July 28, 2023

How long do coffee capsules stay fresh?

Coffee capsules are incredibly convenient and easy to use. This is why many businesses buy in bulk. Similarly, retail customers also stock up to ensure they never run out.

Each coffee capsule contains between five and seven grams of pre-ground coffee on average. But given how susceptible pre-ground coffee is to losing its freshness, it's important to ask: how long do coffee capsules last?

Modern coffee capsule packaging technology means that capsules have a shelf-life of between 12 and 24 months. The technology used to preserve freshness is now state-of-the-art – with innovative new methods for filling, flushing, and sealing each capsule.

Let’s take a look at how coffee capsules stay fresh and why their shelf life is so long. Read on to learn more.

Roasting coffee for coffee capsules.

Understanding coffee freshness

If roasted coffee is exposed to certain factors, they can cause it to lose its original flavor and aroma characteristics. These include oxygen, light, heat, and moisture.

When coffee is roasted, several gasses – including carbon dioxide (CO2) – form inside the bean. Over the days that follow, the coffee gradually releases CO2 in a process known as degassing. Degassing is important – as too much CO2 can give a coffee a bitter, astringent flavor when brewed.

However, CO2 can also be used as an indicator of freshness – meaning that you don’t want to leave roasted coffee out in the open for too long. One study from the Coffee Excellence Center at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences shows that it also affects shelf life and extraction quality in the cup – as well as flavor.

As such, it’s important to let coffee degas for the right amount of time. There’s a sweet spot – for example, within 24 hours of roasting, coffee will typically release approximately 40% of the CO2 it has absorbed.

But what has this got to do with oxygen?

Well – think of it this way: as more CO2 is released, it creates more “room” for oxygen to enter the coffee. Over a long enough time, the coffee oxidates – and becomes less fresh. Leave roasted coffee out for too long, and it’ll taste flat and stale, losing all those subtle, delicate flavor notes.

The rate of oxidation is largely influenced by surface area. And because ground coffee has a much larger surface area than whole beans, it is exponentially more susceptible to oxidation.

This is why roasted coffee packaging often includes a one-way degassing valve. This allows CO2 to escape while the coffee is in transit, while also blocking oxygen from entering the bag.

What else affects coffee freshness?

Oxygen isn’t the only factor that affects coffee freshness. There are plenty of others that we mentioned above. These include moisture, temperature, sunlight, and other external contaminants.

If roasted coffee is exposed to light for a long enough period, it can undergo photodegradation and its aroma compounds will begin to break down. Moisture, on the other hand, can cause the coffee to take on undesirable flavors. Left long enough, it can even cause mold to form.

Another factor is the coffee’s roast profile. The darker the coffee is roasted, the more porous it is; this means it releases CO2 quicker than lighter roasts – and will turn stale slightly more quickly.

Metropolis La Cordillera coffee capsules in a box.

What about the shelf life of coffee capsules?

As we’ve discussed, pre-ground coffee is far more susceptible to oxidation than whole bean coffee. This is far more important to consider for capsules than any other brewing method, as the coffee has to be ground when they're packaged – rather than before they're consumed.

So how do you keep coffee capsules fresh?

Well, by far the most important factor is the packaging. At Metropolis, we’ve carefully developed a process that extends our espresso capsules’ shelf life to 12 to 24 months.

Here’s how we do it:

  • First, we use a roller mill to grind coffee to an extremely precise fine size

  • After that, we use a state-of-the-art Italian filling machine to dose each capsule

  • Once the capsule is filled, we nitrogen flush it – nitrogen is heavier than oxygen, so it sinks to the bottom of the capsule and pushes oxygen out.

  • Finally, we seal each capsule, ensuring that it’s airtight

However, once our capsules reach the customer, several other things can be done to keep them fresher for longer. Firstly, keeping them dry and out of direct sunlight helps to maintain the quality of the coffee.

But by far the most important factor is handling and storing coffee capsules correctly. If they are damaged, the seal can break, which compromises the coffee inside and may cause them to become unusable.

Coffee capsule filling machine in a factory.

Metropolis Coffee wholesale espresso capsules

By the time we ship our commercially compostable espresso capsules to a customer, all the hard work is already done – they’re nitrogen flushed, properly sealed, and ready to be used. All that’s left for you to do is store them in airtight containers, ideally in a cool, dry, and dark place, ready to be used whenever you need them.

This ease of use is why so many hospitality businesses are looking for wholesale coffee capsules. And that’s exactly what we offer at Metropolis.

With all the expertise and equipment you need to prepare your own coffee capsules, we offer a full-service, end-to-end solution. For businesses who need a signature blend, we offer a private label service – where we’ll work with you to design a coffee to your specifications.

Alternatively, if you already have a coffee you want to pack into capsules, we also offer a co-packing service – where we take your coffee and package it into commercially compostable espresso capsules.

Interested in learning more? Check out our wholesale co-packing and private-label espresso capsule solutions today.

Certified compostable facilities may not exist in your area. To find a composter near you, visit www.findacomposter.com or www.compostnow.org on all packaging and marketing materials.

Metropolis Coffee is not affiliated with, endorsed, or sponsored by Nespresso. Nespresso is a registered trademark of Société des Produits Nestlé.