How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

I once purchased a kilo of coffee for a coffee lover friend. But since I’m a terrible gift-giver, I forgot all about it until several months later. Although I stored it in a tin container with a tight lid, I definitely will not send it to my friend at this point since she can be very finicky when it comes to things that she’s passionate about. But it left me wondering how long do coffee beans last?

I did my research and came up with the answer together with effective ways of storing coffee. Read on and find out what I’ve learned.

Does Coffee Expire?

How Long Do Coffee Beans Last

Inspecting the package of the coffee you’re buying, you’ll most likely find a best-before date somewhere on it. But unlike other food products that become inedible after a while, coffee that is past its expiry date doesn’t spoil the same way.

Unless stored in an open container and in a humid environment where molds can grow on the beans, old coffee simply loses its aroma and flavor over time. You can still use it, but expect to be disappointed with how it tastes. In that case, there are better ways to use old coffee than waste it by throwing away.

How Should You Store Fresh Coffee?

Store your coffee using airtight containers. The best storage seals away air and humidity from the outside while letting the coffee release its gases.

Keep it away from heat, light, and moisture to maintain its flavor and freshness. Coffee also absorbs strong scents like that of food, so unless you want some steak flavor in your coffee, keep the beans away from these elements as well.

Walls facing the sun absorb and emit heat. If the cabinet or cupboard you’re storing your beans in are built near or on it, the heat will for sure affect the coffee. The same thing applies to storage near ovens. To avoid heat from degrading your coffee’s freshness, make sure that the container is far away from these heat sources.

Tips for Keeping Coffee Fresher for Longer

Coffee is one of the most important commodities in the world second only to oil. Whether you are a serious coffee enthusiast or someone who simply wants a nice cup of coffee included in your breakfast menu, you must observe proper storage so you don’t let a single coffee bean go to waste.

Here are a few tips to help keep your coffee beans fresh:

  • Lock it away from oxygen – this is why an airtight container is the most preferable storage. Your fresh coffee beans will lose their flavor and aroma in a few days when exposed to oxygen in the atmosphere.
  • Keep moisture out – one sure way of making your coffee unusable for drinking is letting molds grow on it. Keep your coffee beans dry.
  • Keep it cool – the only time you let your coffee get hot is when you’re brewing it. Otherwise, store it under room temperature.
  • Dark is good – it’s okay if you like to have a beautiful glass jar with coffee beans in it on display. For the rest you’re keeping for consumption, keep them stored away in a dark cabinet since light is another element that can quickly make your coffee go stale.
  • Don’t buy more than you can brew – especially true if you buy pre-ground beans which can have longer exposure to air. It’s a good idea to buy in smaller amounts that you can consume in under 2 weeks. If you’re storing your supply of beans, divide them into smaller batches so the rest will be safe from frequent access.

Can You Freeze Coffee Beans?

Freezing or refrigerating coffee roast is one effective way of keeping it fresh, but there are also many caveats in using this method.

The first issue with storing coffee in the freezer is freezer burn. It happens when there is air inside the container while it freezes. This can affect the quality of the coffee.

Another concern comes from the coffee’s ability to absorb moisture and scent. So if you store your coffee beans, even when completely airtight, there’s a possibility that the smell of other foods in the freezer will be absorbed by the beans.

Finally, frozen items attract moisture (think of a cold glass of water with ‘sweat’ running down on the outer surface). Once you freeze your coffee and open it to get some for brewing, it becomes even more vulnerable to moisture.

How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

A packed coffee can last from a couple of months to several years depending on whether it’s whole beans, ground, or instant coffee. Storing the unopened package in the freezer can help it last considerably longer.

Properly stored, ground coffee can last up to 5 months (up to 2 years in a freezer); coffee beans can last up to 6 months (up to 3 years in a freezer); instant coffee can last up to 20 years.

Time starts ticking faster once the packaging has been opened due to the coffee’s exposure to the environment.

How to Tell if Coffee Beans are Bad?

Unless your coffee beans become a bed for molds and fungi, telling if it’s already spoiled is not as straightforward as simply looking at it. One sure way is by using your nose.

Old coffee loses its aroma and flavor. By smelling the coffee, whether ground or whole beans, and looking – sniffing – for that distinctive and flavorful fragrance can tell you everything you need to know.

As mentioned, it’s not necessarily harmful to consume old coffee. To compensate for the lost flavor, some people increase the amount in each brew. But to be safe, avoid letting your coffee ground sit in a corner for too long. Make the most of it by consuming it while it’s fresh.

Storing Coffee

The form of your coffee also affects its shelf life, although the manner of storage remains the same whether it’s whole beans, ground, or instant.

The expiration of whole beans differs from that of ground beans, and instant coffee’s storage life is another story in itself.

Coffee Beans

Coffee in this form has the longest shelf life, at least compared to ground coffee. Storing it properly will ensure that you’ll enjoy great-tasting coffee for up to 6 months.

Ground Coffee

In this form, coffee easily loses its flavor and aroma as the gases and oil it contains evaporates. You can enjoy fresh coffee brews for 1 to 2 weeks or even up to a few months given that it’s stored appropriately.

Instant Coffee

Sealed in its package, instant coffee can keep its freshness for years. This can change drastically when opened, though, and should be consumed in a couple or so of weeks.


The shelf life of your coffee beans depends on several factors, but the way you store them is the most crucial part.

The main thing you should remember if you want to enjoy fresh coffee longer is to keep its storage away from light, heat, and moisture – yes, pretty much from the rest of the world. Kidding aside, it is most advisable to buy only what you can consume in a short amount of time, about two weeks or a few days. Freezing and refrigerating is also acceptable given you heed the warnings for such a method.

My friend still doesn’t know about the gift. I guess I’ll just buy a fresh one perfectly packed and sealed and have it sent to her as soon as possible.

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