Does Coffee Go Bad? (Truth Behind Coffee Expiration)

coffee beans

In brief: Coffee doesn’t go bad unless it’s kept in a humid environment. There are several ways to store coffee for it to last longer and stay fresh.

You’re clearing out your pantry and happen to stumble across some old coffee that you unknowingly kept behind for a considerably long period of time, and now you’re wondering, has it gone bad?

Or perhaps you were out shopping and noticed a “for sale” sign in the coffee aisle and pondered why they were offering them at a discounted price, is it because they’ll expire soon?

These scenarios ultimately fall down to one simple question, does coffee actually expire?

Stay tuned because this article will address all of your queries, plus there’ll be a little bonus at the end with tips on how to properly store your coffee to maintain its freshness!

Let’s go!

Does Coffee Expire?

No, it doesn’t!

Just like tea, coffee doesn’t spoil except if stored in a humid environment.

If coffee grounds or beans become wet, they can’t be used again and must be thrown away.

If properly stored, dried coffee can last for months or years after the date indicated on the packaging.

Coffee’s shelf life is influenced by a number of factors, including the following:

  • best before date
  • preparation technique
  • how the coffee was stored

How Long Does Coffee Last?

The duration of time your coffee will last is determined by its form, as well as where and how it is stored. If it’s not properly stored, the shelf life is shortened.

Like many other drinks, it generally has a best before or sell-by date rather than a use-by or expiry date.

After its best before date, if properly stored, coffee has a shelf life of around:

Unopened or sealedPantryFreezer
Type of CoffeePast Printed DatePast Printed Date
Ground coffee3-5 months1-2 years
Whole bean coffee6-9 months2-3 years
Instant coffee2-20 yearsindefinite
Shelf life of coffee if unopened or sealed

However, once opened, its shelf life becomes:

OpenedPantryFreezer
Type of Coffee Once OpenedOnce Opened
Ground coffee3-5 months3-5 months
Coffee beans6 months2 years
Instant coffee2-20 yearsindefinite
Shelf life of coffee if opened

Caffeinated nor decaffeinated, neither matters in terms of coffee shelf life, how long coffee lasts, and if coffee expires.

Is it Safe to Drink Expired Coffee?

Drinking coffee past its expiration date won’t get you sick, but the flavor will be substantially different from that of fresher coffee.

However, just because it’s somewhat safe to consume doesn’t imply that it’s a desirable thing.

Food safety should still be practiced and considered before risking your health in these scenarios.

In any and all circumstances, though, it’s best to consume coffee as near to the roasting date as possible rather than the expiration date.

Typically, the expiry date is one year from the day the beans were roasted, and the closer you get to the expiry date, the less fresh and delicious the coffee will be.

Can You Drink 2-Year-Old Coffee?

You certainly can! As long as the coffee is properly stored, it’s fairly safe to consume.

Keep dry and whole coffee beans away from a humid or moist environment and everything will go well. Generally, coffee wouldn’t go bad, but once wet, it can’t be reused.

Additionally, a pot of brewed coffee can go bad if left to sit for an extended period of time due to the fact that coffee’s natural oils will become stale over time.

However, there is a slight issue with drinking a 2-year-old coffee.

Coffee tends to lose quality over time which is primarily attributable to the oxygen and air exposure, which tends to cause your coffee to disintegrate away and eventually lose its flavor.

Better yet, coffee beans should be consumed within three to four weeks after purchase, and as for ground coffee, within two weeks.

How Can You Tell if Coffee Has Gone Bad?

You can easily determine if the coffee is still fresh and safe to consume through its scent.

Since the physical appearance of the coffee doesn’t change as it turns rancid, your eye will most certainly not be able to detect any abnormalities.

If you suspect that your coffee has gone bad, the best way to tell is to smell it.

Completely fresh and safe-to-consume coffee would smell strongly like caramel, and when that delightful scent fades, it’s clear that the coffee is no longer fresh.

If the scent is dusty or ashy, it’s most likely gone rancid.

Further, if you brewed your coffee without smelling it beforehand, you’ll know it’s gone bad when the flavor is bitter and sour, which is entirely different from what it should have tasted like.

How Long Can You Keep Coffee?

The length of time coffee can be kept depends on the type of coffee and how it’s stored.

Ground coffee

After the sell-by date, a bag of pre-ground coffee can last between 3-5 months.

It may also be stored in the freezer, unopened, it can last for up to 2 years and still retain a reasonable level of freshness.

Instant Coffee

Instant coffee has the longest shelf life.

While most instant coffee packets include an expiration date that ranges from 12 to 18 months, this sort of coffee may survive up to 20 years and, unexpectedly, still taste like instant coffee.

What Can You Do With Old Coffee?

You probably don’t know that there are several things you can do with old coffee and leftover coffee grounds without tossing them away.

Among these uses are the following:

  • refresh tired eyes
  • repair scratches on wooden furniture
  • mask foot odor
  • neutralize hand odor
  • reduce cellulite
  • scour grease
  • dye fabrics
  • fertilize flowers

Other uses:

Bio-products

Coffee imposes a significant economic and environmental cost in the form of leftover or spent coffee grounds, which are the unused fraction of the coffee bean left after brewing.

That being said, while this waste stream is now unrealized, it has the potential to be transformed into a variety of high-value bioproducts.

