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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Everything in life has an expiration date, and just like many of your favorite things, coffee is no different. So, how do you tell if your coffee has gone bad, old, expired, or rancid?

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?

Coffee can have an incredibly long shelf life, but if you are anything like us, then it never lasts long enough to go past the sell by date in your house!

However, we’ve all been there before…we’ve looked in the cupboards to find an old jar of coffee sitting in the back, waaaay past its expiration date. We may have bought coffee beans in bulk or from one of those shops that openly display coffee beans in rustic hessian sacks or grabbed a bargain buy of coffee beans from a market or store.

How do we know that the coffee is not bad, old, and safe to drink?

Don’t worry. With our guide, you will be able to tell if your coffee is rancid and old, or whether it is fresh and ready for brewing!

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.

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.

For the rest of this article, we will discuss mainly roasted coffee beans.

When Do Roasted Coffee Beans Expire?

Coffee expires at different times depending on the type of coffee you have, how you store it, and where you store it! Coffee will usually come with an expiration date or a ‘use by date’ stamped on it somewhere. The exceptions may be raw whole beans or roasted whole beans sold in bulk.

As a general rule, with fresh food, we always recommend following these dates closely, but with coffee, there is some leeway. You can drink coffee past the stamped expiration or ‘use by’ date as long as you know what you are doing. And the coffee still tastes good!

So, how long have you got to drink your coffee?

Coffee can last anywhere from 3 months to a whopping twenty years, depending on the type!

Now that’s quite a range and means your coffee can be with you for a fair 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 and 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 and Stored Coffee

  • Ground Coffee – 3-5 months once opened (assuming it is stored properly)
  • 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 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, just like any other consumable does have a shelf life and it can go bad. However, as we have already seen coffee can last for a very long time. Instant coffee lasts longer than whole beans. Whole beans last longer than ground coffee beans.

Common signs of bad coffee include changes in color, taste, and smell!

As you already know fresh coffee just tastes better!

Is bad coffee safe to drink?

Unlike other foods, coffee doesn’t usually pose a risk if it is past its expiration date, and expired coffee is generally still safe to drink. You are unlikely to suffer any food poisoning from drinking expired coffee unless it has mold, toxic bacteria, or other toxic contaminants.

If you drink coffee past its expiration date then you may notice a difference in the taste. Your coffee won’t have its usual strong and rich flavor and 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?

When we look in the refrigerator to find out if our milk is bad, we can tell straight away from noticeable changes in texture, appearance, and smell. How can you tell if your coffee is rancid, old, and has gone bad?

Simply use your nose and eyes.

Give your coffee a good sniff and with a ‘coat of looking at’. (As a youngster I worked with my Dad in the building trade. My Dad always first inspected a job before quoting or giving advice. He would say to me “OK, son, let’s give this job a coat of looking at…” This was a loose metaphor to painting where you would give a wall a coat of paint.)

If the coffee has gone off, you won’t be able to smell the coffee scent that we all love. Coffee typically has a sweet, caramel scent and a slight bitterness that is highly enjoyable. However, if the coffee is spoiled, then you will notice a less pleasant scent, with a dusty aroma and a smoky, ash-like smell.

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.

In addition, once brewed, the coffee may taste far more bitter than usual and has more of a sour taste than aromatic and enjoyable. If this is the case, then your coffee has probably spoiled.

If there is any mold or mildew on the coffee, it will need to be disposed of immediately and not safe to consume. You don’t want your coffee to have furry jackets! Do not try and scrape the mold off, just throw all the coffee out and thoroughly clean the container if it is reusable.

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 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.

fresh vs expired coffee video

How Do You Know Your Coffee is Fresh?

Sight and smell! As we have already mentioned fresh coffee usually has a sweet, robust, full-bodied and caramel scent. If your coffee has gone bad, then it will most likely be more bitter and have less aroma.

If the brewed coffee looks dark, dull, and nearly black in color, then it may have gone rancid or stale.

On the other hand, if your brewed coffee has a fresh taste, beautifully rounded flavor and a slight layer of crema, then it should be fresh and good to go!

You can also check if your whole beans are fresh by placing them in a resealable bag such as a Ziploc bag. Once they are inside, push all of the remaining air out, and seal. Leave the bag overnight, and check in the morning if it has puffed up or not.

If the bag has puffed up, then the beans have released some carbon dioxide, and are fairy fresh, being no older than 10 days. If there is no puffiness to the bag, then the beans are most likely old.

We always recommend purchasing fresh coffee, and brewing your favorite beverage with only the freshest beans. This will give you the optimal flavor and result of a perfect cup of coffee.

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.

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 drink!

Best Coffee Storage Containers

To ensure that you are enjoying only top-quality coffee in the morning, you will need a good coffee container.

The best types of coffee storage containers will have to be completely airtight, as this reduces the chance of oxidation, locking out air and oxygen to keep the coffee fresh and flavorful for longer.

You will also have to keep your coffee in a cool, dry, dark place so that there is no excessive moisture. Hot temperatures start to break down the coffee, causing it to decay and deteriorate quickly.

