I have been asked this question on many occasions: “Why does it matter if I buy whole coffee beans rather than ground coffee beans?”
When it comes to coffee, if you want the best taste possible, you must use fresh beans. Truly, it is a well-known fact that coffee breaks down over time, and this drastically changes depending on its surface area. Therefore, for coffee beans to maintain as much freshness and flavor as possible, it is necessary to buy whole bean coffee.
How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?
To answer this question fully, there are many factors to consider. For example: the darker the roast, the longer the coffee beans last. Also, how the coffee is stored extends or reduces shelf-life. That said though, a general rule of thumb is that good, whole bean coffee will noticeably lose flavor after about two to three weeks. This does not mean that it is not safe to consume, but simply that it will lose flavor, become more bitter, and less pleasant to the nostrils.
And that is whole bean coffee. Ground coffee, on the other hand, breaks down much quicker. In reaction to oxygen, it is said that ground coffee loses somewhere around 60% of its aroma within 15 minutes. Another reality is that about 80% of the coffee’s CO2 is released when coffee is ground after only 1 minute. And, CO2 is a necessary factor, because it plays an important role in transferring flavor from bean to water. On top of this, flavor is affected by whatever is around it. Because of the delicacy of coffee oil, surrounding odors will contaminate the coffee and lead to a less enjoyable cup. And, because coffee oils are water-soluble, they will soak up any moisture that is around them–this is why proper storage is necessary.
To Those Who Only Seek Caffeine:
Now, while this remains a reality, that buying whole bean coffee is better than buying ground coffee, some of you may not really care what your coffee tastes like. You may only be drinking it for the caffeine. For as far as I know (correct me if I am wrong), coffee grounds do not lose caffeine when they are old. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to begin this journey of drinking and actually tasting coffee. You will not regret it.
The next post on the fundamentals or basics of coffee will specifically address the necessary issue of coffee storage.