Whether you drink coffee every day or not, you have probably encountered some old beans lying around that left you wondering, does coffee really expire? If so, how long does coffee last? Or maybe you brewed extra coffee yesterday, and you want to know, does coffee go bad after you make?
Whole-bean coffee has a long shelf life compared to many other perishables, but determining whether coffee is good to drink can get complicated–it depends on many factors.
So, keep reading to learn everything about why coffee expires and how to extend its shelf life!
Does Coffee Really Expire?
Can coffee really expire? While coffee lasts longer than most food products in your kitchen, coffee is perishable and eventually goes bad. Coffee beans contain oils and organic compounds that will oxidize and lose flavor over time, especially when exposed to air. Properly stored beans will last longer, but we consider coffee to taste best within one month and to expire after 6 months.
How Long Does Coffee Last in Various Forms
One of the reasons it is hard to give a short answer to how long coffee will last is it comes in many forms: ground coffee, brewed coffee, whole beans, instant coffee, etc.
So let’s explore more detail about what makes coffee good depending on what form of it you have.
Coffee in its unroasted form, known as green coffee, lasts for years. But a roasted bean has a much shorter lifespan, first losing its freshness and eventually becoming unsafe. Roasted coffee beans often have an expiration date, and the better roasters will also stamp on the roast date. If you know the roast date, you can expect coffee beans to maintain optimal flavor within one month of roasting. You can make coffee last even longer by storing it in an airtight container.
Does coffee expire? Yes, coffee technically has an expiration date, but it is still safe to drink months after the expiration date. The main concern with coffee expiring is the flavor becoming lame and bitter due to oxygen and other elements.
Ground coffee ages much faster than whole coffee beans because of its surface area. Before grinding, oxygen is primarily contacting the bean on the exterior surface. But ground coffee beans open up the interior surfaces of the bean to the forces of oxygen and will quickly age even fresh coffee beans. This process is even more extreme with a tiny grind size like espresso.
A roasted bean can taste great for a month or more when whole, but you should brew coffee grinds within a week for the best flavor. They are still safe for at least three months or longer, but you will notice the flavor diminishes greatly. To keep coffee fresh for as long as possible, store it in an airtight container instead of the original coffee bag.
And while having your coffee ground ahead of time might seem convenient, remember that the basics of brewing coffee suggest that you grind right before brewing. The coffee will last longer and have a better flavor.
Because of the freeze-drying process that dehydrates the product, instant coffee can last for years, even when opened. For safety, you should probably consume an opened package within 18 months. But sealed instant coffee can last for up to twenty years.
Coffee pods are sealed, but because they are not freeze dried you should only expect them to be good for 8 months after expiration.
Compared with coffee beans, brewed coffee goes bad quickly, especially with milk. But even black coffee will develop a stale flavor within a few hours. The flavor of hot coffee changes once it reaches room temperature, usually taking on an acidic and out-of-balance taste. If you are a coffee lover and value that fresh smell and taste, it is always worth brewing more.
But in terms of safety, leftover coffee will be safe to drink for a couple of days, as long as you store it in the fridge. Cold brew coffee will similarly last, and it is the easiest way to make iced coffee. Cold brew tastes delicious and will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Does Coffee Go Bad and Other Common Questions
The information above should give you a basic understanding of coffee freshness with brewed coffee, coffee beans, and ground coffee. But before getting into more detail about why coffee goes bad and how to store it properly, let’s explore some standard questions about coffee freshness.
Can You Drink Coffee Brewed Yesterday?
If you are a coffee drinker in a busy household, leftover coffee is probably a common scenario. Maybe the coffee maker has an old pot from earlier in the day—or even the day before—still sitting on the coffee machine and tempting you with an easy energy boost. But does coffee go bad, and if so, how fast? The taste might lose freshness, but is it safe to drink?
As long as you store the drink in the refrigerator, you can drink day-old coffee without a problem. But without the safety of the fridge, brewed coffee can grow mold and bacteria at room temperature. Hot coffee on the machine might be good for a few hours but do not trust day-old coffee unless it has been in the fridge.
Do Coffee Beans Go Bad?
Like all perishable products, coffee beans will eventually expire and be undrinkable. But the good news is that it takes a long time, usually much longer than the expiration date would suggest. Use good judgment, but know that a roasted coffee bean properly stored can last for many months.
To make coffee last as long as possible, store them as whole beans in an airtight container and a cool, dark, and dry environment.
Can Expired Coffee Make You Sick?