Light can impact your coffee so it is best to have an opaque container. Glass airtight containers look nice but they are transparent to light. You can still use an airtight glass container but you would need to keep it in a dark place to avoid the light.

Opaque or transparent plastic containers can be used to store your coffee. However, once again you will need to store the transparent container in a dark place. Some plastic containers may have that ‘plastic’ smell which isn’t great for your coffee.

Airtight bags are also a good choice if you need a bit more space and ‘flexibility’ for storing coffee beans or coffee grinds. Most bags also contain a one-way degassing valve.

We prefer solid, opaque, stainless steel containers for storing coffee. However, we have included one plastic and one glass container in our recommendations for your consideration.

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Veken Coffee Canister, Airtight Stainless Steel Kitchen Food Storage Container with Date Tracker and Scoop for Beans, Grounds, Tea, Flour, Cereal, Sugar, 22OZ, Gray
  • Freshness is Everything - Our coffee canisters help maintain the freshness of your coffee beans by keeping air out and free of harmful oxidation with a one-way CO2 valve and 100% BPA-free silicone rubber seal.
  • 304 Stainless Steel - As a coffee lover, you must never compromise on the material and quality of your coffee container. Veken containers are made of thick, high quality stainless steel to create a comfortable environment for coffee beans.
  • Date Tracker & Free Scoop - Ensure your coffee is always fresh and not expired. You can set the storage or expiry dates with the date tracker on the lid of your Veken coffee storage canister. We also offer a free stainless steel coffee scoop, which can be attached to the hook!
  • Perfect Size & Scale Line - Our coffee container has the perfect capacity to store coffee beans and the scale line will help you recognize when it is time to add more.
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Fellow Atmos Vacuum Canister for Coffee & Food Storage - Airtight Sealed Container, Matte Black, Large Coffee Bean Storage, 1.2 Liter Jar
  • GUARD THE GOODS - Keep your coffee beans fresher longer by storing in Atmos, a vacuum-sealed food storage canister; Simply twist the lid back and forth to remove air from inside Atmos; This limits oxygen exposure to help keep your coffee from going stale
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  • AIRTIGHT SEAL - Keep your coffee or snacks untainted in Atmos, a beautifully functional and fully sealable food jar with a powerful silicone ring that stops air, moisture, odors, and other funk from seeping in; When left unopened Atmos’ seal will keep air out for around a week in-between brews
  • SUPERIOR QUALITY - Contain your dry goods safely in Atmos food storage containers made out of food-safe 304 18/8 stainless steel; Hand wash canister as the integrated vacuum pump is not suitable for dishwasher
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Bean Envy Airtight Coffee Canister - LARGE 22.5 oz - Includes Stainless Steel Scoop & Integrated Silicone Base - Sealed Cantilever Lid - Co2 Gas Release Wicovalve & Numerical Day/Month Tracker – Red
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  • COMPLETE PACKAGE - Simply put, our patent-pending ergonomic clip design PLUS integrated silicone base is awesome! We include, for free, a premium stainless steel coffee scoop utensil with a sleek and smooth silicone grip. You’ll never have to dig in the drawer for your scoop again!
  • LONGER LASTING FRESHNESS - Whether you are starting your day or entertaining, our coffee storage container is the perfect airscape canister to seal and keep your whole beans or grind fresh, aromatic and full flavored for weeks!
  • STATE OF THE ART DESIGN - Our airtight cantilever lid with stainless steel clasps and components features a numerical day and month tracker so you always know how fresh your coffee is. Comes with a Co2 gas release Wicovalve. Bean Envy’s coffee jar provides a vintage look with modern technology!
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KKC Borosilicate Glass Coffee Bean Storage Container with Airtight Lid,Glass Sealed Jar with Locking Clamp Lid for Coffee Beans,Nuts,Coffee Storage Canister with Spoon,40 FLoz (1200 ML)
  • SIZE: Capacity: 40 FLoz ( 0.31 Gallon / 1.25 Qt) , Diameter: 3.94 inch , Height:7.09 inch
  • Borosilicate glass storage container with bamboo lid : The container is made from clear high-grade borosilicate glass,the airtight lid is made from natural bamboo
  • Airtight coffee bean storage container : the 40 Floz jar can hold up 16 oz (1 lb) of coffee beans.
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  • Volume : the 40 Floz jar can hold up 16 oz( 1LB ) of coffee beans,can hold up 64 oz (4LB) of white cane sugar or sea salt,also can hold up 22 oz (1.3LB) of flour or coffee grounds.
Progressive International Large Coffee ProKeeper Container bread storage, 1 Piece
  • AIR-TIGHT FRESHNESS: This coffee storage container features a silicone seal for air-tight storage, & a tinted UV-blocking plastic that preserves the bold flavors of coffee for lasting freshness.
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Coffee Bags 30 Pack Different Sizes 8oz 16oz 32oz Resealable Stand Up Zip Lock Pouches Airtight Food Storage Bags Coffee Bean Flower Tea Snack Dried Fruit Food with Degassing Valve
  • 3 Different Sizes: One package including 30pcs coffee bags, among them, there are 3 different sizes, that is 7.87*5.12*2.76inch, 10.2*5.3*2.95*inch, 12.8*5.5*3.74inch. Each size has 10 pieces of bags. Various sizes to meet different needs.
  • Degassing Valve: Designed with degassing valve, bags are extremely excellent in keeping things tidy, dry and fresh.
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  • Practical & Multifunctional: Perfect for coffee, beans, chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, candy, cookies, tea, dried foods, snacks, seasonings, grain, jerky, confections, toffee, herbs, powders and etc.

