Does Coffee Go Bad? (Find Out)

coffee go bad

Coffee is the world’s most popular beverage in the US and many other countries worldwide. Coffee and coffee-based beverages come in countless varieties with various flavors and strengths. Coffee has a notable energy boost but contains many antioxidants that may be good for your health.

Let’s be honest. The number one morning killer is stale coffee. Fresh coffee is unbeatable, especially when it starts your morning off right.

However, you are not required to deal with stale coffee! By the end, you’ll be able to free your mornings from the grip of stale, tasteless coffee and begin every day with the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had.

Coffee Shelf Life

coffee cup
Coffee is affected by the environment in which it is kept, including the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer also makes a difference.

When stored properly, whole and even coffee grounds can last very long. The varieties of coffee you purchase for domestic use won’t likely grow mold or other types of spoiling that result from moisture because they are dry. Moreover, how coffee is made impacts how long it lasts.

Coffee’s freshness and taste can deteriorate if it is not kept in an encased, airtight container. Freezing weather in the fridge or freezer could affect the taste of dry coffee.

Protein0.3 g, or 1 percent daily recommended value (DV)
Magnesium7.1 mg, or 2 percent DV
Manganese0.1 mg, or 4 percent DV
Calcium4.7 mg, or 0 percent DV
Folate4.7 micrograms (mcg), or 1 percent DV
Coffee Nutrition Facts

Fresh Coffee vs. Stale Coffee

It’s simple to distinguish between fresh and stale coffee—use your senses of smell and taste! Have you ever gotten the chance to smell coffee roasting? Heavenly, right?

This sweet, intoxicating aroma should also be present in a fresh bag of coffee. Take a whiff of a fresh bag of coffee beans! You should be able to detect various flavor hints ranging from fruits to nuts and everything in between.

After grinding it, take a second whiff; the aromas should be more potent and enticing. Crisp apples, juicy oranges, decadent chocolates, floral teas, and many other flavors can all be found in specialty coffee.

After all, our sense of smell contributes to 80% of our taste. Fresh coffee comes in various delightful flavors that go well together and help you start your day. However, your coffee is stale if it smells and tastes flat, or worse—like nothing.

When the flavors and scents of your coffee have noticeably changed, you will know it has become stale.

Some Risks

Here are some risks of drinking improperly stored or spoiled coffee.

  • From the perspective of foodborne illness, a coffee past its prime shouldn’t usually be a cause for concern if stored properly. Old coffee may taste better than freshly brewed coffee, but it usually isn’t harmful.
  • Regardless, it is critical to examine coffee for degradation before drinking it. Coffee that has gone bad and needs to be thrown out may show signs such as mold, discoloration, or unpleasant odors.
  • Additionally, be cautious when drinking coffee that has creamer or milk added. To prevent bacterial growth, milk shouldn’t be left at room temperature for 2 hours. Coffee with milk or products containing milk should be consumed within two hours. 
Coffee Aging, Degassing, & Freshness

How Long Does Coffee Last After Being Prepared?

Do coffee beans have a longer shelf life than pre-ground coffee? Does the temperature during storage matter? Here’s how to maximize your coffee flavor and freshness by knowing how long to keep it in the kitchen.

Whole Beans

The longest-lasting coffee is made from whole beans.

For maximum freshness, it’s a good idea to keep beans whole until brewing. Grind only the beans you’ll need for brewing when grinding beans. Within three to four weeks, use whole-bean coffee.

Roasted Coffee

For best results, only grind the amount of coffee required each day.

It’s best to use the ground beans you’ve bought within two weeks of opening them.

Instant Coffee

Use instant coffee within two weeks of opening if you must (perhaps you’re in a pinch).

coffee beans
Fresh coffee comes in various delightful flavors

How To Store Coffee Beans Correctly?

  • Sealed coffee: Coffee should always be in an airtight container. It is advised to use an opaque container to prevent light from penetrating. 
  • Maintain low heat and humidity levels: Since cabinets typically have a cooler temperature than countertops, cabinets are the best place to store coffee.
  • Make the right amount of purchases: Only buy more coffee than you can consume in a few weeks. Because freshness only lasts for three to four weeks, buying too much can result in waste. 

Better And Worse Coffee Flavors

Coffee’s desirable flavors are simple to detect. These flavors, ranging from lemon citrus to roasted almonds, will have you grinning after a sip. A good cup of coffee will have a juicy mouthfeel and pleasant acidity.

Conversely, stale coffee can release flavors that will instantly make you frown. How does stale coffee smell and taste? Lemon from the back of the pantry that you forgot about a year ago smells like stale bread and cardboard.

Only the first one to three weeks following roasting is when the coffee’s most savory notes are present. After that, a small process known as oxidation occurs, resulting in the beans’ organic compounds degrading, and the coffee loses its flavor.

cold coffee
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The aromatic compounds escape from the coffee bean’s oils as the beans start to decompose as the coffee’s cellular structure breaks down, and oxygen seeps into the bean.

Natural flavors of fresh specialty coffee include creamy chocolate, tangy berries, and succulent florals. The flavor is extraordinary when coffee is roasted correctly and ground before brewing.

Unfortunately, there are still several things that can make the coffee at home stale even if you purchase fresh coffee from a locally-owned roaster:

Ground Coffee Already

Start the countdown once your coffee beans are ground! After 30 minutes, ground coffee begins to lose its flavor and aroma intensity.

You should avoid purchasing pre-ground coffee as much as possible because of the quick loss of aromatics. Invest in a home coffee grinder for consistently the freshest cup of coffee.

Date Roasted

Always check the roast date on coffee bags before purchasing. Possibly more than a month ago. Most likely, the coffee has already gone bad.

Choose a bean roasted less than 21 days ago for the best coffee flavor and quality.

Incorrect Packaging

The most effective coffee bags have a one-way valve that enables the CO2 released by the beans to leave the bag. Additionally, this valve makes sure that no oxygen enters. Keep in mind that oxidation leads to stale coffee! Stale coffee results from the packaging without a valve or seal.

Improper storage: Keeping coffee in an open coffee bag or areas with direct sunlight and oxygen exposure will only hasten the processes that make coffee go bad.

The Bottom Line

  • Coffee’s shelf life varies depending on its type and storage method. While properly stored old coffee is generally safe to consume, it will taste better than freshly brewed coffee.
  • Dry coffee lasts longer than freshly brewed coffee. It should be consumed soon after brewing for the best flavor.
  • Coffee’s desirable flavors are simple to detect.
  • However, it can be kept in the refrigerator for different lengths.
  • Keep in mind to look for signs of spoilage, especially in coffee with added milk or creamer.

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Caffeine aficionado and coffee student (if there's such a thing!). I've come to love coffee in recent years and share what I learn along the way on this website.

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