By Susan Paretts

Cacao beans, also known as cocoa beans, are the seeds of the cocoa tree. These seeds, found in the tree's pods, have a shelf life of six to nine months when fully fermented, dried, and stored in plastic-lined bags made of jute.

cocoa beans and  powder
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Fresh cacoa beans in a wooden bowl next to chocolate pieces and cocoa powder on a gingham cloth.

Proper Storage Extends Shelf Life

Raw cacao beans will last for up to nine months in polythene-lined burlap bags when stored in a cool, dry location, such as a pantry with an ambient humidity level of less than 70 percent, according to the book, "Commercial Crops Technology." The plastic lining helps to protect the beans from odors, mold and pests. When storing your beans, you want to keep them at a pleasant ambient temperature because of their high fat content, which can turn rancid in warm weather. Cacao beans are subject to becoming rancid and over-fermenting when stored in temperatures greater than 77 degrees Fahrenheit, warns the Transport Information Service.

Signs of Spoilage and Storage Considerations

Discard your cacao beans if you notice any mold on the outside of the beans or if any pantry pests have gotten into the bags of beans. A musty, unpleasant odor is also a tell-tale sign of spoilage. Roasting and shelling your beans can help to extend their shelf life. Once roasted, shelled and broken into smaller pieces called nibs, the beans can last for up to two years when stored in polyethylene plastic-lined jute bags, according to the Malaysian Cocoa Board.