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Does Coffee Go Bad? (The Shelf Life Facts)

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Coffee doesn’t go bad in the sense that other perishable foods do, coffee isn’t going to rot or turn into a slimy mess, and in fact, it can still be drunk even after its best before date.

​However, coffee will lose its taste and strength the longer it’s left unconsumed; typically after only a few weeks! How long does it take for coffee to go bad depends on a handful of factors such as the type of roast, how the coffee has been stored at home and the packaging the coffee originally came in.

So to summarize does coffee go bad? NO, it can still be consumed, but it won’t taste as fresh as a cup of coffee brewed from recently roasted and freshly ground coffee beans. Let’s take a look at some of the other factors that can affect how long it takes for coffee to go stale.

​Proper Storage is Key to Fresher, Longer Lasting Beans

​How long will my coffee stay fresh depends on how it’s stored. I’ll keep it simple here and summarize that to keep your coffee beans fresher for longer you simply need to keep the coffee beans stored in an airtight container and ideally use them within the first two or three weeks of opening the bag they came in.

​By storing your coffee beans in an airtight container, you will prolong the life of your coffee beans, but the longer they are kept, the staler they’ll become, and their flavor will ultimately diminish.

​For most coffee lovers drinking a pound or more of coffee in under two weeks shouldn’t be a problem, so having unused “bad” coffee won’t be an issue.

Light, Heat, and Humidity Can Also Make Coffee Go Bad

A few other factors can also play a role in how long your coffee stays fresh. Moisture, direct sunlight, and heat can also make your coffee go bad quicker. Moisture on both your whole coffee beans and pre-ground coffee will make it go bad, and the added moisture can also open the door to then allow mold to spore on your coffee.

​Tip: This is also why you shouldn’t be storing your coffee inside the fridge.

​Keeping your coffee beans in direct sunlight is a surefire way to make them go bad. A combination of the heat and the UV light is only going to help speed up the oxidation process and will quickly lead stale coffee beans, Yuk!

Can You Drink Expired Coffee, Is It Safe?

​Drinking expired coffee shouldn’t be a problem if the coffee has been stored correctly and the packaging is (ideally) unopened. In fact, (not so much fact but my observation) if the coffee has expired and it is still in an unopened sealed airtight package from the store it should be safe to drink for years.

​That being said if you find some opened coffee in the back of your cupboard gathering dust and that has seen better days, inspect it first and DO NOT make a brew with that coffee if:

  • It has any visible mold on the beans or smells of mildew.
  • If you haven’t kept it in an airtight container or correctly sealed.
  • If the coffee beans are wet or damp in any way.

Treat coffee like any other food and use your common sense and judgment to determine if it is ok to drink. I have even read a thread on Reddit where someone had drunk coffee from an unopened tin of fifty-year-old coffee beans, and he is still alive to tell the tale. Food for thought!

So, ​does coffee go bad? Coffee can be consumed well after the use-by date, and it doesn’t go bad but tends to lose its freshness as well as flavor, and you can drink it safely for a long time.

​However, if you love your coffee, try and consume it within a few weeks for a better-tasting cup of Joe – fresher is better!

​That being said, if you can’t get through your bag of coffee make sure you keep those coffee beans stored in an airtight container, in small batches away from direct sunlight and moisture and they should be good for months and at a push even years.

Mark Morphew

Mark is the Editor-in-Chief at the popular coffee blog - Bean Ground. He's been active in the catering and hospitality industry for over 20 years. When he's not fiddling around with a new coffee gadget, you'll find him busy working on his other passion, web development. You can discover more about Mark here.

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