Long Term Coffee Storage: How to Keep It Fresh for Years


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Last Updated: January 3, 2021

Coffee isn’t a food necessity but, if a large-scale disaster were to hit, I wouldn’t want to go without it (and my family certainly wouldn’t want to deal with me going through coffee withdrawal!).

So, I’ve made sure to have a large stockpile of coffee on hand.  Luckily, storing coffee long term is actually pretty easy.

Here’s what you need to know to store coffee for 25+ years.

Does Coffee Go Bad?

Contrary to common belief, coffee can go bad.  Like other beans, coffee contains natural oils.  When these are exposed to air, the oils start to oxidize and eventually go rancid. Even when the coffee is stored away from oxygen, the coffee beans can still go rancid because of compounds that are produced from the roasting process.

Luckily, it usually takes a very long time for coffee beans to go rancid.  This is why many people and even coffee manufacturers say it is safe to use expired coffee.  However, long before the coffee goes rancid, it will lose its taste and aroma due to “gassing off”.  This stale coffee is still safe to consume but isn’t nearly as enjoyable to drink.

Coffee Shelf Life

Before we get into storage conditions, it’s important to note that certain types of coffee will naturally last longer than others.

Ground Coffee Beans

Ground coffee beans

  • Unopened, in Pantry: 5 months past best-by date
  • Opened, in Pantry: 3-5 months past best-by date

Grinding breaks down coffee beans so it has more surface area.  This means that more of the coffee will be exposed to air, causing it to gas off and oxidize faster.   The coffee should still be safe to consume for several years after its “best by” date but may have already lost a lot of its flavor.

Whole Roasted Coffee Beans

Coffee beans

  • Unopened, in Pantry: 12-24 months past best-by date
  • Opened, in Pantry: 6-12 months past best-by date

Whole coffee beans will last a lot longer than ground coffee. However, because the roasting process uses heat, it triggers a chemical reaction which causes the natural oils to start breaking down.  Like with ground coffee, roasted whole beans will still eventually go bad.

Instant Coffee

Instant coffee granules

  • Unopened, in Pantry: 10+ years past best-by date
  • Opened, in Pantry: 1-10+ years past best-by date

Instant coffee is made by freeze drying. The process removes all moisture from the coffee and creates a very shelf-stable product.  Unopened, instant coffee can last for years or decades without any special storage.   Once you open instant coffee, it can still last for years – but there’s a big potential issue.

Was opened, instant coffee will start to absorb moisture from the air.  In humid areas (like Florida), the coffee can get very wet and start to go bad quickly.  If you want to store instant coffee long term, either keep it in its original packaging or repackage it in an air-tight container.  Ideally, you should package it on a low-humidity day.

Green Coffee Beans

green coffee beans

  • Unopened, in Pantry: 5+ years past best-by date
  • Opened, in Pantry: 12+ months past best-by date

Green coffee beans haven’t been roasted, so their natural oils are more stable.  Because of this, green coffee beans can last for a very long time and are best for long-term storage.

You’ll want to store them like other dry beans – in a food storage container, preferably without oxygen, and away from heat and light.

How to Store Coffee Long Term

If you want to storage coffee long term, you’ll need to protect it from oxygen, light, moisture and heat. Here are some of the best ways to store coffee so it lasts years or even decades.

Option 1: Freezer

Coffee has very little moisture in it.  Because of this, you don’t have to worry about it getting freezer burned.   It will stay fresh for years in the freezer.

There is one potential issue about storing coffee in the freezer though: it can absorb smells from other items.  If you keep your coffee next to leftover steaks, for example, the coffee can get a funky aroma.

To prevent this, make sure you store coffee in sealed non-permeable bags (won’t let gasses through).  Some coffee already comes in these bags (the metal-looking bags) and can go straight in the freezer.   Once you remove the coffee beans from the freezer, make sure you let them get to room temperature before opening.  Otherwise they will absorb humidity and start to go bad.

