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How Long Does Coffee Last? Can it go bad?

Have you ever wondered why exactly it is that you never see coffee beans on sale because they are approaching their sell-by date? Well, there’s a simple explanation for that and it might surprise you; coffee, if stored correctly, doesn’t really go bad like many other goods might.

This is due to the fact that they contain no moisture, so, if correctly packaged, there is no reason for your coffee to go bad. That being said, it’s not all good news. Over time, coffee will begin to change its flavour. As it loses potency, it may end up tasting a little bit dull. Surely nobody wants that as a start to their day? Well, fear not, we’ve got you with this guide on how to keep your coffee tasting its best for far longer.


The Best Way to Store Coffee

The form that your coffee is in will have a large say in how long it will store for and what is the best method of storing it. For example, an already brewed coffee will behave differently to a ground coffee, which in turn will store differently to whole beans. Essentially, it is all to do with the products exposure to oxygen and moisture over time. So, to avoid any confusion, it is best to break it down in a case by case scenario, starting with the coffee that will lose its potency the quickest.


Brewed Coffee

brewed coffee

Brewed coffee begins to lose all of its flavor pretty much straight away. Because of this, it is not recommended to attempt to store it for a long time whatsoever. Though it can be stored for up to three days in the fridge, we would recommend finishing that missed cup of joe first thing after you get home from work. Even at that, you may notice that it isn’t quite the same as your first cup that morning.

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Instant Coffee

instant coffee 1

In general, if you are opting to use instant coffee (despite what some may say, there are some good quality examples out there!), the best advice is to buy it in small quantities. This is due to the fact that instant coffee will begin to lose its flavor a mere two weeks after opening. Given that each granule has a high percentage of its surface area being exposed to oxygen, it will expire much quicker than whole beans.


Ground Coffee

ground coffee

Ground coffee beans behave in pretty much exactly the same manner as instant coffee. It just doesn’t deal well with exposure to such elements as air, heat, light, and moisture. So, if you are grinding your own beans, try not to grind much more than you need at any given time, because after as little as two weeks has passed it will have faded dramatically. If you purchase pre-ground beans, the same two week rule of thumb applies.


Whole-Bean Coffee

coffee beans pack


Whole-bean coffee lasts considerably longer than other forms of coffee after opening, due to the fact that it has very little of its total surface area exposed to the elements. In this way, it can be considered to have its own layer of protection, a natural barrier which ensures its freshness for longer. However, this does not mean that eventually the flavor will begin to seep away from an opened packet of coffee beans. Once opened, we advise using the whole packet within a four week timeframe. Additionally, it is also a good idea to only grind as much as you need at any one time.


Quick and Easy Coffee Storage Tips

In general, there are a few rules of thumb which will prevent your coffee losing its flavour prematurely, no matter what form it is in. Given that the natural enemies of coffee are air, moisture, light, and heat, it is best to store coffee in a manner which negates the effects of all four. Here’s a few quick tips on how to do this:


  •         Avoid clear containers: Despite the fact that many top coffee brands are sold in clear containers, they don’t do your coffee any favours whatsoever in the long run. They expose your coffee to light, and potentially a little extra heat. Instead, go for a darker coloured glass which is airtight. Store in a cool, dark place.
  •         Don’t overbuy: Though there may be some great value bulk-buy deals out there, try to avoid the temptation of saving a little cash when it comes to coffee. Best case scenario, your coffee holds its freshness for four weeks, but are you really going to finish an entire kilo in that window? Instead, perhaps consider a subscription service and get your coffee delivered to you in reasonable quantities for a fair price. It doesn’t really get much better than that!
  •         Hide it away: That’s right. Unfortunately, the best spot for your coffee to reside is not upon the counter. Generally speaking, this position opens the coffee up for more heat interference and will cause it to seep its flavor at a much faster rate. Hide it away in the back of one of the cabinets instead.


Should Coffee be Refrigerated?

coffee beans frozen

One could easily be led to believe that the fridge is the ideal place to store coffee, as all of the previously listed optimal conditions for storage have been met. There’s no heat, moisture, air, or light in large quantities – so, it’s the perfect place, right? Surprisingly, it is not. The conditions in your fridge causes your coffee to shed its oil content, leaving your coffee quite lacklustre and bland.

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Freezing beans, on the other hand, isn’t an entirely terrible idea, provided a few conditions are met. Coffee is quite porous in nature and will begin to absorb the flavour of anything it is put into contact with over time. So, unless you intend to infuse your beans with last Sunday’s leftover roast, it is probably a good idea to freeze your coffee beans in a carefully sealed container or freezer bag. Amazingly, ground beans can also be kept in the freezer in this same way. So, the next time you accidentally fall victim to the allure of a bulk-buy deal on coffee, you can absolutely freeze what you don’t need. It won’t be quite as good as when it was 100% fresh, but it’s a whole lot better than having to throw out what you don’t need!


Coffee Storage, Sell-by Dates, and Other Related Questions

We hope that you found this guide on coffee storage a useful source of information. As you can see, there are quite a few pitfalls to be avoided, but also quite a few hacks too! For further information regarding coffee storage, please refer to our FAQ below.


How long does coffee last after packaging?

The shelf life of coffee can vary depending on quite a few factors; how it was produced, stored, what stresses etc. it has been exposed to. At our outside estimates, an unopened ground coffee can last up to 5 months beyond its printed expiry date. An unopened pack of coffee beans can last up to 9 months beyond its printed date. Performing best of all is instant coffee, which, when stored correctly and unopened can last up to 20 years beyond its printed date.


How do I tell if my coffee has gone bad?

The easiest way to tell if your coffee has expired is simply to have a good sniff. If it no longer greets you with that wonderful aroma that it normally would, your coffee has expunged its flavour. The chances are that it is still safe to consume at this point, but why take the risk for a flavourless cuppa?

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