How Long Does Coffee Last: Does Coffee Go Bad Or Expire?
After waking up, you shuffle straight to the kitchen to prepare your morning coffee. You open your coffee storage container and find that it is empty. Angered, you check the coffee container in the cabinet, also empty!
Last, you check the freezer and find an old bag of coffee you had put in there for storage. The date is a few years old, but that doesn’t stop you. As you stand there hovering over the coffee pot, you think to yourself, “does coffee go bad?” Surely, it must, but how long does coffee last?
How Long Does Coffee Last
Under certain conditions, coffee can be stored for much longer than one would expect. If the coffee is sealed airtight in a coffee canister, and stored in a cool and dry area, it can be safely consumed years later. In some cases, even decades later which we will bring up later on below.
So, does coffee go bad? Of course! Should you be freezing coffee beans? Probably not! Instead of asking how long does coffee last, you should instead be asking how to store your coffee better. For that reason, we have decided to provide some insight as to the best practices.
Does Coffee Go Bad
For the best experience, you should actually consume coffee within a few weeks after it is roasted. The longer it is left in storage, usually resulting in oxidization, the more stale that it will become. It is not a question of how long coffee will last, but rather, how long it will stay fresh. Later in the article, we will break down freezing coffee, storing in a refrigerator, and just leaving them at room temperature.
You can think of coffee as being similar to cereal, something that stays good for a long time, but should be consumed quickly once opened. If you were to open a bag of cereal, over time, the remaining cereal would become stale. This staleness would result ever faster if you decided to just leave the bag open. The same goes for coffee beans and ground coffee, a loosely sealed bag will spoil much quicker than airtight containers would. This directly correlates with how long your coffee will last.
Air is one of the major factors when considering coffee freshness. It doesn’t take roasted coffee much time at all from tasting and smelling fresh, to become dull and boring. This is why most coffee roasters will heat seal a bag of coffee as soon as the coffee beans have had time to degas (make or become free of unwanted gas), usually 4 to 24 hours afterwards.
Roasters, or craftsmen as we like to call ourselves, recommend placing the coffee beans and ground coffee into an airtight container upon opening.
So, how long does coffee last? Well, that depends on the stage and form of the coffee. Coffee can be raw, roasted, or brewed. From there, you can break it down into more sub-categories, such as roasted whole bean vs. roasted ground coffee. For the sake of the article, we will keep it simple.
Green Coffee Freshness
Raw coffee beans can last for quite a while before they become unsafe to use. Assuming they have been properly dried and kept in adequate storage, raw greens can be used for production many years later. At Black Ink, we only use current harvested coffee crops, meaning they are as fresh as you can get, but we know some roasters buy older past crop harvested beans (usually at quite a discount), and they taste just fine.
Starting with the drying process, specialty grade coffee will usually get down to about a 12% moisture level. This moisture is actually quite important for the roasting process which is why they leave some within the raw beans for storage. Like anything with moisture, bacteria and mold can surface which is why you want to maintain proper storage. It is ideal to store raw greens at 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit with 50-60% humidity. Despite what you have heard, freezing coffee beans in the raw is a bad idea.
Also, you need to consider how the raw green coffee beans are stored. If they are in Grain Pro bags, they will stay fresh for longer. One thing to note is that if the moisture level within the bag is above the current room humidity level, moisture and mold may start to grow within. If properly stored, these raw green beans can last for many years before roasting. Some may refer to this as aged coffee, but we call it a felony.
How Long Do Coffee Beans Last
Once raw beans have been roasted, the next question is how long do coffee beans last before they are bad. If you store roasted beans in a coffee canister, that is an actual airtight container, you’ll get many more months out of the beans than you would have if stored in an opened bag. However, every time you open the airtight container, air will come into contact with the roasted beans and cause oxidation upon repeated re-exposure.