Last update on 2021-09-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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 -18°C. Consequently, your home freezer isn’t ideal but it can still store your coffee beans.

However, 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.

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

You can use some great home vacuum sealer machines to vacuum pack your coffee. Three of the best vacuum sealers on the market are the Nesco Vs-12, the FoodSaver V4400, and the Mueller MFFVS-01.

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NESCO VS-12, Deluxe Vacuum Sealer with Bag Starter Kit and Viewing Lid, Compact Design, Silver
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FoodSaver V4400 2-in-1 Vacuum Sealer Machine with Automatic Bag Detection and Starter Kit | Safety Certified | Black and Silver
  • Save Money and seal freshness in: Meat preserved with the FoodSaver system in the freezer can last up to 3 years and still taste fresh, flavorful, and freezer burn free; Prep ahead meals, leftovers, and produce stored in the fridge will stay fresh up to weeks later instead of spoiling in days
  • Automatic bag detection: Automatic bag detection makes vacuum sealing easier than ever: Simply put the bag in the vacuum chamber and the machine does the rest to ensure your food stays fresh and flavorful
  • Simple to use: Built in roll storage and cutter lets you easily make custom sized bags to fit whatever you seal, while led light indicators easily guide you through the vacuum sealing process
  • Very consistent sealing: Guaranteed to reach an optimal vacuum level and airtight seal; The V4440 is durable, high quality, and backed by a 5 year limited warranty
  • Automatic moisture detection: Smart technology automatically detects moisture and switches to the correct mode to ensure an airtight seal is achieved. The patented removable drip tray will catch any overflow liquid and is dishwasher safe, making this kitchen appliance easy to clean and maintain
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Vacuum Sealer Machine By Mueller | Automatic Vacuum Air Sealing System For Food Preservation & Sous Vide w/Starter Kit | Compact Design | Lab Tested | Dry & Moist Food Modes | Led Indicator Lights
  • Save Money And Time: Cooking and meal preparation is now easier, more economical and faster, as you will be able to equip and organize your freezer, with fresh food ready to be defrosted and served or fresh ingredients instead of freezer burned food filled with ice crystals which will probably end up in the trash can.
  • Couldn’t Be Easier: Fully automatic simple electric plug in design with the control center placed on the top panel and soft touch digital buttons along with led indicator lights. A smart device at your family’s service!
  • Dual Sealing Modes: Useful and practical, the Mueller vacuum sealing system is cleverly designed HAVING two selectable modes to provide your food with the best possible preservation based on the type of food you want to seal. You can choose the dry setting for solid food items and the moist setting for poached, simmered or steamed food.
  • Trusted Mueller Quality Lab Tested: Vacuum sealers preserve food up to 5 times longer than zipper baggies or containers, basically depending on the type of food. The Mueller Vacuum Sealer however, was subjected to harsh laboratory testing to effectively increase food shelf life and keep doing so for years to come.
  • Everything You Need Right Out Of The Box: Along with the vacuum sealer and the air suction hose, the Mueller vacuum sealer package also includes: 5 medium vacuum bags (7.8” x 11.8”) and one extra-long vacuum bag roll (7.8” x 79.0”), both kinds being reusable and waterproof. A complete bundle right out of the box.

Last update on 2021-09-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

should you freeze coffee YouTube Video

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.

Opened coffee

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

Coffee beans will last dramatically longer in the freezer than in 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.

Can You Store Brewed Coffee?

You can store brewed coffee but it is not recommended unless it is cold-brew coffee.

Stored hot brewed coffee will not taste the same as it does freshly made. Fresh is best.

However, you can keep hot brewed coffee in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. You can reheat the coffee in a microwave or in a stovetop pan.

The only time you should really store hot brewed coffee is if you are traveling. In this case, you can store your freshly brewed hot coffee in a suitable thermal flask or travel mug.

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 hot brewed 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.

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 or specialized brew method 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.

For more information on cold-brew coffee please see our other posts…

How To Get The Real Taste of Cold Brew Coffee with a Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Cold Brew Coffee Benefits – Is Cold Brew Coffee Actually Healthier for You?

Cold Brew Ratio Grams: 3 Steps for Perfect Flavor Every Time.

The Best Coffee Beans for Cold Brew: Everything you should know coffee on a desk

The Best Coffee Grounds for Cold Brew: All You Need To Know

Soulhand Portable Grinder, Cold Brew Coffee Maker, and Goose Neck Kettle

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 is 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.

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 for quite a long time, depending on the type and how you store it!

Your freezer can also be 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!


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