Have you ever opened a bag of coffee you purchased months ago and wondered: how long does vacuum-sealed coffee last?
As coffee lovers, we’ve researched what factors determine how long vacuum-sealed coffee stays fresh. We’ll talk about how good storage and other factors help to keep beans fresh and how to keep your future coffee fresh.
Is Coffee Still Good After the Expiration Date?
The answer to this question is a little confusing.
Yes, except for mold that may grow on beans exposed to humidity, old coffee shouldn’t make you sick. You can brew it and drink it. If there is mold, throw away the whole package immediately, it’s not worth trying to save it.
However, expired coffee probably won’t be as good as fresher coffee.
That expiration date is often placed on the coffee by the roaster or grocery store about a year after it was roasted and is more of a “best before” suggestion than a hard and fast rule of when to throw it away.
Check Before You Brew
If you decide to brew anyway (like in an emergency situation), check the beans. Open the package and ask yourself how does the coffee look and smell?
If it looks okay with no mold or bugs and has no spoiled smells like old cooking oil, it should be okay to brew, but it may be disappointing.
How Do You Keep Coffee Fresh for Years?
Keeping your coffee as fresh as possible for as long as possible requires paying attention to a few key factors:
- Ground vs. whole beans
- Heat and light
Ground vs. Whole Beans
If you have the choice between stocking your cupboards with whole beans and ground coffee, choose whole beans for a longer shelf life. If you’re opening a package of beans to see if they’re still fresh, look for glossy, unbroken beans that have a strong coffee scent and don’t smell of old oil.
Whole beans will keep their flavor longer than ground beans because ground coffee has more surface area to lose those flavor compounds from and more area to absorb moisture.
Whenever possible, it’s best to wait to grind the beans as close to brewing as possible and only grind what you need for the time rather than grinding everything ahead of time.
Ground coffee, when packaged appropriately, will be at its freshest three to five months after roasting. Whole bean coffee is best between six to nine months after roasting while keeping all its signature flavor profiles.
If you’re used to buying specialty coffees from small-batch roasters, you may notice a difference in the beans just a couple of weeks after purchasing.
To make the most of your coffee, aim to consume it within three to nine months of the roasting date or as soon as possible after you’ve purchased it.
While it might not be at its freshest, if the coffee is unopened and vacuum sealed, it can last for a long time.
- Whole bean coffee – Up to three years after freezing
- Ground coffee – Up to two years after freezing
- Whole bean coffee – Up to six months past the expiry date
- Ground coffee – Three to four months past expiry
When coffee is exposed to oxygen after roasting, the compounds in the coffee that make it taste and smell delicious start to break down. To combat this, roasters will package the coffee with nitrogen and give the beans the longest possible shelf-life.
After opening the package, oxygen can get in, and it starts to break down the compounds and molecules on the coffee beans and shortens how long they stay fresh. This reaction will happen every time you open the bag.
If you buy the beans in bulk, You can reduce the amount of oxygen reaching them by repackaging them. Vacuum seal them or use smaller air-tight containers to break them into smaller batches.
Heat and Light
Like oxygen, heat, and light break down those taste compounds you want to keep intact until brewing. Heat also releases the oils in the coffee.
It’s one of the reasons hot water brews coffee quicker than cold water; the heat can break down the walls within the beans.
Exposing coffee beans to heat or leaving the package in a damp environment mean the beans can take on moisture. Taking on moisture is excellent for brewing but not for keeping beans fresh.
Wet beans can also be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, one of the leading causes of spoilage.
Keep the coffee beans in their original packaging in a solid container if you’re worried about moisture, or re-package them if the original bag gets damp.
Good packaging can help your beans last as long as possible. Solid paper or plastic bags without tears or holes protect beans against moisture, heat, light, and oxygen.
Many companies choose to vacuum-seal their beans for freshness rather than leaving them loose in the bag to eliminate oxygen.
You may also see a little vent or one-way valve on the front of the package so the coffee can degas.
Coffee beans give off carbon dioxide (CO2) as a by-product of the roasting process, and this valve allows the CO2 to escape rather than build up and affect brewing.
How Do You Store Vacuum-packed Coffee?
Keep the beans in their original packaging for as long as possible. Coffee beans are pretty, but you won’t be doing yourself any favors to put them in a clear container and on display unless you don’t intend on brewing them.
Either in their original package or broken down into smaller air-tight containers, keep them away from moisture, heat, and light. While it’s common to store coffee close to your brewer, make sure any steam escaping from the machine or steam wands won’t hit the beans.
Can You Freeze Coffee?
Stashing food in the freezer is a great way to extend its shelf-life, and it does work for vacuum-sealed coffee; that’s why the table includes it as a way to store coffee. Frozen whole coffee beans can last two to three years, but it’s not the best preservation method.
If the coffee is vacuum sealed and already protected from oxygen and light, storage in a dark cabinet works just as well as the freezer and doesn’t risk introducing moisture into the beans that can draw out the flavor. Frozen coffee beans lose their unique flavor characteristics and brew dull coffee.
Unless you have purchased a large amount of coffee beans that need to be frozen, save the space in your freezer for something else and keep your coffee beans in the dark, room-temperature cupboard.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about how long vacuum-sealed coffee lasts.
Can you drink two-year-old coffee?
Yes, you can drink it, provided there’s no mold or mildew, but you might not want to.
After two years, many flavor notes and aromas will have mellowed or disappeared altogether, and your cup of coffee will be boring.
What can I do with expired coffee?
You can use expired coffee free from mold or bugs in your compost pile as a nutritious plant food and slug deterrent. Make a barrier around your plants with wetted coffee grounds, and slugs will stay away.