You bought that coffee you saw at the super market while shopping, brought it home, opened up the bag of beans and put into your grinder, ground them to the perfect size that you like, filled the filter up in your coffee maker with these "fresh" grounds and brewed a delicious pot of coffee...Except...that freshly brewed pot of coffee isn't so delicious! How can that be? You just bought these beans at the store but once your brewed them, they tasted stale and flat. Very void of deep and rich flavor. It's quite possible you have just had old beans that went bad.
So do coffee beans really go bad? The answer is yes, yes they do. I know, I know, some of you out there grew up on and consume, maybe even to this day, that stale coffee that is pushed in the big box stores and say it's alright coffee. It's drinkable (usually) for the most part, with a ton of cream and sugar. But why drink a product that is stale, past it's shelf life, and has lost all it's rich and bold flavors? Only you can decide that one...
The shelf life and expiration of coffee is dependent on a multitude of factors like roast, storage, how it was stored, humidity, sealing procedures to name a few. Lets consider that most consumers of coffee don't have air-tight containers. With that in mind, we'll look at storage and freshness general rules based on an opened bag of coffee stored in a non-air-tight container, out of direct sunlight, at room temperature (a pantry or cabinet would be perfect).
Opened Bag in a Pantry or Cabinet:
Ground Coffee - Possibly good up to about 2 months.
Whole Bean Coffee - Possibly good up to 5-6 months.
This is just a general statement and people will experience different results but for most this should hold fairly true. BUT...
And there is always a BUT...
Coffee should ALWAYS be consumed as close as possible to the roast date. For peak flavor and BEST freshness, coffee should be consumed within 2-4 weeks of being roasted and OPTIMUM would be day of roast to 10 days.
Now...you may ask, beyond dates, how can I tell if my coffee beans have gone bad? You normally can't tell by looking at them, you'll have to use your nose. Coffee will lose its aroma as it ages. If your coffee beans are lacking in smell, there is a good chance they are going bad. You can still grind and use them, they just will not be very flavorful. If your beans smell like mildew, you should error on the side of caution that they have gone completely bad and that moisture has gotten to your beans. They probably shouldn't be used.
Remember...the closer to the roast date you consume your coffee beans, the better the flavor will be and the better your coffee drinking experience will be!
Now, go grind some beans and enjoy a great cup of coffee!!!
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