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Does Coffee Ever Go Bad? Whole Beans, Coffee Grounds & Instant Expired Dates

coffee beans ground and whole

“Does coffee ever go bad?” is a relatively unimportant question, especially if you’re a casual coffee drinker, you’ll go through your coffee batch before you even notice anything.

But for everyone else..

The answer is “YES”, coffee does expire, but it depends.

Because we need to define what “bad” really is. Does bad mean expired or just the taste goes bad? Does it ever expire? Yes, does it go bad? Yes. Can you drink bad coffee? Yes. 

How long will my coffee last?

Coffee does not always go bad. After a few weeks, the flavor begins to fade and become stale. There are other aspects to consider, such as roast type, packaging, and where the coffee is stored.

We’ve written an article on how long roasted coffee beans last, but this article covers every type.

Here’s how to tell if your roasted coffee, ground coffee, instant coffee and how to keep it fresh for longer. 

How long can coffee beans be stored?

Coffee, whether in the form of a bean or ground, or in a mug beside you, is made up of hundreds of distinct aggregates, including polysaccharides and lipids.

As time passes, those aggregates undergo natural and biochemical changes that alter the scent and flavor of both the fresh bean and the finished product.

Carbohydrates become musty, lipids become sour, unstable pure aggregates evaporate, and other constituents break down as a result of their vulnerability to the oxygen “oxidation” process.

Small, consistent variety will have a significant impact on the flavor of the coffee. The coffee shape is a good predictor of how long it will last, including where and how best it should be stored. If the flavor is important to you, the best bet is to store the coffee in a sealed tin somewhere cool and dry.

If stored properly, grinding coffee can be used for many months after its expiry date, pure coffee bean for up to six months, and instant coffee for about twenty years. The best approach to know how properly to serve your morning cup of coffee is to check the expiration date from the moment of purchase.

(Not sealed/Sealed)Food storeFreezer
Last date of packagingLast date of packaging
Coffee (Ground)2 – 6 Months1- 2 Years
Coffee (Whole Bean)5 – 10 Months3 – 4 Years
Coffee (Instant)3 – 20 YearsInfinite
(Not sealed)Food StoreFreezer
Opened packageOpened package
Coffee (Ground)2 – 6 Months2 – 6 Months
Coffee (Whole Bean)6 Months3 Years
Coffee (Instant)3 – 20 YearsInfinite

What factors cause coffee bean degradation?

Darkness and cool temperatures are coffee’s closest friends, so there are a few things to avoid when keeping coffee. Improperly kept beans quickly lose their freshness and high-quality flavor. Here are four of coffee’s most vexing foes:

1. Oxygen

Stale coffee beans are caused by a lack of oxygen. Coffee beans and oxygen do not mix well, and when exposed to open air, the beans decay in a matter of days.

2. Light

Don’t coffee beans look lovely when preserved in glass jars? But here’s the thing: glass jars allow light in, and roasted coffee beans get stale when stored in direct sunlight.

3. Humidity

Coffee beans deteriorate when exposed to humid environments. Roasted coffee beans should be stored in a cool, dry place.

4. Heat

It doesn’t like heat unless it’s being brewed. The flavor of the beans will be lost if they are subjected to heat.

How much time do I have to finish my coffee?

It is advised to consume coffee within the first two weeks of obtaining it. Fortunately, most coffee drinkers claim to consume a pound of coffee in less than that length of time. After then, the coffee starts to go stale. Drinking stale coffee, like cereal, isn’t hazardous, but it does lose and change flavor.

Of course, there is a distinction to be made between stale coffee and terrible coffee. In a pinch, many people would forgo flavor for a caffeine fix — just make sure you’re not drinking bad coffee that will make you sick.

Specialty coffee vs. supermarket brands

Supermarket beans, such as those sold by Lavazza, are intended for frequent coffee users who require only a daily dose of caffeine. They don’t mind if the beans aren’t of a specific quality, don’t mind if they’re single-origin rather than blended, and so on.

Those coffee consumers (including yourself) don’t perceive a significant difference between fresh beans and those that have been sitting in the cabinet for over a year. As a result, the product has a lengthy shelf life.

