Can Coffee Go Bad? We Find Out
Can coffee go bad if it’s dried out? If you like to buy groceries in bulk, the tendency to wonder if any of the things you buy will go bad before you use them up will always be there. In this article, we will be addressing your questions on whether or not coffee can go bad. Stick around.
Technically, coffee cannot go bad when stored under the right conditions. Coffee is a dry product and, as such, is not susceptible to the actions of food spoiling bacteria. However, some mitigating factors can cause mold to grow on them or make them lose their flavor before their expiry date.
There are several types of coffee – whole coffee beans, ground coffee, and instant coffee. Each of these types has different methods of brewing and storage. They also have different shelf lives. Instant coffee can keep the longest, and ground coffee the shortest.
Quick Facts About Coffee
- The first-ever consumers of coffee mixed coffee berries with fat and chewed them as energy balls. Can coffee go bad made this way? You bet it can, so I don’t recommend this.
- An average American spends about $1100 on coffee annually.
- Pharmaceutical and soda companies buy the caffeine removed from decaffeinated coffee for use.
- Finland has the highest consumers of coffee.
- Coffee has a lethal dose. It takes about 30 cups taken in quick, short succession to reach toxic levels.
- Decaffeinated does not necessarily mean ‘without caffeine,’ as decaf coffee still has trace amounts of caffeine.
- Black coffee only has one calorie, but the addition of milk, cream, sweeteners, or sugar can quickly up that number.
What Is The Shelf Life Of Coffee? Can Coffee Go Bad?
Coffee cannot last forever, as crushing as this may be for chronic coffee drinkers. Coffee contains several biodegradable compounds in the form of amino acids, carbohydrates, and lipids that will break down over time.
Once exposed to certain variables, these compounds will break down over time both physically and chemically, which will cause the overall quality and flavor of the coffee to change. So, can coffee go bad? It sure can if exposed to things that aid in it’s demise.
One would expect the three types; whole coffee beans would be the most unstable because it is the closest to its natural state. However, after roasting, the whole coffee beans are packed and sealed with nitrogen for extra freshness.
Once you open the bags, the nitrogen is released, and the exposure to moisture, the atmosphere, and oxygen will cause the coffee beans to begin oxidizing. The process slowly breaks down its components.
Here’s a table showing how long each type of coffee will remain safe to drink in different storage conditions.
|Coffee Type||Opened & Stored In Pantry||Opened & Stored In Freezer||Unopened & Stored In Pantry||Unopened & Stored In Freezer|
|Instant||2-20 years||Indefinitely||2-20 years past the best-by date||Indefinitely|
|Ground||3-5 months||3-5 months||3-5 months past the best-by date||1-2 years past the best-by date|
|Fresh Coffee Beans||6 months||2 years (freeze-dried)||6-9 months past the best-by date||2-3 years past the best-by date|
In general, coffee lasts longer when stored in the freezer compared to when stored in the pantry. Coffees also last longer when they are unopened compared to when they have been. Instant coffee can last indefinitely when stored in the freezer and about 2-20 years in the pantry.
Fresh coffee lasts 6-9 months in the pantry and 2-3 years in the freezer, while ground coffee lasts 3-5 months in the pantry and between 3 months to 2 years in the freezer, depending on whether you open it or not.
The shelf life of coffee is not affected by the amount of caffeine it contains. So both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee will have the same shelf life. The only thing that matters is the form of the coffee.
Factors Affecting The Shelf Life Of Coffee
As mentioned before, the three types of coffee have different shelf lives. However, other factors will influence how long coffee will remain safe for consumption. Some of these factors include:
- The best-by date.
- Storage method.
- The overall quality of the coffee.
These items that affect the answer to the question ‘Can coffee go bad?’ more than one might think. However, the storage method is the primary factor affecting longevity of your coffee.
1. The Best-by Date
Like every other processed product, coffee usually comes with a best-by date. It is the date that lets the consumer know the best periods to enjoy the fresh taste of their coffee. Coffee does not typically expire, as they are still safe enough to consume even after they cross this date. However, they may begin to taste off at this point. There is no point in drinking coffee that has lost its flavor.
2. The Storage Method
As with anything else, the packaging of the coffee and how it is stored will affect both its quality and shelf life. If you don’t store the coffee properly, it lowers its shelf life. However, if you store it properly in an airtight container, the coffee should last longer.
