Crushed and ready to be brewed, ground coffee offers convenience without losing the distinct taste of a freshly brewed cuppa. Like all good things though, ground coffee doesn’t last forever but you can extend its freshness. Read on to learn more about its shelf life and tips on proper storage.
Table of Contents
Does Ground Coffee Go Bad?
Ground coffee does go bad but not in the sense of rotting or becoming smelly. If not properly stored, your coffee will lose its rich, flavorful taste and aroma leaving you with a rather flat brew.
Exposure to even small amounts of water or oxygen can change the chemical composition of coffee leaving it with that bland taste and smell that is the bane of any Java lover. A cup of coffee made from grounds will lose its flavor if left undrunk for even an hour.
To retain the quality of your ground coffee, you should store it in a tightly sealed container in a cool dry place.
How Long Does Ground Coffee Last?
Ground coffee can last for months without going bad. However, even if it doesn’t go rancid, expect the flavor to diminish the longer you keep the coffee.
Ground Coffee Shelf Life
|Unopened Ground Coffee
|3-5 months past the use-by date
1-2 years past the use-by date
|Opened Ground Coffee
|3-5 months past the use-by date
3-5 months past the use-by date
The quality of the beans and storage method will also affect the taste of coffee over time. Premium ground beans stored in an airtight container will retain their freshness for longer.
You can also try freezing your ground coffee especially if you have a large batch and can’t use it up in a few days. Frozen coffee can last months without spoiling and will taste just fine.
Something else you should keep in mind is the roast date and the use-by date. If you are keen on enjoying the deep flavor of ground coffee, your best bet is to use it as close to the roast date as possible.
Coffee aficionados agree that coffee tastes its best when brewed 7 to 14 days after its roast date. But, this too will depend on the quality of the coffee and the method used to roast the beans.
You also want to keep an eye on the use-by-date. This is simply the date the manufacturer recommends that you use the coffee for peak freshness.
Past the use-by or roast dates, ground coffee is still in good condition as long as it has not been exposed to water or air. Once you open the packaging, the freshness of the coffee starts to decrease.
4 Tips To Tell If Ground Coffee Has Gone Bad
Here are a few telltale signs you can use to check if ground coffee has gone bad.
First, look for any signs of mold in the container or packaging, or on the coffee itself. Allowing moisture to enter the container is the surest way for mold to contaminate your grounds. You should throw away mold-infested coffee.
If you store ground coffee for a very long time, you might notice a change in color from the rich, deep black of fresh coffee to a brownish hue. However, a brown tint doesn’t always mean that the coffee has gone bad– it could just be from the color of the beans or the roasting method.
Looking alone will not tell you whether coffee has gone bad. Take it a step further and sniff the coffee for any off smell. Coffee that is okay will have a herby, nutty, smoky aroma.
On the other hand, coffee that has lost its freshness might smell musty if it has been exposed to humidity. Storing coffee too long can also cause the oils found in the whole beans to go rancid, leaving the coffee with a funky smell.
Another way to find out if you should still keep that bag of coffee is to brew and taste it. The smell of the brewed cuppa might give you a hint but if you are unsure, take a sip. Stale coffee will lack that unmistakable zing that makes this beverage so popular.
Keep in mind that if you leave your brewed coffee to sit undrunk for more than 30 minutes, it will start to lose its flavor. So, be sure to taste the coffee immediately to check for freshness.
5 Tips For Storing Ground Coffee
Most people agree that freshly ground coffee tastes and smells so much better than the pre-ground one. But, you might not always have the time or stamina to grind every time you need a cuppa, so pre-ground coffee comes in handy.
If stored properly, your pre-ground Java should be as good as the freshly ground stuff. Keeping it in an airtight container is the best way to go about it. But, there is a lot of disagreement about whether it is a good idea to freeze coffee, and we will take a look at that in a bit.
First, let’s find out how to store ground coffee.
Choose the right container
One of the best things you can do for your coffee is to store it in an airtight container. The canister should have a tightening band to keep air from coming in or going out.
Opt for a ceramic or metal container to protect the grounds from direct heat and light. If you are inclined toward glass, choose an opaque storage jar as opposed to a clear one.
Shield it from the elements
Once you get the container right, you want to place it away from direct exposure to heat, light, and moisture. These three elements do not go well with coffee in any form. Heat and light will change the cell structure of the grounds, causing the coffee to lose the oils that give it its decadent taste and aroma.
Preferably, you should place your jar of coffee at the back of the pantry where it is cool and dark. Avoid storing coffee canisters on the kitchen countertops where they can easily be exposed to water, heat, and sunlight.
Avoid flavor transfer
Coffee in its ground form is quite porous. Be careful that your stash doesn’t pick up the flavors and aromas of other items on the panty, especially spices. This is likely to happen if you do not store your condiments and grounds in airtight containers. If your coffee ends up tasting like a mix of ground nutmeg and oregano, you’ll have no choice but to toss it!
Keep it bagged
Let’s face it, sometimes you just don’t want to get rid of that cute pouch you bought your coffee in. It is okay to store the grounds in its original packaging but you must be extra careful not to let in air or moisture to keep the coffee fresher for longer.
Once you open the coffee bag, a neat storage hack is to tie the top of the pouch with a rubber band then store it in a Ziploc. This gives the grounds extra protection against moisture.
Some people feel that storing coffee in the freezer takes away from its flavor and to some extent, this is true especially if the grounds stay in the freezer for too long.
If you find yourself with a large batch of grounds, you can freeze it and it will still taste as good as coffee that is stored in a pantry at room temperature.
The Risk of Consuming Expired Ground Coffee
Drinking ground coffee that is past the roast date or sell-by date will not make you sick on its own. The only thing you will have to sacrifice is the tantalizing taste and smell of fresh coffee.
That being said, you should never consume coffee that has mold or mildew. Even if it seems like the mold is only on the container, you should toss out the coffee.
Mold can encourage the growth of bacteria that, if consumed, can make you seriously sick. Some molds produce poisonous substances that can also send you to the hospital. If you already have respiratory problems, inhaling some molds can worsen your condition.
If you want your coffee to stay fresh, buy your favorite grounds in small quantities. This way, you will consume it long before the expiry date. Ideally, you should use up your stash within 14 days.
Store-bought coffee is easily accessible but your favorite brand of Java would have probably sat on the shelves for a couple of weeks if not months. If possible, buy your coffee from local roasters who can grind your coffee on demand for ultimate freshness.
Can You Freeze Ground Coffee?
A topic that causes so much disagreement among cafephiles is whether coffee should be frozen to preserve its freshness.
You can indeed store your grounds in the freezer for a few days and up to a month without drastically altering its taste or aroma.
That being said, just like any other food, coffee that has stayed in the freezer for months or years will still be fresh but will likely lose the nutty, smoky flavor of room temperature coffee.
The trick to maintaining peak quality in frozen coffee is to avoid removing and putting it back again in the freezer. Divide a large stash and store it in smaller batches that you can use in one go.
If you decide that freezing is the way to go, be sure to store your grounds in an airtight container. Even the slightest amount of moisture in the storage jar is enough to make your coffee go bad.
Unlike whole beans that need to be thawed before using, you can use your ground coffee as soon as you pop your stash out of the freezer. As long as you follow the right storage process, your cuppa should still taste as good as one from a coffee store.
Ground coffee has a long shelf life but, with time, it can gradually lose its enchanting flavor and smell. Drinking coffee past its expiry date will not cause any harm but you should discard moldy grounds. Whether you shelve or freeze, with proper storage, ground coffee can keep fresh for a long time.