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If you have come across a bag of ground coffee in your cabinet that is a bit old, you are probably wondering if you can still use it. Ground coffee may not taste the same after a few months. However, this depends on how well you store it and whether it is packed or opened. Let’s evaluate how long ground coffee lasts and ways to keep ground coffee fresh.
Ground coffee remains fresh for 2-5 months if it is stored in proper airtight containers. If it is left exposed to air, it starts to lose freshness within a day. An unopened bag of pre-ground coffee will remain fresh for 5-11 months. The time varies depending upon the type of coffee.
Pre-Ground coffee, if stored properly, will remain fresh for 2-3 months. However, if the bag is not opened, ground coffee can stay fresh for almost a year. If you are using coffee beans, coffee can remain fresh for up to 1 month if stored properly. However, if you leave the ground coffee in the grinder or anywhere exposed to air, it will lose freshness in less than a day.
|Types Of Coffee And Their Freshness Durations|
|Type Of Coffee||Pre-Ground Coffee||Ground Coffee (Ground at home)||Coffee Beans|
|Freshness Duration (If Stored Properly)||2-3 months||1 month||6 months- 1 year|
|Freshness Duration (If Exposed to Air)||1-3 days||1-3 days||2-4 months|
|Freshness Duration (If Packaging is Not Opened)||Up to one year||—||6-9 months|
While coffee grounds get stale fast, coffee beans do not. They only lose their freshness over time. For this reason, there is no expiration date on the packaging. Coffee beans are a dried, shelf-stable product that can be used for years. While it would take several years for them to go bad, they start to slowly lose their flavor and aroma about two weeks after roasting (if still packed).
Stale coffee is what you get after coffee grounds have been oxidized by exposure to air. The more extensive the contact with air, the faster your coffee will oxidize and lose its freshness. Oxidation can also be caused by other variables, such as moisture in the air. It can also be triggered by heat. That is why the packaging of ground coffee usually says, ‘keep away from heat and sunlight. Therefore, ground coffee lasts longer when stored properly.
The oxidation process increases when beans are mashed into a finely ground powder. Grinding increases the surface area of coffee, making an ideal environment for oxidation. This leads us back to our earlier discussion that coffee grinds exposed to air will go stale more quickly than if the coffee beans were purchased whole. You could say that oxygen is the ultimate enemy of coffee.
If you’re wondering why coffee bags have holes, there’s a valid reason. The hole acts as a gate that allows carbon dioxide to leave, but neither oxygen nor moisture to enter.
When the beans have finished releasing CO2, they begin to collect oxygen and oxidize. The beans slowly degrade and lose their fresh flavor as a result of this procedure. However, even though the hole in the bag keeps coffee beans fresh for a while, it won’t keep them fresh indefinitely.
As discussed earlier, ground coffee does not go bad but only loses freshness. The only time it has gone bad is when it has mold on it. In that case, throw away the coffee immediately. Even if coffee does not have mold, it still could have lost its freshness. The following pointers will help you determine if your coffee is safe to use:
If the coffee grounds are wet, it means they have been exposed to moisture for far too long. This coffee should never be used, and it is best to throw it away. This type of coffee will also smell rancid and result in a bitter brew.
You can simply smell to tell if coffee has gone bad. Fresh coffee will always be rich in aroma and smell very strong. If the aroma is mild but still there, it means that the beans are not as fresh but still okay to use. You can still brew this coffee, but the taste will be flat and not as strong. Slightly moist or aroma-less coffee does not make you sick and is perfectly safe to use. However, the taste will be poor.
Since coffee grounds usually do not have an expiration date, you can use their roasting date to tell if they are fresh. Find the roasting date on the packet. If the coffee grounds were in an ag and unopened (with the seal intact) about 2-4 months from the roasting date, they would most likely be fresh. After this, the chances are that the coffee would lose some freshness. If the bag is opened and not stored correctly, the coffee will lose freshness just 1-2 weeks post roasting. As a general rule, try getting coffee that has the nearest roasting date so that you can store it for longer.
No one likes stale coffee grounds. Luckily, we know a few ways by which you can preserve your coffee’s freshness.
- Store the coffee grounds in an airtight container once the bag has been opened. Keep the container in a cool and dry place away from heat sources (stove, sun, etc.) and light. This way, you will be able to prevent the ground coffee’s contact with oxygen. You can find specialized metallic canisters for storing coffee. Look for containers with a zip-top seal instead of ones with simple lids. You can even use a mason jar to store ground coffee. However, we only recommend using opaque mason jars.
- We recommend buying coffee beans instead of coffee grounds as they last longer. Get a bag of coffee beans and grind them every time you need to brew. After the packet has been opened, store the beans in an airtight, opaque container. We know how much you love looking at coffee beans in a transparent container on your shelf, but the taste matters more than aesthetics! Transparent containers expose beans to light which makes them lose freshness.
- Do not leave ground coffee in your grinder. Grind a fixed amount for every brew.
- Do not buy lots of coffee at once. Buy your ground coffee in small batches and try getting a new bag every month, or preferably every week. Stores restock frequently, and you will have fresh grounds every time.
- You can even try freezing your ground coffee or storing ground coffee in a fridge! However, remember that the container you store them in should be airtight, or else the beans will get freezer burned. You are wondering how food can burn in a freezer; well, freezer burn is actually when your coffee (or any food) gets spoilt because of oxidation. It happens when air enters the food. Luckily, it can be prevented by sealing the coffee grounds. Still, it would be best that you do not freeze the coffee grounds for more than a week.
Stale and improperly stored coffee surely does not taste good. However, it has mild health consequences. It cannot make you sick. However, it leads to an increase in the risk of food-borne illnesses, according to HealthLine. Moldy coffee can cause nausea and vomiting if your stomach is sensitive. However, most people do not even manage to drink an entire cup made from moldy coffee, so it does not lead to serious health consequences. Keep in mind that even a fresh cup of coffee can have side effects if over-consumed. Read more about the various drawbacks of consuming excess coffee.
Ground coffee will only last long if you store it properly and take all the precautions we have discussed above. You will be able to find a good collection of containers for storing ground coffee anywhere. Therefore, do the most for the coffee if you want to start your day with a fresh cup of java! Remember: storage is the key!