What Exactly Is A Coffee's Roast Date (And Is It The Best By Date)?

Whether you browse for coffee at your local café or peruse the shelves at the grocery store, you obviously want the freshest beans available. But while you look for a sell-by date, you may come across a roast date instead. It's important to know that the roast date is very different from a sell-by date — and not at all related to an expiration date. Roast dates refer to the actual day the raw coffee beans actually go through the roasting processes. Most specialty and gourmet coffee roasters include this information since it is the best indicator of freshness. Sell-by information refers to what date coffee should be purchased or taken off the shelves at the latest. 

Once coffee beans are roasted, they rapidly begin to deteriorate. That's because the roasting process causes the beans to secrete their natural oils and moisture. This phenomenon is true of any fruit or vegetable: Raw foods can last longer, especially when properly stored, and cooked produce tends to spoil more quickly. This is why you should always pay attention to the roast date when you buy new coffee. 

How long does coffee stay good after roasting?

When you pick out a new bag of coffee, opting for the most recent roast date is the best choice since it's the freshest available. Espresso Works recommends only consuming coffee 7 to 21 days after its roast date. But it's important to note there are a few factors to consider before you toss out a month-old bag of coffee. First, coffee with an older roast date does not spoil right away. Instead, the beans will lose out on some of their flavors as they emit more oils and sometimes have a stale taste. But that doesn't mean the coffee is undrinkable; it depends on how picky you are about your morning cup of joe. 

Second, there are ways to preserve your coffee and stop its rapid decay. One of the best ways to make your coffee last is to use an air-tight container for storage. After you've opened a bag of beans, exposure to oxygen is responsible for most of the breakdown. Air-tight packaging will preserve whole coffee beans for 6 to 9 months and ground coffee for 5 months. It should be noted that dark roasted beans expire faster. If you have a super special bag of beans you only break out for special occasions, toss it in the freezer inside an air-tight container, and you can keep whole coffee beans for over a year after their roast date!