Have you ever had a cup of coffee that tasted bland or terribly bitter? Have you had a packet of ground coffee open for a few months and wondered how long does ground coffee last?
We all enjoy coffee packed with aroma and depth of flavor. So it’s important to know about coffee shelf life and why coffee loses its flavor.
Two of the most common questions about coffee are how long does coffee last and does coffee go bad. In this article we answer these questions for all types of coffee plus share our top tips on how to keep coffee fresh for longer.
Does Coffee Expire?
Unlike other food products that spoil over time, roasted coffee doesn’t have a fixed expiry date. But that doesn’t mean they will make a good cup of coffee forever.
Fresh coffee beans are delicate things and from the time they are roasted they are gradually losing their flavor. Oxidation, heat, light and moisture all begin to impact the aroma, flavor profile and complexity that makes a great cup of coffee.
Storage also affects the speed at which the coffee beans lose their flavor, so the dates might seem right but the taste could be all wrong.
So while coffee beans don’t necessarily have an expiry date, expired coffee will taste stale and bland compared to freshly roasted coffee.
So how can you tell if you have purchased fresh coffee beans? Let me explain the different dates you may see on coffee packaging.
Many coffee roasters print a roasted date on bags of coffee beans. Unlike a Best Before date, the roasted date indicates when the coffee beans were roasted.
A roasted date is the best way to determine coffee freshness as most roasters recommend consuming coffee beans within 2 – 4 weeks of the roasting date for maximum flavor and aroma.
Read next: 22 ways to make coffee taste better at home
Best Before Date
Many grocery store coffee brands will instead print a best used by date. This date varies between suppliers and tends to be up to 12 months from the roasting date. However, this makes it very difficult to know how fresh the coffee is, and in most cases it will be months old by the time you purchase it from the store.
If you don’t know when the coffee beans were roasted, the best way to tell if coffee is still good is by brewing a cup and checking the taste.
How Long Does Coffee Last – By Coffee Type
Different coffee types last for different periods of time. Here we see how each type of coffee from whole beans to brewed coffee change over time, and under different storage conditions.
Plus we share the best way to store coffee in all its forms.
How Long Do Whole Coffee Beans Last?
The real question here is how long does whole bean coffee stay fresh.
While coffee beans may last for up to 6-12 months after roasting, it is generally acknowledged that for maximum flavor and aroma you should use whole coffee beans within 2-4 weeks of roasting.
So 2 – 4 weeks post-roasting date is the great-taste period. But if you have purchased a large bag of coffee beans and it takes longer to use them, be assured they don’t expire and go bad.
You will, however, start to notice a change in the depth of flavor and a lessening of the coffee aroma.
The oils that carry much of the flavor dry out and the quality is affected. The older the coffee beans are, the less flavor they will have.
Our best tip for enjoying fresh whole bean coffee is to buy and grind and consume small coffee quantities regularly.
Can You Freeze Coffee Beans?
There is much debate about whether you can put coffee in freezer storage.
Freezing coffee beans can extend their life if done correctly. In fact it is a far better option than keeping coffee in the fridge where moisture can have a much bigger impact on your coffee.
So if you have excess coffee beans and need to store them, storing coffee in the freezer is a better option than storing them in a container in the pantry.
How To Store Coffee In The Freezer
Beans must be stored in a vacuum sealed using a machine like this one or stored in an airtight vacuum sealed container so they are not affected by moisture in the freezer. They can be stored in the freezer for 4 – 6 months.
Ideally the beans should not be moved in and out of the freezer as the temperature variation will raise moisture levels.
A good coffee hack is to divide the beans into several smaller airtight containers instead of putting them in a big one. This will minimize frequent opening and closing of the container, which lets air and moisture in each time.
Should you freeze coffee beans? Fresh coffee beans consumed within 2 weeks will likely have more depth of flavor and a richer aroma than defrosted coffee. But if you have excess beans to store, freezing them in the right away is better than letting them deteriorate over time.
How To Store Coffee Beans
To extend whole bean coffee shelf life the National Coffee Association recommends storing coffee beans in airtight opaque containers in a cool, dark and dry place.
This is the best way to store coffee beans you plan to use within a few weeks.
Our top tip for keeping coffee beans fresh is to invest in the best coffee container you can find. They are worth the investment and will extend the life of your beans.
