There’s some people out there who think that you can keep certain food items in your cupboard for nearly forever.
They believe that so long as it’s not meat or produce, it’s probably good indefinitely.
And to be fair, there are indeed quite a few food items that do have extremely long expiry dates. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at coffee beans in order to determine if they’re one such item that has a relatively lengthy shelf life.
Quite a few people purchase their coffee in bulk, so they can end up using one package of coffee for quite a while. So how long will those coffee beans stay good? How can you know when they are expired?
The answers to the above questions aren’t exactly as straightforward as you may initially think. There’s quite a few factors that can have an effect on how long you can store your coffee beans. So let's have a look how long can you store coffee beans for.
How Long Before Coffee Expires?
The amount of time before your coffee beans “expire” can actually vary depending on a few different factors. Some of these factors include:
- What type of coffee you have – whole coffee beans, ground coffee, and instant coffee all have a different shelf life
- What type of roast the coffee is
- Whether or not the coffee is in an open or airtight sealed container
- Whether or not your coffee is stored in a pantry or kept frozen
With these factors in mind, you may have noticed the way “expire” was written above. The reason for the quotations is because unlike other perishable food items, coffee doesn’t have a true expiration date.
Coffee will have a “best before” or a “sell by” date, but coffee beans are safe for consumption well past the listed date.
As a general rule of thumb, whole coffee beans will last longer than ground coffee. This is due to the fact that coffee beans will very quickly begin to lose many of the volatile compounds contained within as soon as they are ground.
If you’re wondering how long exactly you would be safe to store your coffee beans, you can use these simple guidelines.
- Unopened whole coffee beans can be stored in the pantry for 6-9 months or in the freezer for 2-3 years
- Opened whole coffee beans can be stored in the pantry for 6 months or in the freezer for 2 years
- Unopened ground coffee beans can be stored in the pantry for 3-5 months or in the freezer for 1-2 years
- Opened ground coffee beans can be stored in the pantry and freezer for 3-5 months
Interestingly enough, instant coffee has a much different shelf life. It can be stored in the pantry for up to 20 years and in the freezer indefinitely.
As you can see, your coffee beans can be stored for quite a lengthy period of time. However, just because they don’t technically expire doesn’t mean that they can’t go bad.
How to Tell if Your Coffee is Spoiled
Coffee can go bad or spoil just like any other food item. While there’s no true expiration date to go by, and coffee beans will always look the same regardless, it’s usually not too difficult to tell if you’re coffee is no longer good.
All you have to do is use your senses, specifically your nose. The rich aroma of the coffee beans will vanish if the beans spoil. You’ll also be able to notice a difference in the taste of your coffee. If there’s no smell to the coffee, there most likely won’t be any taste either.
Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Coffee Sit for too Long
So we’ve established that coffee beans don’t technically have an expiration date, in the classic sense of the word at least. However, that doesn’t mean that you should let your coffee sit in your pantry or your freezer for months.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
We briefly mentioned above how once you grind coffee beans, you rapidly begin to lose the volatile compounds contained within them that contributes to their aroma and flavor. For this reason, it’s recommended that you only grind coffee beans immediately before you plan on using them.
The same principle applies to your whole coffee beans as well. When they are exposed to oxygen, light, moisture, and heat, coffee beans will go through oxidation, causing them to release the above-mentioned aroma and flavor compounds as well.
You should be using your coffee beans while they are as fresh as possible to ensure the best quality cup of coffee. We generally recommend using them within 3-4 weeks of purchase for best results.
We hope you have come away from this article with an understanding of why you shouldn’t be storing coffee beans for extended periods of time. To ensure that your cup of coffee is of the highest possible quality, you should be using your coffee beans within a few weeks of opening them.