Option 2: Air-Tight Containers

Once you’ve opened a bag of coffee, put it in air-tight containers.  This isn’t the ideal solution for coffee because there will still be oxygen in the container.  However, it will help slow down the oxidation and gassing-off process.   If you have a large amount of coffee beans, you could even store them in buckets with gamma lids.

Option 3: Vacuum Sealing

Good-quality coffee comes in vacuum-sealed packaging.  This packaging helps protect against oxidation.  You can also vacuum seal bulk coffee beans or open packages of coffee to keep it fresh longer.

Note that coffee beans and grounds have air inside of them.  Vacuum sealing will only remove air around the coffee. Home vacuum sealer bags are also semi porous and will eventually allow coffee aromas to escape.  So, while this is a better method than storing coffee in opened packages, the coffee will still go stale after a couple years.

Option 4: Nitrogen-Flushed Coffee

Nitrogen flushing is a method of removing oxygen from coffee packaging.   Very good-quality brands of coffee use this method.  It is done immediately after roasting the coffee, so the coffee is stored at its maximum freshness.

Because coffee beans “gas off” after roasting (air from inside the beans moves outwards), nitrogen-flushed bags would explode if left to sit long enough.  To prevent this, manufacturers will put a one-way valve on the bags to let the gases escape.  By comparison, vacuum-sealed coffee is usually packaged after the beans have had a chance to gas-off; no valve is required but the beans aren’t as fresh when packaged.

Simply by choosing nitrogen-flushed coffee (look for the one-way valve on the bag), you’ll get a fresher product that will store longer.

Option 5: Oxygen Absorbers

Oxygen absorbers are little packet of iron.  The iron grabs oxygen molecules.  If you put oxygen absorber packets in an air-tight container with coffee, the packets will remove virtually all oxygen and keep the coffee fresh.   Read more about oxygen absorbers for food storage here.

Option 6: Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers

The best long-term storage method for coffee is sealed Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.  Mylar is a metallic-looking material which is impervious to gases.  When you put an oxygen absorber into a bag and then seal it, the coffee is protected from oxygen, humidity, and light.  Freeze-dried coffee can last for 25+ years this way.

If you want to store coffee beans in Mylar though, there’s an important caveat: they must be unroasted green coffee beans. The reason for this is because the roasting process causes the natural oils in the coffee to start breaking down.  By contrast, green coffee beans won’t deteriorate and can last 20+ years in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.

Read more about storing food in Mylar bags here.

Leave a comment

  1. 1st time at your site. Very impressed with your list of articles. Looks like I will be a regular.
    The coffee I buy is in Mylar bags, but not vented. They normally have air in the bags, not sealed tight. I’ve been gradually increasing my supply and at about 40-50 pounds now and haven’t had an issue with it going bad. I had been thinking of a adding an O2 absorber to them, but it appears that you are saying no to this for roasted coffee. Am I correct? My coffee stays at a pretty constant 55 degrees until summer and gets a little warmer. If I store in the freezer, would it be best to use an 02 absorber to store in freezer? Your thought would be appreciated. I have been wanting to increase my coffee supply.
    I possibly

    Reply
    • Coffee in good packaging (even if it isn’t nitrogen-flushed) will last at least a couple years. I’d say to stockpile a maximum of how much you can rotate through in 2 years time. If you want to stockpile more than 2-years’ worth of coffee, then it should be green coffee beans. These you store with O2 absorbers in Mylar. Be warned that the roasting process has a STRONG smell.

      Reply
  2. I purchase fresh roasted coffee from a local business. My plan was to purchase a year’s supply and repackage in Mylar bags with O2. However, after reading this article, I am not sure if that is wise as it states to only store unroasted green coffee beans in this manner. Please advise. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Yes, it would be better to buy unroasted green coffee beans. However, fresh roasted coffee beans *should* be okay for a year in Mylar with O2 absorbers – so long as you keep the bags somewhere cool. Heat really accelerates the rancidification process. If you can’t keep them cool, then go for the unroasted green coffee beans instead.

      Reply
  3. Just found 2 plastic containers unopen Maxwell House ground coffee in our garage where we store extra food. Garage is unheated or AC but does stay cooler than outside air. Can says Exp.11/19 It is now 4-21. Can I still use it?

