Should ground coffee be stored in a fridge?

How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

Does coffee expire? 

Technically, no. Coffee beans do not expire the way other foods and beverages do. Look for an expiration date on a package of coffee and you’re not likely to find one.

What you may find instead is a “best by” or “best before” date. If you use beans that are beyond the “best by” date, you’re not going to get a fresh cup of coffee.

Coffee beans are a shelf-stable good, meaning they can last on a shelf, in their original packaging, for years without actually expiring. Like other dry goods, such as uncooked rice and dry pasta, coffee doesn’t go bad, but it does lose its freshness over time.

Coffee beans don’t expire, but they definitely don’t stay fresh forever. In fact, as soon as they’re roasted, they start losing freshness.

Here’s why:

Coffee beans go through a degassing process that releases carbon dioxide. This is why almost every bag of coffee has a small hole — so that carbon dioxide can escape. Once they’ve finished releasing carbon dioxide, they start absorbing oxygen. Once they begin to absorb oxygen, they start to lose their fresh flavor.

Coffee beans don’t ever go bad, but they do get stale. To enjoy your beans to the fullest, it’s best to use them within three to four weeks of purchase.

Related Reading: Is Coffee a Vegetable?

But Isn’t Freshly Ground Always Better?

It’s one thing to minimise deterioration of flavour, but isn’t it always better to grind your beans freshly for each cup of coffee? Normally yes, but not in every case.

When we grind coffee, we are reducing it into lots of tiny fragments. If you use a blade grinder or low-quality burr grinder, you will create an inconsistent grind made of differently sized and shaped fragments.

A blade grinder. Credit: Camilo Marulanda.

Inconsistently ground coffee means inconsistently extracted coffee. Let’s go back to extraction. Compounds from your coffee beans dissolve into the water at different rates. First you get acidity, then sweetness, then bitterness. When brewing coffee, the goal is to get the right balance of all of these compounds.

With consistently ground coffee, you know that every particle is extracting in the same way. This allows you more control over the flavour and aroma.

With inconsistently ground coffee, some particles will extract more quickly than others and you could get a muddy or over-extracted cup. It’s impossible to control the parameters and reproduce a technique when you use these randomly sized particles.

Learn more in How Grind Size Can Help You Brew Better-Tasting Coffee

Unevenly ground coffee.

A low-quality grinder will produce tiny coffee fragments known as fines. They will extract very quickly and cause bitter flavours through over-extraction. It may also leave you with boulders, large pieces that won’t fully extract and will introduce sour flavors.

Alex Choppin is a Support Specialist at Baratza, which manufactures burr coffee grinders. He tells me about the importance of a reliable grinder in making a great cup of coffee. “The first big step is quality coffee, the second big step is a grinder that can do the right job for that coffee,” he says.

So if you’re looking to improve your cup, take a look at your grinder. Is it producing consistently ground coffee? If it isn’t and you can’t afford to invest in new one, consider using coffee sieves to separate the fragments.

Consistently ground coffee helps improve your cup.

Consistently ground coffee helps improve your cup.

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What Makes Moisture So Bad for Coffee?

Coffee is considered hygroscopic. This is a fancy word that means it absorbs water from the air. Even though we don’t see water in the air, water particles are there constantly. More humid environments have more water in the air than drier environments. Being hygroscopic, it can also absorb any flavors or odors within the water particles.

Image Credit: Egedsarts, Pixabay
Image Credit: Egedsarts, Pixabay

As the coffee absorbs water from the air, essential oils are displaced, causing the coffee to age faster. As it is aging and essential oils leaving, the flavor and aroma of the coffee are lost. If the water had other smells and aroma, you might begin to taste or smell other flavors not belonging to the coffee instead.

In other words, moisture is so bad for your coffee’s life span and flavor because it changes the bean’s cell structure. When the cell structure changes, it loses oils, causing the coffee to have a different aroma, duller flavor, and go bad quicker.

Do not store in clear containers

As I said earlier, coffee is supposed to be stored away from light. That’s why they are shipped in dark containers. While it is true that coffee beans can add a nice touch to your kitchen decorations, light will only serve to sap the flavor from the beans. Keep them in the dark containers.

Now let’s look at ways to store your coffee. Some of the ways I will mention have opposing views to them, but my experience (as well as research) has proven to me that they work well.

View on Amazon

Vacuum seal and protect from light with this Coffeevac canister from Amazon.

Can You Store Coffee Beans in the Fridge?

There are two questions we hear over and over again:

1) Is it better to store coffee in the refrigerator?

and 

2) How long does coffee last in the fridge?

This is a heavily debated topic, and you’re likely to hear different answers, depending on who you ask.

