Have you ever forgotten a bag of coffee beans on one of your kitchen pantry shelves, only to come upon them months later? That often happens when we buy coffee in bulk or travel, leaving behind a bag of coffee beans we were hoping to use.
Once you come across old beans, you may be skeptical about using them to brew coffee. That’s because every coffee drinker knows old coffee beans brew stale coffee.
A good cup of coffee should have a bold flavor, rich aroma, and lots of caffeine. Can you expect old coffee beans to give you a brew with an acceptable amount of caffeine and flavor?
This article will answer your questions concerning how long coffee beans retain their caffeine content.
What is Caffeine?
The caffeine content in coffee is important because it is the main reason most of us take coffee. Drinking a cup of coffee with little or no caffeine is a waste.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that activates the brain by blocking its adenosine receptors, keeping us from feeling fatigued. That’s why you feel more energetic and mentally alert after drinking coffee.
Therefore, nobody wants to use coffee beans with little caffeine to brew coffee. So how fast do coffee beans lose their caffeine content?
Caffeine only dissipates from coffee beans during the brewing process when they are exposed to hot water. Otherwise, the only other way to get the caffeine out of coffee beans is by de – caffeinating them using solvents.
Therefore, even if you forget a bag of coffee beans in your kitchen cupboards for years, you don’t have to worry about losing much of the caffeine in them. But does that mean caffeine lasts forever?
Roasted coffee beans can preserve their caffeine content for up to four years. Although the caffeine starts to break down slowly after that, it will still take many years for the coffee beans to completely lose their caffeine content.
That means you can expect a bag of coffee beans to retain their caffeine content for a long time.
How Much Flavor do Coffee Beans Lose Over Time?
Unfortunately, while coffee beans retain most of their caffeine content over time, they do not hold on to flavor for long. Unlike caffeine, the flavonoids responsible for giving coffee its taste are quite volatile, which causes them to evaporate fast.
These are the compounds you lose when you store a bag of coffee poorly. Coffee beans lose their flavor when exposed to light, heat, and air. That will leave you with beans that can only brew a flat cup of coffee without any flavor or aroma.
The loss of flavor in coffee beans occurs because they dry out, leading to the breakdown of most of their mineral enzymes and beneficial compounds such as antioxidants and flavonoids.
It’s the reason we are advised against leaving an open bag of coffee beans on our shelves.
How Can You Extend the Shelf Life of Coffee?
If you want to preserve the caffeine and flavor in coffee beans, you must find ways to prolong their shelf life. That means adapting coffee storage habits that will keep your coffee beans from being exposed to light, heat, or air. These are;
1. Avoid Buying Coffee Grounds
Whole coffee beans retain their flavor and caffeine content better than coffee grounds. You should always grind coffee beans just before you brew your coffee.
But if you choose to use ground coffee for coffee brewing, you can be sure it will reduce caffeine content due to oxidation.
Coffee grounds lose their potency within 10 – 15 minutes of grinding them. The same applies to coffee grounds in a bag when you open them.
Therefore, invest in a coffee grinder to ensure you can grind coffee beans whenever you need to brew coffee.
2. Store Coffee Grounds in Air-tight Containers
You may be one of those people who prefer to use coffee grounds to make your coffee instead of whole beans. That may be because you don’t have time to grind coffee or lack coffee grinding equipment.
The best way to preserve coffee grounds is to store them in an opaque air-tight container. Make sure you keep the container of coffee grounds in a cool and dark place too.
Storing coffee grounds in this way will keep them from losing flavor and aroma due to oxidation or light exposure. It will also keep them away from moisture which can breed bacteria and fungi.
3. Avoid Freezing Coffee Beans
While you may think freezing coffee beans will preserve their flavor and caffeine, that’s not the best way to store coffee. Unless you store coffee beans in a re-sealable freezer bag in the fridge, they will absorb all the odors from foods in the refrigerator.
Some coffee beans also crack while in the freezer when the moisture inside them freezes. Coffee beans also get freezer burn due to the extreme cold temperatures in the freezer.
Therefore, always store coffee beans at room temperature to avoid issues associated with fridge storage.
What Can You Do With Old Coffee Beans?
Brewing coffee with old coffee beans won’t get you sick, but it will result in a dull, flavorless, stale-tasting coffee. That’s not worth any caffeine you may get from such beans.
If you find that your coffee beans do not contain enough flavor to brew coffee, you don’t need to worry about wasting them. There are many ways to use old coffee beans. These are;
1. To Prepare Cold Brew
Since we’ve clarified that old coffee beans lose their flavor but retain most of their caffeine content, you may use them to prepare cold brews. This method of coffee brewing is quite different from others, like pour-over coffee making, which requires the flavors or caffeine in beans to be released quickly.
You can soak old coffee beans in cold water for a full day when making cold brew. That’s enough time to extract all the flavor and caffeine you can get from any type of coffee beans.
Most people use this trick to make coffee concentrate from old coffee beans. Try it and use the concentrate you make to add flavor to coffee cocktails, smoothies, or milkshakes.
2. In Baked Goods
You may use old coffee grounds to make cakes, cookies, pies, and other baked goods that allow for the use of coffee grounds. A cup of coffee grounds can add flavor to desserts such as brownies.
Some people coat coffee beans with chocolate to make snacks. If you’ve been eyeing those expensive chocolate coffee bean snacks at the grocery store, making them at home using old roasted coffee beans can save you money.
3. In Your Garden Compost
You can grind old coffee beans and throw them into your compost to create a rich, acidic garden fertilizer. Make sure you let the coffee grounds mingle with other ingredients in the compost for 3 months before using them in your garden.
That will ensure any potent compounds in the grounds, such as tannins, are cleared from them to keep them from harming the plants in your garden.
Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. Many coffee drinkers prepare their brews from home. Learning how to store coffee is essential if you want to enjoy the coffee you make at home.
While you don’t have to worry about losing the caffeine in coffee beans, you will lose their flavor and aroma when you store coffee beans poorly. The same case applies if you buy coffee beans that have been lying around on the shelves for days after the roasting date.
Once you buy freshly roasted coffee beans, follow our suggestions on how to store them, and you’ll never have to worry about wasting a bag of beans again due to their lack of flavor or caffeine.
But if you ever forget a bag of beans through no fault of your own, use the recycling tips we’ve given you to get the best out of them.