I’m a coffee addict. WTSHTF, I need the peace of mind of having long term coffee storage sealed away in my prepper pantry. Ground coffee? No. Roasted coffee beans? No. Green coffee beans win for long term storage. This is what it takes to make a post-apocalyptic cup of prepper coffee.
If there’s a recommended daily allowance of caffeine I surely take in five times what they suggest. I’ll drink three cups of coffee first thing in the morning. I’ll wait until noon time for my next two or three cups. Then I’ll have another cup or two around 2:00 pm. And then another cup or two – or even a cappuccino – around 7:00 pm. Just enough to smooth me out and put me to sleep. Crazy?
I’m a slave to the coffee bean, but that’s not such a bad thing. This is my one addiction and I don’t mind feeding it some first class java.
If we enter a survival situation, I won’t survive without coffee. And if I do, it will be so ugly that everyone around me will wish I was dead. I know I’m not alone here. Food and Wine magazine cites a survey that says 64% of Americans drink a cup of coffee every day. I drink enough for the other 36%.
To figure how to build my own supply of prepper coffee, the first thing I had to ask was…
How Long Does Ground Coffee Last?
Ground coffee is the least favorable way to store coffee. How will it stay good? Once opened, ground coffee should be used within 1 to 2 weeks. Take it out of the container it came in and place it in an airtight coffee container.
Do not refrigerate it. Due to its porous nature it will pick up moisture and flavor from anything else you might have in there (fish, for example).
If it’s unopened, you want to keep it in a freezer. In the freezer it will be good for around a month (never refreeze it). After that, it starts to lose flavor. (Source.)
Ground coffee is clearly not prepper coffee. There had to be a better way, but why try figuring this out myself when there were professionals all around. I called a local coffee shop and the conversation went something like this:
Me: Hi. I’d like to ask you a question about storing coffee.
Young Woman: Okay. Go ahead.
Me: What’s the best way to store coffee long term? Can I vacuum pack it?
Young Woman: How long do you plan on storing it for?
Me: Oh I don’t know. How about five years?
Young Woman: Hahaha!
Me: No. Seriously.
Young Woman: Seriously? (long pause) Well. If we grind coffee and don’t use it within fifteen minutes we throw it out.
I gave up on that attempt. Next I called that bastion of Canadian coffee, Tim Hortons. If anybody is going to know how to store coffee long term it’s gotta be Tim Hortons. I changed my approach because the other girl thought I was insane.
Me: Hi. I’m a writer and I’m doing a piece on how to store coffee long term.
Tim’s Rep (a woman): How can I help?
Me: Well, how long will those big cans you sell last if I bought them and put them in my basement.
Tim’s Rep: About a year.
Me: Okay. Is that a rough guideline or does the coffee go bad after a year? Is that a “’use by” date?’
Tim’s Rep: What?
Me: For example: Could I store the coffee for five years?
Tim’s Rep: Yes.
Me (brightening up): Really? That’s great.
Tim’s Rep: Yes. The coffee can be stored for one year.
Me (confused): You just said five years.
Tim’s Rep: Yes. The coffee is good for one year.
I’m not sure what happened there, but something that seemed so simple suddenly seemed like a daunting task. I had to do this the hard way – a lot of web research. The answer, it seems is not to store ground coffee for the long term, but to store green coffee beans. The process for doing that follows, but there is another method…
The Easy Way: Buy Prepper Coffee
The easiest, fastest way to build up your supply of emergency coffee is to buy it outright. My Patriot Supply sells freeze-dried emergency food, but they also sell Franklin’s Finest Emergency Coffee, which has a 25-year shelf life. This is what I call “prepper coffee.”
Franklin’s is billed as “the first ever emergency survival coffee” providing a one-year supply of Franklin’s Finest Coffee for one person. The supply comes conveniently packages in twelve resealable 60-serving, heavy-duty 4-layer zipper pouches. This gives you a total of 720 servings. Now that’s survival!
For more information on freeze dried foods, see A Prepper’s Guide to Freeze Dried Foods.
