Have you ever bought coffee in bulk thinking you can save time and money? Have you ever had months’ old coffee grounds sitting in the back of your kitchen cabinet, wasting away? Have you ever asked yourself, “is this coffee still good?”
Whether you drink three cups of coffee a day or three cups a year, chances are you’ve had to ponder on the safety of drinking old coffee grounds. Nobody likes waking up to a cup of horrible-tasting (or worse, harmful) coffee, but you also don’t want to throw out perfectly good coffee if you don’t have to.
So the question remains: how long do coffee grounds last? When do they expire? And how can you tell if it’s time to throw it out? By the end of this blog, you’ll be armed with everything you need to know to make the most out of your coffee grounds.
Why Do Coffee Grounds Go Bad?
Like anything in this world (but most especially food and drinks), coffee is made up of different chemical compounds like carbohydrates, oils, and amino acids. Once the beans are roasted, coffee starts to oxidize – in layman’s terms, that means that oxygen starts to break down these compounds and transforms their appearance, taste, and aroma.
Coffee grounds are finer than coffee beans, which means that more of the coffee’s surface area is exposed to air. The more it comes into contact with oxygen, the faster it decays. This is why coffee beans last longer than coffee grounds.
How Long Before Coffee Grounds Expire?
There is no universal answer to this question. Coffee grounds’ shelf life depends on many different factors such as the roasted on date, how it was prepared, and how the grounds were stored. Many store-bought pre-ground coffees will have an expiry or best by date printed on the packaging, but this only tells part of the story.
Coffee degrades over time, so we recommended to use any coffee grounds as soon as possible. In most cases, grounds won’t expire (aka be harmful to your health) until 3-5 months after the best by date, but they can pass peak freshness as quick as 1-2 weeks after being roasted. You technically can drink coffee grounds that are 1-2 months old, but it will most likely taste stale.
Unopened or properly stored, freshly-ground coffee will go bad at a much slower rate than coffee grounds that are exposed to light, air, and humidity.
Signs Of Expired Coffee Grounds
Weakened or stale taste
If your coffee normally has a deep, bold flavor, but it’s recently been tasting dull, your coffee grounds could be starting to go bad. While drinking this coffee won’t pose any risks to your health, it won’t be an enjoyable drinking experience.
Off-odor or color
Follow your nose! Different roasts will have distinct aromas, but your coffee grounds should never smell sour or moldy. Any unpleasant odor is a good sign it’s time to chuck your coffee grounds in the garbage.
The oils in coffee are the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. It takes a very long time and very specific conditions for it to grow on your coffee grounds, but you should definitely get rid of it at the first sign of mold.
Preserving Coffee Grounds
Storing properly won’t make your coffee grounds last forever but it will significantly maximize the shelf life of your coffee. Here are some tips and tricks to help preserve your coffee grounds as much as possible
- Use coffee grounds as close to the roasting date as possible
- Grind coffee only as you need it
- Store unused coffee grounds in a cool, dry place away from sunlight
- Use an airtight, opaque container to store your coffee grounds like the Coffee Gator Stainless Steel Container. It’s completely sealed and will keep your coffee grounds at its best quality, plus it has a date wheel to help you keep track of its freshness.
Know your roasts, store your coffee properly, and say goodbye to wasted, stale coffee grounds! Make the most out of your coffee by knowing when and how coffee grounds go bad, and you’ll be enjoying fresh, hot cups of joe every day.
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.