Shelf life of Coffee
Green coffee beans
Green Coffee Beans are stored in a dry environment and can last up to ten years or more. Green beans that have been stored are called aged coffees. As green beans are aged, they lose their acidity and gain body.
Coffee beans that have been roasted have a shelf life of two weeks if the coffee has been properly stored. After two weeks, the coffee will start to lose flavor. To ensure the most flavorful coffee, it is best to brew your coffee within one week of roasting. After two weeks the coffee becomes stale.
Ground coffee has a shelf life of one hour before it begins to lose flavor. Therefore, coffee should be ground just before using.
Traditional Arab culture actually roasts, grinds, and brews the beans all in the same setting. They believe that this reveals the most flavorful coffee.
When coffee is roasted, an oil is drawn to the surface of the bean. This oil is called coffee essence/coffeol/coffee oil. The oil is what makes coffee have its flavor. Without this oil, coffee would taste like a bitter brown powder.
Coffee oil is very fragile and will evaporate at an accelerated rate when exposed to oxygen or moisture. To prevent coffee from deteriorating, it should be stored in an air tight glass container at room temperature and placed out of direct sunlight. Glass should be used because it will not retain odor from the beans and will prevent contamination if you choose to store another type of bean in the same container.
Storing coffee in the refrigerator will destroy the flavor of the coffee. The moisture will dilute the oils, which are actually delicate water soluble substances. Refrigerators tend to be damp and most contain other odors which will be absorbed by the coffee bean.
Freezing is a better way to store coffee but the beans must be placed in a glass air tight container. Only lighter roasted coffee should be stored in the freezer. The darker roasted coffees tend to be more fragile.
Commercial vs Gourmet Coffee
Gourmet coffee is made from Arabica Beans. These are the most flavorful beans. Commercial coffees are made from a mixture of Arabica and Robusta, and usually low grade Brazilian beans.
Robusta and Brazilian beans are cheaper than Arabica beans, so the large commercial coffee manufacturers tend to use these beans in their blends and add a few Arabica beans for flavor. When the coffee prices go up, the commercial manufactures tend to use less of the Arabica bean in their mixture. Robusta beans also contain thirty to forty percent more caffeine than the Arabica bean.
Another disadvantage with commercial coffee is the freshness. The coffee sits on the shelf for more than two weeks and it may take a week or more to get to the stores shelves after it has been packaged. Once in the store, the coffee is not rotated. The coffee in the back of the shelf may have been there for several months. The longer the coffee sits on the shelf, the staler and more bitter it becomes.
The major advantage of the commercial coffee is the price. It is definitely less expensive than the Gourmet coffees.
Gourmet coffee is roasted and sold within a one week period. It is usually sold in the whole bean form. This way it retains its flavor until you decide to brew it. Unlike commercial coffees, you can choose origin (Sumatra, Kona, etc..) and the type of roast (French, Italian, Light, etc..). Gourmet coffees offer the consumer more choices than the commercial manufacturers. The major advantage of gourmet coffees is flavor.