That approach wasn’t for me, though. I wanted to store coffee beans like I store pinto beans. I wanted to maximize shelf life for a grid-down post-collapse caffeine survival situation.
How to Store Coffee Beans Long Term
There are three steps to storing coffee beans long term:
- Start with fresh, green coffee beans.
- Place the beans in a Mylar bag with O2 absorbers.
- Seal the bag and label it.
- Be prepared to roast and grind beans.
Preppers will know this type of storage strategy already, but let’s break it down into more detail for those who might not.
Step 1: Start with Fresh, Green Coffee Beans
For the ultimate way to achieve long-term coffee storage, you have to start with the freshest beans you can find. Unless you live on a coffee plantation, that means buying unroasted, green beans. You’re probably not going to be buying these at your local Starbucks, but you can order them online. There are all types of varieties to be had.
Unroasted beans are apt to last a year or more under normal circumstances. We are not going for “normal” circumstances, however. We are creating a much better environment for beans to last longer by protecting them oxygen and light.
Step 2: Place the Beans in a Mylar Bag with O2 Absorbers
Coffee beans’ greatest enemies are air, moisture, and light. Oxygen absorbers and Mylar bags will protect your beans from enemies. The absorbers remove the oxygen and moisture, and the bags facilitate a proper seal and protect them from the light.
So, you start by transporting those beans from the bag they came in to a Mylar bag with O2 absorbers. Place an absorber in the bottom of the bag and a few at the top. If you are unsure how many to use, check an oxygen absorber chart. Alternatively, you can just do what I do and throw in more than you know is necessary.
An alternative to Mylar bags is to use a quality vacuum sealer to remove the air. It’s the only way to be sure. Then you want to store the beans in a dry area away from the light. Call it overkill, but I would still place an O2 absorber in it just the same
Step 3: Seal the Bag and Label It
Mylar bags seal with heat; i.e. a standard clothes iron. Lay the bag on its side, hand squeeze as much air out as you can, make sure there are no stray beans where you are going to heat seal the bag, and then run a hot iron across the end, sealing it tight.
If your coffee is part of a larger long-term food storage plan, be sure to label the bag so you know 1) what is in the bag, and 2) when it was sealed shut. When you have a lot of foods stored in Mylar bags it will be very easy to forget what is what, and dating the seal will assure you are properly rotating stock.
Then you just need to wait around 4 hours for the oxygen absorbers to work their magic.
Congratulations! Your coffee beans are now in a great position to maximize their shelf life. But what happens when you need to open the bag to brew fresh coffee? It’s not just like you’re going to put them in your auto-drip coffee maker. This isn’t ground coffee. Those beans haven’t even been roasted. You need to…
Step 4: Be Prepared to Roast and Grind Beans
This means you have to roast them yourself. This is a whole other process that you will want to learn, and to do so, read my post on off-grid coffee roasting and brewing.
In a nutshell, the beans can be roasted in a skillet or you can buy a coffee roaster. A simple ceramic coffee roaster will cost you about thirty dollars. A fancier model will cost you well over one-hundred dollars.
You’re not going to be able to replicate the roasting process of a large commercial roaster in a skillet or a ceramic roaster, but a fancier model will make a much better, more fresh roast that is hard to beat… unless the power goes out! That’s when you’ll be using a ceramic roaster or cast iron skillet, and if you are storing prepper coffee, that’s what you’re going for anyway.
The same goes for grinding coffee beans. You can buy a basic electric grinder, but again, if the power goes out… well, then you’ll need a hand-crank grinder. I prefer those, but in a pinch, you can always crush the roasted beans in some other, more primitive fashion. They won’t be very uniform that way, and thus lack in perfected taste, but you’ll get the caffeine you need.
How to Store Coffee Long Term Summary
I’ve got a couple of the #10 cans full of coffee in my basement that I’ve had for a long while with my other #10 cans. I decided to try a can of French Roast. If it’s French roast it can’t be half bad right? Ha! It tasted like it had been strained through an old jock strap.
You don’t want to drink jock strap coffee today, so you certainly won’t want to drink if after the apocalypse. Follow the steps I outlined and you will be a post-apocalyptic coffee master… at least, until you run out of beans.