All good things must come to and end… even if you think they’re nonperishable! That’s right, despite the fact that coffee can sit around for a while it won’t last forever.
So how long can you keep coffee? What’s the best way to store it so it lasts the longest? What does “bad” coffee even mean? Let’s answer that last question before we get into how long beans last and how to store them in different ways.
Truthfully, coffee doesn’t actually go bad, unless of course mold happens to start growing on it. When we’re talking about “bad” coffee, what we really means is that it’s past its prime. The older the beans get, the more the flavors will change.
There’s no one-fits-all formula. Different species, roast types, grind types and more all play into how long coffee will last. Ultimately you should follow the recommended timelines in this article or any dates found on the bags from your roaster.
Whole Bean vs. Ground
Just as we recommend grinding your beans fresh at home right before brewing, storing whole beans vs. ground coffee changes their shelf life. Ground coffee exposes more parts of the beans to air, moisture and other pollutants.
Whole beans will last at most 9 months in an airtight container and 6 months if they’ve been opened/ stored in a bag. Ground coffee can last 5 months if stored in an airtight container and 3 months if it’s been opened/ stored in a bag.
Freezing Your Beans
While freezing coffee can extend its shelf life, it can also dull out the flavor of the beans. Moisture can still penetrate the coffee (think of freezer burn) and leave it tasting off. The longer you leave the beans in the freezer, the more likely they’ll have a funky taste.
This is definitely the method that will extend the life of your coffee the furthest. If you must, we recommend freezing whole, unopened beans for up to 3 years and ground, unopened coffee for 2 years.
What about coffee that you’ve already brewed? Let’s say you prepare a mug and get an important phone call, abandoning it on the counter until you remember it a few hours later. Can you still drink it? The short answer is yes—although this is dependent on whether or not you’ve already added milk or sugar. Black coffee will keep in the fridge for a few days, but it certainly won’t taste the same. Freezing it will also change its flavor, but freezing it in ice cube trays is a great trick to use it in your ice coffee!
While we don’t sell instant coffee here at Honey & Roses, we do understand people buy it for convenience or when they don’t have many other options. Since chemicals are already added to instant coffee and it is sealed in an airtight bag, it can last almost indefinitely. We’d still play it safe (especially those with added sugar or powdered milk) and only keep it for a few years, but the smell test will always tell you if something seems off.
So what’s the ultimate way to store your coffee? We recommend buying an airtight container that isn’t clear so light can’t penetrate it. This will ensure the best environment for your beans to remain undisturbed until you’re ready to brew!
The best thing you can really do is to never overbuy coffee or purchase it before a long trip so you don’t have a reason to store it in the first place. Our coffee subscription is perfect since it allows you to get a bag at exactly the right interval for your needs, and can be paused or stopped any time!