April 4, 2022

How long does green coffee stay fresh for?


How green coffee is stored is key to cup quality. Good storage maintains the cup profile of a coffee, while poor storage can detract from it.

As such, this is understandably something that specialty coffee roasters take seriously, as do producers and traders.

Like any other agricultural or food product, green coffee has a shelf life. This is how long it can stay at an optimal level of freshness before quality begins to deteriorate. However, improper storage and poor packaging can cause cup quality to “flatten”, and result in a diminished sensory profile in the final cup.  

To learn more about how long green coffee stays fresh for, just how important storage is, and how you can keep your green beans fresher for longer, I spoke to a few industry experts. Find out what they said below. 

You might also like our article on storing small quantities of green coffee.

ecotact green coffee bags

Which factors affect the quality of green coffee?

Before we look at how long green coffee stays fresh for, let’s understand some of the different factors that affect its quality.

Green coffee is susceptible to a number of factors during transit and storage. However, as far as agey flavours are concerned, humidity, temperature, and oxygen are the three most important variables.

Let’s take a look at them, and how they affect the flavour of green coffee over time.


Exposure to temperature extremes affects water activity in green coffee.

This causes condensation in the bag and on the surface, which creates a humid, moist environment. This in turn causes the more subtle aromas and flavours in coffee to deteriorate. Temperature extremes also affect the respiration process, and change how the water within green coffee behaves.

This means that if green coffee isn’t stored in a reasonably cool environment, its flavour degrades over time.


Much like temperature, environmental humidity can affect the equilibrium of green coffee beans.

In essence, if the air is too dry, the moisture can actually leach out of the coffee. Conversely, if it’s too humid, the beans absorb excess moisture, which results in an effect not dissimilar to fermentation, and can even cause mould or mildew to form.


Aside from moisture damage from exposure to temperature and/or humidity extremes, oxygen is also a factor that causes green coffee freshness to diminish.

As coffee oxidates over a long enough timeline, its aromatic compounds dissipate, causing undesirable “flat” and “stale” flavours to form. 


Much as with roasted coffee, concentrated light will cause green coffee beans to undergo a process called “photodegradation”.

This is where photons slowly destroy organic particles over time, including the non-volatile compounds which contribute to the final cup profile of roasted coffee.


While green coffee is less volatile than roasted coffee, time is still a factor which causes its quality to diminish.

However, time itself isn’t the factor that actually causes coffee to degrade; instead, it’s a measurement of how much the four previous factors have been able to affect it. 

In essence, time isn’t a problem, but over a long enough timeframe, oxygen, humidity, and temperature will cause green coffee to lose its more subtle and delicate aromas. 

Extending this timeframe is where good storage practice comes in.

green coffee sacks

So, how long does green coffee actually stay fresh for?

As a general rule, most specialty coffee roasters consider green coffee to be fresh for six to 12 months. 

Moreover, once the year mark has passed and the next harvest lands at the roastery, the coffee is considered to be “past crop” – a label generally associated with undesirable cereal or aged flavour notes.

Ahmed Mahyoub is the Head of Operations at Mocha Mill in Yemen. He says: “The generally acceptable timeframe for green coffee to be considered fresh is one year from the time it’s processed and shipped, as long as it’s packed in hermetic packaging.

“[Exposure to] heat, light, moisture, insects, and air are the factors that contribute most to the degradation of green coffee.”

Freshness, however, varies depending on the exact coffee in question.

“Different varieties are affected differently,” Ahmed says. “Some varieties certainly become stale and flat on a shorter timeframe than others.

“This is still an area undergoing research, as is the relationship between freshness, quality, and processing method.”

Mike Mamo is the Managing Director of Addis Exporter in Ethiopia, and the owner of the Telila washing station in Ethiopia’s Jimma region.

He explains that the fermentation that occurs during processing causes specific and unique flavours to develop. In recent years, this has been a particular focus of the specialty coffee industry, with plenty of experimental processing methods emerging which leverage fermentation in unprecedented ways. 

