Monday, January 6, 2014

How Long Do Green Coffee Beans Stay Fresh

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I've met a new friend recently who roasts his own coffee beans. I was fascinated so I decided to head over to his place to watch the action and try his coffee. I was definitely expecting something amazing and he didn't disappoint.

With my two year old son in my arms we watched him slow roast the beans on his stovetop in a large iron skillet. When finished he took the beans outside to remove the chaff, grind them, and then he brewed some excellent coffee from both his French press and his Aeropress (which I had never tried before).

I was blown away at how simple the process was and how tasty the coffee was.

Like any coffee geek I started thinking that I needed to do this too. After all, he didn't use any equipment that I didn't already have. I already have a heavy skillet, wooden spoon, mesh colander - apparently this is all you need to start out with. It did get me thinking though.

Doing a bit more research on home roasting I found that green coffee beans were actually cheaper for me to buy from my local roasting company. Buying them online you can usually get the beans for about half of what you would pay for fully roasted beans. And when you buy online lots of the companies sell them in 5 pound bags or lots even bigger than that so you are getting a bulk discount. I thought, wow, that's a lot of beans. I would never buy that big a bag of roasted beans, they would not stay fresh.

Then I thought - how long do green coffee beans last anyway? Do green coffee beans stay fresh longer than roasted coffee beans?

Turns out that a dark roasted bean stays fresh for up to a couple weeks at most while a light roasted bean starts losing their freshness after a week to 10 days but green beans in an unroasted state can be good for a year or more if stored properly.

Green Beanery keeps it simple. They recommend storing for no more than a 2-3 years in a breathable bag at room temperature. This seems pretty doable to me.

Digging further I found an excellent article on green bean coffee storage for distributors and retailers originally published in the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal way back in February of 1999. There's tons of information in that article and it's all fascinating but the key take-a-way for the home roaster is that minimizing temperature swings and humidity changes is the best way to lengthen the life of a green coffee bean.

For this reason storing in a refrigerator is a no-no. There are just too many ways for condensation to form on the beans.

I for one will be buying a large lot of beans and portioning them out. I'll store a working supply in the kitchen cabinet where it's a comfortable 69 degrees or so and the rest will be in mason jars or Ziploc bags out in the garage next to the potatoes. Although a jar or Ziploc bag isn't necessary for beans to keep they will stop most critters from getting into the beans.

Looking to buy beans? Don't worry about freshness. Buy in bulk, save some money, and store them in a safe place around the home. Sounds like fun to me.

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