It’s always better to consume coffee beans when they’re fresh. In fact, storing coffee in the fridge or freezer can actually ruin them.

Coffee beans are porous, and that means that they can absorb odors relatively easily. Keeping them in the refrigerator or freezer with meat, fish, and other foods can cause them to take on the smell or flavor of different foods.

The cold, wet conditions of your refrigerator can even make your coffee beans age faster than they would on a dry shelf.

The cold conditions inside your fridge cause condensation and speed up the oxidation process. This can push the flavorful oils in coffee to the outer surface of the beans. If you absolutely have to store your coffee in the fridge, it’s best to use it within two weeks to enjoy maximum freshness.

So is it better to store them in the freezer?

The freezer does absolutely nothing to keep coffee beans fresher longer. When freezing coffee beans, be sure to store them properly. Store them improperly, and you might ruin them with freezer burn.

So what should you do if you come across a large quantity of high-quality coffee beans? 

We suggest inviting some friends over, making a few pots, and drinking it fresh. But if you want to keep them for yourself, you can preserve beans in the freezer for about two weeks.

Just be sure to contain them in a dark, opaque, airtight container.

Alternate Option

Vacuum sealing your coffee grounds is an absolute must. However, some people do not like to store it in the freezer even if vacuum packed and that is okay too. Once you have vacuum packed your coffee, you can just find a cool dark place in your home to store the coffee. My suggestion is to return it back to the can it came from, although there are some containers like the Kitchables canister that can store your coffee while still looking elegant.

Check out the Kitchables coffee canister at Amazon.

View on Amazon

How Does Coffee Go Bad?

If you need to work out whether your coffee has gone bad or not, use your senses. The most important one is your sense of smell.

If there’s a very little aroma, and you’re not sure if the coffee has gone off, then try brewing only a very small amount. If the flavor is stale, you know for sure the coffee’s gone bad.

Oxidation is the process that happens when oxygen comes into contact with organic matter. Ever had apples gone brown? With coffee, it changes the molecular structure. In the case of coffee, oxidation turns it stale.

 

 

Do Coffee Grounds Go Bad?

You can see that coffee needs to be packed and delivered as soon as possible following roasting. The same applies to coffee grounds, only more so.

When coffee is ground, the overall surface area increases. They don’t go bad, exactly, but they do go stale.

 

Should you use fresh or leftover ground coffee ?

Well, the general consensus is that leftover ground coffee is better, since the caffeine is mostly gone and there are enough nutrients in the grounds to warrant using them as bio-degradable compost.

Still, using leftover ground coffee means you lose out on the nitrogen contained withing coffee, which is mostly gone after using the coffee.

Even so, whichever kind of ground coffee you use, it’s better to mix it with some plant soil or compost or leafmold before sprinkling it on and around the plants.

Remember to use a thin layer, in case your plants become sensitive to the coffee. If you’ve got plants like azalea and blueberries that love acidity, they should be fine.

So if you’ve got some leftover ground coffee, go right ahead and help your plant grow !

No, reusing ground coffee will not give you a good cup of coffee. It will get your a muddy cup of brown water, and you’ll be very disappointed  by the results.

Reusing ground coffee is not like reusing tea leaves.

Aside from using leftover ground coffee as compost or slow release fertilizer for your plants, you can use the the grounds for a body scrub, or mix them into some handmade candles or soap for a nice scent (and tint).

Ground coffee and all its forms and uses is a crucial element that any coffee lover ought to know. So now that you know what kind of coffee grind sizes there are, how they’re used, and even how to reuse ground coffee, you’ve got the basics down pat.

If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?

Treating your coffee right

When it comes to storing coffee, the main things t

When it comes to storing coffee, the main things to protect it from are excessive air, moisture, heat and light (in that order). All these things are just desperate to suck that fresh-roasted flavour from your precious coffee grounds.

The best place to preserve those marvellous flavours is actually in your Pact Coffee bag itself. We’ve carefully chosen the bag to fit these requirements perfectly.

Our Head of Coffee, Will says, “We’re constantly testing our packaging to make sure it keeps coffee perfectly fresh. There have been multiple iterations of the Pact Coffee bags you receive today, they are always evolving and getting better.”

Not content with keeping it in the bag? The next best place to preserve those marvellous flavours is an air-tight container, in a cool dark place. but any air-tight container will do, of course! A little tip is to choose a cupboard away from hot ovens and steamy kettles, which will tend to make your cool dark place a lot less cool.

So there we have it. As with all things coffee we’re happy to enter into a debate (that’s kind of what we do for most of the day at Pact HQ anyway), so do feel free to comment below. We hope you don’t mind us giving you our two cents!

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