We all love our morning pick-me-up, but have you ever wondered if it can go bad, or how long it lasts? In this article, we'll clarify the shelf life and characteristics of expired coffee. First, let's look at the initial question: does coffee ever go bad? Unfortunately, yes. Although it has a comparatively long shelf life, it can go bad eventually.
Does this apply to both grounds and beans? Let's find out.
Do Coffee Beans Go Bad?
Beans have a long shelf life, but they are a natural product and like any other food, they can lose quality or even spoil over time.
Probably the biggest problem is that the beans lose aroma and flavor quickly, especially after grinding. Therefore, it is best to grind them just before brewing your cup of coffee. Whole beans stay fresh longer because the surface area which can come into contact with air and moisture is smaller than that of grounds. Therefore, beans spoil more slowly, but they can definitely spoil, and unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell if they are still good.
How Can You Tell if Coffee Is Spoiled?
Here's what you should look out for:
The Roasting Date:
The aging process of coffee beans does not begin after harvesting, but after roasting. The best-before date is calculated from the time of roasting and is generally 24 months, which is the legal maximum. However, this does not mean that coffee is automatically bad after this date. It simply means that the manufacturer only guarantees freshness up to this point.
After the best-before date, or if you have any other concerns about the freshness of the beans, look for the following characteristics.
One tell-tale sign of spoiled coffee is a strange and unpleasant odor. If the beans smell musty or rancid, you'd better discard them.
If the beans or grounds no longer have a lovely, rich brown or black color, but appear dull and tarnished, they should go in the bin. If you see any mold, there is no doubt. In this case, you definitely need to bin the beans.
Sometimes it’s not apparent until after brewing that the beans were spoiled. If your coffee smells unpleasant or tastes strange, chances are that the beans were stale or spoiled.
But it also makes sense to check for other possible reasons for the change in taste. For instance, a dirty coffee machine could be responsible for an unpleasant taste. Therefore, it is important to clean the machines regularly.
If beans or grounds are left open for a long period of time, the aroma can quickly evaporate. Light and humidity also play a major role and can make them age faster or even expire.
Unfortunately, coffee is also highly susceptible to odors. If it is stored alongside food items with strong smells, it can absorb their odors. That's why you should always make sure to store your coffee in an airtight container, in a dark place.
What Is the Shelf Life of Coffee?
Does coffee expire, and how long can I store it? That depends on several factors.
Coffee that is still in its aroma-protection packaging has a much longer shelf life. Whole beans are usually packaged with one-way breathing valves, as gasses are still produced after the roasting process and this enables them to evaporate. One thing all packaging has in common is that it is airtight and coated, protecting the coffee from its natural enemies - air, light and moisture. Properly packaged and stored in a dark, dry place, coffee can keep for several years.
Once the package is opened, it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Then the contents should be consumed as soon as possible.
Grounds, once opened, should be used within two weeks, while whole beans have a shelf life of 4–6 weeks.
Pads and capsules have the longest shelf life, as the individual portions are packed in an airtight container.
Instant coffee also loses its aroma very quickly after opening. Therefore, this should also be used up within four weeks.
Shelf Life of Coffee After Opening
- Beans: 4-8 weeks
- Coffee grounds: 2-4 weeks
- Capsules/ pads: 9-12 months
- Instant Coffee: 4 weeks
As previously mentioned, even if the best-before date is exceeded, this does not automatically mean that you have “expired coffee”. Basically, the best-before date is not a bin-it date!
Most foodstuff, and coffee in particular, can usually be kept for much longer. So, you can rely on sensory perceptions and your common sense to decide whether the coffee is still good or belongs on the compost.
Does Brewed Coffee Go Bad?
Can coffee go bad after it has been brewed? Yes, absolutely!
Naturally, our favorite brew tastes best freshly ground and brewed, but cold coffee can be safely consumed within reason. Many people ask: “can you drink day old coffee?” Sure! In the refrigerator, black coffee will even keep for a few days and can be used for a delicious iced coffee without any problem at all. On the other hand, coffee drinks made with milk or cream should be thrown away after a few hours.
Can Coffee Be Reheated?
Coffee can be warmed up, of course, but whether it will still taste good is another matter entirely. It is best to keep brewed coffee hot in a thermos, so you can enjoy it fresh for up to 12 hours. Warming it up in the microwave or keeping it warm on the stove top destroys the flavors and makes it bitter and undrinkable.
How Can the Shelf Life Be Extended?
Now that you know that the liquid gold can actually spoil, you may be wondering how to extend the shelf life of your favorite beverage. Here are a few tips:
- Storage: keep your beans and grounds in a cool, dry place and seal them airtight. Avoid storing it in the refrigerator, as this can affect the flavor.
- Fresh grounds: If possible, buy whole beans and grind them just before brewing.
- Clean equipment: clean your coffee maker regularly to make sure there is no residue affecting the taste.
- Avoid moisture: Keep your coffee away from moisture and water.
1. My Coffee Grounds Are 2 years Past the Best-Before Date. Can I Still Drink It?
That depends on whether the package was sealed and whether it was stored correctly? It is quite possible that the grounds still taste delicious and have not spoiled. If you’re not sure whether you can drink expired coffee, the best thing to do is to open the package, smell the grounds, look at them and rub them between your fingers, then you will know if they are spoiled.
2. Can Coffee Really Go Bad?
Just like any other natural product, coffee can go bad. However, with proper packaging and storage, it can be kept for a very long time.
3. How Do I Recognize Expired Coffee?
The longer coffee is stored, the more aromas are lost. Therefore, expired coffee may simply taste bland. However, any change in color, consistency or even mold growth is a clear sign that it needs to be consigned to the bin.
4. What Does Spoiled Coffee Taste Like?
Spoiled coffee can have an unpleasant taste and often tastes very sour or even rancid.
5. Why Are Beans and Grounds Often Vacuum Packed?
Air is one of the biggest enemies of beans and grounds. When they come into contact with air they start to lose flavor, but in vacuum packaging they stay nice and fresh.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, coffee can go bad. But don't worry, with the right tricks you can extend the shelf life. To tell whether expired coffee is still good or not, pay attention to the appearance and smell, then you will know if it is still drinkable.
Maybe you want to learn more about our beloved liquid gold? Take a look at our other blog posts and be inspired. Because one thing is certain: coffee is not just a drink, but a passion!