All fresh roasted coffee starts going stale and bitter immediately and no amount of space age packaging technology can change that fact. Most coffee lovers eventually ask themselves, “How long does ground coffee last.” Or, put in another way, they’ll ask, “How long is coffee good for”?
For year’s I’ve been telling everyone that there is NO way on God’s green earth to preserve roasted coffee. Well… as the old saying goes, “Crow is best served warm and eaten in big bites”. Therefore, as much as I hate saying this, I was wrong.
Please forgive my male ego, which requires me to qualify that statement. I haven’t found a way to preserve fresh roasted coffee that saves the entire wonderful God given taste of those fresh beans, but it’s close.
Pardon the following long story, but it’s a fun story and worth the read.
Cracking The Door
A few years ago, a long-time customer and friend of mine, Dan from Everett, Washington, heard me say that it’s impossible to preserve fresh roasted coffee. Dan called me on this, in front of the whole world, in a comment on my website, he said, “Bullshit! I buy 5 pounds at a time of your Lake City Coffee and freeze most of it. And the last frozen bag is still better than anything else on the market”!
I told Dan, “I agree, the last bag is better than anything else that you can buy on the market, but it still can’t compare to the first bag that was only hours old”. He agreed. So, I was safe in claiming that fresh roasted coffee beans are way better than old bitter and stale beans.
Better Preserved Coffee
Recently a customer and new friend, Jo Ann of Birmingham, Alabama, told me that she’s found that frozen ground coffee tasted much better than frozen whole bean coffee.
That sounded weird, so I gave it a try. Sure enough, the frozen ground coffee tasted better than the frozen whole bean coffee, but it still couldn’t compare to coffee roasted just yesterday or even coffee roasted within the last few weeks.
Free Shipping On 3 Bags or More
I hate paying for shipping, so why would I force my customers to pay for shipping. So, Alisha (my wife and partner) and I agreed to offer free shipping for anyone buying 3 or more bags of coffee.
Yet, I have customers that buy 1 or 2 bags at a time and gladly pay the shipping charges, just so they could have fresher coffee. That makes sense to me.
But, here’s the rub. 90% of our weekly orders are for 3 bags. What bothers me is that third bag isn’t going to be near as good as the first bag. So, how can we better preserve that 3rd bag?
Over the last year, I’ve been buying flour, rice, beans, etc. in 25-50 pound bags. Then I got to wonder how am I going to preserve these dry goods?
Apparently, oxygen is the enemy of food preservation. Get rid of the oxygen and food will last for decades instead of months. As it turns out, iron converts oxygen into nitrogen, which is an inert gas, i.e., nitrogen doesn’t interact with other chemicals or food. That’s a good thing.
Not surprisingly, you can get “Oxygen Absorbers” (little packets of iron) on the internet or at a zillion other places for just a few cents each.
How Long Is Coffee Good For
As I’ve said, answering the questions, “How long is coffee good for”? and “How long does ground coffee last”, is pretty straight forward. You can’t preserve all that fresh roasted flavor, but you can preserve most of it. The trick is to use “Oxygen Absorbers”.
You can find Oxygen Absorbers on the internet and they’re dirt-cheap. They often come in 100cc, 300cc, 500cc, 1,000cc, and 2,000cc sizes.
Mad Scientist On The Loose
1. I armed myself with:
- 100cc Oxygen Absorbers
- 1 Qt Ziploc Freezer Bags
- Fresh Roasted Coffee
- Sharpie Pen
- 1 Qt Mylar Bags
- Mylar Bag Heat Sealer (Click Here)
2. I marked each bag with the Sharpie and then filled each bag with either whole bean or ground coffee.
- Cupboard – Mylar Bag – Whole Bean
- Cupboard – Mylar Bag – Ground Coffee
- Cupboard – Ziploc Bag – Whole Bean
- Cupboard – Ziploc Bag – Ground Coffee
- Frozen – Mylar Bag – Whole Bean
- Frozen – Mylar Bag – Ground Coffee
- Frozen – Ziploc Bag – Whole Bean
- Frozen – Ziploc Bag – Ground Coffee
3. The final step was to very quickly open the Oxygen Absorber bag, quickly pull out 8 oxygen absorbers, then quickly reseal the original Oxygen Absorber bag. To reseal the bag, use a heat sealer or move all the absorbers into a Ziploc bag. You don’t want the oxygen absorbers exposed to the air for more than 1 minute.
4. Then, I quickly put an oxygen absorber in each bag of coffee and seal the bag.
5. I then tossed the cupboard bags in the back of a cupboard and the freezer bags into the freezer. Finally, I tried my best to forget that they were there.
How Long Does Ground Coffee Last
Yes, I know “ground coffee” and “last” is an oxymoron.
When you grind those beautiful beans, you’ve just multiplied the surface are by a factor of 100, which means that when exposed to the air (oxygen) those beans will turn bitter very quickly. So, always grind your coffee just before brewing.
This experiment aside, fresh roasted whole bean coffee is the way to go. So, to answer your question, “How long does ground coffee last”? Not long. Maybe a few hours at best.
After 7 weeks in the cupboard and freezer, I pulled all the beans out and started making coffee. To begin with, I ground all the whole beans using the same grinder set on medium-fine. Since I prefer super smooth coffee, I then used the AeroPress brewing technique. I also used identical insulated mugs to maintain the same temperature.
As my baseline, I compared each cup of coffee to this week’s roast, which was only three days ago. So, I made each cup as identical as possible. Keep in mind that under normal conditions, I can tell the difference between this week’s roast and last week’s roast, much less coffee roasted 7 weeks ago. Additionally, month old coffee, even mine, might still taste good, but it’s noticeably different from fresh.
That being said, what was the result? The oxygen absorbers worked great! Every package, Ziploc or sealed Mylar; cupboard or frozen; worked very well. The difference between the 7 week old coffee using the oxygen absorbers was 90% as good as this week’s roasted coffee. The oxygen absorbers definitely made a big difference.
So, which packaging method was best? Surprisingly, it was the ground frozen with the oxygen absorber. Also a big surprise was that we saw no difference between the heat sealed Mylar bags and the Ziploc bags.
If it was me, I’d drop an 300cc oxygen absorber into our Lake City Coffee original tin-tie paper coffee bag and then put that bag into a gallon Ziploc bag and put it in the freezer.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Alisha or me.