Almost every home in the United States has a bag of coffee sitting on the pantry shelves. But, unless you’re a coffee fanatic, gulping down a few pots per day, you may be wondering if those grounds or beans sitting in the cupboard are going bad. Well, the answer isn’t as simple as you might think. There are a few key ways you can determine how long coffee stays fresh, what causes coffee to go bad and how you can make it last as long as possible. So, let’s answer the question – does coffee ever go bad?
Does Coffee Go Bad?
In simple terms, no coffee does not go bad in that grounds and beans don’t grow mold or bacteria that can make you sick after consumption. Even if it’s past the expiration date, coffee is generally fine to drink as long as it’s made from beans secured in an airtight container (it’s flavor may leave much to be desired, however.) After brewing, your pot of coffee will most certainly go bad and rot if left out for long enough time. After about four hours, the oils in brewed coffee start to turn rancid, affecting taste and creating a good environment for mold to grow. Let’s dive deeper into this question, as the length of time you can store coffee is different for beans and grounds.
How long do coffee beans last?
Coffee beans will always keep for longer than grounds, as long as they’re stored in a cool, dry area and in an airtight container that blocks moisture, light and contaminants. Even with minimal protection, coffee beans will keep fresh for at least a month and usually up to half a year. You can also store coffee beans in the freezer, and although it does make some of the oils and sugars dissipate affecting flavor, you can extend the shelf life of your beans by up to two years.
- Opened coffee beans: 6 months
- Frozen opened coffee beans: 2 years
- Unopened/vacuum-sealed coffee beans: 9 months
- Frozen unopened coffee beans: 3 years
How long do coffee grounds last?
Coffee grounds are much different than their whole-bean counterparts. Pre-ground coffee has already started losing it’s freshness the moment it’s manufactured. This is because beans lose their flavor when they’re broken into smaller pieces, allowing sugars and oils to evaporate. In other words, the coffee grounds that you’re buying may already be stale, bitter or rancid by the time it gets to your pantry. Even for the freshest grounds, you can expect them to be drinkable for only about one to two weeks. If it’s vacuum sealed, you can freeze ground coffee, but it certainly won’t taste the same when pulled out.
- Opened coffee grounds: 1-2 weeks
- Frozen open coffee grounds: 6 months
- Unopened/vacuum-sealed coffee grounds: 5 months
- Frozen unopened coffee grounds: 1-2 years
Can I Drink Expired Coffee?
All coffee will eventually lose flavor and freshness over time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drink it – even after the expiration date. You can drink expired coffee grounds and beans as long as they’ve been stored properly. When oxygen infiltrates your storage containers, it causes the molecules in your coffee to break down, reducing its complex flavors and essential glucose. Any coffee that’s going bad likely won’t make you physically ill, but the poor taste from consuming old coffee might cause your stomach to feel weak after a few sips of such a bitter, bad-tasting brew – don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Best Way To Store Coffee
When it comes to storing coffee, there are a few best practices that you should follow in order to keep your morning fuel fresh and prevent waste:
- Unless you drink a ton of coffee, consider switching exclusively to beans and grind them yourself, as they will stay fresher for longer compared to grounds.
- Transfer beans or grounds from original packaging to an airtight container so that they can’t be affected by air, moisture, heat and light.
- Keep your coffee in a cool, dry, dark location. For example, try the back of the pantry rather than on the countertop next to the oven or under a window.
- Buy smaller batches of coffee more frequently versus buying in bulk.
- Grind beans immediately before brewing.
- Freeze your coffee for extra longevity. Remember to get a truly airtight container, since coffee absorbs moisture (and odors, tastes, aromas). Freezer burned coffee is not an ideal scenario.
Bad coffee is no one’s friend – keep your beans fresh!
Now that you know the answer to whether or not coffee goes bad, you can take the proper steps to ensure that your beans and grounds always stay fresh. Remember to store your coffee in an airtight container and place it in the freezer if you can’t consume it within the timeframes above. For those who want to buy a longer-lasting type of coffee, consider picking up an at-home grinder and a bag of beans for a fresh mug of joe.
So, if you’ve had a tin of grounds or a bag of beans sitting on your shelf, brew up a batch today and see how they taste! If it’s not quite what you’re looking for, it looks like it’s time to make a trip to the grocery store and experiment with a new, fresher option – happy sipping!