Coffee has fast become synonymous with Monday mornings. You find people reaching into their pantries to get their morning fix. And as you do so, some thoughts are sure to cross your mind. Can these coffee beans and grounds that are so dear to you expire? Can you consume the coffee once the shelf life is over?
Also, how can you prolong the shelf life of the coffee beans or grounds? If these questions have bothered you at one point or another, you will be happy to know that you are not alone on this.
Does coffee expire?
The first question you need to answer is if coffee can expire. And the answer to this is yes, coffee can expire. It does not matter if you are consuming coffee grounds or whole beans. The coffee will eventually go bad, which is sad.
But if you get what you need for a given time, there is a high likelihood that none of the coffee will go to waste.
Why does coffee go bad?
Other than the shelf life, many factors contribute to the beans or grounds going bad. From roasting to storage conditions to the form of the coffee, these reasons contribute a great deal.
Thus, while the coffee may be due to go bad in four weeks, it could expire in two. And these reasons and more could be to blame.
Think about it like this. Coffee, regardless of its form, is a natural product. It is thus biodegradable and will, therefore, break apart over time. It comprises compounds such as amino acids, lipids, and carbohydrates.
These break down over time such that the quality of the coffee beans or grounds reduces. You can taste this in the coffee after a while, and you can notice that something is not quite right.
The good thing is that you do not have to rely on taste buds to figure out if the coffee is good. Usually, when you get the roast from the manufacturer, there will be an expiry date label on the same.
How long can coffee usually be kept?
Coffee typically lasts a year from the date of roasting. You should note that it can last longer, as the shelf life comes down to the time of opening the package.
Manufacturers use sealed bags with nitrogen, and this ensures that the compounds do not get exposed to the elements. However, once you open the bag, the coffee gets exposed to moisture, oxygen, and other such elements. And the breaking down of the compounds thus starts.
The best thing to do is to use fresh coffee where possible. You can enjoy this by grinding your coffee beans such that you use them when they have full flavors. Otherwise, if you let coffee sit out for long, it starts to lose its scent and taste.
It can taste flat, and you would no longer enjoy your morning cup of coffee. Note that, in some cases, the beans or grounds can develop some mold. This mold can affect your health, and in some cases, it can cause constant fatigue. Inspect the coffee now and then and throw out anything that does not look quite right.
What are the best storage conditions for coffee?
As you can see, not only the shelf life plays a part in whether coffee lasts long or not. You should thus incorporate some preservation techniques to make the grounds or beans last longer. Remember that grinding your beans will give you a fresher mix. But this is not always possible. You can thus rely on proper storage.
Why is proper storage important? Well, if the beans or grounds are in the right conditions, they can last up to the expiry date. If you play your cards right, the coffee can last even longer than the expiry date. Note that coffee will last longer if you have not opened the bag. Once exposure to the elements takes place, it loses its quality over time.
Thus, the first step lies in protecting coffee from the elements. Start by getting an airtight container which you should place in a cool and dark area. When choosing a spot, ensure that the area is moisture-free.
The moment that coffee comes into contact with moisture, you risk mildew or mold growing in it. And with that comes some health concerns as well as a change in flavor. Water is thus an enemy to your morning brew, and you should avoid it as much as you can.
Do you want another storage trick that can work wonders? How about drinking your coffee when fresh? If you can drink the brew when fresh, you would not worry about it going bad.
The longer the coffee stays in your pantry, the higher the chances of it going bad. If a change in flavor were the only likely outcome, this would not be much of a concern. But there is the issue of the growth of mold and mildew upon exposure to moisture. And that is not a small thing.
Can you freeze coffee to extend its shelf life?
If you look at many online sources, you will find people talking about freezing their coffee. Some say that this works wonders.
But here is what you should know. Yes, freezing coffee will keep it fresh, but it has many downsides. For one, you will lose most of the flavor from the beans or grounds.