People who buy speciality beans, in addition to spending more money on coffee, are frequently concerned with the quality of the beans and extracting the maximum taste and aroma out of them. This is where different grinding sizes, brewing procedures, and expensive equipment come into play.

You know what good coffee tastes like and have strong feelings about your favorite brewing method if you’re that type of person. And, to have the greatest flavor, you buy the beans fresh and only enough for a month.

How to tell if your coffee beans have gone bad

At the very least, you’d like to make a wild guess about it. You likely smelled your bag of beans to see if it was defective or stale. One of the most dependable spotters is the nose.

The personal tongue would only genuinely discern five tastes—Umami, bitter, salty, sweet, and sour.

Our nose, on the other hand, is a magical fact drive that can distinguish between tons and tons of distinct mixes, and the human brain analyzes this data in the very point/system.

The following are crucial tips for determining whether roasted coffee has gone bad:

  • Pure coffee is preferable, end of story. Grounded coffee, if you have a coffee bean that seems to be moldy or rotten, throw it away; it may have gone bad.
  • If you have coffee beans that have a strange smell, not the true smell of pure coffee, and taste flat,
  • Freshness is important. If you have a pack of unfrozen coffee with molds,
  • If the expiry date indicates that the coffee is no longer fit for human consumption. This isn’t to say that if you drink the coffee, you’ll become sick, but what matters most is that it’s fresh.

I have some old coffee. Is it safe to consume?

Coffee is safe to drink for years if stored properly (unopened, sealed, and dry). In fact, many grocery stores and large chain stores keep coffee on the shelf for several months on their own, not to mention the time it will sit in someone’s pantry.

If you find old coffee that you want to drink, check it beforehand. If the coffee contains the following ingredients, do not brew it.

  • Has not been firmly sealed and has been stored
  • Is it dripping wet in any way?
  • Has a mildew odor or visible mold

Use your discretion and be mindful of what you brew. If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to consume coffee.

In short, coffee does not go bad, and you can drink it safely for a long time—but for best results, drink it within a few weeks.

When should you throw away whole coffee beans?

If any of the following conditions apply to your beans:

  • The coffee they create has no flavor, or the flavor has altered and it is no longer acceptable.
  • The beans smell off (rancid, sour, or “strange”) because there are pantry bugs in the container or bag.
  • Is there anything else wrong with the beans? (think mold, and so on)
  • You’re not happy with the date (e.g., the beans are expired for three years)

When should you throw away ground coffee?

If you want to get rid of ground coffee, do the following:

  • There is mold or moist lumps in the bag or container
  • you see tiny insects in the grounds, 
  • The coffee it produces is no longer of high quality.

If your grounds are safe to use but of poor quality, you can put them to use in a variety of ways.

Does instant coffee ever expired?

Simply put, instant coffee is made out of dried coffee crystals. Having stated that, one of the primary reasons why a product goes bad is due to its moisture level.

Because it contains almost no moisture, instant coffee does not expire. Even if it has passed its “best by” date, it is safe to consume if properly stored. Nonetheless, your instant coffee may lose part of its flavor and aroma over time, resulting in a dull and often unpleasant taste.

You may have observed that there is no expiration date printed on instant coffee jars, cans, or packages. There is a “best by” or “best before” date that serves as a quality indicator. These indicate the expiration date for your instant coffee’s maximum flavor and quality. You may learn more about food product dating by going to the USDA website.

Instant coffee shelf life and storing conditions

Instant coffee has a 20-year shelf life. It won’t go bad whether it’s opened or unopened, especially if properly preserved. Instant coffee should be stored in a cold, dry area.

Some experts also advise keeping your instant coffee in a dark spot, as light can degrade its flavor by increasing oxidative processes. These reactions are caused by air exposure and result in flavor release, causing your coffee to get stale. As a result, instant coffee is typically packaged in a low-oxygen environment to prevent scent loss.

However, once the jar (or other form of container) is opened, oxidation begins and the flavor begins to vanish. However, even if the flavor is impaired, this does not imply that the instant coffee is spoilt; it simply means that it will not taste as nice as you could have thought.

