Does Coffee Go Bad? How Long Coffee Really Lasts for

There’s no doubt that a good cup of coffee is the best way to start the morning (sorry, tea drinkers!). 

But when it comes to the freshness of coffee, even the most experienced of coffee afiacinados express confusion about whether coffee can actually go bad, and how long coffee can last. 

To help provide a definite answer to these questions, we’ll provide an overview of how long you can keep coffee, and how to make sure it’s stored correctly for longevity.

Does coffee have an expiration date?

In a word, yes. Just like any other organic product, coffee does indeed have an expiration date. But unlike foods like milk that can actually make you sick when ingested after expiry, coffee doesn’t go bad in that way. 

Coffee is considered to have an extensive shelf life – meaning that it can be stored for a long time, provided it is stored under the right conditions. That being said, the fresher the coffee, the better. Coffee will also eventually start to deteriorate in quality over time. 

How can you tell when coffee goes bad?

Oh, you’ll know about it. Coffee that has gone bad has several tell-tale signs – from the way it looks, tastes and smells:

  • An overpoweringly bitter or sour taste
  • A lack of the usual aroma, or a change in the way it smells, often becoming sour or musty
  • Dampness or evidence of clumping in the coffee beans or grind
  • The presence of mould or insects 
  • A change in colour from brown to grey

These signs are just general – typically, any coffee that has been gathering dust at the back of your cupboard for a long time will probably not produce the best cup of coffee. Our advice? If you can’t remember when you first purchased the coffee, it’s probably best not to drink it. 

Grounds vs. whole beans – which lasts longer?

Ground coffee is not going to last as long as whole beans. The main reason for this is that once the beans have been ground, you’ve released the flavour and aroma – even if sealed and packaged.

Coffee grounds typically last 1-2 weeks when kept in an airtight container, 2 weeks in a fridge, or up to a month in a freezer. Most ground coffee packages will include a ‘best before’ date from the roastery, which is the best indication of how long it can last. 

Whole coffee beans last much longer — from a few weeks to several months (and in some cases, even years, although we wouldn’t advise it). It all depends on how well the coffee beans are stored, as well as the conditions such as temperature, moisture, and sunlight. 

In both cases, however, the lifespan of the coffee dramatically reduces, the moment sealed packages are opened. We’ll explain more about how different factors affect how long coffee lasts, but in short, the way coffee is stored plays a big part in how well it retains its flavour and freshness over time. 

How to store coffee for a longer life

To enjoy consistently fresh and flavourful coffee, it’s important to follow the best practices for storing coffee beans.

Keep coffee in an airtight container

Oxidationoccurs when coffee beans are exposed to the oxygen in the air. This process leads to a loss of freshness in flavour and aroma for the coffee, which is why an airtight container is so important for keeping coffee fresh. To add to that, an airtight container safeguards the coffee against external odours, preserving original taste.

Keep it out of direct sunlight

Coffee beans can go stale when they are stored under exposure to direct sunlight. This is why even though it may seem like a nice idea to store your coffee in a glass jar for aesthetics, you’re better off keeping them in a covered container.

Keep it in the freezer (whole coffee beans)

If you’re planning to keep your coffee beans for a long time (months), keeping them in the freezer is a viable option. Freezers are dark, dry, and maintain a consistent temperature, making the conditions ideal for long-term storage. 

Grind as you brew (not before)

Don’t risk unnecessarily speeding up the oxidation process; keep your beans whole until you need them. Only grind enough coffee for your daily requirements.

Final thoughts

To summarise, how long coffee lasts comes down to its type (ground vs beans) and how it’s stored. Always aim to store your beans in a cool, dry place, and in airtight containers whenever possible. Doing so will ensure that your coffee can be enjoyed for as long as possible. 

At Bun Coffee, we know that a cup of coffee is only as good as how the beans have been grown, roasted, and stored. This is why we choose to hand roast all of our coffee daily, so as to deliver exceptionally fresh coffee beans each time for our customers. Try our single origin coffee today, or pick up a coffee subscription with us to never miss out on your favourite blends again!