There are a lot of endless questions coffee lovers ask about coffee. It is not unusual; it only lets you understand what you are consuming entirely. One of the concerning questions about coffee is its expiration. Do coffee beans spoil? Are they safe to drink after they’ve gone past their shelf life? How long should my coffee beans and coffee grounds last? When doing coffee beans or grounds get unsafe to consume? Are they ever unsafe to drink?
This article shall provide answers to the above questions and also enlighten you on how to preserve your coffee.
Do Whole Coffee Beans Expire?
A lot of edibles around do have expiry dates. They either get rotten or grow mould. Technically, whole coffee beans do not have a fixed expiry date. That explains why you do not often see expiration dates on the bag and why they have their names as shelf-stable dry goods.
During the Coffee roasting process, coffee beans release carbon dioxide through a natural process called degassing. That explains the hole in your coffee bags. The holes provide a valve that lets carbon dioxide out of the beans and keeps oxygen and moisture.
However, from a scientific point of view, coffee does not last forever because it contains various degradable compounds that tend to break apart over time. These compounds and molecules are in amino acids, carbohydrates, and lipids form. Over time, they break down physically and chemically and affect the flavour and quality of coffee.
Whole coffee beans tend to stay longer because they are still in their solid form. Roasted coffee beans last about 6-9months past their shelf life when sealed. When you open it, consume it within six months to avoid getting a stale taste.
Whole coffee beans in bags are sealed with nitrogen to preserve their freshness. But, after you open the bag and the beans are exposed to oxygen, moisture, and the outside atmosphere, it slowly breaks down.
How do you Know When Coffee Beans go Bad
You may not be able to decide on an excellent and stale coffee by physical appearance, so your nose is your most perfect tool for the job. Fresh coffee has a pleasant and pungent smell, while spoiled and stale coffee is nothing close to that. Stale coffee has a dusty, dull smell that lacks the caramel-like and sweet fragrance of fresh coffee. When your coffee loses its aroma and flavour, it doesn’t always mean the beans have gone wrong; they are just weak. So, it’s left to you to decide if to discard them or not allow your money to go to waste.
In cases where water somehow gets into the coffee bag, and you start to see mould or any other changes in the appearance, discard those beans immediately, as they are no longer fit for consumption.
How Long Does Coffee Ground Last
Ground coffee does not have as much shelf life as coffee beans. They are the least new option as they do not stay fresh for a long time after being ground. A community coffee resource, Homegrounds asserts that ground coffee can’t withstand much exposure to oxygen as whole coffee beans. Because they are already physically broken down, they are more vulnerable to elements, leaving them at risk of getting stale faster than whole beans.
An unsealed bag of ground coffee should last about 3-5 months after its expiration date. When opened, it
should last 3-5 months. However, it takes approximately 1-2 weeks to maintain a strong flavour after being ground.
It is advisable to grind the correct amount you want to brew to preserve aroma and freshness.
How to Store Coffee and Make it Last Longer
To get the best of your coffee goodness, you should;
1. Invest in Fresh Whole Beans
Fresh whole beans have more shelf life than ground beans. Get your beans and grind the small amount you can consume in a few days. Doing this will conserve its freshness and aroma.
Also, check the roast and expiration date on the bag to know how fresh the beans are. To maximise your bean’s shelf life, try and get beans roasted within a week.
2. Get High-Quality Grinder
As we have established that fresh grounds equals fresh coffee, getting a grinder you can operate at home will be a significant step towards achieving that. You do not always have to go to the store to grind your beans. You can do that for yourself on a per-user basis.
3. Store in Airtight Containers
Air, moisture, heat and light are the strict enemies of coffee beans. So, the safest way to store your coffee beans and keep them fresh is by storing them in airtight containers.
After opening your coffee bag, transfer the beans into a sealed container and keep them in a cool, dark and dry space at the right temperature. It may look easy to keep in places where you can easily reach them, like right at the back of your grinder or on the fridge top, but those are the worst places.
However, your ground coffee preserved this way should finish within a month.
National Coffee Association highly recommends this method of storage.
4. Store the Grounds in a Dry Place
Moisture is the worst of all coffee enemies. When coffee beans expose to water for an extended period, not only will their flavour be altered, but they will also grow mould and mildew.
5. Use Your Grounds Within a Month.
No matter how great your storage game is, consume your grounds as soon as possible. 5-7 days would be the best option to get great coffee from the ground.
What to Do with Expired Coffee Beans
Firstly, expired coffee beans are not inedible. However, all the features and vibes you need to get from a great cup of coffee may be absent. To avoid total wastage of expired coffee beans, you can;
- Make coffee artwork or decor
- Make coffee body scrubs
- Compost coffee beans
- Use as a natural fertiliser for your garden
- Use as an odour neutraliser
- Use as an insect repellent
Do Coffee Beans go Bad in the Freezer?
Keeping coffee beans in the freezer can make them fresh, but only for a short period. Coffee beans are soft and porous, so they absorb other aromas quickly. The moisture in your freezer can seep into the coffee and suck its original flavour out.
Can I Use Five Years Old Coffee Beans?
As long as coffee beans don’t have moulds or spoiled additives, you can use them no matter how old. However, you have the aroma and taste difference as a minus.
How Long Does it Take Coffee Beans to Spoil?
Coffee beans typically do not get spoiled. They lose their taste, aroma, freshness, and original flavour over time.
How Long Does Coffee Last After the Roast Date?
Coffee lasts as long as possible if properly stored. Talking about freshness, consider consumption within a week or two.
What Happens if I Drink Expired Coffee?
Unless your coffee has mould or mildew, it will always be safe to consume. You don’t get sick from taking expired coffee, but you have the flavour change as a minus.
It’s not great news to be left with bland coffee beans or grounds. A weak cup of coffee can set the day off terribly. But before you complain, or to avoid being in this kind of situation, make sure to take proper care of your coffee by being keen about its cycle right from production day.
Follow the storage plans strictly and enjoy your coffee without glitches.
And remember always to get fresh beans or grounds, if available.
Also read: How Long Are Coffee Beans Good For?