But there’s a bit more to it than that. So, I decided to write this guide in order to bring you all the information you need to know about the packaging and roast dates of coffee beans.
I’ll be discussing these key talking points in this article:
So let’s get started.
- The dates help consumers know when their beans will taste best
- Waiting more than six months will ruin the taste of the coffee
- The taste begins to deteriorate after around 21-28 days
- Lighter roasts can stay fresh up to a couple of weeks longer than dark roasts
Packaging vs Roast Dates: What’s the Difference
As the name suggests, the packaging date is the day that the beans are packaged and the roast date is the day that the beans are roasted.
For most roasters, this will be done on the same day anyway. It’s important for the roasters to get the beans packaged as quickly as possible after roasting in order to protect freshness as much as possible.
In some rare circumstances, the beans will be packaged a day or two after roasting.
The most common of the two dates to see on a bag of coffee beans is the roasting date. I haven’t come across a circumstance where the packaging date is used, but it’s different to the roasting date (that I know of!).
So, you can effectively use the two terms interchangeably.
Benefits of Packaging and Roast Dates for Consumers
The key benefit for consumers knowing the roast date is that they’ll be able to know how long they have until the beans begin to taste stale. There’s an optimum time frame to consume beans in so that they’ll have the best taste.
Here’s a look at a timeline for the roast, on average. But this can vary a lot from roast to roast, mostly depending on their roasting level.
|Day 0||Some coffee beans will be good enough to eat within minutes, but this is a very rare occurrence.|
|Day 1||Many coffee beans will be good to go here. But I’d still recommend holding out.|
|Day 3||Pretty much every roasted coffee bean will be at its peak taste by this point.|
|Day 7||In rare circumstances, coffee beans will begin to lose their taste a little here.|
|Day 21||The taste of most coffee beans will begin to deteriorate at this point.|
|Day 30||All coffee beans will start to go downhill in taste around here.|
|Day 60||Coffee beans will taste more stale here, even to those who are new to the taste of coffee.|
|Day 180||It’s not worth using the coffee beans at all at this point. Throw them out and start again!|
These estimations are based on keeping the coffee beans in an airtight container. If you leave your beans open to the air then the timescale becomes a lot shorter than this. That’s why it’s always important to keep beans sealed away!
The time frame in which the coffee tastes best after roasting varies from coffee bean variety to coffee bean variety. But in general, 3 to 21 days is about the sweet spot.
The coffee beans will not be at their best taste before the three day mark. They need those days to ‘rest’ and ‘de-gas’. During this resting period, the beans will ripen and lose their super fresh roast taste which comes as a result of CO2 from the roast, which isn’t desirable.
Some coffee bean resting periods will be less than this though. You might be able to get the full flavor after just one day in some cases.
Then, after 21 days (sometimes shorter, sometimes longer), the taste of the beans will begin to go downhill.
You’ll notice that the flavor begins to dry up and the taste becomes somewhat bitter. It shouldn’t be too unpleasant for a couple of months at least though.
The absolute latest I would suggest leaving your coffee beans until is around six months. At this point, the beans will still be consumable but they’re not going to taste good. They will be very bitter and stale in taste if you wait much longer after this point.
The good news is that the beans aren’t going to get to the point where they become bad for you. They don’t ‘go bad’ like fruit and meat do, to the point at which they’ll upset your stomach. The worst case scenario is that they taste stale.
But again, this timeframe is going to vary from bean to bean. In general, I’d just recommend consuming those beans within a month at most.
How does the roast level affect the lifespan of the coffee beans?
The estimations in the previous section are based on averages, e.g. for a medium roast (such as an espresso roast).
Lighter roasts can last for a few days longer. It may be possible to still get the best flavor out of them after a month, or maybe more.
But darker roasts (e.g. a dark roast or a French roast) will probably go off more quickly. You won’t want to consume dark roast coffee beans much more than about three weeks after the roast date.
|Roast Profile||Timescale of Maximum Freshness|
|Light Roast||30 days+|
|Medium Roast||21 days+|
|Dark Roast||14 days+|
Benefits of Packaging and Roast Dates for Businesses
There’s no legal requirement for the roast date to be displayed on the bag of coffee beans, but it should be done by all roasters anyway.
It’s not just the consumer that packing and roast dates benefits. It’s great for businesses too! If you’re a roaster, you should be doing this for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, there’s the obvious benefit to the customer. A lot of coffee fans will only buy coffee that has the batch date attached to it, so if you’re not displaying it, you could be losing potential customers.
And secondly, it makes organizing things a whole lot easier. If you print the batch date on your coffee then you’re always going to be able to keep things ordered, which can smooth the process in the warehouse.
Packaging and Roast Date Accuracy
The packaging and the roast date are generally very accurate. They should display the exact date that the roast took place and was packaged, as this happens on the same day a lot of the time.
However, there’s sometimes more to these dates than meets the eye. There’s the minor confusion between whether the date printed is the packaging or the roast date (as discussed in an earlier section of this article).
But there’s also the fact that a coffee roast can, at times, be split over multiple days. Beans can be prepped one day, roasted on another day and then packaged a day after that.
This shouldn’t really happen, but it does, and it’s something to think about if you’re buying coffee beans from a less trustworthy roaster.
I should also note that coffee beans will also feature a ‘best before’ date. So is this accurate? Well, yes… to some extent.
The ‘best before’ date is an estimation to the time that the beans will begin to lose their flavor. However, this can be a little vague. I think it’s better to just look at the roast date and work out how long you’ve got left based on my table earlier on.
How to Read Packaging and Roast Dates on a Label
The packaging and roast dates are generally in the same format in the US. But, they can be a little confusing to understand if you don’t know what you’re looking at.
The date will generally be written in the American format MMDDYYYY and won’t contain any clashes or other punctuation, just like this.
This format might vary from country to country, but in general, you should be able to read the roast or packaging date now that you have this information.
Coffee Bean Packaging and Roast Date FAQ
People have been asking the following questions about coffee bean packaging and roast dates, so here are the answers…
Does pre-ground coffee always contain packaging and roast dates?
It’s not a legal requirement for coffee to contain a roast date. So you might see that some cheaper brands avoid displaying this information. Proceed with those at your own caution!
It should be noted that ground coffee goes quicker a lot faster than whole coffee beans. So make sure to consume your ground coffee within a couple of weeks from the roast date!
Are packaging and roast dates included universally around the world?
It doesn’t appear to be a legal requirement to display roast dates in any part of the world.
But you’ll still see roast dates displayed on coffee in most countries for the reasons discussed in this article.
How can I keep my coffee beans lasting for longer?
It might seem obvious, but the best way to conserve the lifespan of your coffee beans after the roast date is to keep them in a sealed container. Make sure they’re airtight, and they’ll stay fresher tasting.
Wrapping Up on Packaging and Roast Dates
It’s very useful to look at the packaging and roast date of beans that you buy! If they’re too old, they will have lost some flavor.
And if you own your own coffee roasting company, make sure to attach the roast and/or packaging date onto your coffee beans. It’ll help with organization and it will be more appealing to your customers.
If you want to find out more about the actual roasts themselves, you can view my ultimate guide to coffee roasts.