Pepper is available ground, coarsely-ground, cracked and as whole peppercorns. The whole peppercorns are the best choice as they hold their freshness, flavor, and essential oils longer. Ground pepper deteriorates with time and can take on a bitter flavor. Freshly ground pepper is the best option for full flavor benefit.
Pepper and Peppercorn Storage
Store whole peppercorns in a sealed container in a cool, dry place up to one year. Some sources claim that properly stored, sealed peppercorns can still be viable up to three years.
Ground pepper begins to lose flavor after about four months, so if you do not use a lot of pepper, avoid those huge cans.
Brined peppercorns need to be refrigerated after opening and used within a month.
Water-packed peppercorns have the shortest shelf life after opening -- they should be refrigerated and used within 1 week.