Does Coffee Go Bad? The Answer Is Complicated

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does coffee go bad person closing a bag of coffee
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Let’s say you stockpiled more coffee beans than you could possible consume in a month. No big deal, you’ll just set them aside for later. Except…does coffee go bad? Can you save those beans for a later date? Here’s the tea—err, coffee.

Does Coffee Go Bad? Is It Safe to Drink Expired Coffee?

We have good news and bad news. The good news: No, coffee doesn’t really “go bad” in the way that bread grows mold or a banana slowly rots on your countertop. And drinking coffee made from old beans won’t make you sick, even if the expiration date has passed. (We can’t vouch for the taste, though.)

One small caveat: Dry coffee grounds and whole coffee beans won’t go bad or rot, but once you get those grounds wet, you can’t reuse them, and a pot of brewed coffee can go bad (read: grow mold) if you let it sit around long enough. The natural oils in coffee will go rancid over time, and no one wants rancid coffee…or week-old coffee, for that matter.

So, what’s the bad news? Coffee will lose quality over time. That’s because oxygen is the enemy of freshly roasted coffee beans (and grounds). Over time, exposure to air will cause your coffee to break down and lose flavor and intensity. Even though those beans won’t technically go bad, they’re still best consumed within three to four weeks of purchasing. And for ground coffee, aim to drink up within two weeks.

does coffee go bad: a sealed glass jar of whole coffee beans on a shelf
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OK, So How Do You Store Coffee to Prevent It from “Going Bad”?

Maintaining the freshness of coffee beans all comes down to storage. And the storage method you should choose depends on the format of the coffee—that is, whether the beans are whole, ground or in pods.

  • How to store coffee beans: Whole beans will last longer than pre-ground coffee, and even longer if you store them in an airtight container. If you want to keep it in its original bag, that’s fine, as long as you compress all the air out of the bag and seal it tight. An airtight container with a vacuum pump (like an OXO Pop container) is our vessel of choice. Keep it away from heat and sunlight, too.
  • How to store ground coffee: For the freshest flavor, you should grind whole beans every time you brew…but pre-ground coffee is undeniably more convenient. The storage method is the same as whole beans: airtight container, away from heat and light.
  • How to store coffee pods: Coffee pods for single-serve machines should be kept away from light and heat, but since they’re already sealed up, you don’t have to worry so much about keeping air out. Still, a jar or other airtight vessel won’t hurt.

You might’ve heard that you should store coffee beans and grounds in the refrigerator or freezer to keep them tasty for longer. That’s actually *not* true, at least when it comes to the fridge. Coffee beans are absorbent—store them in the fridge and any pungent odors (onions, garlic, last night’s leftovers) will get soaked right up. Not to mention the refrigerator will suck the moisture out of those beans, causing them to go stale even faster.

The freezer is preferable to the fridge for extended storage, but only if you do it correctly. Put the coffee in its original bag inside of a Ziploc bag, then compress the air out of it and put it in the freezer, where it can be stowed for a few months without fear of losing quality. When you’re ready to use the coffee, take it out of the freezer and allow it to thaw completely before brewing. Sounds easy, right? Just know that you can’t stick the coffee back in the freezer once its thawed, since the drastic back-and-forth changes in temperature can degrade the beans.

does coffee go bad metal coffee carafe
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How Should You Store Brewed Coffee to Keep It Fresh?

If your morning plans include slowly working your way through an entire pot of java, the best way to keep it tasting delish is to brew it directly into a thermal carafe, which preserves the flavor and temperature. Don’t leave a fresh pot on the burner, unless you like the taste of burnt coffee. Brewed coffee can be stored in the fridge for three or four days—hello, iced coffee.

As for cold brew, it’ll keep for about a week in the fridge if stored in a lidded container. Happy drinking, y’all.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...