Unfortunately, oxidation can’t be stopped, we can only slow it down. One way in which roasters try to help slow the process down is through the use of nitrogen. When a bag is sealed, there are machines that can do what is called a nitrogen flush. This nitrogen flush forces out all of the oxygen molecules, allowing for food and beverages to stay fresh for longer. Still, the consumer (you) needs to do their part once they open the bags. That is why we recommend airtight containers or a coffee canister.
Aside from oxidation, determining how long the beans last will also factor in temperature and moisture levels. Coffee should be stored in a cool and dry location to prevent mold growth and spoilage. Again, if you are wondering how to store your beans, we highly recommend an airtight coffee canister. We will go into more depth later on freezing coffee and other ways to "preserve" coffee beans, so we won't cover that just yet.
To answer the question of how long do coffee beans last, it sort of depends on your preference and whether or not you open the bag. If you love fresh coffee, and have already opened the bag, you will probably want to finish them in 2 to 3 months depending on your environment. If you aren’t a coffee snob, and don’t mind stale coffee, it is still safe to drink 6 to 12 months later. Heck, there was a recent report of someone drinking some that came from WWII.
How Long Does Ground Coffee Last For
Under identical circumstances, a roasted coffee bean will always last longer than ground coffee, but that doesn’t mean ground coffee can’t last just as long. So, how long does ground coffee last for? Well, it depends! Similarly to roasted coffee beans, the way in which you store it is what matters more than the actual age.
Since ground coffee is more exposed and vulnerable to oxidation, it is critical that proper storage procedures are put into place. Like we mentioned, the ground coffee will last longer if stored in an airtight coffee canister, at ideal temperature and moisture levels (dry and cool), and if it is Black Ink. Why Black Ink? Simple, our coffee is always fresh which is why ours last the longest.
Additionally, when asking yourself how long the coffee is good for, it is important to remember that you should only be grinding moments before consumption. When you grind coffee beans, over 75% of the flavor is lost in the first 15 minutes. Crazy, right?
That is why we recommend whole beans when buying coffee. Under the exact same storage conditions, it’ll always outperform ground coffee and last longer. Treat yourself, and buy a grinder!
How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last
When we get asked this question regarding brewed coffee shelf life, we normally give them the “Black Ink” answer (our own opinion). For the sake of this article, it is important that we put on two hats when answering the question. Personally, we have drank coffee that was weeks old and lived to tell the tale.
Just like roasted coffee, storage is crucial for brewed coffee. Some java “experts” claim that coffee should not be consumed within an hour or two, and in some cases, as little as 15 to 30 minutes. Personally, we have not found that to be true for our own preferences, but that leads us back to our first point, you should focus on doing what you like.
If you think your Cup of Joe tastes bad after 15 minutes, dump it or start drinking faster. If you like reheated day old java, drink it. We recommend buying a yeti cup to ensure that it stays hot or cold all day long.
How long will coffee last in the fridge? Well, according to Stack Overflow, which is always correct about 50% of the time, and our own Google-Fu, the typical answer is right around 3-4 days. Cold brew seems to hold up for much longer, but we think that is malarkey.
If you see mold, it gives off a strange odor, or if it just tastes bad, don’t drink it. As for those of you that are into freezing coffee, this brewed java will last much longer if you turn it into ice cubes. We've never drink frozen coffee that has been thawed, but we do make frozen coffee ice cubes for cold brew that are delicious.
Does Coffee Expire
If you are a coffee drinker, then you'll know that throwing away coffee is not an option. Well, you may just want to reconsider that now after reading our last few sections as we discussed oxidation and other external forces that take away from the coffees freshness. Although coffee doesn't expire, it can spoil if it is not properly stored.
Now that we have discussed how long ground and whole bean coffee is good for, let’s dive into the specifics of coffee storage. It is one thing to know how long coffee lasts, but it is more important to know how to properly store it with an efficient coffee storage container.
Storing coffee beans properly is one of the most important factors that can play into whether or not your morning cup of coffee tastes good. Between the container you store the coffee in, temperature, humidity and the age of the beans, they all play a vital role in delivering fresh brewed coffee. You may want to take those frozen coffee beans out of the freezer after all, let us explain below.
