Does Ground Coffee Go Bad? How Long Does It Last Anyway?

If you infrequently drink coffee, or if a sale was ongoing and you purchased a bit too much the last go-around, you may be wondering if ground coffee goes bad. I mean, we don’t want to waste any money! The simple answer to this is: yes. Over time, the coffee will eventually hit its expiration date and sour. But there are many things you can do to combat this.

I will say that some methods are better than others, but every method of keeping coffee fresh has a drawback or two. Freshness is one of the most important parts of drinking coffee. Nobody wants to drink rancid coffee, as it will taste bad and is certainly not the healthiest thing you can do.

Gamble Bay Coffee is a website dedicated to providing you with the best source of information you can find, so we’re going to talk about these methods to keep your coffee grounds reasonably fresh for as long as possible in order for you to get the most from them.

First, let’s talk about how you can tell if the coffee has gone bad.

Has My Coffee Gone Bad?

does-coffee-go-badCoffee is made up of multiple different compounds. Coffee contains carbs, amino acids, and lipids, among other things. Obviously, coffee is not its own molecule, in any form. Over time, the compounds in the coffee undergo many changes in their physical and chemical forms. These changes alter the taste and aroma of the coffee source and the product over time. The thing is, carbs will eventually go stale, lipids eventually turn rancid, and many of the volatile organic compounds in the coffee eventually evaporate. The rest of the materials in the coffee change with exposure to oxygen and water.

All these changes significantly alter the taste of your coffee, leaving you with a very unsavory morning cup. So, now you may be wondering just how you can avoid these issues and prevent your coffee from going bad over a longer time span.

Let’s go over that.

How Can I Keep My Coffee From Going Bad?

Does Coffee Go BadThere are a number of factors that go into how long your coffee will last. One of the many factors, arguably the most important one, is its form. The fact of whether or not it is ground before storing can have a large impact on its lifetime. Beans will typically have a longer lifetime than the ground alternative. This is why grinding your coffee yourself can have a profound impact on taste and spoilage length.

The second most important factor is where and how it’s stored. If you are looking to keep the most taste in your coffee, the best place you will be able to keep it is in an airtight container in a dark area that is cool and dry. When ground coffee is stored this way it can potentially be used for quite a few months past its expiration date. Instant coffee will typically last for the longest time, up to around twenty years after the expiration date, while whole bean coffee would be up to around nine months.

If you can’t find somewhere with the properties described to store it, another option available to you is storing coffee in the freezer. This greatly extends a coffee can’s shelf life up to three years for whole bean and ground coffee. Instant coffee can be extended practically indefinitely.

The downside to freezing coffee to preserve it is that this will more or less completely ruin the flavor. It doesn’t taste sour, but it becomes an extremely dull flavor and ruins most of what makes the coffee worth drinking.

The Importance of Roast and Expiration

how-to-preserve-coffeeOne of the reasons checking the dates on the can/bag is that this can significantly affect the flavor. Your best bet would be to look for a can that is closest to its roast date. The expiration date is typically going to be a year from the roast date, so look for one closest to a year away from purchase.

Being closer to the roast date is better than not, as the latter is less fresh and tasty.

It is important to note that the best flavor you can get can vary by a number of factors. It can depend on the type of beans you use, the roast, and the brewing method used to brew the coffee. There are a number of different levels of taste you can get and these factors can change the flavor, wildly.

Most of the time, when coffee cans and bags are sealed, they are sealed with nitrogen to prevent spoilage, but when the bag is opened the nitrogen escapes and is traded in for oxygen and humidity, which immediately start ruining the flavor of your coffee.

With that in mind, I would really recommend that if you’ve purchased coffee, but you aren’t sure when you’ll use it, or if it’s just for the occasional visit from company, you should keep the can/bag sealed until you plan to use it. This will help keep it fresh longer, unlike opening it unnecessarily.

A Summary

The information I have provided can potentially be a bit confusing, and most of the information you gain on Google can all be a bit confusing.

Overall, I must say that really fresh coffee is the best thing you can use, period. Without a doubt, if you have the means to, I would buy coffee beans, store them, and then when you are ready, to grind them by hand, giving you fresh grounds. I would personally recommend checking out our page on grinders to see if you can find a good deal on a grinder.

If you are buying them pre-ground, try and use them closest to the date of purchase if you intend to open them soon. If it looks or smells like it might be moldy, rancid, or otherwise bad, I would highly recommend throwing it out, immediately.

If it doesn’t have much of a smell at all (if it smells flat), it won’t taste bad, it’ll just lack the more vibrant taste, as the smell of coffee is one of the most important parts of coffee’s “profile”. On the plus side, as long as it hasn’t gone moldy, you shouldn’t get sick from it.

However, just because you have the ability to drink coffee past its expiration date doesn’t make it a good idea. You certainly don’t want to get sick because you needed a boost of caffeine!

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

Wait, Wait...There's More!