How long does coffee beans last in the freezer?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “How long does coffee beans last in the freezer?” and will discuss the shelf life of different coffees.

How long does coffee beans last in the freezer?

coffee beans will keep their optimum quality for around 3 to 4 months if kept properly, but they’ll be safe for much longer. Whole coffee beans that have been stored frozen at 0°F for an extended period will keep forever.

Recommendations for extending the shelf life of coffee

There are over 700 different volatiles identified in roasted and brewed coffee. To combat the loss of aroma that occurs during prolonged storage due to out-gassing and chemical reactions, such as oxidation, some consumers have adopted the practice of storing their coffee beans in the freezer. In theory, this practice should slow down any staling reactions or loss of volatiles and, therefore, preserve the aroma of the beans when compared to room temperature storage. Several studies have shown that low-temperature storage does preserve the headspace concentration of some volatile compounds when compared to room temperature storage (1).

Whole coffee beans and even ground coffee may survive a long time if kept correctly. Because coffee is dry, it is unlikely that the kinds you purchase for at-home usage may develop mold or other types of spoilage caused by moisture.

However, the shelf life of coffee varies depending on how it is prepared.

Coffee that hasn’t been brewed lasts longer than coffee that has been made. It also makes a difference where you keep coffee: on the counter, in the pantry, in the fridge or in the freezer.

Coffee’s freshness and flavor can deteriorate if it isn’t kept in an airtight container. Dry coffee can be affected by cold temperatures in the fridge or freezer, but it can also be preserved for longer periods.

Coffee beans 

Whole roasted coffee beans can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months — or even years — depending on how they’re stored. A sealed bag of roasted coffee beans that haven’t been opened and is kept at room temperature away from heat, moisture, and light should keep its fresh until the expiration date. These three factors, light, moisture and oxygen, may drastically reduce the shelf life of coffee beans as well as of ground coffee. Thus, multilayered packaging materials were especially developed for the storage of coffee (2).

This might take anything from a few weeks to months, depending on the brand, packing, and when you bought the coffee.

After opening a bag of roasted coffee beans, the beans will last for 1–3 weeks. Transfer opened coffee beans to a dry, airtight container that is light-proof for optimal results. Keep the container away from any heat sources at room temperature.

Coffee beans may also be stored in sealed containers in the freezer for 3–4 months. Before freezing, make sure the container is completely dry. Freezing, on the other hand, isn’t thought to be the greatest approach to maintain quality and flavor.

Coffee beans that have been stored beyond these dates may have a stale flavor or have lost their freshness. They usually only degrade in quality and aren’t truly dangerous to eat. Look for a degassing valve or a recent “roasted on” date on the box to increase your chances of receiving the freshest beans.

A study evaluated the effect on the aroma compounds of coffee beans stored for 9 weeks at room temperature (25°C) and at freezing temperature (-20°C). Significant loss to non-detectable levels after a 9-week storage period was found for 2,2-bifuran, 2-acetylpyrrole, 2-furfurylfuran, 2-furfurylmethylsulfide, benzenemethanethiol, diacetyl, decanoic acid, furfural, and methanethiol, with the latter being present at about 50% of the original levels in the freezer-stored coffee beans samples, but not detected in the room temperature-stored samples (1).

Degassing valves, which resemble little round vents, enable carbon dioxide to escape from packed coffee after roasting. This may help to maintain freshness and extend shelf life.

Ground coffee

Changes in the aroma composition may be due to various phenomena, such as: 

– Volatilization: Volatile aroma molecules are lost and the overall coffee aroma fades, which can be minimized by effective barrier packaging. 

– Intrinsic reactivity: Aroma molecules are often intrinsically labile reacting with compounds naturally present in coffee and the consequence is again that the aroma in the coffee fades. This can be reduced by low temperature storage. 

– Oxidation: Aroma compounds oxidize the coffee aroma fades and new volatiles with off-notes are created. This can be prevented by protecting the coffee from oxygen and oxidative processes, with modified atmosphere packaging (2).

An unopened packet of ground coffee, like coffee beans, should keep fresh until the manufacturer’s best-by date. According to a study, every 10ºC increase in storage temperature, the shelf life of roasted and ground coffee is reduced by 20% (2).

Based on these informations, we can deduce that: 

Opened bags of freshly ground coffee should be stored at room temperature in an opaque, airtight container. Heat, light, and moisture should all be avoided while storing ground coffee. Ground coffee kept in this manner will usually last 1–2 weeks.

However, losses on coffee aroma are unavoidable. A study showed that sensory changes occurred in ground coffee during 3 weeks storage at room and freezer temperatures. Changes occured after 2 weeks storage at -20°C. The specific attributes of the coffee that are most affected by storage were coffee aroma and bitterness, with fresh coffee found to have a stronger coffee aroma and stored coffee found to be more bitter (3).

If you live in a humid area and don’t want to risk exposing your ground coffee to moisture, store it in sealed containers in the fridge or freezer. It will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator and one month in the freezer.

Instant coffee is a ground coffee that has a longer shelf life than regular coffee. When stored correctly, instant coffee may survive for 2–20 years if kept in a sealed packaging or airtight container in a cold, dry, dark location.

Instant coffee packets that have been opened are also considered to last for many years. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on the box. Ground coffee pods, such as those used in single-cup coffee makers, are another option. They’ll also keep fresh until the expiration date.

