when does coffee expire and can it go bad?

When Does Coffee Expire And Can it Go Bad?

When Does Coffee Expire And Can it Go Bad?

May 8, 2021

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There is nothing quite like coffee, is there? The rich flavor provides warmth and joy to even the coldest of hearts; it keeps most of us going through long days or dreary Tuesday mornings.

The last thing any of us want to do is let our coffee go bad. Have you caught yourself wondering about expiration dates? Perhaps you have bought a whole selection of new roasts and blends to try and found yourself wondering will I drink these in time?

You don’t want to pour a bad cup of coffee, or worse, risk poisoning yourself or someone else! So what do you do? Do you throw coffee out? Are you banished from bulk buying, destined never to grab a bargain buy of coffee again?

Before you fall into a pit of despair, we are here to catch you! We will look at when the coffee goes bad, expires, and how you can extend your coffee’s shelf life for as long as possible! Keep reading to keep your coffee in your cupboard for longer!

First, let us look at raw unroasted coffee beans then move on to roasted coffee beans.

When Do Green Coffee Beans Expire?

Green coffee beans are the seeds of coffee cherries. The coffee cherry goes through a whole series of processing steps to give us the final raw, green, coffee bean. These raw uncooked (unroasted) coffee beans may have a long shelf life of up to about 5 years. However, some people would argue that the best time to roast coffee beans is up to about 8 months after harvest.

Nevertheless, your green coffee beans will last a long time if you store them in vacuum-sealed bags or containers and in a cold dark place with low humidity.

Why a dark place? Sunlight can initiate chemical reactions in your raw coffee bean which will increase the rate of deterioration of the coffee.

Why a cool place? Temperature increases chemical reactions in your raw coffee beans which will increase the rate of deterioration of the coffee.

Why low humidity? Water in the air will spoil your coffee beans and promote the growth of mold and fungus.

Why vacuum-sealed bags or containers? You want to protect the raw coffee beans from being exposed to mold spores, pests, insects, or oxygen. Oxidation of raw coffee beans is not as detrimental as oxidation of roasted coffee beans but it can still have an effect over time.

Essentially, oxidation is where one or more chemical reactions involve oxygen. These oxidation reactions can alter its physical and chemical characteristics of coffee beans. In particular, volatile compounds that give coffee its flavor and aroma are reduced by oxidation.

Green coffee beans can go old and bad.

Relatively fresh raw coffee beans have a ‘grassy’ smell, a uniform light green color, and do not easily crumble.

Older coffee beans don’t smell grassy, have a uniform green color, and may look shriveled.

Bad raw coffee beans smell musty and crumble when you attempt to break them.

The rest of this article will discuss roasted coffee beans.

When Do Roasted Coffee Beans Expire?

Coffee expires at different times depending on the type of coffee you have and where you are storing it! Whether it is ground, instant, or a whole bean, all coffee will come with an expiration date stamped on it somewhere.

As a general rule, with fresh food, we always recommend following these dates closely, but with coffee, there is some leeway. The expiration date we are looking at here is how long your coffee will last past the date printed on it!

So, how long have you got? Coffee can last anywhere from 3 months to a whopping twenty years, depending on the type!

Now that’s quite a range, isn’t it! That means your coffee can be with you for a massive part of your life. To help you see how long your particular type of coffee will last, we have an easy-to-follow list below!

We have divided the expirations into unopened and sealed coffee and opened coffee too.

Unopened/sealed Coffee

  • Ground Coffee – 3-5 months past the printed date
  • Whole Coffee Bean – 6-9 months past the printed date
  • Instant Coffee – 2-20 years past the printed date

Opened Coffee

  • Ground Coffee – 3-5 months once opened
  • Coffee Beans – 6 months once opened
  • Instant coffee (freeze-dried) – 2-20 years after being opened

As you can see, there is little difference between the expiration of coffee once it has been opened, but it will need to be stored properly to ensure that it stays fresh and its taste isn’t compromised.

Ensure that the coffee is kept in a cool area in an airtight container to ensure its longevity. These expiration dates are the same for decaf or caffeinated coffee too.

Does the roast matter?

Coffee can be roasted in countless ways these days, offering a different flavor and aroma that leaves many of us on the hunt for new and exotic roasts to try! But can these different roasts impact coffee’s shelf life?

While the expiration dates will show no noticeable difference, there are some connections. For example, lighter roasts tend to last slightly longer than darker roasts.

Why? It’s due to the oil and amino extracted from the beans that then sit on the surface. These oils cause the coffee to spoil at a faster rate over time than if they were still within the bean.

