First, you tried freezing ground coffee in bulk. Then you switched to small-batch whole beans.
If you want coffee with a longer shelf life, your next step might be to buy a bag of green coffee. Raw coffee beans stay fresh much longer than roasted beans – whole or ground.
Plus, they give you ultimate control over the roasting process. In other words: optimum freshness plus personalized flavor.
Exactly how long do green coffee beans last? Let’s take a look.
How Long Do Green Coffee Beans Last?
Green coffee beans stay fresh, on average, between six and 12 months. After that, they decline in quality, losing their flavor profile and aroma.
Let’s do a quick comparison. Roasted beans stay fresh for six weeks. Ground coffee stays fresh for two weeks. You can see why more and more people are using green beans to meet their coffee needs.
A green bean will stay fresh way longer than a roasted coffee bean.
However, several factors can impact the shelf life before you even receive the beans.
A green coffee bean is, by definition, raw and unprocessed. So it is more vulnerable to adverse shipping conditions than roasted coffee.
The shipping container and shipping duration can impact freshness. But you also need to consider how long the beans sat in a warehouse before and after shipping. Since you can’t know this number for sure, you have to air on the side of caution.
Fresh unroasted beans last six to 12 months, but the beans you receive may not be super fresh. They might already be several months old.
A reliable way to check that your beans are fresh is to examine them for dryness. The beans should be greenish in hue, glossy, and have a slight softness to them.
For the best tastes, roast your beans before they hit six months. And definitely before they turn 12 months old.
How To Store Green Coffee Beans
Proper storage is one of the most surefire ways to keep green coffee beans fresh for as long as possible. There are a few different components that go into coffee bean storage.
First, store your green coffee beans in an airtight container or coffee canister. (Same goes for roasted coffee beans and ground coffee.) Beans exposed to open air quickly oxidize. And oxidation compromises flavor and aroma.
A sealed container additionally protects the beans from bacteria, dust, and other particulates.
Second, store your beans away from light, especially sunlight. Direct sunlight will make your beans go stale MUCH faster than they would otherwise. Light strips the beans of flavor, ultimately giving you an acrid, bitter brew.
Third, store your beans in a cool area free from drastic temperature swings. Anywhere close to an oven or radiator is a bad idea. Heat will spoil your beans fast. And drastic temperature changes can cause condensation to form on the beans.
Speaking of condensation, beware the dangers of humidity. Store your beans in an area that isn’t too humid, as humidity can rob beans of their flavor almost instantly.
Want to give your beans the best chance of staying fresh for longer? Store the beans in an airtight container. And place the container in an environment free of light, heat, and humidity.
What Spoils Green Coffee Beans?
Four main things spoil green coffee beans: light, temperature, oxygen exposure, and moisture. Let’s take a more in-depth look at these factors.
Light is one of the biggest factors that spoil coffee beans fast.
During photodegradation, sunlight slowly breaks down the chemical compounds in the beans. These compounds give the beans their characteristic flavors.
So after extended exposure to light, the beans will produce a flat and flavorless cup of coffee.
Heat will spoil anything coffee: coffee cherries, roasted beans, and green coffee beans.
There are a few reasons high temperatures impact green coffee beans in such a negative way.
Fresh green coffee beans are glossy and slightly soft. But heat dries out the beans.
Warmer temperatures also encourage bacteria and mold to grow on the beans. Combined with moisture, heat can cause the beans to develop a moldy, fermented flavor.
While you may need oxygen, the coffee bean definitely does not. When it comes to green coffee bean freshness, oxygen exposure is a big no-no.
Oxygen causes different soluble elements in the beans to oxidize. This chemical reaction irreversibly alters the structure and concentration of coffee compounds.
Flavors in the coffee lose their characteristic bite. And aromas become less vibrant. Basically, oxidation will muddy the brew as a whole.
Light can increase the rate of oxidation, an effect called photo-oxidation.
The takeaway? Oxygen is bad for green coffee. But the combination of oxygen and light is horrendous, spoiling your beans faster than you can say oops.
In general, coffee processors dry the cherries to a moisture content of around 12%. Humidity in the storage area is crucial to maintaining this optimal range. Not too moist, not too dry, but just right.
Moisture plays a significant role in roasting coffee beans.
You may have heard the term first or second crack when it comes to the roasting process.
These cracks are the sound of moisture being explosively released from the bean as it heats. When the beans dry up before roasting, the loss of moisture causes a loss of heat inside the bean. So not enough moisture can lead to an uneven roast stripped of character.
Too much moisture can cause coffee beans to develop a darker color and a moldy, fermented flavor. Also not ideal.
If you’re storing green beans for an extended period, you’ll want to make sure you have the humidity under control.
Wrapping Up: Keeping Green Coffee Fresh
Green coffee beans stay fresh much longer than roasted coffee beans or ground coffee. How you store your beans has a tremendous impact on their freshness.
Heat, moisture, light, and oxygen can all spoil your beans prematurely. And stale beans lead to a disappointing, flavorless brew.
Remember: if you buy green beans, store them properly to get the best possible experience.