Does Coffee Go Bad? (Cold Brew, Beans, Espresso Shot, Instant Coffee, etc.)

By

Bryan Huynh

on February 27, 2024

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For the daily coffee drinkers out there, you most likely stock up on coffee, enough to last you at least a month or so. Whether you may have gone a little overboard on that coffee that was on sale or simply just a moneysaver who wants to buy in bulk, you have surely asked yourself this question, “does coffee go bad”?

In summary, while outdated coffee beans can be detected by their dulled flavor and brightness, they will not create any health problems if ingested, unlike other expired food items. It won't even taste horrible because there will be no stench or noticeable unpleasant flavor from a defective bunch; the ultimate result will just appear sub-par.

Coffee enthusiasts are particular about quality, freshness, and flavor. Is there anything that can ruin your morning faster than a bad cup of coffee? In this post, we'll go over all you need to know about coffee expiry, why coffee goes bad, and more! Keep these facts in mind when you prepare your next cup of coffee to ensure you're sipping the freshest, best-tasting brew. Check out our Coffee Clubs page to compare and read reviews of our favorite coffee clubs!

Why Does Coffee Go Bad?

Shade and cooler temperatures are considered to be coffee’s best friends, therefore there are several things you should avoid while storing coffee. Improperly preserved beans rapidly lose their freshness and high-quality flavor. Here are four of coffee's most problematic things:

Oxidation

Oxygen is needed for both animals and plants to survive, however it is also damaging. Dull coffee beans are caused by oxygen. Coffee beans and oxygen do not interact well, and when subjected to open air, the beans decay within days. This is a result of oxidation. Exposure to oxygen degrades coffee acids and jeopardizes aromatic oils and coffee cell structures. Following this, the coffee will be lacking in flavor. 

This explains why, after a few weeks of storage, your coffee typically tastes rancid. You'll notice that your regular coffee fix lacks the bright tastes you're used to. It has an impact on both coffee grounds and whole bean coffee. However, the oxidation process in coffee beans is quicker.

Moisture 

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

Because roasted coffee is hygroscopic, it absorbs moisture from the air. Any water absorbed has minimal effect on flavor since your coffee absorbs flavors and aromas from the water. Furthermore, the water absorbed will shift the essential oils in your roasted coffee, speeding up the aging process.

However, it is recommended that you shouldn't keep coffee in the freezer. Because you're exposing your coffee to moisture, it will go bad after a couple days in the freezer.

Moreover, putting your coffee in the freezer causes a significant temperature difference every time you take it out and use it for consumption. As a result, condensation forms, subjecting your coffee beans to moisture once more.

Light 

Don't coffee beans look lovely when preserved in glass jars? A negative to this would be that glass jars allow light in, and roasted coffee beans weaken when stored in direct sunlight. If you take a look at the packaging on your coffee, you will most likely notice the words, “Store in a cool, dry, and dark place.”

Direct sunlight speeds up the breakdown of elements like proteins, lipids, and enzymes. These chemical components are crucial for the rich tastes you get from freshly brewed coffee. You can expect your coffee grounds to get stale and lose flavor after being exposed to sunshine.

Heat 

Coffee should avoid heat unless it is being brewed. The coffee beans will lose their unique taste if exposed to high temperatures. As mentioned above, coffee should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark environment. However, this is not a reason to freeze your coffee.

To protect your coffee from going bad, shield it from both hot and cold conditions. Heat exposure to roasted coffee beans, especially before brewing, can result in taste loss.

How Can You Tell if Coffee Has Gone Bad?

Judging on how it looks and smells, you'll be able to determine whether your coffee has gone bad.

If you notice or smell any traces of mold, refrain from using it. It's recommended to throw all of the coffee in that bag/container whether it's before or beyond the expiration date.

Another indication that your coffee is degrading is if it has lost its full, rich fragrance. When the oils begin to degrade, the delightful scent fades, which may suggest that the oils have begun to go rancid.

How Can You Tell if Coffee Beans Have Gone Bad?

One disadvantage of coffee beans not going stale in the usual sense is that it might be difficult to discern if they have expired.

If there aren't enough visible cues to judge a batch's freshness, you may always take a chance and taste a cup of coffee instead. After all, you're not going to become sick.

But it's not necessary to start tasting immediately. Here are a few hints and suggestions to assist you figure out whether your coffee beans have gone bad:

  • They've been kept much past their expiration date. If you remember when you bought your coffee beans, you can easily determine how long they've been sitting in the kitchen. 
  • They have an odd aroma. You don't always have to prepare a cup of coffee to recognize that the beans have outlived their usefulness. As a result, before using your old coffee beans again, give them a sniff. If they smell unpleasant or rotten, it's reasonable to assume that the coffee it will brew will be just as bad.
  • They appear to be off. Before using your year-old coffee beans, look for any signs that they've gone bad. For example, if you notice mold forming on the surface, this indicates that there is too much moisture within the packaging and that the grinds should be discarded immediately. Likewise, if you see a major color change or any bugs within the container, don't use these coffee grinds.
  • They are dull. Because of their high lipid content, most coffee beans have a distinctive shine. However, as time passes, their lipids begin to dry up and get rancid, causing the beans to seem duller.
  • The coffee produced is sour. Finally, if none of the preceding processes were successful, you may need to prepare some coffee from the beans and taste it for yourself. Unfortunately, there are few visible indications to alert you, and because drinking outdated coffee is unlikely to create any health problems, you may simply prepare a cup to see whether it's acceptable.

