Coffee Shelf Life: How Long Does Coffee Last?

How long does coffee last

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Have you ever bought a bag of coffee from your local grocery store and searched for an expiration date – only to find none? How are you supposed to know how long that coffee will last before it expires? Generally, roasters label their coffee bags with a “Roasted On” label to indicate when the beans were roasted. If your coffee beans were roasted a week ago, you’re in luck – that’s very fresh coffee! 

But, many times, grocery stores shelve coffee products for a much longer time span, which could leave you stuck with a stale cup of coffee. In this article, we discuss how long coffee grounds and coffee beans last. We also provide tips on how you can store them to maximize their freshness.

How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

Roasted coffee beans last longer than other popular forms of coffee (brewed or ground). One reason is that there’s less surface area exposed to the elements (heat, light, oxygen, moisture). The way you store the beans can make a difference. They will last longer in a cool place than in the cupboard. 

Putting coffee beans in an airtight container is crucial because you want to keep as much moisture and oxygen out as possible. Freezing them will preserve them longer, but will also affect the flavor negatively. How long should you store coffee beans to get the best flavor? To get the best flavor, make sure to use the coffee beans as close to the roast date as possible – ideally, within 2 to 3 weeks for a pound of coffee. 

How Long Does Ground Coffee Last?

Ground coffee typically comes in an airtight packaged – sealed and ready for storage. Unopened and stored in a dry area, a bag of pre-ground coffee can last between 3 to 5 months after the sell-by date. Unopened and in the freezer, it can last 1 to 2 years after the sell-by date while still maintaining a decent level of coffee freshness. 

If it’s opened and stored properly, it’s best to consume ground coffee within 1 to 2 weeks, so you can get the freshest, most flavorful taste. If you store ground coffee that’s opened in the freezer, the timeframe is about 1 to 5 months. Another point to remember: your brewed coffee – prepared and ready to drink – has a limited timeframe before it starts to go bad. The quality of your freshly brewed coffee beings to dissipate as soon as it’s exposed to oxygen. 

After about 30 minutes, you’ll have a stale, room temperature cup of coffee that has lost its freshness. Around 4 hours after it’s brewed, the oils in the fresh brew will being to degrade, causing the flavor to become acidic. While you can still safely drink stale coffee beyond this point, it’s recommended not to consume it more than 24 hours after brewing. 

How Long Does Instant Coffee Last?

Among all the different types of coffee, instant coffee is the longest lasting. According to Eat By Date, this type of coffee can last up to around 20 years[1] – and can still taste pretty instant. However, most instant coffee packages have an expiration date ranging from 12 to 18 months.

How does instant coffee last so long? Most instant coffee packages have an aluminum layer – this prevents heat and moisture from seeping in, which in turn blocks mold from growing. If you want to have coffee that can last for a long time, this option might be the best for you. 

How Long Does Coffee Last Past the ‘Best Before Date’?

Can you still drink coffee past its ‘best before date’? In the table below, you can see the shelf life of coffee past its best before date (when stored properly). 

(Unopened/Sealed)

Pantry

Freezer

 

Past Printed Date

Past Printed Date

Ground Coffee lasts for

3-5 Months

1-2 Years

Whole Bean Coffee lasts for

6-9 Months

2-3 Years

Instant Coffee lasts for

2-20 Years

Indefinite

(Opened)

Pantry

Freezer

 

Once Opened

Once Opened

Ground Coffee lasts for

3-5 Months

3-5 Months

Coffee Beans last for

6 Months

2 Years

Instant Coffee (freeze dried) lasts for

2-20 Years

Indefinite

(source: http://www.eatbydate.com/drinks/coffee-tea-shelf-life/coffee-shelf-life-expiration-date/)

How Do You Tell if a Coffee Has Gone Bad? 

The best way to tell if the coffee has gone bad is to use your nose. If coffee has gone bad, the pleasant aroma will be gone, as well as much of its taste. While using this coffee won’t necessarily harm you, you will not have much flavor if the smell is gone. It may also lose its deep dark color and appear a lighter brown. Coffee beans start to lose their flavor soon after grinding as the oils start to evaporate.

How long you choose to use your coffee past its ‘best before date’ depends on how particular you are about the taste of your coffee. Some prefer not to use it at all, while some may use it even after the ‘eat by date’ (not recommended) using an increased amount to try and regain a stronger coffee taste. Of course, there are certain health risks associated with spoiled drinks. So, always practice food safety and enjoy your coffee before its ‘best before date’! 

How Do You Store Coffee to Make It Last Longer? 

Here are some coffee storage tips to make it last longer:

  • Buy fresh, whole beans. To see how freshly roasted the beans are, make sure to check the ‘roasted on’ date. To maximize shelf life, try to purchase a bag roasted within one week whenever possible. 

  • Invest in a high-quality airtight container. As soon as you open your coffee bag, transfer the beans into the sealed container. Then, store the container in a cool, dark cabinet. According to the National Coffee Association, coffee beans and coffee grounds can stay fresh longer if they are stored properly at room temperature

  • Consider buying a high-quality coffee grinder. This way, you won’t have to grind beans at the store; instead, you can grind beans at home on a per-use basis. Fresh grounds = fresh coffee. 

  • To ensure maximum freshness, consume your coffee beans within 2 weeks after opening the original packaging. If you store ground coffee in a sealed airtight container, it should stay fresh for about a month. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re constantly worrying about how long your coffee will last, you might be buying too much at once. For peace of mind, try purchasing small amounts.

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