For fellow coffee lovers, we can agree that there isn’t anything quite as delicious and tantalizing as the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning.
My husband and I received a wonderful 8-cup coffee maker as a wedding gift, and you can bet your bottom dollar that we’re putting it to work. Every. Single. Morning. The aroma of this warm beverage is just indescribably right in the mornings, for the avid coffee lover.
Using fresh grounds has a certain etiquette to it. Whether your grounds are store-bought and pre-packaged or you ground the beans yourselves, they do, in fact, have a shelf life.
Read on to learn about your favorite coffee grounds’ shelf life and how to extend the shelf life of those beautiful brewed beans.
One of the most important bits of information will come from paying close attention to the sell-by and roast dates listed on your packages. These labels refer to the time where your coffee will taste most flavorful, not necessarily the day it goes bad. Although, flavorless coffee is not what we typically desire when looking for a pick-me-up in the morning!
How Long Can You Keep Ground Coffee?
Ground coffee comes in an airtight package, sealed and ready for storage. Unopened and in a dry storage area, a bag of pre-ground coffee can last between three to five months after the sell-by date. In the freezer and unopened, you’re looking at prime storing time for up to two years while still maintaining a respectable level of coffee freshness.
In most houses, coffee doesn’t last that long, ever! But good to know.
If it is opened and stored properly, it’s best to consume ground coffee within one to two weeks, for the freshest and most flavorful taste. If you store ground coffee that is opened in the freezer, the timeframe is about one month solidly, and even up to five months.
Another point to note: your brewed coffee — prepared and ready to drink — has a limited window before it starts to go bad. The quality of freshly brewed coffee starts to dissipate as soon as it’s exposed to oxygen.
So, after around 30 minutes, you’ll have a stale, room temperature cup of brew that has lost its freshness. Around four hours after it’s brewed, the oils in the fresh brew will start to degrade, causing the flavor to become acidic . While you can safely drink stale coffee beyond this point of degradation, it’s typically recommended not to consume it more than 24 hours after brewing.
Instant coffee is the longest lasting. According to GGC Coffee, this type of coffee can last up to about 20 years, and surprisingly can still taste pretty instant. However, most packages of instant coffee have an expiration date ranging between 12 to 18 months.
How does instant coffee last so long? Most instant coffee packets have an aluminum layer that prevents moisture and heat from seeping in, which in turn blocks mold from growing. If you want to have coffee that can endure, this option might be best for you.
Extending Shelf Life of Ground Coffee
For all your favorite coffee, no matter what kind, brand or form, keep them in a dry storage area and buy only what you need. If the vacuum-sealed packaging is punctured or opened improperly, you can store coffee in an airtight container. That way you don’t waste any of that deliciousness.
With time, coffee looks the same. So, you might be wondering, “Did my coffee go bad?” It depends on how you define “go bad.”
Usually, about two weeks after opening, it just loses flavor, but should still be safe to drink! This degradation happens because the coffee beans or coffee grounds have been exposed to oxygen, which causes the coffee to go stale. In fact, once beans are roasted, oxygen starts to break down chemical compounds like carbohydrates, oils and amino acids.
In terms of storage, your pantry is typically a good place to store coffee, so long as you can minimize exposure to sunlight, moisture and — most of all — air. Keep the bag as fresh as possible. I like to squeeze the bag before getting ready to reseal it again, creating a mini-vacuum-like effect.
Another option is to store coffee grounds in an airtight container and put them in the freezer. While this will cause the coffee to lose some of its flavor over time, it will help thwart the two-week expiration date and extend its use for about one month.
Another way to extend the freshness of your coffee is to buy coffee beans and grind them yourself. Whole coffee beans come scooped up into a package. In an unopened packet — and stored in a dry area — coffee beans can last up to about nine months. In the freezer, the use of coffee beans can be extended for an additional six months.
Now, the great trick to these is that you can grind up as much coffee as you need at any given time. So, essentially, your roasted coffee beans can last much longer than your pre-ground coffee.
With all this in mind, you could extend the shelf life of roasted or ground coffee for quite some time. Use this handy chart to remember the time frames.
How Can You Tell If Coffee Is Bad or Rancid?
How to be sure your coffee is still good to use? Use your nose! If it smells good, it will still be flavorful when you use it. If it doesn’t have much of an aroma, it means you likely have stale coffee, and it probably won’t taste as delicious (but you can still brew it and use it if you really want to).
Also, be sure to use your eyes! If you see mold, which could happen in rare cases when moisture invades your coffee, be sure to discard and do not use it.
Getting More Out of Your Coffee
If you’re constantly worrying about how long your ground coffee will last, you might be buying too much at once. For peace of mind and the best flavor, try purchasing small amounts and investing in a quality coffee maker.
Coffee may be good to sip slow with some biscotti, or for helping you get through the day. Nonetheless, we recommend enjoying it at its best, too — when it is at its freshest.
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.