Coffee pods should be kept away from heat and light in a container or drawer. Because they are individually packed, keeping them in an airtight or securely sealed container isn’t as critical. Similar to coffee beans, ground coffee is typically safe to consume beyond the best-by date. It will, however, most likely not taste as fresh or strong.

Espresso and freshly brewed coffee

Many people think that brewed coffee should be consumed within 20–30 minutes in an open cup or one hour in a sealed container.

Coffee, on the other hand, may be consumed many hours after it has been brewed. Coffee that hasn’t been flavored with milk or creamer, such as a pot of black coffee resting on the stove, is generally safe to consume for up to four hours. Within a couple of hours, coffee with milk should be drunk.

The shelf life of brewed coffee has received minimal attention. The majority of advice for discarding brewed coffee originates from personal experience or testimonials. If you put brewed coffee in the fridge in a sealed container, it will last longer. When kept in this manner, it’s probably safe to eat for 3–4 days. However, it is unlikely to be very tasty.

However, the overall sensorial perception of the coffee brew is strongly related to its freshness. After being brewed, the loss of volatile compounds occurs fast. After brew, the volatile aromatic compounds that characterize the coffee aroma are gradually lost due to physical diffusion/volatile loss and chemical degradation  reactions, such as polymerization or oxidation. 2-Furfurylthiol (2-FFT), as a sulfur compound in coffee, has been established as one of the key aromas that contribute to the characteristic flavor of coffee and 86% of this compound is lost after 1 h brewed coffee storage at 40 °C (5).

If you add milk or creamer to your brewed coffee, it should be consumed within 2 hours after sitting at room temperature. You may store it in the fridge for a day or two in a sealed jar. However, before eating it, smell it and check for any symptoms of spoilage, since milk may deteriorate.

For the finest flavor, brewed espresso, like brewed coffee, should be drunk as soon as possible after brewing. It may be stored at room temperature for a few hours or in the fridge for a few days in a sealed container, but the flavor will deteriorate.

Cold-brew

Cold-brew coffee will survive considerably longer in the fridge than hot coffee. Cold-brew concentrate may be kept in the fridge for 7–10 days if kept in a sealed container. If you add water to the concentrate before storing it, or if you store cold brew from a coffee shop in the fridge, you should drink it within 3–4 days.

In a study, cold-brew coffee samples were evaluated during storage after being stabilized by techniques for extending shelf life, such as high pressure processing, pasteurization and microfiltration. These were compared with the non-treated sample. The non-treated sample showed a microbiological contamination after 7 days of storage with values of TBC of 107 CFU/mL, above the limits of acceptability set for this beverage. Furthermore, the presence of yeasts outside the setting levels was detected in this sample (104 CFU/mL), while a low concentration of molds were found (4).

Cold-brew with milk or creamer should be drunk within two hours, although it may be kept refrigerated in a sealed container. It will, however, only keep for 1–2 days in the fridge. Before eating, look for symptoms of spoilage, such as mold or bad odors.

Finally, you can freeze both cold brew and brewed coffee, but not in the manner you may think.

Pour cold brew or cooled brewed coffee onto an ice cube tray. Allow the cubes to solidify in the freezer for a few hours before transferring them to an airtight container or bag. Use within two weeks, either as a new cold brew additive or melted down.

Consuming damaged or inadequately kept coffee has several risks.

In terms of foodborne disease, coffee that has passed its prime is seldom a reason for worry if kept correctly. Although coffee produced from old beans or grounds may not taste as delicious as freshly brewed coffee, it is typically not harmful.

Even so, it’s still a good idea to inspect coffee for indications of spoilage before consuming it. Mold, discoloration, and unpleasant odors are just a few symptoms that your coffee has gone bad and has to be thrown out.

Also, coffee with extra milk or creamer should be avoided. To minimize bacterial development, milk should not be left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Consuming spoilt milk raises the chance of contracting a foodborne disease. 

Coffee with milk or anything containing milk should be drunk within two hours. If it hasn’t been refrigerated, discard it after that period.

Other FAQs about Coffee that you may be interested in.

Does coffee liqueur have caffeine?

What are the best store-bought coffees?

Can you boil coffee?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “How long does coffee beans last in the freezer?” and discussed the shelf life of different coffees.

References

  1. Cotter, Andrew R., and Helene Hopfer. The effects of storage temperature on the aroma of whole bean Arabica coffee evaluated by coffee consumers and HS-SPME-GC-MS. Beverages, 2018, 4, 68. 
  2. Yeretzian, Chahan, Imre Blank, and Yves Wyser. Protecting the flavors—freshness as a key to quality. The craft and Science of Coffee. Academic Press, 2017. 329-353.
  3. Ross, Carolyn F., Kristin Pecka, and Karen Weller. Effect of storage conditions on the sensory quality of ground Arabica coffee. J food qual, 2006, 29, 596-606.  
  4. Bellumori, Maria, et al. Effects of different stabilization techniques on the shelf life of cold brew coffee: Chemical composition, flavor profile and microbiological analysis. LWT, 2021, 142, 111043.
  5. Uppu, Sannihith N., and Bianca K. London. Hydrogen Peroxide Levels in Freshly Brewed Coffee and the Effects of Storage. bioRxiv, 2020.

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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.