When we say packaging, we do not mean the design of the wrapper but the material and how it functions. Except with instant coffee, you should generally avoid coffee tins, cans, or other traditional containers. The more you open them, the more air enters and comes in contact with the coffee beans.
Instead, go for airtight bags with one-way seals at the top, so you can let the air out of the coffee bag without allowing oxygen into the bag. Bags without one-way seals will allow moisture, gas, and oxygen to remain in the bag, which can lower the quality of your coffee.
Note that the biggest enemies of your coffee stash are heat, moisture, air, sunlight, and dirt. Once any of this comes in contact with your coffee, it reduces the quality of the coffee and affects how long you can keep it in decent condition for use.
3. The Overall Quality Of The Coffee
Two things make up the quality of coffee – the type of beans used and the roasting used to process it. Quality coffee should not have any off smells. It should not smell rancid or sour or cause you to wrinkle your nose after taking a sniff.
Once the coffee exposure to the air for some time, they become rancid, and the oils fall off. Once you begin to notice these off smells, it is a good indicator that your coffee is not quality even from the store.
How Can You Detect Bad Coffee?
Coffee has gone bad when it loses its flavor or taste or when it becomes contaminated, and mold begins to grow on it. These are the only instances when the coffee goes bad, and it is particularly noticeable with ground coffee.
It is pretty easy to tell if coffee has extended its limit on the pantry shelf, and you should discard it. There are two ways to tell if your coffee has gone bad – by sight or by smell.
1. By Sight
If you look inside the coffee bag and notice that mold has begun to grow on it, it has gone bad and should go to compost. Avoid the risk of contracting food poisoning (or a worse illness) by never ingesting anything that has mold on it.
If mold has not yet appeared on the surface, but you notice that the coffee, beans, and ground, are wet, still throw them out. As mentioned before, moisture in coffee is a bad sign, and you should probably not risk drinking that.
2. By Smell
If the coffee still looks okay and has no visible changes, it is probably safe enough to consume. Still, you can go extra by giving the package a good sniff.
Quality coffee has a fresh, distinct smell, and if you notice anything odd about the way your coffee smells, then it is way past its prime. Also, if the smells aren’t as strong as they used to be, the coffee has already begun to lose its flavor and taste.
There is nothing wrong with drinking stale, flavorless coffee – unless you are a coffee enthusiast, then that is pretty much the end of the world as you know it. However, why waste your time and energy brewing subpar, stale coffee when you can enjoy the rich, flavorful taste of a fresh one?
Can Old Coffee Make You Sick?
The short answer, if you ingest one that has mold growing on it – probably. Old coffee by itself does not cause you to be sick unless you find the taste and smell of stale coffee sickening. However, you need to be wary of a few things when drinking old coffee.
One of those is that old coffee can be a good breeding ground for bacteria and other microorganisms, especially when moisture has entered it. While some bacteria will not affect you once consumed, others can make you sick.
Additionally, coffee machines can harbor bacteria like streptococcus and staphylococcus. If you leave your ground coffee or coffee beans open while brewing your cup, you increase the likelihood of contamination. Can coffee go bad when contaminated with bacteria? Yes, if contaminated the coffee ought to be used for something other than ingestion, like using it for fertilizer, for example.
Apart from being a gross sight to behold, coffee with mold can also make you sick. Mold can produce dangerous toxins called mycotoxins and, once ingested, can be dangerous to the body. Although the human immune system can naturally expel these mycotoxins from the body, it can still be a very grueling experience.
How To Keep Your Coffee To Extend Its Shelf Life
Coffee is packed with nitrogen to slow down its degradation process and extend its shelf life. However, when you open the package, you exchange the nitrogen for some oxygen and atmospheric air, which restarts the degradation process.
The rate at which the coffee degrades over time depends on the surface area exposed. It means that ground coffee would degrade faster than whole coffee beans over the same timeframe, which explains its volatile nature.
You can best enjoy coffee when you buy whole beans and grind them as you need them to preserve their freshness, flavor, and aroma. However, not everyone has the time or patience to grind coffee each time they want to make a fresh pot. If you would buy ground coffee, it is best to store them in such a manner that will extend its shelf life. Then there is the group of people that prefer to take instant coffee (not judging).
