One common question among both coffee sommeliers and coffee amateurs alike is “How long does coffee last?” Although it seems like a simple question, the answer depends on the type of coffee you have, when you opened it, and how you store it.
The morning cup of coffee is essential to many countries and cultures around the world, which is exactly why so many people want to know how to make their coffee last as long as possible. It is important to keep coffee fresh so that it can maintain its optimal flavor. Buying coffee that is local or buying bags in small quantities can sometimes be overwhelming or more expensive than buying coffee in bulk. However, there are some easy ways to give your coffee an extended shelf life without breaking the bank.
Does coffee really go bad?
It is can come as a surprise to many people that coffee goes bad. Unfortunately, just like other dry goods, coffee does expire and go bad
“Can I drink the coffee that I opened six months ago that has just been sitting in the pantry?” The simple answer is yes. You will not fall sick or need to be rushed to the emergency room for consuming some old coffee. However, the coffee will definitely not be fresh or of the best quality.
Most coffee bought at the supermarket or online will display an expiration date on it. This is the date it should stop being consumed and be put in the garbage bin. Unfortunately, though, the coffee begins to lose some of its prime qualities as soon as the bag is opened, despite the actual expiration date being far into the future.
How do I know if my coffee has gone bad?
Just like bread and other foods, coffee can go stale. You can often tell that coffee is no longer good much like how you would other food groups. If you notice your coffee noticeably tastes different, it is recommended you do not continue drinking it and buy another bag.
Any abnormal odors should also send the bag straight to the can. Check to ensure that the consistency and the feel of it are the same as when you bought it. Any coffee beans that are sticky or slimy should be tossed out.
If any of the coffee in your pantry should accidentally get wet, it should also not be consumed. Coffee begins to go bad as soon as it gets wet. This is because it should only be wet when actively being brewed.
What determines the expiration date of coffee?
Keep in mind that the expiration date is determined from the day that the coffee is originally roasted. Big or popular coffee brands may actually end up on the shelf of your local supermarket several months after they were roasted. This means the clock towards the date of expiry has already been ticking.
For this reason, buying locally roasted products may give you beans that last longer. Coffee that is sourced locally takes away the extensive packaging and shipping process that is part of more well-known brands.
The shelf life of different types of coffee
Let’s explore exactly how long you should keep a bag of coffee before starting to think about throwing it out.
How long do beans last?
Whole coffee beans have a longer shelf life than coffee that is already ground. When making a cup or pot of coffee, only grind the beans that you will be using for that day. It can be tempting to grind a whole bag of beans so that the grounds are readily available every time you want a cup. This will make the coffee taste less fresh though and is not recommended.
Once a bag of whole bean coffee is opened, it should be used within three to four weeks for optimal flavor and freshness.
How long do grounds last?
Buying pre-ground coffee beans is becoming more and more popular. It is more convenient, quicker to use, and often cheaper than whole beans. Ground coffee also means you do not have to invest in a coffee grinder or a machine that has a grinder built-in.
Coffee grounds should generally be used within two weeks of opening.
How long does brewed coffee last?
Once the coffee is brewed, it should be drunk the same day. If you have a large amount leftover and do not want to throw it out, do not just leave it in the pot at room temperature. Always put leftover coffee in the fridge where it will last about three to four days. This is perfect for making iced coffee. You can always reheat it the next day as well.
How can I make my coffee last longer?
This is an important question. Everyone hates throwing out a bag of coffee because it has lost its freshness or wonderful taste. The good news is there are some easy ways you can ensure that your coffee lasts as long as possible.
Keep it dry
Coffee should only be exposed to water at the time it is ready to be consumed. This includes humidity and moisture. Try to store your coffee in the pantry or another very dry area of the kitchen. Do not store coffee under the sink, in the garage, or in a cabinet above the microwave where steam could get to it.
Keep it out of light
When coffee is exposed to too much sunlight, it could go stale quicker. Keep your it fresh in a cabinet or on a counter away from the kitchen windows.
Keep it in an airtight container
Once a bag of coffee is opened, it is exposed to many environmental factors such as oxygen. Coffee beans can go bad in as little as two days when exposed to large amounts of oxygen. After opening the bag, close it tightly when you are done using it. Consider placing it in a vacuum-sealed jar or another container that can shut tightly. If putting it in a glass jar, it is even more crucial to keep it out of sunlight.
