What's the first thing we do when we get our hands on some excellent specialty coffee beans? Grind it, of course! Imagine this; you got some lovely medium roasted beans with citrusy notes. As soon as you reach home, the agenda will be to try out a piping hot cup. So, you grind the beans and store the coffee grounds.
But unfortunately, you have work come up, and you're unable to partake in your morning/evening coffee time. Weeks pass, and you wonder, is the coffee still good?
We've all been in a position where we might wind up with more ground coffee than we can consume. It happens to the best of us. Let's address the question, "Do coffee grounds go bad?" Or “How long is ground coffee good for?”
So, to get two things out of the way first. First, coffee is nothing but ground-up roasted beans, and so, like all coffee beans, ground coffee will go bad eventually. Second, stored or old ground coffee obviously isn't going to taste as good as freshly ground coffee even though it'll be safe to drink. However, ground coffee can last a surprisingly long time while retaining its delicate notes if you store it right.
Shelf Life of Coffee Beans
Coffee beans have a long shelf life due to the fact that they're roasted before grinding. The process of roasting eliminates potential contaminants as it drastically reduces the moisture content in the beans. As long as the beans are placed away from excess moisture, mold and bacteria won’t be an issue. However, if moisture is introduced into the coffee beans after they've been roasted, the absorbent nature of the beans will retain water.
Eventually, you will have fungus and mold growing on the coffee beans. A general rule of thumb is to store coffee in airtight containers to prevent contact with moisture. To keep coffee flavorful, it should be kept out of the light- ground coffee stored in airtight containers in a dark space will last pretty long.
What Does It Mean When Coffee Grounds Go Bad?
When coffee beans age, they lose their flavor compounds. This is doubly true for ground coffee since the process of grinding beans increases their surface area, which in turn increases their exposure to moisture and light. Thus, the degradation of the essential oils that give a coffee its flavor will be quicker; a higher surface area will increase the probability of moisture being introduced into your coffee.
How Can You Keep Coffee Fresh?
You may have heard of freezing coffee grounds, but does it really work? Coffee has a shelf life of five months at room temperature and can last up to two years in the freezer. So if you got your ground coffee directly from a roaster, as long as you don't open the packaging, it can last a while. However, once opened, you'll have five months to consume it, even if stored in the freezer.
Although keeping coffee in the freezer can increase its shelf life, it is not the best option if you're going to use and "thaw" the coffee on a regular basis, since the act of removing it and keeping it back in the freezer increases the chances of introducing moisture in your coffee grounds. Thus, freezing only works as an option for long-term storage.
How Should You Store Coffee Grounds?
For short-term storage, where you're accessing the coffee regularly, the best way to store ground coffee is in an airtight container, away from moisture and light. Airtight kitchen storage containers that have a plastic seal at the top work the best in these situations. If you don't have access to those, you can always get a plastic zip-lock bag, press the air out, and seal it with rubber bands and some good old duct tape.
Is There A Way To Know Your Coffee Has Gone Bad?
Sometimes our efforts don't work out, and the ground coffee we've been trying so hard to store does end up going bad. There will be very few visual signs that the coffee has gone bad. Instead, you can try to smell the coffee in the container; if the coffee oils have gone rancid, they'll let out a sour and unpleasant smell. If that is the case, throw out the coffee as it can no longer be used.
As long as you follow some of the tips and tricks mentioned above, your coffee grounds should last a while!