You would enjoy a fresh cup of coffee that tastes flat. How does that sound? And all this owes to the moisture seeping into the container with the beans or grounds. Even in the freezer, there is always a chance that water will get to the coffee.
While mold will not be an issue, in this case, loss of flavor will take place. And who wants to start their day with a dull cup of coffee?
What is the shelf life of coffee beans?
Earlier on, we stated that coffee goes bad for many reasons. One is the shelf life, two is the preservation method, and now we are at three- the coffee form. Here, we have two options: beans and grounds.
What is your preferred form? You should note that this affects how fast the coffee expires. It all comes down to understanding the shelf life of each form and how best to store this given form.
When working with whole beans in sealed form, you can expect that they will last anything from six to nine months. They last this long as they are solid, and the compounds can thus hold on to the coffee flavor for longer.
Once you open the package, the beans can last for up to six months. Note that this time will also depend on the storage conditions. If you store the beans in the right conditions, they can even last more than six months when opened.
What is the shelf life of ground coffee?
When working with ground coffee, you should not expect them to last as long as beans. These have undergone some breaking down and are thus more exposed to the elements.
The oils in these evaporate fast and leave the grounds tasting dull. Usually, ground coffee should last up to five months when in a sealed bag. Once you open the bag, you can expect them to last up to three months.
Pushing them beyond this limit exposes them to more flavor loss and the growth of mold.
What is the shelf life of instant coffee?
Then there is instant coffee, which is a variation of ground coffee. Many people are using this in a bid to get their coffee ready within minutes. After all, after you pour the contents of the sachet into a cup and use hot water, you have coffee.
And in this age of convenience, people want such fast solutions. The downside to this variation is that it is not as flavorful as other forms. Plus, its caffeine content is lower as it has undergone a lot of breaking down.
You thus need a few sachets to get the desired effect. You need a couple of spoons to get that energy burst going when using this form in a can. The good thing is that instant coffee can last anything from two to twenty years.
That’s right! As long as you store it as needed, you can enjoy this coffee and even pass it down to subsequent generations.
Another good thing with this coffee is that you can store it in the freezer without losing much of its flavor. After all, it does not have that much flavor to start with, and you would not lose much. This variation is the best for anyone who needs an energy boost at the snap of their fingers.
How long can brewed coffee be kept?
All this while, we have dealt with coffee in its raw and unprepared state. But what happens when you make a cup of coffee. Picture this. You have woken up, made the bed, started the coffee brew, and are now reading the paper.
Something comes up, and you leave the house without taking the coffee. You come back to the house three hours later, and there is the brewed coffee waiting for you. Should you drink it?
Well, once you brew coffee, it will be good for about four to six hours. After this, you can still drink it, but you should note that its flavor will be dull. Why is this? Water releases the soluble in the coffee and aids in oxidization.
When in solid form, the oxidization rate is low. Add water, and the rate increases. It is thus best that you drink coffee that has been out no more than eight hours. Alternatively, you can throw out any coffee that has been out for more than six hours. You can make a fresh cup or go without that caffeine fix for the day.
If you decide to drink it, should you re-heat the coffee? The answer is no. Once you brew the coffee, you extract most of the flavor, and this is what you enjoy in a fresh cup. If you add heat to the drink, further extraction can take place, and this breaks down the flavors and oils. You end up with a drink that tastes dull.
If you wish to dash out and come back and drink the coffee, consider leaving it in a thermos. It will remain warm for hours, and you will not have to use heat on it again.
Another option is to freeze it by using ice trays, which you can leave in the freezer. This frozen coffee can come in handy in many ways, including adding flavor to smoothies and ice cream. You can pop these cubes into your mouth each time you want a fast caffeine fix.
Signs of expired coffee
At this point, we have covered when your coffee will go bad, as well as factors that contribute to the same. But how can you tell that your coffee is bad? Should you only rely on shelf life?
