QUESTION: How long is roasted coffee considered fresh? Does it make a difference if it’s an opened bag or not? – Nico K.
ANSWER: The key to getting the freshest cup of coffee is to buy beans that have a very recent date printed on them for when they were roasted so that you know exactly when the beans you purchase will be at their freshest. Coffee beans come into their prime freshness just three days after roasting. If you want truly fresh coffee, the window to brew it after the roast date is actually pretty small. Most sources will tell you that coffee beans are considered fresh for five to seven weeks after they are roasted. However, coffee aficionados will probably argue that the window is really more like two to three weeks maximum, and that coffee beans will begin to lose their flavor after just two and a half to three weeks time.
After two to three weeks, the roasted coffee beans you purchased won’t go bad, but they will no longer be at their peak freshness. If you really want the freshest possible cup, experts suggest that you brew your coffee within five to seven days after it was roasted for the best possible flavor. For some, this may be a bit too soon, as you may jeopardize the degassing process which starts just after roasting.
Degassing is a process that occurs as the coffee beans release carbon dioxide after roasting. This process usually takes anywhere from three days to one week, and can greatly affect the taste of your brew. Many roasters won’t sell their coffee until after it has had a chance to degass for at least three days, while others wait a week after roasting before selling their beans. It is important to let the beans release their gas after roasting but before brewing so that you can enjoy the best possible taste from your roast.
For darker roasts, the waiting period, in which you should allow the beans to rest after roasting, is shorter than for lighter roasts. Most darker roasts are finished degassing within the first three days after roasting. For lighter roasts, the waiting period should be between five and 10 days time.
As long as you wait for the degassing period to take place, you can then abide by the general rule, which is that the coffee will be at its freshest the closer it is to the roasting date. The way that the coffee beans are packaged, however, has a major effect on how long the beans will stay fresh.
Many roasters use advanced, high-tech packaging techniques to keep their coffee beans fresh for as long as possible. Some of these packages can really help to preserve the freshness of the coffee beans inside. There are tri-fold foil packages that keep oxygen out while allowing the beans to release carbon dioxide while they are packaged. There is also a nitrogenated package that, using a nitrogenated pressure valve, keeps all oxygen out of the packaging completely, while allowing carbon dioxide to escape whenever it is emitted.
While the packaging a roaster uses can certainly keep your coffee from going stale, that all flies out the window once the package has been opened. Once you open the coffee package, it is exposed to oxygen, and the countdown officially begins on how long the coffee will stay fresh. Try to use the coffee beans you purchase within two weeks of opening the package for the best possible freshness.