Does Ground Coffee Go Bad? Storage Tips & Shelf Life - Public Goods Blog Does Ground Coffee Go Bad? Storage Tips & Shelf Life - Public Goods Blog

Does Ground Coffee Go Bad? Storage Tips & Shelf Life

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.

bag of public goods ground coffee
Shop at Public Goods: Ground Coffee ($6.50)

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!

glass jar filled with ground coffee, spoon, cup of fresh coffee

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.

 ground coffee packed inside of espresso portafilter

Instant Coffee

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.

ground coffee in coffee filter

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.

glass jar filled with whole coffee beans

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 to extend the shelf life of coffee chart

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.

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Comments (6)

  • Good morning. I have a question. I would like to grind up some coffee beans, put them in the coffee maker, set the timer, and have coffee in the morning. Do you think my coffee grounds will stay fresh enough overnight?

    • Hi Jeff, great question! If you leave your ground coffee out overnight, it might lose some of its freshness, and fresh ground coffee beans will always taste significantly better. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be good, just that there is a discernable difference if you choose to leave it out overnight.

      Thanks again for commenting! If you’d like to give our whole bean coffee a try, you can use BLOG15 for $15 towards your first purchase. ☕😊

  • There is basic science behind how long coffee beans (an agricultural product) remain “best” and what causes the coffee to go “stale” or “rancid”. Of course many people know what their family and friends have told them. Aficionados with a trained palate will disagree with my science based generalities and that is fine – they are driven to indulge in the best coffee they can obtain – and it may not be what the average person would want.

    1. Oxygen is bad for coffee beans, very bad for ground coffee due to much greater surface area
    2. Sunlight is bad for coffee beans and equally bad for ground coffee
    3. The bean & grounds are merely the carriers of the flavor – the oils and water soluble components yield the flavors…
    4. CO2 is the major by product of coffee going bad – it neither makes the coffee bad nor somehow alters the coffee by its presence.

    Reasons: – 1 – Oxygen is a chemical oxidizer, which means the aromatics and water soluble components that are released in brewing (cold or hot brew) can be altered by the presence of oxygen over time. That is why freshly ground coffee releases so much aroma even before brewing and a week old ground coffee has a milder (less intense) aroma before brewing. More time with oxygen and more oxidation, less aroma and altered flavor. If you can afford it, keeping beans and grinding them daily yields the best flavor even with older beans!
    2 – Sunlight is simply energy that the bean or grounds absorb and the direct sunlight can speed up the breakdown of aromatics (oils) into bitter compounds; the heat absorbed by the coffee speeds up the remaining enzymes in the bean which produce the CO2 everyone talks about as causing the coffee to go stale. Cooling the beans to below freezing reduces the enzymatic activity to well below room temperature so storing coffee in a freezer delays the process – but the aromatics (oils) don’t play well with the cold and coffee connoisseurs can tell the difference the aromatics have after freezing. I cannot.
    3. CO2 is the end result of exposure to Oxygen and heat – the aromatics can go rancid faster (as many oils exposed to oxygen go rancid after time) in the heat and sunlight, but Oxygen & the bean’s enzymatic activity break down the flavor compounds and aromatics resulting in a bitter, rancid taste and CO2. A vacuum reduces the interaction with Oxygen which slows the process but doesn’t eliminate it.
    4. See the previous 3 – everyone talks about how “CO2 ruins the coffee flavor” and “Vacuum lowers the CO2 levels so coffee doesn’t go bad as quick”. Talk about bad science. It is as if testing everyone for a fever after exposure to Covid-19 will screen out the contagious people before they become contagious. NO!!! Fever is just one symptom of a long progressing process a contagious person may express during the 3-10 day contagious period. Many people are asymptomatic so they spread the virus without a fever present! But certainly, fever is a sign of contagiousness of WHATEVER is causing the fever just as CO2 is a sign of the beans or grounds undergoing oxidation & aromatic breakdown resulting in stale flavorless (or very bitter and disgusting) coffee.

    Yes, I am a medical doctor and I know anyone without a fever who has been in an area with Covid-19 MAY be spreading the virus; and people with a fever may or may not suffer from a Covid-19 infection but they certainly are contagious with something. Be healthy and if you desire to argue about any facts on coffee, learn the processes that PRODUCE the CO2 instead of just blaming the presence of CO2 for ruining (the already ruined) coffee.

    Just saying – this is a good article, there are coffee makers that you can place your beans in and set – the timer wakes the maker, grinds the beans, and brews the coffee at the preset time. Grinding your beans the night before gives you 8-10 hours of the process reducing aromatic compounds and flavor….but people use coffee for a week at a time and many cannot tell the difference between freshly ground and 10 day old ground coffee. The 8-10 hours of sitting in the coffee maker will slightly – only slightly – alter the flavor and unless you are a connoisseur you will be like me – just waking up enjoying the taste and smell of a decent cup of coffee.

    • We so appreciate such a comprehensive overview of the science behind the coffee! Thanks for giving us, and our readers something to think about– we’re grateful for the time you took to contribute. Feel free to use code BLOG15 if you’d like to give some of our whole bean coffee a try, on us. ☕✨

  • Whoops – in the last paragraph, second sentence there is a “th flavor loss” that I tried to edit out. My google browser (work computer – can’t use moxilla firefox for some reason) without an edit button or a menu bar deleted much of the last paragraph and I had to recreate – but the portion —th flavor loss— was from the previous iteration. If it could be edited out it might make it flow better.

    Thanks,

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