When does coffee expire?
On my journey of learning how to make the BEST cup of coffee possible, the first logical step was to ask, “When does coffee expire?”
I assumed it would be similar to nuts or other types of beans. They are natural and they have oils that can go rancid over time. This made me think of walnuts. I can never eat them all before the oils in them go rancid. So let’s jump right into it.
Can you leave your coffee at room temperature? How long do whole beans last, or instant coffee? How long does ground coffee last?
The pleasant aroma of fresh coffee beans right after they are ground will make anyone’s mouth water. Keeping that perfect freshness alive is the goal!
Best before and the shelf life of coffee
When you buy a bag of coffee in the grocery stores, you will notice that it has a “best before” date and not an expiration date on the packaging.
This is because coffee beans don’t necessarily go bad unless they get wet. They are often still good for some time after the best before date.
They will lose some of their lovable elements and become quite bland, but they won’t go bad for a while. Here’s the rundown on timelines for different types of coffee:
Unopened or Sealed
- Ground coffee (past best before/expiry)
- around 3 months, up to 5 months in the pantry
- around 1 year, no more than 2 years in the freezer
- Coffee Beans (past best before date/expiry)
- about 6 months, no more than 9 months in the pantry
- about 2 years, no more than 3 years in the freezer
Opened or Seal Broken
- Ground Coffee
- approximately 3 months, no more than 5 months in the pantry or freezer
- Whole Coffee Beans
- up to 6 months in the pantry
- up to 2 years in the freezer
Since we are on a mission to make the BEST cup of coffee we possibly can, it’s important to note that even though coffee grounds or beans will last a while after the best before date, the longer you wait, the less taste your coffee will have.
Stale coffee doesn’t taste very good. So it’s best to store your coffee the right way and make it last as long as possible.
When you store coffee in the freezer it will last a long time, but freezing it reduces the natural flavors and aromas.
When does coffee taste the best?
Your coffee will taste best and be at peak quality with the best flavor shortly after the roasting process is complete.
Grinding your own whole beans and jumping right to the brewing process first thing (whichever is your favorite – french press or drip) will produce the best taste.
Storing your coffee
Once you or the manufacturer grind your beans, the grinds immediately begin to lose their freshness.
If you are just an average Joe who isn’t concerned about having amazing coffee, then the can it comes in is usually fine, but if you are concerned about making an amazing cup of coffee (and we are), then investing in some good containers is going to be your best bet.
All of the following are the natural enemies of coffee:
- Moisture (think of coffee as Batman, and moisture as the Joker…they don’t play nice)
This means we need to store our coffee in a cool, dry place. You’ll also want a dark place. Store ground coffee in an airtight container. Be careful not to store your coffee somewhere that gets afternoon sun or close to your stove.
Since we’ve learned that coffee loses its freshness immediately after grinding, this indicates to me that we need to learn how to grind our own beans for maximum flavor and freshness.
You’ll also want to take note of the roast date (or roasting date) when you’re buying whole beans.
Can coffee go bad in the freezer?
In my research, I’ve noticed there is some debate as to whether or not freezing coffee is a good idea. The consensus seems to be that the main concern around freezing coffee is that moisture can get into the coffee if the container it is stored in is not properly air tight. Most containers let in a bit of moisture and can ruin your coffee.
It’s best to get a truly airtight container and only take out what you need to use for that day, or the next few days, then replace it back in the freezer quickly.
Some seem to think that freezing coffee zaps the flavor regardless of how well you store it.
How long does coffee last once it’s brewed?
The information is quite varied in this area. When does coffee expire once it’s brewed? Some say 4-6 hours, some say up to 24 hours before your coffee is no good.
Although they differ in terms of when the coffee is no longer good, they all seem to agree that coffee loses its flavor and is no longer worth drinking after it’s been on the heater for about an hour. The water will begin to evaporate and make the coffee more bitter as the oils become stronger.
You can try to keep your coffee warmer longer with an insulated container for best results.
If you try to reheat your coffee, it will be drinkable, but not as delicious as when you first brewed it. It could taste burned or stale.
Once brewed, you should consume the coffee within 4 to 6 hours.
Can we just all agree right now that we are learning to make a fantastic cup of coffee and that it will be so good that we won’t need to worry about it lasting more than 6 hours because we will have eagerly consumed it long before then?
Old coffee doesn’t taste great, but I have to admit, I have taken the leftover black coffee, put it in the fridge, and made myself some iced coffee. (Iced coffee tastes best if you use cold brew coffee, but that’s another story.)
What we’ve learned about coffee flavor
In our quest for the best cup of coffee (and ultimate coffee freshness) we’ve gathered enough information here to know the following:
- We need to get a grinder and grind our own coffee to get the best results.
- If we plan to freeze our beans, we will need a really good airtight sealed container.
- We may need to do a test to see if freezing the coffee will affect the taste significantly (science experiment time, cue mad scientist laughter, mwahahahah)
- When does coffee go bad? Generally speaking, don’t buy in bulk, and brew it shortly after you grind it. For best results, grind what you need for that day.
- We’ll need a cool place away from direct sunlight for proper storage