There are few things worse than brewing yourself a cup of coffee, only to take the first sip and discover the coffee is off. That doesn't even mean it tastes bad. But that the flavour has lost its potency. You're left with a weak cup of coffee and no replacement. How long do coffee beans or ground last in a vacuum-sealed bag? And, more broadly, how long do coffee beans stay fresh?
If you want to avoid a disappointing cup of coffee, read on.
How long do coffee beans last in a vacuum-sealed bag?
The lifespan of vacuum-sealed coffee is dependent on several factors, including coffee beans or grounds, the coffee quality, and, of course, the shelf-life.
As a rule, vacuum-packed bags of whole roasted coffee beans should have a shelf-life of around six months. After this point, there are noticeable effects on the flavour. Be aware that the taste of vacuum-packed beans will begin to deteriorate after only two weeks, however. So, the sooner you consume the beans, the better. You'll still be able to use the coffee beans for up to 6-9 months past the shelf-life, though.
Coffee grounds, on the other hand, lose their flavour much quicker. That's because, unlike beans, it has a much larger surface area. No sooner have the coffee beans been ground than the oxidation process has begun – more on this in a minute. Therefore, even in a vacuum-sealed pack, expect your coffee grounds to last no longer than 3-5 months past the shelf-life.
So, even unopened coffee grounds expire. It just takes a long time.
How long do roasted coffee beans last: shelf life & storage?
In short: roasted coffee beans last 6-9 months past the shelf-life when sealed. If they've been opened, consume within six months. There are methods to boost coffee bean longevity, however.
If you've opened a bag of roasted coffee beans, store them in an airtight container. The less air reaching the beans, the longer the flavour will last. Even if you're consuming the coffee beans within the month, reducing air will ensure the last cup is almost as fresh as the first.
If you want your beans to last even longer, then there's only one solution. Freezing! Many people don't realise you can freeze coffee beans. There, the oxidation process is slowed to a crawl. As such, frozen beans will last two years after opening, or even two to three years if the bag remains vacuum-packed.
The only genuine issue with storing beans for so long is the risk of mould. If any moisture has managed to sneak in, then mould will form. This is fairly rare, though. That's why, when freezing, you should place the coffee beans in an airtight container or sealable food bag.
Either way, there's no longer a need to buy such large quantities of coffee in bulk. Our coffee subscription service delivers coffee to your door just as your last bag runs out. You choose the coffee and set the time.
How long do coffee beans last, stay fresh, and the best time to brew?
So, roasted coffee beans last longer than they stay fresh. You'll theoretically be able to drink them long after the shelf-life. However, they'll begin losing their flavour from the moment they're roasted.
Here's a handy table to remember on how long does coffee last at different level
Unopened – vacuum sealed
Freezer – unopened
Freezer - opened
But when's the best time to drink coffee beans, then? For that, we need to understand a little bit of chemistry.
Unlike most foods, when coffee goes off, it isn't being decomposed. Leave a banana out, and it might last over a week. Bread goes mouldy within a fortnight. But because coffee beans and ground contain so little moisture, they're not easily degraded.
Instead, exposure to the air means oxygen reacts with the 'flavour molecules' inside the coffee, in a process known as oxidation. Various factors affect the rate of oxidation, including light, moisture, and temperature.
Oxidation begins the moment the beans have been roasted. But for a short while after, they'll emit carbon dioxide (CO2) – we call this 'degassing'. Once the degassing has stopped, the coffee beans are at their peak flavour. From then, it's a downhill ride. That's the perfect time to brew up a cup.
If you grind up the beans, you speed up the oxidation process as you increase the surface area with which oxygen can react. That's why whole beans last longer.
How long do coffee bags last?
Coffee bags are essentially coffee grounds in a paper pouch. Therefore, you can expect a similar life span. With our Smooth Italian Coffee Bags, we print the 'Best Before' date on the front of the package. Even better, every pack is resealable. Whilst you won't get the same lifespan as a vacuum-sealed pack, you won't have to bother with airtight containers. Just remember to squeeze the air out after you've sealed the bag.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does roasted coffee last in a vacuum-sealed bag?
Roasted coffee is unlikely to degrade in a vacuum-sealed bag indefinitely. However, over 3-6 months – depending on ground or beans – the coffee will gradually oxidise, losing its flavour. If the coffee is frozen, then you can extend the lifespan to up to 2-3 years.
How long does vacuum-packed coffee last?
By removing the air, vacuum packing slows the oxidation process. Therefore, vacuum-packed coffee grounds can last between 3-5 months; whereas, vacuum-packed coffee beans are still good for 6-9 months.
How long do coffee beans last?
Coffee beans last longer than ground coffee. An unopened pack will last for 6-9 months. However, even once opened, expect the beans to taste reasonable for six months. If frozen, roasted coffee beans last at least two years.
How long can I keep ground coffee?
Ground coffee stays good for about 3 to 5 months if you keep it in your kitchen cupboard. If you put it in the freezer, it can last up to 1 or 2 years. But, if you want the best taste, it's a good idea to use it within a few weeks after you open it. Keep your coffee in a tight container away from light and heat to make it last longer. Freezing can help it last longer, but it might change the taste a bit. Remember, the newer your coffee, the better it will taste.
How long does unopened ground coffee last?
By increasing the surface area of the coffee, ground coffee oxidises faster. If unopened, coffee grounds last around five months. After opening, exposure to the air speeds up the oxidation process – around 3-4 months. These same rules apply to coffee bags. Therefore, keep opened ground coffee in an airtight container.