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Dec 11, 2010 08:43 PM

Shelf life of roasted coffee beans? [moved from Home Cooking]

Anyone know what the shelf life at room temperature is for roasted coffee beans? Any tips on storage? thanks in advance!

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  1. I used to store my beans in the freezer, then I did some research and found that that's not the best way to keep them. Here's a quote from my favorite page regarding roasted bean storage:

    "To me, the bottom line is this; certain conditions do harm to the freshness of your coffee. These are the things you hope NOT to expose your World’s Best Coffee to, at least not until the appropriate time!

    1. Moisture

    2. Air

    3. Heat

    4. Light

    The most direct and simple way to store your coffee without breaking any coffee snob commandments is to buy your coffee in small quantities as needed, WHOLE BEAN, and store it in an airtight canister (ceramic is best) or vacuum canister, in a cool shady spot, possibly on the counter or in the cupboard (could it be that simple?) right next to your handy dandy...bean grinder."

    So I store my roasted beans in an air tight ceramic container, and use them up in less than two weeks, which is about the maximum length of time they have before becoming stale.

    6 Replies
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      Maybe I'm just hard-headed, BWG, but I still freeze my coffee beans. I know this sets off all manner of alarms among the coffee police, but I've just never heard a compelling reason not to do it. We usually use it all up in about 10 days, so it probably doesn't matter too much anyhow.

      1. re: eight_inch_pestle

        "probably doesn't matter too much anyhow."

        No, probably not. The main deal with roasted coffee beans is how fast you use them up. I just don't have much room in my freezer anymore, with all the other stuff I cram in there, and that gave me the excuse to follow those dire 'no freeze' warnings posted by many. I think the no freeze issue is about the possibility of exposing the beans to moisture in the freezer; the issues of light and heat matter greatly also, but that can be rectified by a proper air tight storage container. I have a nice ceramic bean canister and counter space for it...

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          Oh, I hope it didn't sound like I was challenging your storage method! I guess I've just never heard a good answer as to why moisture is so much more dangerous to coffee beans than it is to ground nuts, whole-wheat flours, and sundry other pantry items that are perfectly fine, even best, stored in the freezer---especially if the coffee is stored in an airtight container and not kept for months at a time. Likewise, I've heard that freezing "breaks down the oils," but have yet to find an answer as to what is so unique about the oils in roasted coffee compared to the oils in flours, roasted nuts or, for that matter, compared to things like olive oil or hazelnut or walnut oil or roasted sesame oil, which many recommend freezing.

          1. re: eight_inch_pestle

            No, I didn't feel challenged at all. I just here for the discussion.

            I cannot give you an answer as to why the oils in coffee beans are much more susceptible to moisture or how they "break down" in the freezer (I have also read that tidbit in various places without any further explanation) more than the other items you mentioned. But, since roasted coffee beans are brittle and porous, they do absorb more moisture than a walnut or whole wheat flour, for example, which is detrimental for the bean. There's also the warm up time issue; when a lb or more of frozen beans are pulled from the freezer, they need time to come to room temp, unless you pre-portion them per pot of coffee, and grind them frozen, or not. That warm up period can take time, during which condensate forms on the beans and that in turn takes time to evaporate. Meanwhile your lb of beans is absorbing moisture, and then you stick the unused portion back in the freezer for more moisture abuse on your counter at a later date. Now, why not just separate out what you'll be using and throw the rest of the beans back into the freezer right away. Makes sense, but I bet people don't do it that way all the time.

            Even Harold McGee suggests keeping roasted beans frozen or, God forbid, in the refrigerator, but at least he mentions 'air tight" pg 222, On Food and Cooking.

            If you purchase a large quantity of beans, I would think the ultimate way to store beans for maximum flavor would be a week's worth on the counter, air tight, and the rest in the freezer, also air tight. Do not refreeze and use them up in a few weeks.

            As I wrote, there's no room in my freezer for coffee, too many nuts, nut oils, flours, etc.;-)

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Yeah, around here the container is out of the freezer for 10-15 seconds, tops, and then I just grind a pot's-worth of frozen beans. I should store some on the countertop and see if I notice a difference.

              Thanks, as always, for the thoughtful and knowledgeable feeback.

              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                One more opinion on storage. I was very surprised when I went to the Dunkin Donuts website some time ago and they recommended not to freeze. At the time, I thought the freezer for coffee was the holy grail. So I now keep the DD coffee beans as wrapped up in their orginal bag as possible, and then the bag goes into a zip-lock bag, zipped tight. Stored in an under-the-counter cabinet from day-to-day. I only grind the beans about 1- 2x a week and only drink freshly ground DD about 1- 2x a week. I am otherwise generally pretty satisfied with the convenience of Folgers ground coffee. I am the only coffee drinker in the house and my Dunkin beans last weeks upon weeks and seem just fine. The "2 week" rule posted by Chowrin certainly sounds preferable, though- fresher has got to equal better. Florida Hound

    2. 2 weeks. don't drink within the first day after roasting, coffee is still reacting -- and evolving CO2.
      Keeps less well the more oxygen gets in, because oxygen reacts with coffee.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chowrin

        Agreed. Unless you are buying multiple pounds that you expect to use over a month or more, keep them in an air tight container. A Mason jar works well. I find very little loss in quality over the first 2 weeks but also depends on the level of roast. Lighter roasts have a longer shelf life IMO. At a week you may start to see oil migrating to the surface while dark roasts are exuding oil at the onset. For espresso I don't usually start using my beans until they have rested for at least 3 days. For regular brewing methods anything goes after at least 6 hrs of rest.

        1. re: Chowrin

          I strongly disagree. The absolute best, by far, cup of coffee I've ever had was in a little coffee bar in Columbia, where they roasted, ground, and brewed, with no interruption. It was a revelation, and I hope I have another cup that good before I die.

        2. Sweet marias sells special bags for roasted coffee storage.

          1. mods: why moved? is roasting suddenly not a form of home cooking?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chowrin

              Proper coffee storage and handling is not really recipe or cooking related; it's more a point of handling a food product and a general topic. That's my take on the reason for the move, anyway.

            2. Depends on how refined your sense of taste is. Can you distinguish between freshly roasted coffee and stale? The coffee isn't going to spoil and become dangerous!

              1 Reply
              1. re: paulj

                I bought some coffee for one of our regional offices a couple of years ago, and very few of us drank coffee. Then, the organization needed my services at other offices for several months. It was close to a year before I was scheduled back in the office where I had supplied the coffee, and the can was still waiting for me. It didn't smell coffee-shop-fresh, but I could not see wasting it. For several days, I made myself a pot of pretty nasty coffee- but I wasn't letting it go to waste! ("Maybe it just needs a little more sweetener...") Finally, the stuff tore my stomach up and I decided that my enjoyment level had gone down enough that "not letting it go to waste" or "saving money" was no longer worth it. Yes, at some point, I sure can tell if coffee is "stale," or rancid, or whatever it becomes. If it doesn't smell really pleasing when you pull off the lid, don't bother with it. Florida Hound