To put it another way, if you’ve had a jar of instant coffee for 5 years, it’s probably still good to use today. If it’s been properly stored, it might even taste as good as it did when you initially got it. If it has remained unopened all this time, the odds of a happy outcome increase considerably more. If, on the other hand, the instant coffee has been exposed to exceptional amounts of light, heat, or humidity, the flavor will be significantly changed by the inappropriate storage conditions.

Furthermore, bringing moisture into the instant coffee jar may cause it to gather together and potentially grow fungi and mold.

Fungal Mycelium in a jar of spoiled instant coffee – most likely generated by moisture

Never scoop out your instant coffee with a damp spoon since you will introduce moisture into the jar. After all, dampness can promote bacterial growth, which you want to avoid.

Instant coffee signs of spoilage

If you have instant coffee, toss it if:

  • Mold or moist clumps are present in the container
  • pantry bugs are present in the packaging
  • and the granules have a foul odor.
  • The coffee produced by the granules is insufficient.

How to preserve its freshness for a long time

When exposed to air, freshly roasted premium coffee begins to lose its freshness. Attempt to order smaller quantities of pure roasted coffee on a more frequent basis—enough for two weeks or up to a month’s supply.

The roasted beans suffer from exposure to the elements. If you want to keep your beans in an open and/or beautiful tin, it could be a good idea to divide your coffee rations into individual smaller servings, with the larger, unused serving stored in an airtight tin.

Due to the longer susceptibility to air, this is especially important when pre-ordering ungrounded coffee. If you order whole beans, crush the amount you want right away and brew it.

How to keep coffee beans safe for later use

We inspect the natural color of the beans whenever they arrive for roasting. The cupper test demonstrates the characteristics of the beans. Following general approvals, the brewing, smelling, roasting, slurping, and quality analysis are completed, which is also checked by the cupper before the roasting procedure begins.

The type of container used also influences how long roasted coffee lasts. For example, the triple-foiled packaging enables just carbon dioxide to escape and has no air entrance. The expiry date for roasted coffee is typically any date during the year, and it is mostly determined by the roasting procedure. The further the coffee’s chronology from the day of manufacture, the less flavorful or fresh the coffee will be. If you already have a pack of coffee but are unclear when to use it, you may continue to drink it on a regular basis as long as you store it in an airtight container.

Most coffees are nitrogen-bound to prevent deterioration, but once the seal is removed, you’re exchanging nitrogen for oxygen plus humidity, which in most cases degrades the coffee’s quality in terms of its sweet aroma and flavor. So, while the foregoing seems a little convoluted (and research yields a lot of contradictory evidence), let’s cut it down to the essentials.

Coffee beans do deteriorate over time, losing their aroma and flavor. The oils rise to the surface of the beans as they roast. These oils are responsible for the aroma and flavor of coffee. Coffee bean degradation is caused by the oxidation process, age, and time, diminishing its quality for coffee enthusiasts. They can still be drank, but they won’t be as tasty. Here are some helpful hints for preserving the freshness of your coffee:

  • Place the coffee beans in a cool and dry environment
  • To keep the freshness, keep it in an airtight container.
  • Grind coffee beans that will only be used for one serving.
  • Examine the roasting guidelines for the new coffee beans.
  • Purchase a newly enhanced coffee bundle that will be used within a month.

Is it possible to freeze coffee? Coffee freezing instructions (tips, tricks, and guides)

You may also freeze coffee, which greatly extends its shelf life (two to three years for ground bean and entire coffee, and especially continuously for an instant brand).

However, freezing coffee significantly reduces its flavor; the more spectacular aspects of the quality disappear, and coffee that has been flown from cooled will taste flat.

The flavor will vary based on the quality of the roast beans used and the brewing procedure used. In most cases, however, your best chance is to use beans as close to the roasting period (rather than the expiry term) as possible.

So far, we’ve been discussing how to freeze the complete coffee bean. However, we’ve discovered new ways to employ the freezer as a good preservative for our delectable beverage.

Nonetheless, coffee purists would be horrified. The ideal method is to place the coffee (sealed in vacuum bags) in a freezer away from strong odors.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is some debate on whether or not it is advisable to freeze coffee beans. Although opinions differ, evidence indicates that cold beans make wonderful coffee.

Condensation of raw beans, according to other studies, degrades their flavor. So, buy fresh coffee beans and conduct this test on your own to get individualized findings.