    Reply
  4. Thanks good info. I am going to be stocking up on some things and am planning to freeze decaf that comes in those metal type not vacuum sealed bags. I am seeing that some of you are just storing in a constant temp rather than freezing. I am wondering about the benefits.. I want to stock up maybe 2-5 years worth.

    Reply
    • I personally don’t like freezing as a method of storing food long-term for emergencies. If the power goes out, so does the freezer – kind of defeats the point. For 2-5 years’ worth of coffee, unroasted beans in Mylar bags with O2 absorbers is the way to go. Or just get instant coffee. It’s freeze dried and some brands actually don’t taste that bad.

      Reply
    • Instant is definitely the easiest option! I find dry canning a waste of time and space, so Mylar + oxygen absorbers is my go-to storage method for most things.

      Reply
    • All instant coffee is freeze dried. Most instant coffee does taste pretty bad though. A lot of people swear by Starbucks Via instant coffee, though I haven’t personally tried it. I generally just use the cheap stuff and mix in some powdered coconut milk.

      Reply
  5. I am vacuum packing roasted whole bean coffee in glass jars. Any guess as to shelf life ? Using manual break line pump gauge to 20 # pressure. Works great. A non electric vacuum method.

    Reply
    • I can’t speculate on shelf life. It mostly comes down to temperature. In hot temperatures, the oils in the coffee beans will go bad fairly quickly. It will still be safe to use but won’t taste good.

      Reply
  6. Clearing out some tins and things from the garage I found a 500g vacuum packed bag of Caffe Nero Classico House Blend coffee. I was about to throw it out because the best before date is 03.10.2012. A friend has told me I can still use it as it is still sealed and in a vacuum, the only thing I will find is it will have lost a little of its taste. As I haven’t drunk coffee for a few years I thought I would give it a try as I wouldn’t know the difference! I thought it would be best to check before I undid the bag and made a brew.
    Should I throw it out, or try it? I have found my old coffee maker and it still works.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • It won’t taste as good as fresh coffee but still should be safe to drink. You could always brew coffee with it and make something out of it, like a lot of coffee cake. Then any bad taste won’t be as noticeable.

      Disclaimer: eat expired foods at your own risk! (in other words, I don’t want to get sued)

      Reply
  7. I have a freeze dryer and would like more info on freeze drying coffee. Can I freeze dry roasted coffee beans?? If so, how do I use them after – grind them and use them in a coffee maker?? Thanks for any info you have!

    Reply
    • I don’t have experience with that one but I doubt there would be any benefit to freeze-drying coffee beans (roasted or green). Freeze drying removes water and coffee beans have almost none in them. Freeze drying also won’t help keep the fats in coffee beans from going rancid.

      Also keep in mind that all instant coffee is freeze-dried. It’s made by first making an extract of coffee and freeze drying that. You could experiment with making your own instant coffee in your freeze dryer. But, since instant coffee is so cheap (and some brands actually taste good), I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle.

      Reply
      • I do a lot of freeze-drying and Diane is correct, you don’t want to try and freeze dry the beans as oils are not affected by the process and will go rancid. I thought about trying to freeze-dry coffee after making it, but speculated it would be messy and not with the effort as Diane said, freeze-dried coffee is cheap, so I will stick to freeze-drying things that are easy and worth the effort so as to not have to by freeze-dried stuff…which is $$

        Reply
  8. I have had coffee in the vacuumed foil packs almost 20 years old, and still was usable. It tasted a bit strong, but it was a cheap store brand, so may have tasted that way from the start.
    I used a lot of coffee 14 years old, also in the foil packs, and still was very good.
    I have a lot of coffee in the premeasured packs for commercial use, that is probably around 4 years past best by date, and still good as well.
    Due to the big freeze in the coffee growing regions, there may be sticker shock in a few months at the stores, so I bought coffee in the large containers, and plan on vacuuming it in canning jars.
    Coffee will last a lot longer than most people give it credit for.

    Reply

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