Having airtight containers won’t make your coffee invincible, but it certainly helps. Coffee canisters are something we recommend to our customers that don’t go through their Black Ink quickly. Having the roasted coffee grounds in an airtight coffee canister will protect it from oxidation, allowing for repeated delicious java from the same bag for weeks and months. It may not seem like much, but using airtight containers will change your caffeinated life.
There are three coffee debates we come across quite often. The first is whether espresso has more caffeine, the second is whether light or dark roast has more caffeine, and the third is that you should freeze your coffee. We will hold off on our rant regarding the first two, as we have written blogs previously on those topics, but today, we think it is important to discuss coffee storage. More specifically, frozen coffee storage.
In theory, the idea of freezing coffee sounds good. One would assume that the aging process would slow down, allowing for the coffee beans to stay fresh for longer. The problem with that is moisture. As we already know, moisture is one of the leading causes for coffee to go bad. If a bag of coffee has been opened, is kept in a container or package that allows for moisture seep through, or has another opening (like a degassing valve), it will go bad more quickly.
Additionally, frozen coffee is susceptible to odors within the freezer which many do not consider. If your bag of coffee beans is opened, has an opening or features a penetrable design, it will absorb the odor of what is within the freezer. Of course you could use this to your advantage we suppose, but odds are, you probably have your frozen coffee next to a package of fish, or hamburger, which doesn’t sound like it would taste very good.
So, does freezing coffee beans help? Not at all. Frozen coffee is a great concept, but the moisture that typically comes with it is what kills it. If you see your friends reaching into their freezer for frozen coffee, take the moment to educate them and to curb the inefficient process, especially if it is a gourmet bag of Black Ink. If they become argumentative, just leave them be and make some new friends.
Can You Eat Coffee Beans
Can you eat coffee beans? Of course. Should you eat coffee beans? Absolutely! We actually already sell them and recommend you try them right now, we even dip them in organic, fair trade, kosher friendly dark chocolate for you. No, really, go buy some right now and you can thank us later. Honestly, if you can drink the coffee that you get from the beans, you can absolutely eat the coffee beans.
One thing to remember for those that wonder if you can eat coffee beans, the darker you roast your coffee, the more porous the cell structure becomes. This causes the bean to become softer, and usually sweeter, which is what we recommend that people try first. A lighter roasted coffee may not taste as bitter, but your teeth will have a hard time biting into it. Most products that contain coffee beans will typically feature a dark roasted bean within.
Can You Eat Coffee Grounds
Can you eat coffee grounds or instant coffee? Duh! If you can eat whole beans, you can absolutely eat the grounds. As a matter of fact, some baking recipes call for finely ground coffee, usually an espresso grind. Now if you are some kind of animal that likes to eat ground coffee alone, we recommend buying a coffee pot and brewing up some delicious coffee. Don’t be weird, drink a Cup of Joe like the rest of us do!
How To Know If Coffee Is Safe
As mentioned previously, coffee can stay good for a long time. If you don't mind drinking stale coffee, you are safe to drink it for an even longer time. However, there is the possibility that coffee can become bad and not okay to drink. If the coffee has been opened, stored in a hot area, or has become damp, you should proceed with caution.
You can typically tell if the coffee has gone bad by the rancid smell it will give off or if you spot mold. In both of these scenarios, the coffee should be thrown out and replaced with fresh coffee.
If you practice the process of freezing coffee, and are unsure, we recommend throwing it out and starting with a new fresh bag. If you don't want the hassle of remembering to buy coffee, simply sign up for a subscription on our website and we will make sure you are stocked up on fresh coffee.
There you have it, coffee does go bad, sort of. However, deciding how long coffee will last depend on how you are storing it. Do yourself a favor and go buy a coffee storage container, buy fresh whole bean coffee (never instant coffee) from a local roaster, and try to brew just enough coffee for the day.
Whether you are looking to find out how to preserve your coffee grounds, or just want to know more about coffee, we hope that you found value from reading this guide. Thank you for reading and be sure to spread your new found knowledge with others.