuum sealer. You will want to almost completely seal the top of your bag, leaving a small hole for the machine to pull the air and moisture out through.

Run the machine until your beans or grounds are packed flat and no air remains.

If you are using whole beans, the bag should be tight enough that it is forming around the shape of the individual beans. When you are doing removing the air, use the machine to properly seal the small opening you left.

Many vacuum sealing machines come with a heat attachment that creates a solid seal in the plastic.

How to open a vacuum-sealed coffee bag

To open your vacuum-sealed coffee bag, you will need to cut it with a pair of sharp clean scissors as close to the top of the bag as you can manage. The sharpness of the scissors is important if you plan to reseal your bag, as you’ll need clean edges to close it up again.

If you just need to get the bag open, cut it to break the seal and transfer your coffee to another temporary storage container if needed.

That said, the method with which you choose to open your vacuum-sealed coffee bag depends on whether or not you want to be able to reseal it again. Ideally, you will only store a few days of coffee in each vacuum sealed container, so you can use it up before you need to worry about resealing.

Storing ground coffee long term:

Ground coffee will never preserve as long as whole beans, especially unroasted coffee beans. The coffee grounds have undergone chemical changes activated by the roasting process, and grinding the beans leaves them with less protection from oxygen and moisture.

How long will ground coffee stay fresh?

Without taking care to preserve it, ground coffee will last an average of one to three months without losing its flavor. Ground coffee deteriorates much faster than whole beans as breaking the coffee down increases the release of CO2, causing it to stale much faster.

Should you keep ground coffee in the fridge?

Coffee grinds should not be kept in the fridge. Much like a box of baking soda, the ground coffee will act as a sponge, absorbing all the scents and flavors of the things in your fridge and ruining the taste and quality.

Unless properly stored in an airtight canister, coffee is also likely to pick up too much moisture when stored in a refrigerator, even over a short period.

Is freezing coffee grounds a good idea?

Ground coffee can be frozen, and it will help increase its shelf life, provided that you aren’t taking the bag in and out of the freezer and opening it often.

The temperature changes will negatively affect the quality and flavor of your coffee, and opening the bag increases the chances that moisture from the freezer will seep into your coffee grounds, causing mold growth and making it unsafe to drink.

Storing ground coffee in mason jars

Mason jars are pretty, affordable, and almost everyone already has some lying around the house, but are they any good for storing coffee? In short, coffee can be stored in a mason jar, but there aren’t many benefits beyond the aesthetic.

will coffee stay fresh in a mason jar?

That depends on the type of coffee and the amount of time you are keeping it in storage, but for the most part, you’ll want to avoid relying on mason jars to keep your coffee fresh.

Using a mason jar exposes your coffee to a lot of light, and they only provide an airtight seal when properly prepared as part of the canning process, something that shouldn’t be done with coffee.

That said, there is little harm in storing small amounts of coffee in a mason jar, provided that you drink the coffee before it has a chance to go stale.

can you store ground coffee in a glass jar?

Much like with mason jars, storing coffee grounds in a glass jar is more of an aesthetic choice than a practical one. Glass jars in general, do not offer your grounds any protection from light and are not airtight.

Storing ground coffee in mylar bags

Ground coffee can be stored for short periods in mylar bags, but it will not benefit from the same longevity you see in freeze-dried whole green coffee beans. This is due to the chemical changes that occur in coffee after the roasting process.

If you’d like to get the full benefits of using a mylar bag for storage, pair it with oxygen absorbers, and only use freeze-dried green coffee beans in a fresh mylar bag, you can effectively store your beans without degradation for more than 20 years.

Storing coffee in plastic containers

Storing coffee in plastic containers is much like storing them in Tupperware or plastic bags unless the container is specially designed it will not protect your coffee from air or light and will do next to nothing for long-term preservation.

Are plastic coffee containers recyclable?

Recycling plastic can be confusing at the best of times, so how are you supposed to know if your plastic coffee containers are recyclable? All plastic containers are stamped or labeled with a numbered resin identification code that will let you know if the specific plastic you are dealing with can be recycled.

It might be a little difficult to spot but check on the bottom of the container, or under the label if it has one.

Plastics labeled with codes 1 and 2 can be recycled almost anywhere and should be held onto, while 4 and 5 may only be accepted at some facilities, you can call your local recycler to see if they accept them. If your can is labeled with a 3, 6, or 7 it’s a type of plastic that isn’t typically recycled and can be thrown out.

Just because your coffee container may be a non-recycled plastic, doesn’t mean you can’t reuse it and give it another life though.

There are plenty of great uses and DIY projects you can complete with a plastic coffee container, for example, plastic coffee canisters make excellent storage containers. They are lightweight, stackable, and waterproof.

Storing coffee in stainless steel

Stainless steel containers are an excellent option for long-term coffee storage. Many stainless steel containers are air-tight, opaque, and include some sort of moisture seal around the lid creating an ideal environment to store coffee.

Like most metals, stainless steel will warm up if exposed to heat, so it’s very important to keep any coffee stored in a stainless steel container away from heat sources or direct sunlight.

Can you leave ground coffee out overnight?

Leaving ground coffee out overnight isn’t enough to destroy the flavor and quality, but it isn’t a great idea. When your coffee grounds are sitting out on the counter, they are more likely to be exposed to heat, light, and moisture.

Even though a few hours won’t ruin the coffee, you’ll likely notice a stale or flat flavor when you make your next cup.

How to tell if coffee is rancid?

Even if you are a regular coffee drinker, you might not know how to tell if your coffee has gone bad. Of course, almost all commercially sold beans include a best by date, but as with most products, that’s more of a guide to tell you when your coffee is at its freshest and best to consume.

Rancid coffee beans will not give off any visual indicators, except in extreme cases where the beans or grounds have been kept in extremely moist conditions, leading to mold growth. For the most part, the only real way to tell if your coffee has gone bad is by smell.

When coffee is fresh, it will give off a potent, warm, sweet smell, similar to that of caramel. As it ages, the coffee will slowly begin to lose its pleasant scent as the oils inside it begin to break down, instead developing a dusty, ashy scent, similar to an ashtray.

If your coffee was brewed before you began to suspect that it may have gone off, there’s an easy way to tell. Let your coffee sit and cool for around an hour, then give it a taste. Don’t worry, drinking rancid coffee won’t hurt you, but it will have a strong bitter, soured taste.

Final Thoughts

If you want to make sure your coffee lasts for the long haul, you have so many options to choose from when it comes to storage. Did we cover your preferred storage method?

If not, why not let us know in the comments. Do you know someone who is ruining their coffee with bad storage? Share this article with them on social media and save them some heartbreak.

Want to learn more about coffee? You’re in luck! We have plenty of other articles on everything coffee-related from beans to brewing.

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