Does Coffee Go Bad? See How Long Coffee Can Last

Coffee 101
  • March 18, 2023

Whether you’re an avid coffee drinker or just indulge on occasion, chances are you’ve probably wondered if your coffee can actually go bad over time. In this article, we’ll explore what causes coffee to go bad, how long different types of coffee last, how to tell when it’s gone bad, and some tips on how to keep your beloved brew as fresh as possible.

What Makes Coffee Go Bad

Have you ever found yourself wondering “Does coffee go bad?” If so, you’re not alone. A surprising amount of coffee fanatics aren’t aware that it can go bad if it’s not stored and treated properly. The most common culprits that cause coffee to spoil are oxidation, improper storage temperature, moisture exposure, and light exposure.

A major reason coffee goes bad is the oxidation that occurs when oxygen molecules mix with the oils in your coffee beans or grounds, causing them to lose flavor and aroma over time. This is the primary reason we nitrogen flush (thereby removing most of the oxygen) from every bag of coffee that leaves our facility.

Another reason is that when it’s exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods of time, the chemical reactions in your coffee can speed up leading to a loss of flavor.

Moisture also causes bacteria growth which will make your coffee taste stale and sour.

Finally, if your coffee is not stored properly, UV rays from sunlight break down the antioxidants found in many coffees which will lead to a decrease in quality over time.

To ensure your beloved java is always fresh-tasting and flavorful you should store your coffee beans in an airtight container away from direct heat or sources of light like window sills or under kitchen cabinets. You should also try to keep track of how long you’ve had each bag, so you know when it might be getting close to its expiration date. Most roasters like us should have the roast date or best by date directly on the bag. This is usually somewhere between 3 months to a year.

If you’re someone who loves brewing a pot of coffee in the morning and saving it for the next day, you should be aware that brewed coffee can go bad too. It begins losing its flavor throughout the day as the oxygen reduces its freshness and aroma.

So how long does coffee last in the fridge? Fortunately, for those of us in a rush, it can last for up to a few days. On the other hand, coffee with milk that isn’t refrigerated should always be finished within a few hours.

How Can You Tell When Coffee Has Gone Bad

If you’ve ever had a cup of coffee that tastes bitter or just doesn’t have the same delicious aroma as it usually does, then chances are your java has gone bad.

The best way to tell if your coffee is no longer fresh and flavorful is by doing a simple smell test – if it is lacking its usual aroma, then there’s a good chance it needs to be replaced. You can also check for discoloration in the beans or grounds which is another sign of deterioration due to age and exposure.

Can ‘Bad’ Coffee Still Be Used?

Sure, bad coffee beans can still be used but their effects on the taste and quality of your drink are usually not desirable. When coffee gets old or has been exposed to too much light, heat or moisture it starts to lose its flavor, which can result in a much more sour cup than you’re accustomed to. Not only that, but stale beans also contain fewer antioxidants so if you’re looking for health benefits from your morning brew, you may want to consider replacing them before brewing.

On the other hand, do coffee grounds go bad? The shelf-life of ground coffee is up to five months if they aren’t opened. Once the bag of coffee has been opened and exposed to air, the oxidation process is sped up. As far as how long the coffee can be stored, keep it in an airtight container for up to three or four months. However, always note that ground coffee will typically have much less flavor since the oils in the beans have already been broken up and released. Ideally you want to grind your coffee as close to your brewing process as possible.

Once your coffee has been brewed, it’s perfectly safe to drink it black for up to 12-24 hours at room temperature. However, it will start to go stale after that. For maximum freshness, pour out the pot after a few hours.

When it comes to old mixed coffee drinks, they should always be tossed after three to four hours.

The milk will spoil, whereas old coffee simply starts to taste bad and won’t pose any health concerns.

How Long Do Different Types of Coffee Last?

Different types of coffee have varying shelf lives, so it’s important to know how long each type can stay fresh.

Whole Coffee Beans

Whole bean coffee has a lifespan of around six weeks to 6 months if they are in an unopened nitrogen flushed bag. Some roasters claim a shelf life of up to one year but that does not mean the coffee will taste as fresh in months 6 to 12. After that, the oils on the bean’s surface start to deteriorate, leading to a loss of flavor.

Ground Coffee

Generally speaking, the shelf life of ground coffee is up to three months as long as it is stored in an airtight container and away from direct heat or light sources. Once opened, it will dry out fairly rapidly since it has much more exposed surface area.

Brewed Coffee

If there is no milk or cream added, brewed coffee is safe to drink for up to 24 hours. However, to prevent it from getting stale, it’s best to consume it before the four-hour mark.

Iced or Cold Brew Coffee

Iced or cold brew coffee can typically last for anywhere between seven and 14 days. The timeframe will vary depending on how you store it. An open cup of iced coffee will spoil long before a cold brew coffee that’s stored in an airtight glass bottle.

Instant Coffee

If you’re an instant coffee fan because of its convenience, you can safely store it for up to 2 to 20 years in a sealed package. Once it’s been opened, you can drink it for up to a year. You can always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendation on the container as well.

How to Make Your Coffee Last

The secret to making your coffee last longer is always about storing it properly, no matter which type of coffee you buy. If you don’t drink it often then be sure to avoid buying it in bulk, or sign up for a coffee subscription to get fresh coffee delivered when you need it. To get the most out of your java, keep it in an airtight container in a cool and dark place like a cupboard away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

If you’re wondering how long coffee can be stored, whole beans can be kept fresh for up to three or four months and ground coffee will stay fresh for around three months as long as you don’t open the packaging until you’re ready to use it. Instant coffee also has quite a long shelf life if stored correctly. For instant coffee with a longer shelf life, try our single-serve coffee packs.

How to Still Use Expired Coffee

If you have a packet of expired coffee that you don’t want to throw away, there are still plenty of ways to make use of it. For starters, why not mix stale grounds with fresh ones to get a unique flavor profile? You could also add them into baking recipes as an ingredient for some extra kick; we think they’re especially good in brownies. Freezing small portions of instant coffee in ice cube trays makes for easy portioning later on when needed. If all else fails, you can sprinkle the coffee grounds in your houseplants soil to keep the pests away!

Coffee can go bad, but with the right knowledge and strategies, you can keep it fresher for longer and potentially still put it to good use even when it’s gone bad. That being said, if you want to elevate your daily coffee ritual, be sure to try our freshly roasted beans. Our unique single-origin and rich blends embody the quality and freshness that you want from your morning cup of coffee—whichever way you love to brew it!