This airtight coffee container by Coffee Gator is a great choice.
Stainless steel with a CO2 vent to remove carbon dioxide and a calendar wheel to keep track of when you purchased the beans, it comes in a range of colors and sizes to suit any kitchen.See it here.
How Long Does Ground Coffee Last?
Ground coffee is a staple in many household pantries, and many of us buy a bit more than a week’s worth, to decrease the need for frequent trips to the grocery store or coffee roaster.
Keeping ground coffee in prime condition is much more challenging, as the particles that make up the grind have a surface area that’s about 1000 times more than coffee beans, which makes coffee grounds much more prone to environmental effects and deterioration.
Storing ground coffee should generally be avoided if possible. It’s best to use this delicate form of coffee as soon as it is ground.
If you don’t own a coffee grinder and have it ground in store, try to use it within a week of grinding. After that, it loses substantial amounts of its rich aroma and wholesome flavors.
Ground coffee doesn’t go bad, and it can last for about 3 months in the pantry, but it will rapidly lose much of its flavor and taste bland and flat. And who wants that in their daily cup of coffee?
How To Store Ground Coffee
When purchasing ground coffee from the store or coffee roaster, look for valve-sealed coffee packaging. Coffee that is sealed immediately in valve-sealed packaging allows for the release CO2 gases without letting any oxygen in the bag.
Once you open the coffee, the correct coffee bean storage is important. Your coffee grounds container should be airtight and opaque. Try to use within 1 week for maximum freshness. Avoid storing in the fridge as ground coffee is susceptible to moisture and will rapidly lose all flavor when chilled.
Freezing coffee grounds can extend its life to about 6 months. Like for whole beans, it needs to be stored in an airtight vacuum sealed container to protect it from moisture.
This airtight coffee storage container by Friis is a popular choice amongst coffee drinkers.
With a choice of 12 oz and 16 oz canisters in black, red and silver, all have a CO2 vent to remove carbon dioxide and one year of replacement valves supplied.See it here
How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last?
Have you ever tried a cup of brewed coffee at the workplace? Yes, the one that’s been sitting around all day. Tastes terrible, right?
That’s because it’s oxidized and over-extracted.
Oxidation is what happens to apples or bananas when they are cut up and left on the plate. It’s a natural chemical reaction that destroys the flavor of apples, bananas, and coffee over time.
This process starts the moment ground coffee is roasted and is sped up significantly as soon as it touches hot water.
The wonderful flavor of coffee is a direct result of oxidation. It’s the way water extracts all the goodness of coffee grounds and releases them into our morning beverage.
How long is brewed coffee good for? After about 60 minutes, oxidation exceeds the pleasant stage and crosses over to the bitter stage. That’s when the pH level of the brewed coffee changes and we would call it ‘stale’ at that point.
Brew it and drink it, or if you get sidetracked for more than 30 minutes, we suggest you prepare another pot. If you are preparing coffee for a large group in a coffee urn, it is best to brew a fresh batch for each coffee break.
You can slow down this quick degeneration of flavor by pouring the brewed coffee into a coffee thermos. Another option is to freeze any left over coffee. Defrost and use it in baking or pop the ice cubes in your iced coffee for an extra caffeine boost.
How To Store Brewed Coffee
To extend the life of your brewed coffee, the first thing to do is to remove it from the heat source. Heat will rapidly turn your delicious brewed coffee into a bitter undrinkable mess.
If you want to keep your brewed coffee hot, pop it in a thermos and enjoy throughout the day. Alternatively, place it in the fridge and enjoy a cold coffee drink later.
The oxidation process that occurred during hot brewing impacts the brewed coffee differently and you will notice a change in flavor over time.
This 68 oz coffee thermos by Cresimo is double walled stainless steel and keeps your coffee hot for up to 12 hours.
It is vacuum sealed to keep your coffee fresh and is easy to pour with a simple button release.See it here
How Long Does Espresso Last?
Coffee folklore says that an espresso shot should be drunk immediately, while the more tolerant coffee connoisseurs suggest within 5 minutes. One of the great things about espresso machines is they don’t produce excess coffee. It is one of my favorite brewing methods.
Crema is an integral part of a good espresso shot, and if you take a good look at your cup, you’ll notice that it starts disintegrating after a few seconds and begins to dissolve into the coffee.
