The question of whether coffee goes bad is quite common, especially among irregular coffee drinkers. It’s not uncommon to find a bag of ground coffee in your kitchen drawer, but then what? Is it safe to consume it?
Passionate coffee drinkers would be strongly against that idea since freshness is a major determinant of whether coffee is good or bad. But, what does “bad” mean? Can expired coffee make you sick?
In this article, we’ll break down these questions and answer when it’s okay to consume the coffee that’s been sitting in your kitchen for quite some time. Furthermore, we share some essential tips on how to store coffee properly, to ensure you keep the fresh and intense taste as long as possible.
Can Coffee Go Bad & What Does “Bad” Really Mean?
The short answer is both yes and no, depending on what you are really asking.
If you’re asking whether coffee can make you sick, then no, coffee doesn’t go bad like some other food items (dairy products, for example). Coffee, like other dry, packaged food, has no firm expiration date, so consuming it after the expiration label stated on the package is safe – under the condition that you’ve stored it properly. Coffee is unsafe only if it comes in contact with humidity or water. In this case, throw it away without thinking much about it.
Having said that, coffee does go bad in terms of taste. Just because it’s safe to consume it, it doesn’t mean that it will be worth it. Old coffee becomes stale and most of its flavor does go away over time, so the drinking experience won’t be very pleasant.
So, how do we know whether our old coffee is drinkable?
In the next paragraph, we’ll discuss the shelf life of coffee and give you some guidelines that can help you determine whether you should drink or toss the coffee. Just keep in mind that these guidelines aren’t strict rules and, at the end of the day, a lot of different factors affect the freshness and flavor of coffee, which we’ll go over in a bit.
Shelf Life Of Coffee In Different Forms
When we talk about the expiration date of coffee, we must make a difference between coffee beans, coffee grounds granules, k-cup pods, and brewed coffee.
Can you use coffee grounds past the expiration date?
How can you extend the shelf life and freshness of your coffee at home?
Let’s break it all down and help you minimize your coffee waste.
How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?
The more processed the coffee is, the shorter its shelf life. Therefore, raw coffee beans last longer than ground coffee. If you buy coffee beans and ground them yourself, it’s best to ground only as much as you plan to drink that day and keep your coffee as whole beans. Stored in a dark and dry place, coffee beans will last for six to nine months if not opened, and around four to five months once opened.
How Long Does Ground Coffee Last?
The shelf life of ground coffee is a little shorter than whole coffee beans. Once the coffee beans are ground, the chemical compounds that make coffee what it is are much more vulnerable to environmental factors that affect the quality. Try to ground only as much coffee as you plan to drink that day or week for optimal flavor. If you buy ground coffee, try to drink it in the next two to three months.
How Long Does Instant Coffee Last?
The expiration date for instant coffee varies greatly depending on the brand, so it can last from two up to twenty years (sealed/unopened). However, once opened, the coffee in the package will generally stay at the best quality for around 12-18 months.
How Long Can Brewed Coffee Sit Out?
Finally, what happens after you prepare the coffee? How long can you leave it to sit at room temperature before becoming acidic and bitter?
According to EatByDate, you should drink brewed coffee as soon as you can, preferably on the same day, otherwise, it will become stale. You can keep it in the fridge for two or three days, but keep in mind that the flavor will slowly evaporate, and the more you wait, the staler it will be.
In What Case Can Coffee Make You Sick? – Telling The Difference Between Rotten Or Spoiled Coffee
We’ve mentioned that even if the taste is poor, expired coffee won’t harm you. Are there exceptions? This depends on how you store the coffee. While the coffee itself isn’t harmful, there is one exception where you should just throw away the package.
If the coffee package was in contact with spoiled food or moisture after opening, you shouldn’t consume the coffee. In this case, bacteria overgrowth from spoiled food might have contaminated the coffee, making it unsafe. Also, moisture aids bacteria growth which can spoil coffee as well.
Considering coffee can last a relatively long time when it’s stored properly, in the next paragraph we’ll share some tips on how to store and keep your coffee fresh.
How To Store Coffee To Last Longer?
To better understand how we can take care of our coffee beans, we should first learn what degrades the quality of the coffee.
Factors that can affect the quality of coffee:
Oxygen negatively affects coffee beans and ground coffee because of something called VOCs (volatile organic compounds). When oxygen comes into contact with the coffee beans, the VOCs inside the coffee become unstable and evaporate, causing the coffee to lose its aroma.
Coffee already contains a certain amount of moisture, depending on where it comes from and how it was processed, as each coffee is different. However, it’s important that the moisture content isn’t above 12.5%. Apart from the fact it affects the taste, the problem with moisture is that high levels can cause mold, and in severe cases, fungi. The main reason why this happens is that coffee is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air.
Just like with oxygen, ground coffee as well as whole coffee beans are sensitive to light. Light will make the compounds in coffee unstable and prone to evaporation. This will make your drink stale.
Yet another killer of high-quality coffee is heat. Don’t expose coffee beans or coffee grounds to heat before brewing or you’ll make the coffee lose all its flavor and taste.
Tips For Extending Coffee Freshness
Follow these tips to ensure a heavy-bodied, robust coffee flavor, each time you make a new brew.
- Buy high-quality coffee beans/grounds. First things first, before you think about storing it, make sure your coffee is fresh and of good quality when you buy it. It’s a good idea to find a brand or a local merchandiser you trust.
- Transfer the coffee into a safe container. Immediately after opening the package, transfer the coffee into an airtight, non-transparent (dark) container, and store it at room temperature (in a cool location). If drinking coffee is a daily habit for you, you might want to invest in storage canisters with an airtight seal.
- Consume the coffee 15-20 minutes after brewing. To take the most out of the coffee flavor, consume it 20 minutes after brewing. The cooler it gets, the more aroma is lost.
- Never reheat coffee. Re-heating will destroy the coffee’s aroma and flavor completely.
- Only certain parts of the pantry or kitchen cabinet are good storage places. Don’t place the coffee canister in the kitchen cabinets if it’s right next to the stove or if the cabinet is exposed to sunlight. Only cool, dark, and dry places are okay.
- Don’t refrigerate brewed coffee. Although placing brewed coffee in the fridge can extend its shelf life, it will make the taste very dull and diluted.
Before You Go
Hopefully, we managed to answer all of your concerns and you can continue to enjoy your favorite coffee blend without worrying it might make you sick. To enhance the flavor and ensure you’re drinking high-quality brew, follow our advice on how to store and extend coffee freshness.
If you want to learn more about coffee, like what’s the best coffee for cold brew or the top 10 most exotic and delicious coffee beans, make sure you visit our blog. We have many other interesting articles covering food and kitchen appliances, as well as delicious recipes that will go perfectly with a cup of coffee.