Can I freeze beans to make them last longer?
Coffee beans are soft and generally considered to have a pretty thin membrane. This means they could absorb flavors that are in your freezer (kind of like when you store bananas next to a loaf of bread and then you’re stuck eating banana flavored sandwiches).
Putting coffee beans in the freezer can also potentially give them freezer burn. For these reasons, the risks of putting beans in the freezer generally outweigh the benefits.
What about instant coffee?
Instant coffee is great for traveling or rushed mornings. The expiration date on instant coffee is sometimes up to twenty years away from the production date. Once opened though, instant coffee should be consumed within 12-18 months. Similar to coffee beans, it should be stored away from sunlight and humidity.
Does the roast type affect how long it lasts?
There is some evidence that light roast coffee may last slightly longer than dark roast coffee. Dark roast coffee is usually more oily than light roast making it more susceptible to moisture and a faster spoiling rate.
However, the rate is not that much quicker. So, if you like dark roast coffee, there is no reason to switch over to light just because it may last a few seconds longer.
What are some ways I can keep from wasting so much coffee?
Oftentimes you may be stuck pouring out almost a whole pot of coffee or throwing away beans in the trash. This happens when the freshness expires before you have time to actually use the whole bag.
Only buy as much as you need
It can be tempting to buy several bags of coffee when it’s on sale. It can also be hard not to buy many different flavors or roasts at the same time and then opening them all during the same week to try something new every day. Unfortunately, this usually ends up with people having way more coffee than they will ever actually drink. You may also end up with several flavors that you hated and never plan to brew again.
Buying only as much as you need for two or three weeks at a time is a great way to save on coffee waste. You may also see that it saves you money in the long run because you are only investing in brands and flavors that you really enjoy.
Join a monthly subscription
Many online coffee brands offer monthly subscriptions that are delivered right to your front door. When you make a profile on these sites, they will ask you about your coffee drinking habits to help create the perfect service for you.
With them knowing how many people in your house drink coffee, your preferred roasts, and how much coffee you consume daily; they can send just the right amount of coffee to you each month to ensure minimal waste.
This is also a great way to try new flavors or types each month so that you are still getting that wide variety.
Buy single-serve packets
If you do not drink coffee that often, single-serve portions may be a good route. Many popular brands of coffee offer the choice of buying different roasts in small packets instead of a whole bag.
If you only want coffee to drink sometimes, a cheap pod machine could also be a good choice. K-cups and Nespresso pods have long shelf lives and are great for individuals who do not want to waste a whole pot of coffee every time they want a sip.
Never pass up a free sample, right? While most large coffee companies will not give the option to allow consumers to sample beans or grounds, local coffee shops and farmer’s markets often do. Next time you’re at the market buying a cup of coffee, ask the employee if you could have a small amount of another roast to take home and brew. Or ask if they can give you a sample of something they have brewed already.
Local coffee shops are often eager to let people sample so they can grow their business. If you go in to sample and end up trying different kinds, always buy a cup of something after to show your appreciation.
Wait for special occasions
If you have several bags of coffee that you have bought and are not wanting anymore, a great way to make sure they do not go to waste is to brew them for your next get-together, family holiday, or party.
Alternatively, if you have a special bag of coffee that you have been waiting to open because you know you won’t drink it all, save it for a night where you know people will be at your house and ready to drink some freshly brewed coffee.
Donate coffee that you don’t want
Unopened bags of coffee plaguing your pantry? The local food donation center would love to have them. This is a great idea if you have some bags that are not expired, but that you know you will never get around to brewing.
Keep in mind that donation centers will only take unopened bags due to health concerns. If you still have an opened bag that is still pretty fresh but that you do not want to finish, consider giving it to a close friend or neighbor.
Keeping coffee beans and grounds fresh is ideal for optimizing the shelf life and flavor. By using correct storage methods and minimizing how much you buy, you can make sure your hard-earned coffee lasts as long as possible.
That morning pick me up can make or break the rest of the day, so creating the perfect cup of joe is crucial for a productive workday. Always practice healthy coffee consumption practices by only grinding as much as you need and drinking it while it is still fresh and hot.