Each of these types of coffee has different methods of storage to ensure they have a longer shelf life, and you can enjoy their fresh, flavorful taste for longer. Let’s get into it.
1. Whole Coffee Beans
Whole coffee beans have to go through a long process before being transformed from their natural form to the distinctive, aromatic, and flavorful form we like to enjoy. Once harvested, coffee beans start as a little greenish, and the roasting process turns them into the deep brown color we know.
You can either buy your coffee beans fresh and roast them yourself or buy them already roasted ones. Either way, you would need to store them properly to prevent contamination and oxidation.
The best way to store whole coffee beans is in an opaque, airtight container. A clear container will expose the coffee beans to light and promote oxidation. It would help if you also kept your coffee beans in the dark, cool, and dry place – safe from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.
After each use, be sure to tightly seal the container to prevent air and moisture from getting inside. Freezing your beans in a tightly sealed container is one of the best ways to preserve their freshness and flavor.
2. Ground Coffee
Ground coffee has the shortest shelf life for several reasons, one of them being that it has the largest surface area for oxidation. The other is that the grinding process also exposes it to cross-contamination and other harmful elements that lose its stability.
Once grounded, the oils in the coffee begin to evaporate, and they gradually lose their flavor. To continue enjoying your coffee for as long as you can, you need to store it properly.
To do that, you should store ground coffee in an airtight container somewhere cool, dry, and dark. Unless it is time to brew, moisture is one of the biggest enemies of ground coffee. An airtight container keeps moisture and oxygen out and prolongs its shelf life.
If your ground coffee comes in a vacuum-sealed package, you can store it using the package in a pantry cupboard or a freezer, and you are good to go. However, if you have bought it in an unsealed bag, it is best to transfer it into an airtight container.
If you have bought a large quantity, a nifty trick to ensure it retains its freshness for longer is to save the greater bulk in a large canister, then save smaller portions for daily use in a smaller one. It reduces how often you open the large canister and reduces exposure to light, moisture, and air.
3. Instant Coffee
Instant coffee is the most stable of all three forms. The coffee already comes in a package you can maintain its storage within. They can remain fresh for up to 20 years, whether opened or not, just sitting on your pantry shelf and indefinitely when stored in the freezer. Just ensure to keep in a cool, dry, and dark place.
What Can You Do With Old Coffee If You Don’t Want to Drink It?
If you would rather avoid the unpleasantness attached to drinking old coffee but don’t want to waste it, there are a few ideas you can use to repurpose coffee and ensure you enjoy your money’s worth. Some of them include:
1. Making Other Sweet Treats
As long as your coffee is not contaminated, you can still repurpose it and cover up its stale taste by converting it to other sweet treats. Some ways to do that are mixing them with other treats like white, dark, or milk chocolate, or yogurt.
2. DIY Decorations
Your stale coffee beans can feature in your next DIY craft decoration ideas. They would make a lovely addition to crafts intended for centerpieces like candles or glass jars.
3. A Pop Of Color
Since your coffee must have lost its strong flavor but still retains some rich, dark color, you can use it to add a pop of dark color to dishes without altering the taste of flavor.
4. Scrub Hard To Clean Pots
Ground coffee can have a coarse texture that you can find helpful when scrubbing dirty pots and pans. Asides from their abrasive nature, they are also acidic, which can help remove food crumbs that have caked on your utensils. However, because utensils are sensitive to harsh substances, be sure to first test them out on pans you have no attachment to due to potential damage.
Both coffee beans and coffee grounds are a rich source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and copper – all nutrients that any gardener worth their salt would swear by – they can be an excellent compost additive to ensure the growth and success of a garden.
Can Old Or Bad Coffee Make You Sick?
Unless you drink coffee that has gone moldy, your digestive system should be exemplary. However, this does not mean that it is advisable to drink coffee way past its expiry date.
How Long Can You Keep Brewed Coffee?
Thirty minutes to one hour. The longer the brew sits, the more oxidation it undergoes. Once the pH level increases, the brew turns stale or bitter. Save any unfinished coffee in an airtight thermos flask.
How Are Ground Coffee And Instant Coffee Different?
The significant difference between ground coffee and instant coffee is that while the latter fabrication occurs with coffee beans ground into smaller bits, the former is brewed coffee that has gone through dehydration. They have different qualities and taste different from the discerning tongue.