Expired coffee can make you sick, especially if there is mold or mildew. If there is a rancid smell to the coffee, trust your instinct and do not drink it. Generally speaking, bacteria cannot grow in coffee beans. But in old brewed coffee, especially if you did not store it in the fridge, mold/bacteria can make you sick.
How Long Does Caffeine Last In Your System?
Depending on your caffeine intake and general tolerance for the drug, drinking a cup of coffee too late in the day can negatively affect your sleep. So if you are wondering how long caffeine will stay in your system, assume it will affect you for up to six hours.
But if you have trouble sleeping, and since everyone is different, assume a longer time frame and see if that helps improve your sleep routine.
Can Coffee Really Expire? Yes & Here’s How To Spot Bad Coffee
Does coffee expire? The answer is yes, but the timelines for determining coffee’s shelf life are vague. So in this section, we’ll cover some classic signs that your coffee beans have gone bad.
Check the Bag
The bag is the first data point that tells you whether coffee will be good to drink. Most bags have an expiration date, a roast date, or both. With whole coffee beans, you can safely go at least 3-6 months after the roast date. Even a few months after the expiration date is usually fine, as long as you store the coffee in an airtight container.
You should be most suspicious of ground coffee since the timeline is shorter.
When it comes to appearance, you should mainly be looking out for any signs of mold or mildew. Be particularly suspicious of mold if the coffee beans or grinds are exposed to moisture.
The smell can be a guide on this front as well. Bad coffee sends to smell rancid, whereas coffee beans that are fresh smell amazing–unless it’s a super dark roast, there is usually a distinct richness and sweetness to the smell.
If the appearance seemed okay and you went ahead to brew a cup, your last line of defense against bad coffee is your taste buds. Bad coffee tastes rancid, and any tasting notes of acidic sweetness are usually dulled or develop a sour flavor.
How to Keep Coffee Fresh
In this section, you will learn some basic principles about how to properly store coffee beans to maintain maximum freshness. The same tips will work for ground coffee, but as you read above, ground coffee beans turn into stale coffee much faster.
Airtight Container to Keep Oxygen Away
Oxygen is the main reason why most food products spoil, and the same is true of roasted coffee beans. And while coffee beans are more durable than most of the other perishables in your kitchen, oxygen will slowly change the chemistry of the beans and ruin the flavor.
To make your coffee stay as fresh as possible, store them in an airtight container if possible. Unless your coffee bag reseals, storing whole bean coffee in the original bag more quickly creates stale coffee.
**Check out our guide to the best airtight coffee storage containers for the latest and best options.**
How long does ground coffee last? Pre ground coffee has an even bigger problem with oxidation and going bad. Because coffee grounds have way more surface area, the inside of a ground bean is no longer protected from oxygen. The air contacts ground coffee much more readily and can ruin the taste.
**Note: if you order green coffee beans to roast at home, freshness is much less of a concern. Unroasted coffee keeps its freshness for years. After roasting, coffee begins losing its fresh flavor and complex taste within a month.**
Light can have negative effects on lots of perishables, and coffee is no exception. Sunlight especially will speed up aging and deteriorate the good flavors in coffee. So it is best to store coffee in a dark place.
You should avoid storing coffee at high temperatures for the same reason you store food in the fridge—perishable products deteriorate faster at higher temperatures. Just like food left out on the counter will grow mold much more quickly than in the fridge, coffee stored in a warm environment will age quickly.
After reading the previous tip about avoiding heat, you might be wondering, should I store coffee beans in the fridge? And the answer turns out to be no, and the reason is because of moisture. Moisture forms more easily during temperature changes, and moisture will speed up coffee’s aging process.
So while coffee does not want to be around heat, a cool room temperature environment that is also dry is the ideal storage for coffee.
Is Freezing Coffee Beans an Option?
Professionals in the coffee world debate about whether or not you should freeze coffee—usually, the debate is about what effect it has on the flavor. But like any other perishable, freezing coffee will delay the aging process and make it last longer.
To do it correctly, the key is to avoid moisture. Use an airtight container, preferably one that you can vacuum seal so that they are not in contact with any air or moisture. Properly frozen coffee beans can often last for more than a year!
How Long Does Coffee Last: Final Thoughts
When does coffee expire? Hopefully, you now have a much clearer idea about how long coffee lasts and the complicated factors that determine how quickly it spoils.
And remember that if you have an old bag of ground coffee and you feel bad just throwing it away, there are plenty of great ways to use coffee grounds in your garden. And for brewed coffee, use your instinct and play it safe. When in doubt, it is always better to make more fresh coffee and enjoys its complex taste!