Does Coffee Go Bad? (The Answer May Surprise You)
People often have questions about how long coffee lasts, and whether it truly goes bad or "expires" as quickly as some people say.
After all, most of the coffee that is stocked on supermarket shelves was roasted and ground months and months ago.
The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. No it’s not—do keep your coffee away from the wind though. What I meant to say is that coffee does indeed go bad—just not in the same way that other foodstuffs do.
In other words, as long as it's stored properly and not exposed to moisture, coffee doesn't go bad in the sense that it becomes inedible or dangerous to consume.
It just goes "bad" in the sense that it loses its flavor and freshness, until eventually you simply don't want to brew with it anymore.
So how long does coffee last, then? Well, it really depends on how you're storing it.
Q: How Long Does Sealed Coffee Last?
As long as the packaging is sealed, coffee can last for a very long time.
As I said, "how long coffee lasts" depends on how it is stored. If you store coffee in a cool, dark, dry place, it will "last" for up to two years—perhaps even longer. (Good news for the survivalists out there!)
However, once you open the packaging, coffee will start to lose its flavor and aroma.
While coffee doesn't really go bad the way most people think, it does get stale.
Stale coffee won't make you sick or anything, it just might taste a little more bland and... well... "stale" than you'd prefer.
Q: When Does Coffee Go Bad After It's Opened?
After the package has been opened, coffee beans start to lose their flavor pretty quickly.
The best way to keep your coffee tasting fresh is to store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place.
No matter what anyone tells you, you should never store your coffee in the fridge or freezer because the added moisture, as well as the freezing/defrosting process can make it taste stale—which kind of defeats the purpose, right?
Q: When Does Coffee Go Stale?
A: Plenty of self-proclaimed coffee experts will tell you that coffee has a 2 week shelf life after it's opened like it's clockwork. And if the clock ticks one more minute, then your coffee is suddenly—as Yoda would say—"too old." Stale. No longer fit for consumption by anyone or anything.
And that's just simply not true (thank goodness).
When is coffee "too old?"
When the taste and aroma is less than what you feel it should be.
Now, coffee does start to lose its flavor (slightly) after about a week. After 2-3 weeks, it will be noticeably less fresh. And by 3-4 weeks, it'll generally be starting to taste stale.
Coffee is a complex beverage with hundreds of different aromatic compounds.
As coffee ages, these compounds change and interact with each other, which changes the flavor.
To put it simply: coffee tastes best when it's fresh. But that doesn't mean you have to toss out your coffee after 2 weeks.
While the reasons for coffee going stale are scientific, this rough timeline isn't a "mathematical certainty."
Q: What about brewed coffee?
Brewed coffee will last about 30-40 minutes after brewing as the coffee continues to oxidize. It won't go bad, but will start to become bitter over time.
- If you really want to get the most flavor and aroma out of your beans, it's always best to grind them right before you brew.
- If you're not planning on drinking your coffee right away, be sure to store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
- If you have any pre-ground coffee that's just barely starting to go stale, you can try reviving it by giving it a good stir (open the lid and give it a good stir with a spoon) or by putting it in the blender for a few seconds.
- If you're someone who drinks a lot of coffee, rather than buying large bags, you might want to buy multiple smaller bags more frequently so you're always brewing with fresher coffee beans.
So the answer to the question is, yes, coffee can go bad, but it takes a lot longer than most people think.
If you store your coffee properly and don't let it sit for too long once it's opened, you should be able to enjoy it for a good few weeks up to a month or so (if you use an airtight canister).
Remember, it's up to you to decide when your coffee is too old—in other words, don't throw out a perfectly good blend just because someone says coffee is too old after 14 days. Use your nose and your taste buds as a guide.
If your properly-stored coffee smells and tastes good to you, then go ahead and brew with it.
While coffee snobs are right occasionally (about other things) don't listen to anyone who tells you your coffee is only worthy of being drank within a two week window. That's just nonsense.