Just like most of the staple items in your kitchen, it should come as no surprise that coffee also has an expiration date, which will usually be made clear on the package. But, could your favorite coffee go bad before that date arrives? Is coffee safe to consume once the expiration date has passed? And most importantly, how can you tell that coffee has gone bad before you brew it into the worst cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted?
Can Ground Coffee Go Bad?
Do coffee grounds go bad? Like any type of beans, coffee beans can and will go bad after some time. While whole coffee beans do have a longer lifespan compared to ground coffee, once they are fragmented and ground up, they do not last as long. This is due to the breaking down process, which leaves the coffee grounds much more susceptible to unwanted chemical reactions and they have a quicker rate of evaporation.
On average, if you seal ground coffee away in an airtight container, the ground coffee lifespan is around three to six months at room temperature. Opened packages of ground coffee that aren’t stored in an airtight container will generally last for around a couple of weeks before they begin to go bad.
Can drinking old coffee make you sick? The good news is that the chances of bacteria or another contaminant that could make you sick getting into the coffee are fairly slim. Unless you store your grounds in a place that is too moist for them, your coffee will usually still be safe to consume, even if it does not taste great, since the process of roasting the beans significantly reduces the moisture. Over time, the main thing that is killed off as the coffee goes bad is the taste. The longer coffee grounds are sitting on a shelf or in a container, the less flavorful the coffee will be.
How to Tell If Your Coffee Has Gone Bad
If you have stale beans or even year-old coffee beans that have been sitting around for a while, chances are that when you look at the beans, you will not be able to tell the difference between fresh and rancid beans easily. The physical appearance of the coffee stays the same; however, smelling the coffee is an easy way to tell if it’s going to be fresh and tasty to consume, or if you’re about to brew a rancid, disgusting brew. Fresh coffee beans or grounds will usually have a strong, caramel-like aroma. However, once the coffee has passed its prime, the oils that produce this aroma will be degraded, and the coffee will smell ashier and dustier than pleasant. If you have already brewed coffee and are not sure whether or not it’s still fresh, leave it for around an hour before tasting it. If it is sour and intensely bitter, you’re better off throwing it away.
What is Coffee’s Typical Shelf Life?
How long does coffee last? As mentioned, ground coffee can safely stay at room temperature for around three to five months in an airtight container. However, if it does get spoiled, you won’t get sick from drinking it, but it’s not likely to taste very nice. On the other hand, whole coffee beans can stay fresh for around six to nine months, especially when stored in a container with an airtight or vacuum seal. The solid form of the whole coffee beans means that they keep their molecular compounds intact for much longer compared to coffee grounds. Grounds will usually stay safe to drink for around three to five months after their expiration date, and whole coffee is safe to consume for up to nine months after the date they expire, and they won’t make you sick. However, you might notice that your coffee is not very flavorful.
How to Tell if Instant Coffee is Bad
Instant coffee is a form of ground coffee that is extremely broken down. However, unlike regular coffee grounds, it can actually last the longest. It is almost impossible to destroy and you’re safe to consume an opened package or jar of coffee without it making you ill for up to two years. However, just like whole coffee beans and coffee grounds, you are likely to lose some of the flavor of the coffee. But just like any other type of coffee, instant coffee can also go bad. Simply smelling the coffee will help you determine if it has gone rancid or not – an off odor is usually a sign that you should throw it away and buy fresh.
How to Tell if Coffee is Fresh
Just like checking if coffee has gone bad and rancid, a simple smell test can also be effective for checking coffee beans, grinds or even instant coffee for freshness. However, this will usually work best if you have brewed the coffee first. Regardless of the type of brewing method that you choose to use, fresh coffee is always going to have a thin layer of crema sitting on the top. How to tell if coffee beans are stale after brewing? The simplest way to do this is to check the color of the coffee. If it is completely black and there is no crema on the top of the coffee, this is usually a sure indicator that the coffee beans or grounds have gone stale and rancid.
How Long Can You Keep Coffee After Brewing It?
How long does coffee stay fresh after brewing? When stored in the fridge in an airtight container, brewed coffee will stay safe to drink for up to two weeks. However, it’s not recommended to keep it in the fridge for any longer than 6-7 days, since your brewed coffee is likely to start tasting stale after this amount of time. Along with this, you should always consume your coffee within a day to enjoy the best taste.
How to Store Coffee for the Best Shelf Life
To make sure that your coffee stays fresh for as long as possible, it’s important to store it in the form of whole beans, rather than ground or brewed. Ground coffee beans evaporate and lose their flavor and aroma much faster than whole coffee beans, even when stored in an airtight container. And, storing brewed coffee is never a good idea since regardless of the method that you use to brew it, it is never going to taste the same as it does straight from the brewer after it has been stored. If you really need to store brewed coffee, the best way to do this is to pour it into a thermal container, or put it in an air tight container and refrigerate it.
To store your whole coffee beans for the best shelf life, you will need a container or a canister with a good airtight seal. A vacuum seal works well for this, but it’s a good idea to choose one with a one-way filter system since roasted coffee beans will release CO2, which will not have anywhere else to go when trapped in an airtight container and can damage the flavor of the coffee over time. A one-way filter system will allow the CO2 to escape while making sure that nothing potentially damaging to the coffee beans can enter the canister or container that they are stored in. When coffee is stored in a vacuum container, it will last significantly longer. Ground coffee can last up to five months, whole beans will last up to nine months, and instant coffee can last up to a very impressive twenty years!
Why You Should Always Buy Fresh Coffee
Coffee is at its peak when it is still fresh, so no matter how tempting it might be to get a good deal on coffee that is close to or just past its expiry date, it’s not always worth the savings as the taste is just not going to be that great. If you want to make coffee that offers you the most aromatic and flavorful drink when you get your morning brew, settling for coffee that’s almost going stale or has already gone stale will never be a good idea. As a general rule, you’ll get the best results when you purchase coffee that has been recently roasted – ideally, within the past week.
What Can You Do with Expired Coffee?
If you have found some expired coffee in your kitchen and can’t make a brew with it, the best thing to do is throw it away. Since coffee is organic, it can easily be added to food waste or a compost heap. Instant coffee, however, can last long after the expiration date so it is worth testing. However, if it has visible white particles or smells wrong, then it’s best to toss it in the trash.
Like any other food product, coffee will eventually go bad and rancid. How long this will take will depend on the type of coffee and how it is stored.