Potential uses for spent coffee grounds range from energy to nutraceuticals, and construction materials outlined below as:

Bio-energyMaterialsBio-active compounds
Bio-dieselSubgrade materialPhenolic compounds
Bio-ethanolPlasticsCarotenoids
Bio-oilCompositeFertilizers
Solid fuelAdsorbents
Potential uses for spent coffee grounds.

Livestock Feed

The majority of research on coffee husks and pulp has concentrated on using this solid waste as a supplement for animal feed.

Plenty in vivo testing with a wide range of animals such as cattle, fish, pigs, sheep, and chicken have been conducted, and the overall result is that its usage for animal feed is fairly limited owing to the presence of antinutritional components such as caffeine and tannins.

Caffeine and tannin levels can be considerably lowered by detoxification and fermentation studies, according to research.

But even so, additional in vivo experiments using detoxified coffee husks and/or pulp is required to determine whether such treatments are adequate to enhance the quantity of these solid wastes.

Silage

The direct application of coffee husks as soil covering appears to be a viable alternative for potassium-depleted soils.

Composting is also an option, provided that another form of waste is mixed in with the husks to enhance the carbon-nitrogen ratio.

If you want to find out more reasons why you should recycle your old coffee grounds, watch the video below!

Watch and know more about why you shouldn’t throw away your old coffee.

Do Coffee Grounds Get Moldy? If So, How Can You Tell?

Coffee does get moldy, but wait! Don’t panic yet.

Molds and mycotoxins can be found in crops such as grains and coffee beans.

Mycotoxins are toxic compounds generated by molds, which are microscopic fungi prevalent in the environment.

Mold spores might have been there in the coffee you drank this morning.

These spores may and do settle and thrive on raw beans throughout the harvesting, fermenting, and drying processes, as well as during storage and transmission.

If your coffee smells terrible, tastes strange, or has developed an unusual texture, it is moldy. Unusual tastes or odors might indicate that mold has contaminated the product.

If you’ve ever had an incident like this, don’t even try scooping off the moldy portion while preserving the remaining coffee. The exposed mold is merely the tip of the iceberg and there’s a lot more where that came from.

Is Mold on Coffee Grounds Dangerous?

Surprisingly, no.

There are numerous forms of mycotoxins, but the ones which are most pertinent to coffee crops include aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin A.

Aflatoxin B1 is a recognized carcinogen with a number of undesirable effects while Ochratoxin A is expected to be a weak carcinogen and may be damaging to the brain and kidneys.

However, there is no need to panic, because Ochratoxin A is only bad for you when consumed in high doses.

And the thing is, you’ll most probably suffer more from caffeine overdose before you could actually consume enough mold from coffee to trigger any unwanted reactions.

Furthermore, according to Norbert Kaminski, Ph.D., director of Michigan State University’s Center for Integrative Toxicology, the amounts of Ochratoxin A found in coffee are extremely low.

How Can You Prevent Coffee From “Going Bad”?

Store it properly, and you have your problem solved!

Freshness has become a crucial quality factor for coffee which is why proper coffee storage is equally just as important.

Coffee beans will stay good for about a month after roasting if properly stored. While ground coffee will last for one to two weeks after roasting.

Avoid light, oxygen, and heat, and especially humid environments!

These are the most critical elements in coffee bean storage because these can affect the freshness of your beans, so selecting the right container to store them in is vital.

Does Putting Coffee in the Freezer Keep It Fresh?

Coffee may be stored in the freezer, which substantially extends its shelf life.

However, the coffee loses almost all of its taste when frozen.

While theories vary on whether coffee should be frozen or refrigerated, the major concern is that coffee collects moisture as well as odors and tastes from the air surrounding it as it’s hygroscopic.

Usually, home storage containers could let low levels of oxygen in, which is why food stored in the freezer for an extended period of time might suffer from freezer burn.

As a result, if you do refrigerate or freeze your beans, use an airtight container.

If you want to freeze your coffee, take only what you need for no more than a week at a time and return the remainder to the freezer first before the moisture forms.

How Do You Properly Store Coffee?

According to the National Coffee Association, you should keep the beans in an airtight container, and only buy the right amount.

Keep beans airtight and cool.

Air, moisture, heat, and light are your beans’ worst enemies.

To keep your beans’ fresh as possible, store them at room temperature in an opaque, airtight container.

Coffee beans can be a nice display in your kitchen, but avoid transparent containers, which enable light to interfere with the flavor of your coffee.

What you should do is store your beans in a dark, cool place, and if you can, invest in airtight seal containers.

Buy the right amount.

Almost immediately after roasting, coffee begins to lose freshness.

Purchase smaller quantities of freshly roasted coffee on a more regular basis – enough for one or two weeks.

Because of the increased exposure to oxygen, this is particularly essential when purchasing pre-ground coffee. If you buy whole beans, ground only what you need right before brewing.

Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, in the coffee industry, where the ultimate goal is to offer you the most satisfying flavor in every cup, freshness has become a crucial quality factor.

Given that coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide, understanding how long coffee lasts and how to properly store it is beneficial.

You now know that coffee does not truly “go bad” unless stored in a humid environment and that consuming expired coffee is quite safe (though perhaps not recommended).

You also found out that old coffee or leftover coffee grounds may be advantageous in a variety of ways. You can recycle them to reduce waste!

While it is true that coffee tastes finest when it is fresh, it is still advantageous to be well-versed on the matter.

Now go enjoy your cup of joe!

Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

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