Our customers often ask us questions such as: “how long do coffee beans last?” or “do coffee beans expire?”. Questions like this are tricky to answer, the term – fresh – probably applies more. When it comes to coffee we think freshness differs from expiration. This is because coffee is volatile and continuously changing.
To answer the question, “how long do coffee beans last?”
Our response is simple: until it stops tasting good.
So let’s look into this more and break down what “good” coffee is.
When you buy your fresh coffee beans from us, you’ll notice a roasted on date on the bag. In the coffee community, freshness is generally agreed upon based on the roast date. The closer it is to the roast date, the fresher the beans and the better the coffee will be. The moment coffee is roasted, it begins to oxidise and therefore, start to deteriorate. Of course, the more time oxygen has to work on the beans, the more i2t’ll stale. However, roasters haven’t agreed upon what “stale” means for coffee.
How long the coffee freshness lasts after roasting, also depends on roaster’s processes, like the packaging. There are different types of bags which are designed in a way as to preserve the beans for as long as possible.
Here at Pollards we use a one way valve bag which prevents fresh air from getting in, whilst allowing carbon dioxide out. This helps the beans get to your home and remain fresh until you want to use it. The bag you purchase the beans in is just a temporary measure, because as soon as you open the bag, oxygen finds its way in and begins to stale your coffee again.
How To Tell If Coffee Is Bad
There are no set rules for this, but your nose is generally your best detector. So when your nose can’t smell the coffee, you can assume that most of the flavour is gone.
Of course, what’s most important for coffee drinkers is flavour, and the freshest beans don’t necessarily guarantee the best flavour. Each coffee’s flavour profile is different. But as a rule of thumb, once the volatile aromatics break down, so does the flavour.
Preference also is a big factor, one person may love the same coffee another hates. Saying that, each coffee we roast here at Pollards is designed around a specific flavour profile and our best before date gives an indication as to how long that flavour profile can be consistently found within that bag of beans. So our best before date is a general guide, after that its preference.
After you open your freshly roasted beans and start the cycle of oxidation, the best way to store and keep your coffee as fresh as possible —is to keep it in a cool, dry place. Oxygen and moisture are the two main enemies of coffee. Once water comes in contact with beans, it starts the brewing process and extracts the flavour.
Taking this into account, freezing coffee now seems like a bad idea but it’s a trend we’ve seen recommended in the coffee community. It’s not all misplaced either. Done properly, freezing coffee has its benefits. If you freeze ground coffee for example, it’ll dissolve faster in hot water and produce a fuller flavour. However, once you take the coffee out of the freezer, you can’t let it thaw. Any moisture that condenses on the beans will start the extraction process on your coffee. So we advise caution if you want to freeze coffee.
How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?
To complicate things further, how long coffee beans last also depends on the type too. Ground coffee, for example, has more surface area for oxygen to leach out the flavour compounds. Therefore, if you wanted to keep your coffee fresher longer, we always recommend buying whole beans as opposed to pre-ground and then leaving the beans whole and grinding them only when you’re ready. Freshly ground coffee always tastes better! Therefore it is worth investing in a good grinder at home alongside your kit.
Overall, the best way to determine if your coffee is fresh, like we’ve discussed, is to adhere to our best before date, then follow your senses. If you no longer taste the notes you love, it’s safe to say your coffee has expired and it’s time for a new bag. Just remember that the closer to the ‘roasted on’ date, the more the coffee will reflect the desired flavour profile. What is really important, is if you still enjoy your coffee regardless of the best-by date. While we enjoy sipping our coffee sooner rather than later, we let the coffee speak for itself.
Check back soon for our next blog, we will be covering what you can do with those leftover stale beans!
Don’t just throw them away!
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