As such, Mike explains that it’s becoming increasingly important to use high-quality packaging as early in the process as possible. He says that at origin is the best place to start.

Ecotact hermetic bags are ideal [as a] green coffee storage solution,” Mike says. “We use Ecotact 80 bags to store parchment, green coffee, and for anaerobic processing. Not only do they help ensure quality, but we don’t [have to] worry about them bursting en-route to destination – the bags are robust.

“We especially find them a great solution in some areas where warehouses might not be the best for storing green coffee.”

ecotact green coffee bag and coffee

What does “old” green coffee taste like?

Humidity, condensation, exposure to temperature extremes, and oxidation cause a number of flavours to emerge in the final cup.

These notes, which are often described as stale and flat, include:

  • Cereal/grain-like
  • Baggy (as in taking on the flavour of burlap bags)
  • Wood
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Musty
  • Straw/hay
ecotact green coffee bag

Storing green coffee properly

As part of its Coffee Quality-Improvement Programme (CQP), the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) recommends that from the time it’s processed and ready to be shipped, the moisture level of green coffee should stay between 8% and 12.5%. Similarly, water activity should stay between 0.5% to 0.7% aw in line with food safety protocols.

As a general rule, specialty coffee roasters look for moisture levels around 12%. To ensure this, humidity should be around 60% to 65% during storage, and the temperature should stay at or around 20°C (+/- 5°C).

However, ensuring these conditions is easier said than done, and as such, producers and traders are increasingly using hermetic barrier packaging.

“Ultimately, storage is of great importance,” Ahmed says. “[It’s something] that directly affects the freshness of green coffee beans, and it must be perfect to keep coffee completely [away] from heat, moisture, and air.

“To achieve this, many are now combining inner hermetic bags, like those provided by Ecotact, with outer bags like jute, whereas previously they were limited to jute only,” he adds. “[More coffee companies] are now packing coffee on pallets and in the dark to maximise flavour and freshness.”

Karishma Sharma is the CMO and Director of Business Strategy at Ecotact. She explains that these requirements have informed how they’ve designed their bags.

“Ecotact bags are specially designed hermetic packaging, developed especially for green coffee. The bags have nine layers of hermetic food-grade protection that help the contents maintain their inherent value. They are also 100% reusable and recyclable.”

The bags help preserve the freshness and aroma of green coffee, keeping the cup profile intact “by cutting off atmospheric oxygen, odours, and external contaminants”, according to Karishma.

She adds that even though roasters consider coffee to become “past crop” after 12 months, the shelf life of green coffee in an Ecotact bag is “over a year”. 

roasted coffee beans

Ecommerce: The future of green coffee storage

The rise of ecommerce has been present across both B2B and B2C areas in the coffee industry. Perhaps the biggest step in its evolution came in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with hospitality businesses worldwide shuttered and millions of people forced to work from home.

As people increasingly tried to replicate café-quality beverages at home, ecommerce boomed in the home coffee market. However, Karishma explains that the same has happened for businesses looking to store green coffee.

“The growing demand for hermetic packaging and recent shipping issues (through Covid-19 and beyond) has prompted the need to think differently,” she says.

Online ordering allows businesses to be more flexible, which is more important than ever at a time when shipping timelines for green coffee are unpredictable

Karishma explains that Ecotact has sought to improve turnaround times and customer service by launching a new ecommerce platform. She explains that customers can place orders on the website by selecting their packaging or bag capacity and shipping option, then make a payment online and receive the invoice via email. Orders are then dispatched within 48 hours.

“We have also enabled a ‘live chat’ and WhatsApp business account to help customers in each step of their purchase journey,” says Karishma.

green coffee beans

As specialty coffee professionals continue to prioritise freshness to ensure the best possible cup quality, hermetic packaging remains an important option for businesses storing green coffee. 

As part of this, however, we’re seeing the growth of ecommerce in the coffee industry spread to green coffee storage – making it more flexible and accessible for everyone.

Enjoyed this? You might also like our article on how to stop green coffee from becoming contaminated.

Photo credits: Ecotact

Please note: Ecotact is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind.

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