do coffee beans go bad? fresh beans pouring into cup
Coffee Basics

Do Coffee Beans Go Bad? Tips for Storage and Freshness

do coffee beans go bad? fresh beans pouring into cup

Do you love drinking a steaming, mood-boosting cup of coffee in the morning? If you’re a coffee consumer, you know how important freshness is. The jolt of the java awakens your senses and brings life to your day. You also know how a bad cup of coffee can ruin a perfectly good break — and that bad coffee often comes from beans that weren’t stored properly.

You may be wondering “do coffee beans go bad”. Here, we’ll talk a bit about what makes coffee degrade and how proper storage and brewing methods can help preserve the taste and quality of your favorite beans. 

Do Coffee Beans Go Bad?

do coffee beans go bad? customers talking to barista

Do coffee beans go bad? Sort of. It depends on your definition of bad.Perhaps the better question is “how long does coffee last”. If you look at a bag of coffee beans, you won’t see an expiration date. That’s because coffee is considered a shelf stable good. Coffee that is several years old will go stale, but it’s not necessarily “bad” for you. However, if your definition of bad means it won’t taste good, then coffee absolutely goes bad.
Coffee beans lose their freshness about a week to 10 days after it’s roasted. Coffee beans are normally green. They turn dark brown or black during the roasting process. The beans are heated and naturally let off carbon dioxide. Once all the carbon dioxide is gone, the beans start to absorb oxygen. This leads to oxidation, which causes the beans to lose their flavor.

How Long Does Coffee Last After It’s Brewed?

Now that you know how long coffee beans last, it’s time to discuss brewed coffee. Spoiler alert: If you’re a coffee lover that pours a mug of coffee and then forgets about it and drinks it cold, you’re in trouble.

While the shelf life of coffee beans is a few days or weeks once opened, brewed coffee begins to deteriorate after only a half hour or so. That’s because of the degassing oxidation process. When the freshly ground coffee is mixed with water, it oxidizes, releasing oils and acids that create flavor and aroma. As the carafe or cup of coffee sits, it continues to oxidize, releasing more and more of these tasty compounds into the air. The result: coffee starts to taste less and less good as it sits.

One way around this is to keep your coffee in an airtight thermos. You can also wait to switch on the coffee maker until you’re ready to drink. As opposed to setting it on a timer and then proceeding to snooze through your alarm a few times.

How To Keep Coffee Tasting Its Best

person grinding fresh coffee

Always check the roasting date of beans before you buy. Make sure to use the beans within two to four weeks after that date for maximum freshness. Keep in mind, buying in bulk may be great for your wallet, but you may not be able to consume large amounts before the beans go bad. An unopened bag of roasted beans will stay fresh for about one year after the roasting date.

Light roast beans last longer than dark roast beans because dark roasts have more amino acids and lipids on the surface of the bean. These compounds can become rancid and spoil more quickly compared to light roasts. 

Pre-ground coffee or coffee that you grind yourself will go bad more quickly than whole beans. Typically, ground beans start losing their flavor within a week. This is due to the fact that coffee grounds have a larger surface area and the center of the bean isn’t protected by the outer shell. Instead of buying whole beans and grinding up a huge batch, grind only what you need. This will ensure your cup of joe is as fresh as possible.

Numbers To Remember

  • Use opened whole beans 2-4 weeks after the roasting date (6 or 7 weeks for light roast coffees)
  • A sealed, unopened bag of whole bean coffee can stay fresh for 1 year after the roasting date
  • Frozen coffee beans can maintain proper flavor for up to 3 years
  • Ground coffee should be consumed within 7 days 

Get rid of old coffee beans if you suspect they have exceeded their shelf life or lost flavor due to temperature, moisture, or air exposure. Brewed coffee should be consumed or tossed the same day as it can develop bitter flavors.

How To Store Coffee Properly

proper storage of coffee beans

Proper coffee storage involves mitigating the effects of air, temperature, and moisture. Here’s what to do to keep your coffee beans fresh.

Store coffee beans in an airtight container to prevent degradation. A vacuum sealed container will help you coffee last the longest. Other canisters with airtight seals or one-way valves also work well. 

Choose an opaque container rather than a pretty glass one. It’s not just air that degrades coffee, light does as well. Choosing a dark container helps to keep those beans tasting better longer. Stainless steel, wood, and ceramic are all great choices for coffee bean storage containers.

Proper storage also means keeping your whole coffee beans in a good spot. Store your coffee beans at room temperature in a dry place. Don’t place the container in direct sunlight or near heat sources like the oven or stovetop. Keep it in a cool place — like inside a kitchen cabinet.

Do you like buying in bulk? You can freeze coffee beans to keep them fresh for longer. Make sure to use a vacuum sealed bag to prevent freezer burn.

Invest in a grinder to enjoy fresh coffee daily. Grind only the amount of beans you plan on consuming immediately for the freshest flavor. You can also enjoy ground coffee beans for up to one week if stored properly. For beans that have started to lose flavor, consider brewing them as cold brew, iced coffee, or flavored coffee to improve the taste. 

Get the Most Out of Your Java

cup of coffee with a heart shaped cookie

Does coffee go bad? Yes, in the sense that it loses optimum flavor quality after a few weeks depending on the type and how it’s stored. Get rid of any expired coffee or stale coffee beans and make sure to store fresh coffee properly. Try to roast the beans just before brewing and use only as much as you plan on consuming for the best coffee taste.

Whether you love espresso, instant coffee, or are just exploring the world of java, this site is for you. Continue browsing Cup & Bean to learn more about coffee — whether you’re a newbie or consider yourself a connoisseur. You’ll find tips for all sorts of coffee drinkers, from guides to the basics of coffee to unique recipes with fun flavors. Plus, you’ll learn about different roasters, brewing methods, and discover high-quality coffee you can brew in your next cup of coffee.

After chasing down everything there was to know about tea on the Cup & Leaf blog, I'm now exploring the world of coffee. From different types to countries with the best brews and everything in between, I'll be your guide on this coffee discovery.