Keep an eye on the expiration dates when purchasing different roasts to avoid being caught out! These can be placed in the freezer to extend their shelf life with a standard ground coffee bean.

Can Coffee Go Bad?

Coffee can go bad! Despite the long expiration dates, your coffee can still go bad. Common signs of bad coffee include changes in color, taste, and smell!

There is no avoiding the fact that fresh coffee just tastes better! We recommend using your coffee by the expiration date to avoid bad coffee.

Is bad coffee safe to drink?

Thankfully, expired coffee is generally still safe to drink! You are unlikely to suffer any food poisoning from drinking expired coffee unless it had mold or mildew on it.

You are only likely to notice a difference in the taste; your coffee won’t have its usual strong and rich flavor; instead, it will seem a little flat.

Some drinkers are happy to sacrifice the taste to enjoy their coffee no matter the expiration date. Personally, we would recommend drinking your coffee before it goes bad to enjoy fantastic tasting coffee.

How to tell coffee has gone bad?

Identifying if your coffee has gone bad is easy to do. Simply use your nose, and give the coffee a sniff.

If the coffee has gone off, you won’t be able to smell the coffee scent that we all love. The taste will also be mostly gone, leaving you with a cup of virtually tasteless water and milk (or however you take your coffee).

Visually, the coffee might look different too. Instead of its dark color, the ground coffee might now be a light brown. The color change isn’t always noticeable, so be sure to give the coffee a wonderful smell to determine whether it has gone off or not.

If there is any mold or mildew on the coffee, it will need to be disposed of immediately and not safe to consume. Do not try and scrape the mold off, instead throw all the coffee out and thoroughly clean the container out if it is a reusable container.

Coffee beans tend to lose their flavor after grinding, as their oils evaporate. You have a few options here. Some people choose only to grind the amount of coffee they want to use, but we aren’t always lucky enough to get just the right amount.

For those leftover coffee beans or grinds that you don’t want to preserve, you can use them for other household items! Coffee can be added to compost or used as a natural fertilizer for your garden and naturally break down.

Or you can use it to make body scrubs, hair treatments, or add it to ice cream! Why not see what recipes you can find?

Be sure to use ground coffee by its use-by date to ensure that it is tasty and safe to enjoy! Alternatively, you can add more ground coffee to your cup, as this will give the coffee its usual strong taste.

Whichever method you choose, ensure the coffee is safe for consumption before drinking it.

Can I extend coffee’s shelf life?

As with most fresh ingredients, coffee degrades over time. It will degrade faster depending on the surface area, meaning a whole bean will keep longer than ground coffee, the same concept applies to spices too!

If you purchase whole beans, grind them as needed to ensure you have fresh and fantastic tasting coffee! Ensure that these beans are stored in an airtight and closed container, removing them only to grind the coffee you intend to use for that day.

Whether your coffee is instant, ground, or a bean, ensure that it is kept in an airtight container away from direct sunlight and heat. Avoid placing them near ovens or microwaves, as the heat can impact the taste and longevity of the beans.

The most vital part of preserving coffee is to keep moisture out of the coffee! Once moisture enters the coffee, not only will it impact the taste of your coffee, but it can cause mold and mildew to form, rendering your coffee useless. You will need to dispose of any coffee with mold or mildew on it immediately as it is unsafe to consume.

The best way to preserve your coffee is in an airtight container that is free of moisture. Storing the container in a cold and dark cupboard or pantry away from any heat or water is advised, too, ensuring your coffee remains dry and delicious for you to consume!

Can you freeze coffee?

You can freeze coffee! Many users recommend freezing coffee to preserve it for as long as possible!

The best temperature to freeze your coffee beans is about -40°C. However, your home freezer usually operates at about -20°C. Consequently, your home freezer isn’t ideal but it can still store your coffee beans.

However, when freezing your coffee beans you want to avoid ice crystals forming on your coffee beans. Ice crystals are formed from water in the air. There are some precautions you need to take when freezing your coffee.

  1. Parcel your coffee beans into 200 to 300 g lots or whatever you normally use to make your coffee
  2. Put your coffee beans into an airtight container or vacuum-pack
  3. When you are ready to drink your coffee. Remove one parcel of coffee beans from the freezer and leave to thaw. Do not open the pack until after the coffee has thawed. If you open too soon, then water will condense around your coffee beans. This will make it more difficult to grind your coffee and likely spoil the taste.

