Hectic lifestyle but love roasting your own coffee? Then you’ll need to know how to give those fresh green coffee beans a nice long shelf life.
Once you learn the 7 factors involved in the quality of green coffee beans, you'll be in a much better position to preserve them for longer. You'll get all the health benefits too!
For roast coffee beans, bear in mind the advice will differ as these beans are getting actively used and have already undergone the roasting process.
Read on to learn all the details about making unroasted coffee beans last!
What’s The Lifespan Of Green Coffee Beans?
Green coffee beans have a lifespan of up to twelve months. This gives them a longer shelf life than roasted beans.
It’s down to the protective outer layer and the oils that stop the beans from spoiling.
After the beans are processed and packed, they should keep for 12 months in the right conditions.
This is why I say “up to” 12 months - if the packaging is wrong, those beans will have a much shorter shelf life.
So it’s really the storage method that determines the precise lifespan when storing green coffee beans.
Here’s a rough breakdown based on storage method:
Loose or no packaging
Generic or jute packaging
Sealed specialist packaging
Regardless, it would help if you turned them into roasted beans within a few months to get the most flavor and aroma from them.
If generic packaging is used long-term, "beans stored in this manner could no longer be considered specialty coffee beans," according to a 2022 study published in the Nature Journal.
Green coffee beans last longer if stored in hermetic packaging or a sealed container versus burlap bags or plastic bags.
How much longer the shelf life depends on various other factors (I'll discuss this a little further down!)
If you want to store your favorite blend of coffee beans and keep that tasty flavor sensation, remember you won't want the coffee to absorb anything.
This is why a sealed four-layer bag is a good idea, even for short periods.
An article from MT Pak Coffee goes into further detail and explains that the "quad seal pouch, also known as a block bottom, flat bottom, or box pouch, comprises five panels with four vertical seals."
What Are Green Coffee Beans? (Nature’s Raw Caffeine)
The green coffee bean comes from processed coffee cherries. These raw coffee beans are actually the raw seeds of those cherries.
They’re not yet roasted, so they’re unfit for making the coffee you enjoy drinking at your local coffee shop.
Instead, they're like coffee in potential form. It's not the real deal just yet!
Green coffee beans need roasting to make them into the fresh coffee you know and love!
Roasting coffee, according to Starbucks, means "to bring out its aroma, acidity, body and flavor."
Before that roasting though, they still feature the raw ingredients that make your next cup of freshly roasted coffee so special.
This is why whole beans get stored correctly in small batches by coffee retailers before use.
The distinct flavors of your coffee and the all-important dose of caffeine are within the beans already.
Here’s a full list of the powerful natural components you’ll find inside green coffee beans taken from the Molecules journal.
You'll see why people appreciate these beans so much!
This makes green coffee beans a source of energy and stimulation without any artificial additives.
Carbohydrates and proteins are building blocks for our bodies, so knowing pre-ground green coffee beans have these is great!
Tannic acid adds depth and complexity, improving cup quality when making your coffee. It’s also an antioxidant that helps stave off cellular damage.
Pectin and lignin are beneficial for the body too. Pectin helps ensure digestion is well-maintained because it's a dietary fiber.
Lignin can assist with protection against the development of certain diseases.
7 Factors That Shape The Quality Of Green Coffee Beans
Here are 7 vital factors all coffee enthusiasts should know about as a general rule of thumb for good coffee bean storage.
They're known by most specialty coffee roasters, and now you'll be aware of them too!
1. Light Exposure
When raw beans are exposed to light, it causes 'photodegradation.' Compounds responsible for green coffee freshness get destroyed over time.
This is why proper storage should keep those tasty green coffee beans out of bright light!
According to a Researchgate analysis, almost 50% of 19 research papers demonstrated a reduction in coffee quality with increased light exposure.
An opaque container is one way forward.
Research published in the Nature Journal on the effect of storage conditions suggests that green coffee beans can last in a decent state for 9-12 months.
If the storage conditions are not good, the coffee can lose its freshness after as little as 3 months. If left loose or exposed to the elements, the flavor, and aroma will dissipate much sooner.
3. Insects & Pests
If you store coffee beans or pre-ground coffee and bugs get in, it's game over. Bites and boreholes will appear in countless numbers of green beans.
You'll have to throw the whole batch of coffee beans out and start over, as they won't stay fresh for long.
If not, you'll notice a bitter taste in the flavor notes and a sour aroma. If you're concerned about pests, store your beans in an airtight jar and watch for any changes.
