Green coffee beans are best for long term storage (if you do it right). Note that green coffee beans have not been roasted yet (you have to do it yourself at some point). Because they haven’t been roasted, their natural oils are more stable. Therefore, green coffee beans can last for a very long time, and are best for long-term storage with proper packaging.
On the other hand, roasted coffee beans have a limited shelf life, and comparatively won’t retain their fresh flavor for too long (though I have a good tip below). The shelf life of ground coffee is even less – making both roasted coffee beans and ground coffee poor choices for long term storage.
So, what is the best coffee for long term storage? Green coffee beans (however, they will require roasting – more information below).
UPDATE: Since my original post, I realize that the roasting process might not appeal to everyone who seeks to store coffee for long term preparedness. Therefore, another excellent choice is freeze dried coffee (instant coffee). I’ll talk more about this in a minute…
Okay, I’m going to talk about green coffee beans, how-to store them for long term, coffee roasters, how-to roast coffee beans, the coffee grinder, and finally, freeze dried coffee for long term storage.
What Are Green Coffee Beans?
They are coffee beans in their natural state, BEFORE they are roasted.
When you buy coffee beans at the grocery store, they’ve already been roasted. Roasted coffee beans won’t pass the test of time like green coffee beans will (long term storage).
Coffee beans grow on a coffee plant, a small tree-like shrub. Coffee comes from a small red fruit that must go through many stages to become the tasty brown bean we all know as coffee. Most coffee is first “wet processed” to remove the outer skin, the pulp (which is actually fermented away), and the inner parchment skin.
This leaves the inner seed, or bean, which is then dried. This coffee bean is “green” (before it’s roasted) and is ideal for long term storage.
Here’s a picture of coffee plants. You can see some of the red fruit.
Source: Primos Coffee Co.
Here’s a picture of coffee beans in their stage as small red fruit.
Source: Primos Coffee Co.
How-to Store Green Coffee Beans Long Term
So what’s the shelf life and how long do green coffee beans last?
Properly packaged green beans may subjectively retain their “freshness” for 20 years!
Think of it as you would any dried beans, you can do it yourself. Just like you might store other dry food goods in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers – in a 5-gallon bucket (for example). Or maybe instead of all in one big bag, you use smaller Mylar bags, which end up in a bucket (for protection) for long term storage.
I also recommend Gamma Seal Lids for easy access. I use them on all my storage buckets that I do-it-myself.
For example, among the many sources for green coffee beans,
Unroasted Specialty Grade Nicaragua Arabica
(view on amzn)
1-gallon Mylar bags might be perfect for long term storing of dry goods such as coffee, spices, any dry grains, rice, beans, etc., in a portion that’s not overwhelming (compared to a 5-gallon size). I like the following, given their extra thick Mylar.
Add a 300cc oxygen absorber, then push as much air out as you can before sealing. Even if the bags have a sealing strip (like the example above), run an iron over the top inch to give it a guaranteed seal.
You would use 300cc oxygen absorbers with a 1-gallon Mylar bag. Such as these, for example:
A Great Way To Store Ground Coffee or Beans For Extended Freshness
It’s called a Coffeevac, a unique airtight container that’s simple to use. It holds 1-pound of ground coffee or beans. I used to buy ground coffee, and these are perfect to extend freshness (or with beans prior to grinding).
Nowadays I only purchase coffee beans, and grind them myself just prior to brewing. I keep the bulk ‘working’ beans in a larger similar airtight container that holds 5-pounds. I also keep my dog’s ‘kibble’ in one of them too.
Coffeevac 1 lb
Peering down into my Tightvac, can’t you almost just smell the delicious aroma of the roasted organic Sumatra coffee beans? Looks like I need to refill it soon!
Green Coffee Bean Roaster
There are several popular coffee bean roasters on the market. Some are very expensive, others in-between.
Being a preparedness site, I will first mention this one… because it’s inexpensive (only roasts a small amount at a time), and doesn’t require electricity. Just set on a stove top, or even over coals from a fire…
The following coffee roaster seems to dominate popularity and reviews among those that are mid-priced.
Fresh Roast SR540
How-to Roast Green Coffee Beans
Coffee Roasters Handbook
Note: The roasting process will create some smoke! Especially if roasting at higher temperatures and/or roasting beyond “second crack” of the beans. So be prepared to ventilate! Use under a range hood that vents outdoors, or consider roasting your beans outside on the porch, etc..
Note: If roasting with other than a specialized coffee bean roaster, a fairly low temperature of approximately 275-F will get the job done. You may roast up to 500-F for shorter times and darker flavors however be aware of smoke…
Coffee Bean Roast To “First Crack”
After a few minutes of roasting, the green beans will turn a lighter green-yellow color.
The beans may start to steam as any moisture that may be inside is released.
Soon after that, you will hear the “first crack.” The cracking sound occurs as the real roasting begins.
The sugars in the beans start to caramelize, more moisture is released, and oils start to release as the structure of the bean breaks down.
After the first crack, you can stop roasting if you like very lightly roasted coffee. The beans are dark brown, but not very oily.
Note: The beans retain most of their caffeine at this stage of roast.
Coffee Bean Roast To “Second Crack”
As you continue to roast, the beans caramelize more, and more oils appear as the bean expands and the roast becomes darker.
Soon after, the “second crack” can be heard. Pieces (chaff) will be blown away from the bean. You may want to stop roasting at the first sign of the second crack unless you are going for a very dark roast.
During the second crack, the sugars will burn and smoke will be more pungent. The dark beans will take on a very oily appearance.
Note from an experienced roaster:
I can say with confidence that the earlier stages of coffee roasting smells more like cut grass than coffee; once it hits first crack it starts to smell a bit like coffee.
If you take it past second crack (the beans swell and pop, first a little, then later more, so second crack is louder than first crack) too far you get to french roast, or a waste of beans. At this point the thick white coffee-smelling smoke begins.
Coffee Bean Grinder
After the roasting process and cool down, and before you brew a delicious cup, you will need a coffee grinder to grind the beans.
Again, being a preparedness-oriented site, you might want to consider a manual grinder too…
Best Manual Coffee Bean Grinder:
JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder
(view on amzn)
I have gone through several cheap electric coffee grinders over the years. Never liked any of them for various reasons. About a year ago I finally purchased one that I’m very happy with! So much so, that I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a decent coffee grinder.
Freeze Dried Coffee for Long Term Storage
Also know as Instant Coffee. Let me tell you something… freeze dried coffee can be pretty acceptably good! There’s some good tasting instant coffee.
Although you simply cannot beat roasted coffee beans freshly ground and brewed, Freeze Dried instant coffee is super quick and easy. Can taste pretty good. And will store well for a very long time in its unopened state.
How long will freeze dried instant coffee last? The answer is subjective. However, I will estimate 10+ years unopened and stored properly. Even opened instant coffee will last a long time, just not as long.
I do keep an inventory of some freeze dried coffee. I have experimented with a number of them, and I have settled upon a flavor and quality that I personally like. It’s actually espresso coffee. I semi-regularly have a small cup as a treat…
Anyway, there’s plenty of instant coffee choices out there. And it may be a good choice for you and your long term storage of coffee for preparedness!