Coffee beans don't go bad in the same way vegetables do, but they do lose their flavor over time. How long the beans retain their flavor depends largely on how fresh they are when you buy them and how you store them. Many people suggest that you only buy the amount of coffee you'll drink in 1-3 weeks, but with proper storage you can buy in bulk and count on your coffee beans to last almost indefinitely.
How to Tell if the Beans Are Freshly Roasted
Freshly roasted beans will last the longest, regardless of storage. You can tell these apart by the oil shining on their surface, as this oil airs out through the skin of the bean over time.
Dark roasts are the shiniest; light roasts will have a dull shine to them, and decaffeinated beans have very little shine, as many of the oils are removed along with the caffeine.
You can also usually determine whether or not coffee beans are freshly roasted by checking out the packaging. Freshly roasted beans are still emitting gasses, so any bag with fresh beans needs to have a valve where the gas can escape.
Tips for Storing Coffee Beans
Once you've bought your beans, there are some easy storage rules you can use to maximize their lifespan:
- Keep the beans in an airtight container
- Go for an opaque container when possible so light doesn't get through
- Keep the container out of sunlight
- Keep it away from heat
- Avoid moisture; humid areas and areas close to the sink should be avoided
- If you want your beans to last a long time, freeze them; do not refrigerate your beans, as the fridge isn't cold enough to keep them fresh.
It should come as no surprise that several companies sell specialized airtight containers for storing your coffee. There are dozens of options, but we always recommend either the Coffeevac 1LB or the BlinkOne Coffee Canister. Both have highly effective vacuum seals and allow you to store a significant amount of coffee at once.
A Quick Note About Ground Coffee
You are always, always better off buying whole coffee beans and only grinding what you absolutely need at any given time. This is because ground coffee absorbs much more air, and the oils and flavors are highly sensitive to air.
Fresh coffee is always better, but it isn't always practical to buy your coffee in small batches. A good vacuum sealed container kept either in a dark, cool cupboard or the freezer allows you to buy in bulk and enjoy flavorful coffee for many months.