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A good cup of morning coffee keeps my moods high and mind alert. The process of grinding the coffee beans, brewing it and drinking is exciting for lovers of the beverage.
Most people prefer grinding their coffee beans since it produces fresh, tasty coffee. The deep flavour lasts a while as the coffee beans lose lustre after a few months of storage.
There are various factors that determine the length of time that coffee lasts; its form (ground or beans), the roasting process, packaging method and the type of storage in use. Naturally, coffee beans last longer than their ground alternatives; a packet of coffee beans lasts for six months when stored in a pantry and two years if kept in a freezer while ground coffee lasts 3-5 months once it is opened (whether it is stored in a freezer or not).
The next discussion further elaborates on the useful life of ground coffee and beans.
How Long Do Coffee Beans Last
The best way to determine the useful life of coffee beans is to smell them. Bad coffee loses its pleasant aroma, taste and deep, dark colour.
Taking this coffee does not cause any harm, but it isn’t as tasty as fresh coffee. It does not mean that fresh coffee beans guarantee good flavour at all times. I have brewed green coffee beans past their roast date, and they have delivered a deep flavour.
There are times that I also roasted the same beans before the roasting date and preferred the aged beans. To some extent, the flavour of the beans can determine how long they last.
The storage method adopted also determines the length of time that the coffee beans last. Whole coffee beans remain fresh for a couple of months when stored in a brown paper bag while ground coffee lasts 3-5 months when left in an airtight container that vents carbon dioxide.
Refrigeration is believed to also extend the life of ground coffee, but there are experts who state that the environment is moist and does not prevent the oxidation process.
Does Coffee Go Off?
Ground coffee has a shorter life than coffee beans because the grinding process increases the surface area of the beans, exposing them to light, moisture and air, which alter the taste and the smell of the coffee over time.
It explains the belief that coffee is only as good as when it is ground or roasted. Once the seal is opened, the oxidation process causes the coffee to become somewhat stale. Coffee contains oils that carry the flavour, and when they are gone, so does the taste.
The compounds in these oils are volatile and escape as soon as light, air and moisture interact with them. It takes a couple of weeks for the deterioration of the flavour of ground coffee.
The packaging bags to store coffee also determine how long it lasts. Coffee that is stored in triple-ply foil, for example, does not get into contact with fresh air since the package prevents its entry. The packaging technique also determines the life of ground coffee.
Some coffee companies use a process called nitrogen flushing when packing the coffee beans to preserve them by removing oxygen. The nitrogen retains the freshness temporarily as it escapes once the seal is broken.
Brewed coffee goes bad much faster than its un-ground alternative, especially if not refrigerated. It explains why coffee lovers take it within thirty minutes of brewing. Leaving it in a flask also helps keep it hot and fresh for a longer period, but it may develop a bitter, sour taste within an hour.
It may last a maximum of 10 days if kept in a fridge for later consumption. If left unrefrigerated for a long time, it develops bacteria and mould like other perishable foods. The oils and other chemicals react to natural elements, causing it to go bad.
How to Store Ground Coffee
The most effective way of storing ground coffee is in an airtight container or vacuum sealed bags because they do not allow the air in. Vacuum-sealed coffee is allowed to age before sealing the bag. It emits a gas that causes it to lose freshness, making the pack to expand.
For valve-sealed coffee, the gases escape from the bag when packaging but it does not let air in. As such, the bag is suitable for packing the coffee after roasting. Large quantities of ground coffee should be stored in a large canister for everyday use to reduce exposure to light and air for a prolonged supply of fresh coffee.
Refrigeration can also be used to store particular coffee profiles if done the right way. For example, coffee experts use it during the extraction process to produce a richer and thicker body of the espresso type. Additionally, frozen ground coffee dissolves much faster in hot water to produce a richer, fuller flavour.
For the best results, allow the coffee to thaw once removed from the freezer because, if the moisture condenses on the beans, it triggers the extraction process on the coffee. Scooping the required quantity of coffee for grinding at that time prevents this process.
Coffee beans also lose flavour within a couple of months of use as the oils begin to evaporate. Experts say that an efficient way of storing coffee beans is by reducing exposure to oxygen or air. I keep my coffee beans stored in a valved pack to keep them fresh and tasty when ground.
Valved packs are sold in coffee shops and supermarkets, and they come fitted with a unique hole that allows the emission of carbon dioxide without letting in air. However, it is important to roast the coffee beans before the roasting date on the label as the packs are not designed for long-term storage.
Another storage alternative is using airtight, opaque jars. Clear glass jars make a great alternative, but they allow too much light, which affects the quality of the coffee beans. Instead, look for coffee vaults made of stainless steel that have lids to keep them airtight.