Once coffee beans have become stale, there is nothing you can do to revive them. While you can’t stop coffee beans from becoming stale, you can slow the process down with proper storage.
From the moment coffee beans have finished being roasted and are exposed to oxygen, a process known as oxidation begins.
Oxidation is a chemical reaction that will begin to degrade the flavor and aroma of your coffee beans.
Protecting your coffee beans from the exposure of air, moisture, heat, and light will help slow down the oxidation process.
How can you tell if coffee beans are stale?
The best way to tell if coffee beans are stale is by smell.
Stale coffee beans will have a dull, musty, ashy, and rancid aroma. If the coffee beans smell like any of these, chances are the coffee will taste that way too.
Coffee beans have a sheen of oil on their surface. As coffee beans become stale they lose this sheen. Stale coffee beans will feel grainy, dry and won’t leave behind any oily residue.
If you are served a cup of joe, how can you tell if the beans used are fresh or stale?
If you can’t touch or smell the coffee beans, then it’s difficult to tell if the coffee is fresh or stale without actually tasting it.
Stale coffee will have very little smell and tastes bland. Don’t be worried if you have tried stale coffee, you will not get sick or have food poisoning.
So what will happen?
Your taste buds will meet with a bland, lifeless, and bitter-tasting coffee.
What is the shelf life of coffee beans?
On average, once you’ve removed roasted coffee beans from their original bag, you have 2 to 4 months to consume them before they are stale.
The shelf life of coffee beans will vary drastically between green (unroasted) coffee beans to roasted coffee beans.
Green (unroasted) coffee beans have the best shelf life. Once harvested and processed, green beans are shipped globally to roasters. These beans will last approximately two years.
Roasted coffee beans have a much shorter shelf life, which can be drastically lengthed or shortened depending on how they are stored.
If you have roasted coffee beans left in the original, unopened one-way valve bag, those coffee beans will remain fresh for the better part of 12 months.
Ground coffee beans stale faster than whole beans as being ground up into fines accelerates the oxidation process. Degrading them almost instantly, with many coffee enthusiasts claiming if you don’t store the grounds correctly within the hour of grinding them, they will become stale.
What can you do with stale coffee beans?
While unable to get the coffee beans back to their original, fresh, full of flavor state, there are a few things you can do to mask the stale flavor.
Throwing in oils, spices, or extracts with the coffee beans will help you mask the stale taste while also not wasting coffee beans.
- Adding cinnamon to the beans before grinding, is an easy way to refresh stale coffee beans. The amount of cinnamon largely depends on your taste.
- Mixing vanilla extract into the coffee beans or grounds will help mask the stale flavor.
Other things you can use are:
- Coffee-flavored syrup
- Maple syrup
- Almond Oil
- Black Walnut Oil
You can even try to flavor the coffee beans with other syrups and coffee flavorings. I have another article about how to flavor your coffee beans.
Not all of these will work every time. You will need to use trial and error when finding the perfect amount to add.
One comment thrown around is that if you lightly re-roast the coffee beans, it can spark life back into them.
Do not attempt this! Re-roasting your stale coffee beans will result in burnt and still stale tasting coffee beans.
Similar to bread, once coffee beans become stale. There is nothing you can do to revive them.
Unfortunately, the oxidation process is a process you can’t avoid. If with perfect storage conditions after a certain amount of time, those coffee beans will become stale.
The options above may help you mask the bland taste of stale coffee but nothing will beat the taste of a coffee made with freshly roasted beans.