How Can You Tell if Brewed Coffee Has Gone Bad?

Fortunately, it's much easier to identify whether brewed coffee has gone bad. Because of the high moisture level, its flavor and scent fluctuate more dramatically, making it simpler to distinguish between a fresh and rotten cup of coffee. Here's what you should do:

  • Allow your coffee to cool to room temperature after brewing it. A scalding hot cup of coffee might make it difficult to detect the flavor. As a result, before tasting the beverage, allow it to cool fully.
  • Test to determine if the coffee is sour or harsh. As previously stated, the flavor of expired brewed coffee is far more evident than the taste of coffee manufactured from expired beans. If your brewed coffee has gone bad, it will most likely taste harsh. In this instance, it's preferable to discard the entire batch immediately away.

How Long Will Coffee Last?

You might ask yourself, Is there a difference between the shelf life of coffee beans and the expiration date of pre-ground coffee? Is the storage temperature significant? How long does coffee last once it's been brewed? By understanding how long to keep your brew in the kitchen, you may maximize its freshness and overall quality.

The answer to this question is dependent on the technique of storage and the kind of coffee. Some may be stored with other foods in your pantry, while others require special storage.

Type of Coffee & Expiration Date

  • Whole Coffee Beans: 6-12 Months
  • Ground Coffee: 1-2 Weeks
  • Brewed Coffee: 3-4 Days
  • Cold Brew Coffee: 7-10 Days
  • Instant Coffee: Up to 20 Years

Whole Coffee Beans 

Whole bean coffee is the most lasting. To ensure maximum freshness, leave the beans whole before brewing. When grinding beans, only grind what you'll use for brewing. Whole bean coffee should be consumed within three to four weeks of purchase.

Whole coffee beans can remain over many weeks to several years. The length of time your coffee will last varies on how it is stored and whether it is roasted or unroasted.

Unroasted, green coffee beans can last between 6-12 months prior to actually losing flavor. Roasted coffee beans, on the other hand, may be stored for up to six weeks.

Ground Coffee 

Don't expect the coffee to last long once it has been roasted and ground. For optimal results, grind only the amount of coffee required each day. Ground coffee typically lasts one to two weeks before becoming stale.

Brewed Coffee 

After you have made your favorite cup of coffee, make sure that you enjoy it within 12 hours. If you want to save your cup for later, store it within the refrigerator. Brewed coffee may be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days. Any longer, and you should dump it out.

Instant Coffee 

One of the few items without an expiry date is instant coffee.

Instant coffee is made out of dried coffee granules wrapped in a moisture-free container.

As previously said, moisture is one of the factors that affect coffee. As a result, if you keep your instant coffee in a cold, dry, and dark area, it should last for several years.

Instant coffee may be stored for up to 20 years. However, the container still includes a best by date as a quality indication.

Espresso Shot

Brewed espresso may be kept fresh for up to a day after brewing. After then, the flavor begins to decay and settle down. If you store your freshly brewed espresso in the fridge, it will stay fresh for up to two days, but all of the crema will have vanished.

Cold Brew

You may store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. It is generally preferable to keep your cold brew focused. When you're ready to drink it, dilute your morning pick-me-up with cold water to the strength you desire.

The concentrated form extends the shelf life. You may instantly dilute your coffee and keep it in a ready-to-drink form in the refrigerator; but, it will only survive 2-3 days this way.

How to Properly Store Coffee 

If you want to preserve your coffee, make sure you do it correctly. Now that we've covered what causes coffee beans to deteriorate, here are a few ways to properly store coffee.

As stated earlier, you need to avoid exposure to heat, light, water, and oxygen when storing coffee. Do not store it in a clear or open container! Instead, use these storage options:

1. Don’t Break the Seal

If your coffee arrives in an opaque vacuum-sealed bag, keep it that way. If you don't intend to drink the coffee, don't open it.

2. Store in an Airtight Container 

Ground coffee is most susceptible to air, light, and moisture. Coffee should always be stored in an airtight container. It is best to use an opaque container so that no light may enter. Store the container in a cool, dark place.

3. Buy the right amount of fresh coffee

Try not to purchase more coffee than you can consume in a few weeks. Purchasing too much might result in waste since freshness only lasts three to four weeks. 

Instead, I would recommend signing up for a subscription service to put your coffee purchases on an automatic schedule. Not only can you explore a world of fresh coffee, but it will also be delivered straight to your home.

Conclusion

Assuming you're a daily coffee drinker, you are already familiar with the taste of fresh, maximum flavor coffee. You should be used to the nutty, caramel-like fragrance that everyone knows and loves.

However, as time passes, the rich aroma and flavor grow lackluster and gritty, producing an ashy aftertaste. If you experience this with the coffee you prepare from your beans, it's wise to trash them.

While coffee does not go bad in the conventional sense, it can still expire. Expired coffee has a considerably duller flavor and aroma than fresh coffee.

Drinking outdated coffee is unlikely to create serious health issues. If possible, avoid buying coffee beans in bulk and only buy when required to ensure you always have the freshest taste coffee.

About the Author

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a determined Product Tester & Writer. Being a coffee addict, it is only right that he mainly tests and reviews different coffee from around the world and coffee subscription services.

Bryan Huynh is a determined Product Tester & Writer. Being a coffee addict, it is only right that he mainly tests and reviews different coffee from around the world and coffee subscription services.