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How long does Coffee Last?

And How Long Can You Savor the Flavor of fresh coffee beans?

Coffee, the enigmatic elixir, has a journey filled with intricacies. It begins as the seed of a finicky fruit, thrives in remote corners of the world, undergoes a long-distance voyage to reach the roaster’s hands, and then transforms through a blend of precision and intuition. Finally, it’s ground and brewed, a process that demands an arsenal of equipment. Yet, amidst this complexity, only a few factors genuinely impact the coffee’s quality.

Three elements hold sway: your grinder and grind level, the brewing method, and a lesser-known, but crucial factor – when you brew the coffee. According to Peter Giuliano, Chief Research Officer at the Specialty Coffee Association, this timing aspect is often underestimated.

Fresh Coffee Beans: A Race Against Time

Giuliano’s sage advice is to savor coffee within two weeks of roasting for the best experience. “Beyond this point, its quality deteriorates rapidly,” he warns. “By the three-month mark, coffee has fully gone stale. But remember, these timelines can vary widely based on packaging and environmental conditions.”

Why Does Coffee Lose Its Freshness?

The crux of the matter, as detailed by Peter Giuliano and the experts behind the “Coffee Freshness Handbook” lies in coffee’s quality decline due to “de-gassing” and the growth of “undesirable compounds.”

Before roasting, coffee beans hold a carbon dioxide level similar to the air around us. After roasting, each bean can contain up to two percent of its weight as carbon dioxide. The moment roasting concludes, gas begins escaping from the beans. This process leads to the loss of coffee’s aromatic compounds, also known as volatile organic compounds, and the oxidation of the beans. The unpleasant flavors that emerge result from this aging and oxidation.

Can You Prolong the Shelf Life of Coffee?

Oxygen emerges as the ultimate nemesis of coffee beans. This is why modern coffee bags often feature a small valve hole. This one-way valve allows carbon dioxide, generated during de-gassing, to escape without allowing oxygen to enter. As a result, the bag predominantly contains carbon dioxide, acting like a protective “blanket” against oxygen.

According to Giuliano, even when you reseal the bag to brew coffee, you don’t lose much carbon dioxide. However, if you transfer all the beans to a new container containing oxygen, you effectively discard the valuable CO2 blanket and introduce oxygen. The efficacy of vacuum containers, like Fellow’s Atmos canister, which removes air from the container’s interior, remains untested, according to Giuliano.

In essence, the best practice is to leave your fresh coffee beans in their original bag, but to make sure to use all of your coffee within about two weeks.

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