Instant coffee that has already been freeze-dried does not need to be kept in the freezer but it is a good idea to keep your coffee away from moisture and heat in an airtight container.

You will see a longer shelf-life on instant coffee that has been vacuum-sealed too.

How long will frozen coffee last?

When you place coffee in the freezer, its shelf life extends beyond the expiration periods we looked at earlier. Again, the expiration dates will vary depending on whether the coffee has been opened or sealed when it’s placed in the freezer.

Let’s take a look at how long your coffee could last in the freezer.

Sealed/unopened coffee

  • Ground coffee – 1-2 years past the printed date
  • Whole Coffee Beans – 2-3 years past the printed date
  • Instant Coffee – will last indefinitely in the freezer

Opened coffee

  • Ground Coffee – 3-5 months once opened.
  • Coffee Beans – 2 years once opened.
  • Instant Coffee – indefinitely once opened.

As you can see, coffee, both opened and sealed, will last dramatically longer in the freezer than your pantry or refrigerator.

You are unlikely to notice any change in the taste or texture of coffee that has been kept in the freezer. Whether it was opened beforehand or not, you shouldn’t see a difference in taste!

Just be sure to place the coffee in an airtight and sealed container to ensure its longevity and prevent any freezer burn or water crystals from entering the container. Freezer burn can leave foods or items placed in the freezer watery or with a grainy texture and is best to be avoided.

Alternatively, vacuum bags can be used to store your coffee. Sealing a vacuum bag will prevent any oxygen or moisture from entering the coffee, preserving it for even longer!

coffee beans vacuum pack
Vacuum-sealed Coffee Beans

How long does prepared coffee last?

Coffee that has already been brewed and left on the counter should be consumed within 4-6 hours. It is always best to drink the coffee immediately, especially if milk has been added, as it goes off quicker than your coffee will.

However, if you have left the coffee for a few hours without adding milk, it will be safe to drink, although on the cold side! Reheating your coffee is an option, but one we would avoid.

Reheating your coffee in the microwave can burn the coffee grinds, creating a bitter and burnt taste that no one wants in their coffee!

Instead, transfer your brewed coffee into a thermos! It will keep the coffee warm for you to enjoy without impacting the taste.

You can generally expect a few hours of warmth and freshness, depending on the thermos you have. Why not take it on the go, and enjoy a coffee to your taste wherever you are!

How long will cold-brewed coffee last?

Cold-brewed coffee is a popular choice these days, especially as we head into the warmer summer months. Once prepared, the coffee should last for roughly two weeks in the refrigerator. After this time, the taste will be compromised, and it is best to dispose of it.

Cold-brewed coffee involves using a french press to steep your ground coffee in cold water. It brews for ten hours or overnight for a rich and deep flavor. Place the coffee in the refrigerator to brew.

Once brewed, push your french press down slowly, and decant the coffee into an airtight container; a jug with a lid will do!

You can then keep your cold-brewed coffee for two weeks, allowing you to consume when you wish.

Do K-Cups Expire?

K-Cups are slightly different from regular coffee grounds. These are individually packaged for Keurig machines and come in small amounts. They tend to be very well packaged and feature a longer shelf life than standard ground coffee.

However, if they have been slightly opened, they will need to be stored in a pantry to avoid oxidation which can be bad for coffee. It is best to use any opened k-cups immediately or throw them out.

Ensure you check the dates before using your pods, and if you notice any signs of mold or mildew, dispose of them immediately. Any opened pods will also need to be used immediately or disposed of to avoid the coffee going bad before you use it.

Do Nespresso Pods Expire?

Nespresso pods are hermetically sealed and the coffee is fresh for at least a year after production. All Nespresso pods have an expiration date that is stamped on every Nespresso pack. However, you can brew Nespresso pods to brew coffee long after the expiration date.

As we’ve seen, coffee doesn’t deteriorate to form poisonous products like most other foods. The Nespresso pods are airtight and this prevents microbes, mold, and fungi from growing.

Did you forget you had some Nespresso pods in your kitchen cupboard? Don’t worry. You can safely drink the coffee from Nespresso pods for months, or years, after you bought them.

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, coffee can last indefinitely, depending on the type and how you store it!

Not just for chicken nuggets, the freezer is your lifeline when it comes to preserving your coffee for as long as possible!

Ensuring that your coffee is kept in an airtight container or a vacuum-sealed bag will keep it fresh and in date well past the printed date. Be sure to check your coffee before use, and remember to not use any coffee with mold or mildew!

Go forth and store your coffee safely!

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