When does coffee go bad?

Samanta Fryer
Samanta Fryer
Samanta Fryer is our senior editor and content writer, at CoffeeVibe. Apart from writing and reading, she’s fond of the coffee brewing process and enjoys tasting new coffe read more
Reviewed By
Ryan Hendricks
Ryan Hendricks
Ryan Hendricks is our tester, who puts products through their paces. He used to be a barista and is now a full-time coffee enthusiast. He’s always testing out new gadgets, read more
Last updated: September 06, 2023
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You wake up. You start brewing your favorite coffee (a.k.a the only friend that will keep you awake). You stare into the beauty that is coffee. You bring the angelic beverage to your lips. You sip.

It sucks…

You do not deserve that sort of treatment from something that you trust so much. That’s why we are here to tell help you out. No matter how “specialty” your preferred bean is, there is still a time when the bean is good and a time when the bean is bad. Even the freshest bread and milk go bad quickly – coffee is no different.

So, when does coffee go bad?

Freshly roasted coffee grows up fast. The beans you love most have their wonderful phase of looking and tasting fantastic. Then all of the sudden one morning that old embrace has turned into a bland and sour aftertaste.

There is a common rule of thumb in the specialty coffee scene when answering the question ‘when does coffee go bad?’:

  • Un-roasted (green) coffee: 15 months
  • Roasted, whole-bean coffee: 15 DAYS!
  • Ground coffee: 15 minutes (we’ll touch on this in another post)

How is this possible? Well, because even when properly stored, freshly roasted whole beans are busy doing all kinds of things: (NERD ALERT) Dissipation and non-enzymatic degradation of aromatics, non-enzymatic browning, and oxidation of aromatics and lipids…

Or more easily put…they LOSE THE GOOD and GAIN THE BAD when it comes to flavors that release when you brew. And after 15 days, they’ve been busy enough to really start effecting the final outcome.

How do I keep my beans as fresh as possible?

Well, the easiest answer to this question is to acquire only enough beans to last you about two weeks. For those who are still buying coffee at the supermarket or even a local roaster, this is not the most convenient method because you have to time your trips exactly right or risk either running out of coffee or buying too early and having your new stash go bad (assuming that the coffee you ARE buying is even fresh to begin with…chances are it’s not.)

Getting your coffee delivered on a regular, biweekly schedule can help, but even then you have to be careful. Many ‘subscription boxes’ and coffee clubs double-ship. This means the coffee roaster will roast a huge batch of coffee, mail it to a central location where it’s repacked into smaller bags with a different logo, and then mail it to you. Remember our 15 day rule? By the time the beans reach your doorstep, precious time has already been wasted. Not to mention, those beans have been handled by who knows how many people…uggh.

What if your answer to when does coffee go bad was “never!”  If you’re already subscribed to a Stay Roasted coffee plan then you’ve been saying this for some time now. Your beans are roasted up fresh by your selected roasters, packaged in your desired quantity to keep you brewing for two weeks, and delivered roaster-direct to your doorstep.

But what if life got in the way, and I still have leftover coffee I don’t want to waste?

  • To prevent oxygen from getting into your beans, store the opened bag in a vacuum-sealed container or vacuum seal the open bag. That way, the CO2 doesn’t have to move too far, and the oxygen cannot take its place
  • Can’t get that fancy? No worries, just use an airtight container and be sure to store your coffee out of sunlight and other sources of heat and moisture.
  • Meet the neighbors and host a breakfast party where you can share your beans with your friends.
  • Get creative and use your surplus beans in a recipe such as Caffeinated Dark Chocolate-Covered Strawberries!

Help your coffee help you, and we promise, you’re mornings will thank you.

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