The unfortunate thing is that unlike most food products, coffee does not change its physical appearance when it goes bad. With bread, you can spot mold. You can think of other foods and how they go bad.
But with coffee, these physical signs are not present. You thus have to rely on other senses such as smell. When coffee is fresh, it has a strong and pleasant aroma.
You can probably think of that strong whiff you get in the morning. The smell is enough to wake you in the morning. It excites the senses.
When coffee goes bad, the smell of aroma reduces. In some cases, you get a dusty odor, signaling that the flavor is no more.
When drinking brewed coffee, you can note the change in flavor over time. Try leaving a brewed cup of coffee out for an hour then taste it. You will note that it will not only change in smell, but it will also taste bitterer.
Can you drink expired coffee?
Can you do it? The good news is that you can take the expired coffee without suffering adverse effects. The only problem is that the coffee would taste dull, regardless of its form.
However, it is not advisable to drink expired coffee. There is a chance that it could have mold or mildew. And these can affect your health in numerous ways, including triggering chronic fatigue. It is not worth the risk, where there is a chance of contamination.
What can you do with leftover coffee?
Now that you know that coffee goes bad, you may be wondering how you can use the leftover coffee to avoid wastage. While you can always make sure that you measure what you need, you can avoid wasting what you cannot drink.
Maybe you thought your guests would drink more than they did. Or you were absent-minded when making the measurements. In any of these cases, there is a solution.
For one, you can use the coffee to make several foods. If you look at online recipes that call for coffee as an ingredient, you will be in for a surprise. They are so many that it would take you months to try each.
So, why not try one of these recipes, such as tiramisu, with a coffee blend? You can alternatively use the coffee instead of water when baking. The treat would come out with so much coffee flavor that you would want to try it again.
As we had stated earlier, you can freeze the coffee in the ice tray and use the cubes in smoothies and ice creams.
Watering your plants is another great idea in this case. If you have plants that thrive in acidic environments such as orchids, you can use the coffee on them. Note that the brew should be cold and diluted.
Also, you should limit its use to once every two weeks as it has a high acidity level. Sometimes, using coffee on plants can have adverse effects. You should thus watch out for any changes such as the yellowing of the leaves. These signs indicate that the soil is too acidic.
You should not water your plants with creamed, milky, or sugared water. Doing so would only encourage pest infestation.
Coffee can also work as a paint. The good thing is that it is not toxic and would thus work great with paint. Get creative and think of ways to improve your home this way. Getting your kids involved in the process would work wonders for you.
What can you do with leftover coffee grounds?
Now we have covered what you can do with the coffee brew. What about the used grounds? Given that you cannot re-heat them and make more coffee, how can you use them?
One is using the coffee grounds in compost, given their high mineral content that can aid in healthy plant growth. You can use the grounds on your lawn and watch the grass thrive.
The same goes for your flowers and other such plants around the home. It is an easy way to cut back on the money spent on fertilizers. Plus, coffee grounds attract earthworms and encourage the growth of good bacteria.
Have you been having trouble scrubbing the dirt off some utensils? Well, coffee grounds can help you with this. All you have to do is place them in a rag and secure it using a band. You can then use this DIY sponge to keep the house and utensils sparkling clean.
Coffee grounds also work great in absorbing unwanted odors. You can thus use them to keep the house smelling fresh. Using them in the fridge will get rid of any bad smells and keep the appliance clean.
These are but some of the many ways you can use leftover coffee. You can also use expired coffee in the same way. As long as you are not drinking the expired coffee, you should be fine.
Knowing that your coffee has gone bad is sure to be unpleasant news. However, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. As long as you work on storing the coffee as needed, you should be fine.
Also, you can avoid these timelines by grinding and brewing your coffee as required. Not only can you keep it from going bad, but you can also enjoy strong flavors each time.
Remember that taking expired coffee can be dangerous where contamination is in play. Instead of risking your health, you are better off using the alternative methods listed above. Happy brewing!