Going back to the Nature study noted above, you can see temperature has a significant impact on how you store green coffee beans effectively.
When you reach 20 degrees Celsius, coffee beans can't take the heat. They'll denature rapidly, as shown in Figure 2 of the study. So keep those beans cool!
Until you're ready for roasting coffee beans, keep your coffee beans in the best place you have at the cool range of -10C and 10C (15F to 50F) to help them remain fresh and have a long shelf life.
At a virtual event hosted by Roast Magazine in 2021, a discussion was held on water and green coffee.
The takeaway was that moisture content is a big deal for optimum freshness, but either too much moisture or too little causes problems.
Moisture level influences “weight, density, viscosity, and conductivity, among others.”
This means it makes a big difference, even if it only varies slightly.
Less than 10% humidity is typically too dry for the coffee, and more than 12% is typically too wet. Low humidity at 11% should be the goal.
6. Oxygen Exposure
When you store green coffee beans, it's vital they're not oxygenated. This has disastrous consequences for your green coffee!
Oxygenation affects the coffee beans' shelf life, flavors, and aroma. Coffee beans are actually a raw seed, which means they're alive.
Because of this, they need what we all need - air and water. Too much, though, and compounds will degrade. The coffee beans will lose their potency.
Professor Flavio Borem at the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil notes that the “external part of the coffee cell has a lot of oil… and the oils rapidly become rancidified in the presence of oxygen.”
Bringing all this together reveals the number of factors involved in green coffee storage and keeping beans fresh.
You need to balance everything to make green coffee beans last for as long as possible.
The last important factor is the storage medium itself—the container or pouch where the coffee is stored.
Vacuum seal bags create an air tight environment for the coffee beans, which keeps them from oxygenation over the long term.
Different types of hermetic bags are available, but they all get the job done. Jute bags are an industry standard, but they let in air and water, so they need to be used with care.
How To Store Them For Max Freshness
Let's take a closer look at how to maintain freshness for an extended period.
Coffee beans need a protective atmosphere. When you buy green coffee beans, ground coffee, or freshly roasted coffee beans, they should all be packaged well.
Manufacturers do this to keep your coffee beans fresher for longer. There are special types of bags that affect how long coffee beans can last.
These include Ecotact, Grainpro, and generic Polyethylene (PE) bags. Use these increasingly popular pouches if you plan to store green coffee beans at home.
Navneet Jain from Ecotact says their bags are “hermetic 9-layer, high-barrier packaging, which keeps coffee farm fresh.”
This is the standard you should aim for. Alongside the bags, here are some more tips to keep your green coffee beans as fresh as can be:
- Keep it in a place that’s dark, dry, and cool
- Keep the coffee beans on shelves and not the floor
- Avoid placing it in areas with moisture or strong aromas
- If you don't have bags, use a sealed glass jar instead
- Check the area you're putting the coffee is a pest-free environment
Ensuring you store beans correctly in an airtight container or hermetic packaging makes the biggest difference in making your beans stay fresh.
If nothing can get into your green beans and they can't get out, then you're all good!
For clarity, that includes the following:
Related Green Coffee Bean Shelf Life Questions
Why are green coffee beans so popular?
Green coffee beans are popular because they’re filled with healthy compounds. There are more of these compounds in green coffee beans than there are in roasted coffee beans.
What does “old” green coffee taste like?
The taste of old green coffee past its shelf life has three qualities. Papery, baggy, and woody. Acidity reduces over time, too, so the coffee tastes flat and dull. Green bean coffee that's old is definitely a must-avoid!
Where can you buy green coffee beans?
You can buy green coffee beans from grocery stores like Walmart and specialist coffee shops. You can also check out coffee bean resellers and standard retail websites like Amazon.
Do green coffee beans need to be refrigerated?
No, green coffee beans don't need to be refrigerated. This often reduces their overall quality and damages the flavor and aroma. You can store them between -10C and 10C (15F to 50F) in sealed bags. Otherwise, keep them at room temperature.
How long do roasted coffee beans last?
Regular roasted coffee beans last for about a year in appropriate packaging stored in the right conditions. If they're out in the open, though, you'll find you can only store roasted coffee beans for a matter of days, even when refrigerated.
Now you know just how long do green coffee beans last. The only things left to consider are how long you need those beans to last.
If you want a short-term fix, you can wing it and get away with it.
Otherwise, you'll need to get great packaging and store it well. Experiment with a couple options and see what's best!
Last but not least, to ensure the shelf life of your green or roasted beans is as long as possible, re-read this article in the future to ensure they're stored properly.