News

How long can coffee beans last in a sealed bag?

on Jul 20, 2022

Making a cup of coffee is fairly easy, but making the perfect cup requires some extra care. One of the most important things is to start with high-quality, specialty-grade beans that have been properly stored to retain freshness and flavour.

But what does “properly stored” mean and how long can coffee beans last in an unopened, sealed bag? Moreover, when will an open bag of coffee go bad…aka, do I need to throw out the old bag of coffee beans in my kitchen?

These are all great questions if you’re on a mission to brew the perfect shot of espresso or filter coffee. And lucky for you, we’re here to answer them.

In short, roasted coffee beans can last for up to a year in a vacuum-sealed bag or air-tight container.

What is the shelf life of coffee beans?

Coffee is a perishable product, which means it can and does go bad. Coffee beans contain natural oils that begin to oxidise when exposed to air. Even if you keep your coffee beans away from oxygen, i.e. in the sealed bag they came in, coffee beans will become stale with time.

If your coffee beans come in a sealed package or container and remain unopened, they can safely be used for up to one year. As long as the beans aren’t opened and exposed to oxygen, they will retain the molecular compounds that give coffee its mighty fine flavours.

Once you’ve opened your coffee beans, you’ll want to use them up as quickly as possible

Though roasted coffee beans technically have a shelf life of up to a year, their taste and aroma can degrade much sooner. 

Roasted coffee beans can retain most of their freshness if used within one week after opening, but only if they are stored in a cool, dark and dry environment with low exposure to oxygen. You can still make good coffee with them up to three weeks from opening, but the flavour that takes your cuppa from “good” to “great” will have deteriorated significantly. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the roast of the coffee bean impacts the speed at which it oxidises. Darker roasts will degas quicker than light roasts, which means their optimum tasting time will be closer to the roast date versus lighter roasts. With lightly roasted coffee beans, you can likely appreciate their delicate aromas and flavours into the third and even fourth week of storage.

Regardless of the roast or how the beans are stored, we always recommend using your coffee beans within one week of purchasing to achieve the optimum flavour and aroma for your at-home coffee experience. Fresh coffee is the best coffee.

How to store coffee beans to maximise freshness

No matter how your coffee comes packaged, it’s crucial to store it in a cool, dark, dry place. Air, moisture, heat and light are your beans’ worst enemies (we’ll probably mention that a few times), so make sure to keep them safe from these elements.

For example, you should avoid placing your coffee beans in a cupboard near the oven or on a kitchen counter that receives direct or indirect sunlight. The heat in these areas will be too much for your beloved beans and speed up their degradation.

Once you open your coffee beans, make sure to store them in an opaque, airtight container - still in a cool, dark and dry place - so you can keep that freshly roasted flavour for as long as possible.

Do coffee beans expire if unopened?

Though coffee beans last and can taste okay for a year from the roast date if left unopened, they still lose their flavour and freshness over time and will begin to go stale. We always recommend only buying what you need so you know your coffee will taste fresh with each brew.

One thing to note - no matter how you store your coffee, make sure to bin it if it’s mouldy.

How to tell if coffee beans are stale

Coffee beans can grow stale before they expire if the bag is stored improperly. Most coffee lovers aim for freshness and flavour between three and thirty days after roasting, depending on the roast profile.

Here are some of the ways to tell if your coffee beans are stale:

  • Smell your coffee beans - At their peak freshness, coffee beans have a fragrant aroma. If your beans are stale, they will have little to no distinctive scent, which also signals their loss of flavour.

  • Check for surface oil - Freshly roasted coffee beans have a nice sheen on their surface due to the oils and lipids that rise to the surface during the roasting process. Over time, these oils evaporate, and the beans will have a dull texture or a very subtle sheen, meaning they have very little to offer in terms of aroma and flavour.

  • Feel the grounds - Good-quality, freshly roasted beans result in grounds that have some moisture due to the oils. If your coffee beans are stale, your grounds will be grainy and dry.

Do roasted coffee beans last longer than ground coffee?

This is a great question, and the short answer is ‘yes’, coffee beans last longer than ground coffee. This is because, once ground, the coffee has a much larger surface area that is exposed to the air, causing it to go stale quicker.

Coffee beans: An unopened bag of whole coffee beans can last for up to twelve months when stored in a cool, dark, dry place and an opened bag is good for up to one week.

Ground coffee: You can keep an unopened pack of ground coffee in the pantry for three to five months. Once opened, the flavours and aromas will degrade much quicker. We recommend using ground coffee within a few days after opening.

How should you store freshly ground coffee?

Just like with your coffee beans, you should always take care to store your coffee grounds in a cool, dark and dry location, keeping them away from air, moisture, heat and light. 

The best way to preserve ground coffee is to keep it in its original packaging, as the bags are designed to keep the coffee fresh for as long as possible. At Will & Co, we nitrogen flush and vacuum seal our packs so it can stay fresh for longer.

If you’re unable to use the original packaging, a resealable bag can do the trick — just make sure to remove the oxygen from the bag by pushing out as much air as possible before resealing it. If there’s no sealable lock, you can wrap up the top of the bag and fasten it with a clip to keep the air out, then place the pack in an airtight container.

Frequently Asked Storage Questions

Does a nitrogen-flushed, vacuum-sealed bag keep coffee beans fresher?

Nitrogen is an odourless and food-safe inert, non-reactive gas that is used to prevent the oxidation process in coffee when carbon dioxide is lost during degassing. In addition, nitrogen effectively flushes any oxygen out of coffee bags that have just been filled with freshly roasted or ground coffee. And if you remember from before, coffee and oxygen are not good mates. By removing oxygen from the bags, it will stay fresher for longer. That’s a win for coffee.

With a nitrogen-flushed, sealed bag, you can be sure your coffee beans stay fresh for longer as the packaging will preserve the flavour and aromas until you’re ready for your favourite freshly brewed cup. That’s why we flush every bag and pack of Will & Co Coffee.

Can you store coffee beans in the fridge?

We’ve said it a few times already, and we’ll say it again - air, moisture, heat, and light are detrimental to coffee beans and the flavour of your coffee, and therefore are key factors to consider when it comes to storage. 

Your fridge is home to a lot of great things like fresh veggies, meat or tofu, and the occasional leftover Thai food; however, your fridge should never be home to your coffee. When kept in a refrigerator, whole coffee beans will draw in moisture from every food item sitting around them. They will also be subject to a temperature shift when they enter and exit the fridge which causes condensation to form. This moisture won’t do your beans any good and will almost always diminish the flavour of your brew.

Can you freeze coffee beans?

Although not ideal, roasted coffee beans can technically last for up to two years if kept in the freezer. We don’t recommend freezing your roasted coffee beans as you will still lose some of the taste and freshness of your coffee once you use it. And life’s too short to drink just okay coffee.

Enjoy fresh brewed coffee every time

If you were to take away just one thing from this blog, we hope it’s an understanding that freshness is key to that perfect cup of coffee. To make things easy on yourself and avoid having expired coffee beans, check out our coffee subscriptions and get coffee in your preferred format delivered to your door. 

You can choose between beans, ground or pods (or all three!) and have them delivered monthly, fortnightly or weekly. Plus, change or cancel your subscription at any time, no questions asked.

With a Will & Co coffee subscription, you’re assured of fresh, high-quality specialty coffee every single time. Now that’s one way to make a damn fine cuppa.