This isn’t the only transformation taking place. A series of chemical reactions take place as soon as boiling water touches the coffee. This change continues to modify the taste of your shot, not for the better.
The moral of the story is, don’t leave your espresso on the counter for anything.
How Long Do K Cups Last?
You might have a cupboard with plenty of K-cups with fancy flavors and after a while, you wonder if they are still usable.
The expiry date on the pods is usually too small to read and often faded, so a good rule of thumb is to sample the coffee, if it still tastes good, then it’s good.
Do k cups go bad? The process of manufacturing K-cups involves flash freezing the contents to slow down their disintegration, and vacuum sealing the pods to remove oxygen thereby stopping the oxidation of coffee. So they don’t go bad in the same way ground coffee can if left exposed to air and moisture.
Naturally K-cups shouldn’t be used at all if their seal is broken, even if they’re still within the safe limits of their shelf-life. Mold likes organic matter with a bit of humidity and moisture and coffee is one of its favorite habitats, so that opened pod has already gone bad, throw it.
Generally speaking, coffee K-cups in good condition, can last from 3-8 months. Other beverages like tea, hot chocolate, and apple cider K-Cups last from 6 to 12 months, but coffee is way more moody!
How to Store K Cups
K-cups don’t require airtight container storage like other forms of coffee, but it is convenient to store them close to your Keurig.
This k cup storage drawer fits 36 pods. It slides out for easy access and can be stacked for larger capacity.See it here
How Long Do Green Coffee Beans Last?
Prior to roasting, green coffee beans are a very different food product. They are a dried seed and like other seeds are long lasting.
If you want to roast coffee beans at home, buy green beans in bulk and roast on demand for the ultimate fresh coffee experience. It does take a little time, but guarantees you will drink fresh coffee every day. You can read our recommendations for the best coffee roasters here.
If the green beans are stored away from moisture and light they can last up to 12 months prior to roasting. It is possible to store for longer, but you may notice changes in the quality of your coffee as the freshness of the green beans deteriorates.
Does Coffee Go Bad?
Coffee doesn’t have telltale signs that it’s gone bad. You can tell that coffee is expired, not because of a rotten smell, but by the absence of any smell.
The freshness of coffee is mostly about flavor, once it’s gone flat, then the stale coffee should be tossed away.
There’s a remote chance that coffee can become moldy and rancid. This may result from buying coffee that’s already been subjected to bacterial growth at any point in its processing, improper storage, or the package was compromised.
Hot and damp weather speeds up mold growth, which is why we always recommend storing coffee in air-tight containers, in a cool dark place.
Keeping coffee beans or grounds fresh isn’t difficult. Just keep it away from air, light, humidity, and heat, or just buy small batches and restock at shorter intervals.
Espresso is one of the moodiest beverages on the planet, but we love it, and usually, we won’t leave it till it becomes unsavory. The same goes for brewed coffee, and seriously, avoid the workplace coffee pot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can. Many people do. You can also freeze ground coffee. However, if you bring the container in and out of the freezer each day, this will cause the coffee flavor to deteriorate due to the changing moisture levels.
The best option is to divide the coffee beans in to smaller portions, place in a sealed bag and place in the freezer. Take them out when needed, bring them back to room temperature and use within two weeks.
If you have not added milk or creamer to your coffee, day old black coffee is unlikely to make you sick, but it probably won’t taste that great either.
Oxidation of coffee continues once it is brewed and produces a bitter taste over time. You could reheat it in the microwave in a pinch, but we suggest you make a fresh pot and pour that day old coffee on your indoor plants – they will love it.
If expired coffee is still unopened in original packaging, it is unlikely to make you sick. Coffee doesn’t really expire, it just becomes stale.
The only caveat would be if the coffee has been opened and exposed to moisture. It may be affected by mold in which case you should throw it away (or brew it up and pour on the garden).
Yes! In fact this is a great way to use unwanted brewed coffee. Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Great for making coffee smoothies, iced coffee, baking and ice cream.
No, it doesn’t. In fact if you refrigerate coffee beans you may reduce their lifespan. If you live in a hot climate and don’t have a cool spot to store your coffee beans, we recommend purchasing in smaller quantities or freezing them.
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