How Long Is My Coffee Good?
Our continuing quest to seek out the skills and knowledge to have the best cup of coffee continues. We are answering common questions we get and this week it is… “How long is my coffee good for?” How long does my coffee stay fresh?
This is a great question and also a difficult one to answer in simple terms. As always, let’s start with the basics and go from there.
Coffee is an agricultural product (like nuts, fruits, veggies, etc.) and although its moisture content has been reduced to a level where it doesn’t become rotten, it does go stale. Staleness means the coffee bean (which is the seed of the coffee fruit) is not fresh.
Coffee beans continually release carbon dioxide, the fiber in the bean can begin to decay, and oxidation ages the coffee. The result is that the coffee will not be vibrant, the aroma and flavor of the bean will degrade, and your cup of coffee will seem dull and bitter.
Research has shown that aroma is the first to go, and as the lipids in the coffee bean oxidize, the flavor molecules will degrade.
So, what is the timeline for that to occur? Some complexities emerge here.
• Was the coffee stored well? (Dark, dry and cool with minimal exposure to air)
• Is the coffee in Whole Bean or Ground? (Ground coffee will stale much faster than bean)
• How much coffee did you start with?
• When was the bag opened?
• How were the beans stored as green and by what process?
• What is the roast level on the bean?
You can see that it will be hard to give an exact number of days based on all of the factors that contribute to coffee’s overall freshness.
The Common Wisdom
As emerging research on coffee continually points to consuming your fresh roasted beans within a few weeks, many suggest that as long as you are enjoying the cup, you can drink it as long as you want.
I won’t disagree, but please remember that not all origins of coffee are the same and that the roast level factors into shelf life.
Think of it as a bell curve.
Coffee consumed immediately after roasting isn’t usually as good as if you drank the same coffee 3-7 days later.
That first window of 3-7 days should reveal all of the complexities of the bean while giving some of the cook characteristics time to mellow. Your coffee’s freshness level should be vibrant!
Between 7-20 days, provided you have stored your coffee well, you should get deep enjoyment from it and be able to extract it to full satisfaction. Is day 7 the same as day 20? Probably not.
Between 20-40 days you will notice the aroma has dulled significantly, some of the more subtle flavor notes have become muted and the ability to make a consistently flavorful cup of coffee will become increasingly hard.
Between 40 and 60 days, the effects of staling will start to make the coffee dull, less sweet, sometimes bitter, and have flat acidity. Can you still drink it? Absolutely, but would you prefer to drink something better? Most likely.
Generally speaking, if you are drinking specialty coffee (like Greenwell Farms 100% Kona Coffee) it will be at the height of its flavor if consumed within 6 weeks from opening your bag.
Helpful Hints to Extend the Freshness of your Coffee
a) Start with freshly roasted beans.
b) Buy whole bean rather than ground and grind only what you are brewing.
c) Try lighter roasts. With less extracted oil and not as much carbon dioxide trapped in the bean, lighter roasts will stay fresher longer.
d) Invest in storage containers that allow you to plunge the air from the system. Opaque, resistant to heat, sealable.
e) No more freezer or fridge. Condensation has been shown to degrade bean quality.
f) Buy smaller quantities more frequently.
Here’s hoping you are enjoying the summer and happy sipping!
About the Author
Matt Carter is a retired teacher (1989-2018), a part-time musician, farmer, and currently manages Greenwell Farms Tour and Retail Store Operations.