Can Coffee Go Bad?

By: | Updated: April 13, 2021

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Like any consumable ingredient, to be able to enjoy it at it’s best you need to consume it while still fresh. Coffee is just the same!

But while it’s obvious that rancid old coffee must be thrown away, how would you know if the coffee you have is still fresh? 

More importantly – can it still be consumed?

Since purchasing freshly roasted coffee beans regularly is not an option everyone has, most people store their coffee and consume when needed.

With that said, in this article we will answer all those questions related to coffee longevity and we will also give you some tips on how to keep your coffee fresh for longer. Let’s get started!

Can Coffee Go Bad?

The short answer is it depends. Coffee on its own doesn’t actually go bad. However, if coffee grounds or beans get wet (or come in contact with water), then yes, they can’t be used and have to be thrown away.

Since coffee is a dry and packaged food, there is no firm expiration date. Since packaged coffee is a shelf-stable dry good, it will stay in good condition, if it’s properly stored.

Unfortunately, coffee past the expiration date and that’s not properly stored will deteriorate quickly, losing all its properties, flavor, and freshness.

So even though coffee doesn’t technically go bad and won’t make you sick if you drink a bad cup, it isn’t recommended to do so as by that point the coffee would have lost all its good properties.

Does Brewed Coffee Go Bad? How Long Does Brewed Coffee Stay Fresh?

While packaged coffee, if stored in the right condition, can last for a long time, the same can’t be said for brewed coffee.

Coffee, once brewed, must be consumed within the same day, preferably within 12 hours. If you refrigerate your brewed coffee, it can last up to 4 days. Anything beyond that, and the brewed coffee must be discarded.

How Long Does Coffee Last In All Its Different Forms?

Whole Coffee Beans

Properly packaged whole coffee beans last the longest of all the coffee forms. It is highly recommended to keep the beans whole until brewing to maintain them at ultimate freshness. When you grind coffee beans, just grind what you will use and keep the rest stored. 

Whole coffee beans should be consumed within one month.

Ground Coffee

We recommend you grind just the amount needed for brewing for best results. If you purchase pre-ground coffee, it is best to use it within two weeks of opening the packaging.

Instant Coffee

Similar to ground coffee, instant coffee must be used within two weeks of opening.

How Do You Keep Brewed Coffee Fresh?

There are 3 main factors that contribute to keeping brewed coffee fresh (or help increase the time before it goes bad).

  1. Don’t add anything to your brewed coffee before storage. Adding milk, creamer, or sugar, will make brewed coffee deteriorate much more quickly. You can always add any additional ingredients after you’ve reheated your coffee.
  2. If you want to consume your brewed coffee for later, store it in an air-tight container. When coffee comes in contact with oxygen, it starts to lose its freshness. While you can store your coffee in a mason jar, it’s not completely airtight. The best storage for brewed coffee would be a thermos as they have an air-tight sealing material in the lid.
  3. Refrigerate brewed coffee as soon as possible. Keeping it in the refrigerator will help to preserve all its flavors and it will also make your brewed coffee last longer.

What Causes Coffee To Go Bad?

Coffee likes darkness and cool temperatures, so there are a few things you must avoid if you want to keep your coffee fresh. Coffee that isn’t stored properly will lose freshness, taste, and will deteriorate very quickly.

Here are the main contributing factors that cause coffee to go bad:

1. Oxygen

By far the biggest contributor. Oxygen will make coffee beans stale and if your coffee comes in contact with it, it will degrade in a matter of days. 

2. Light

There’s a reason why coffee packaging is opaque, it’s to keep it fresh. While coffee beans may look pretty if stored in a glass jar, they will go stale quickly. 

3. Moisture

Like all dry goods, exposure to humidity will deteriorate coffee quickly. Storing your coffee in a cool, dry place will keep your coffee fresh.

4. Heat

Unless coffee is being brewed, heat will make coffee lose flavor. Avoid storing coffee in a hot environment, especially places with direct sunlight.

How To Tell If Coffee Has Gone Bad?

 There are two circumstances in which you might want to discard your coffee.

can coffee go bad

The coffee has actually gone bad

This almost always means that water and oxygen has got into the packaging or container.

If that’s the case, the telling sign would be mold in the container and/or a “stale” smell coming from the coffee.

In this case, the coffee should be discarded immediately as it’s not advisable to consume it.

The coffee loses its flavor and taste

Old coffee looks exactly the same as fresh coffee (unless a long time has passed). Smell the coffee to tell if it’s still good, if the smell seems off, then the coffee won’t be good when brewed.

If you’re unsure, you can always brew a small batch and taste it. The only way to avoid this is to consume your coffee within a 3 to 4 week period to avoid it becoming stale.

How to Properly Store Coffee

This article has all been about what causes coffee to go bad. But how can you actually prevent (or at least significantly limit) that this happens? Here’s our recommendations:

Store Your Coffee Properly

Storing your coffee in an airtight container will keep it safe from the elements and drastically increase its shelf life.

We recommend an opaque container to prevent light from penetrating the coffee grounds or beans.Placing your coffee in a cool, dark cabinet will also help in increasing its shelf life.

Purchase Just The Right Amount Of Coffee

The most common reason for coffee to go bad is due to it being unused for a long period of time. Buying more coffee than you need will lead to waste. The key to great coffee is consuming it when it’s fresh and all aromas and flavors are present.

We recommend signing up for a coffee subscription service as you can tailor coffee delivery according to your usage. It will also help you discover a wide range of coffees from all over the world!

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by Brett