coffee shelf life

Coffee Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

If a cup of coffee is part of your morning routine, chances are you have coffee supply somewhere in the kitchen.

While cleaning up your cupboard, you came across a jar of instant coffee that’s a few months past its “best by date”. This situation begs a question: Is it okay to drink expired coffee?

Another time, you bought too much coffee beans than what you need. So, you’re wondering if you can freeze it. How long can you keep roasted coffee beans?

If you’ve been asking similar questions, you’re not alone. Keep reading to find the most essential knowledge on coffee’s shelf life, storage, and signs of going bad.

How To Store Coffee Beans

Let’s start off with coffee beans storage. If you buy coffee beans, you’re probably a coffee geek who enjoys a good quality of coffee. Or, maybe you just started diving deep into the world of coffee.

Either way, you should know how to give your coffee beans proper care to preserve the flavor and freshness.

There are at least two factors to consider in storing coffee beans—place and container. Pick a cool, dark, dry place, out of heat and light. Humidity and lights are real enemies to our beans supply.

The US National Coffee Association suggests storing coffee beans in a sealed airtight container. An opaque container is preferable to block the light.

If you have none available, a transparent jar or container does the job too. You just need to find a dark spot to store it, like a cupboard or cabinet.

Avoid storing coffee beans in the refrigerator—condensation and excess moisture damage the beans. Furthermore, coffee beans tend to absorb odors from the environment. So, don’t refrigerate coffee beans, unless you want to deodorize your fridge.

Coffee beans start to lose their freshness soon after roasting. Therefore, the golden rule is to buy an adequate quantity to enjoy within a couple of weeks.

What about freezing coffee beans? As mentioned earlier, coffee beans attract moisture and absorb odors from neighboring foods. There is no guarantee if the flavor and taste are as fresh when stored in the freezer.

The only way to find out is to test yourself and see if this trick works for you. It is best to freeze unopened packs to minimize the risk of condensation. Make sure the packaging is perfectly sealed.

If the pack is too big, divide it into smaller portions that you can finish in 1 to 2 weeks. Keep the beans in a freezer bag, seal tightly and freeze. When it’s time to serve, thaw frozen coffee to room temperature before brewing.

How To Store Ground Coffee and Instant Coffee

Freshly ground coffee is best to brew right after grinding. Since you don’t always have time every morning, you prefer to grind the beans ahead of time.

If that’s the case, make sure to store ground coffee in a sealed, airtight container or in a valve-sealed bag. A one-way valve sealed bag lets the gas from inside the bag escape, but it doesn’t allow air to get into the container.

For commercial ground coffee, you can leave it in the original packaging if it’s resealable. But, for longer storage, it is recommended to transfer it into an airtight jar.

Instant coffee is the easiest to store. It usually comes in a resealable jar. After opening, make sure it’s tightly closed after use. Use a clean and dry measuring spoon to take out the coffee.

Similar to whole beans, both ground and instant coffee require a cool, dry, dark place to preserve the freshness. It’s vital to keep them dry. So, protect them from moisture and water.

And, what about freezing ground coffee? As with coffee beans, freezing ground coffee is highly debatable.

If you choose to freeze it, try to freeze unopened packs that you don’t intend to use daily. Otherwise, the coffee is prone to condensation and moisture build-up in the package.

How Can You Tell If Coffee Has Gone Bad?

Coffee is vulnerable to humidity and moisture. Once moisture or water gets into it, coffee can grow molds. If that’s the case, throw it out. The same thing if the container is damp or wet. Even if it’s not moldy, the coffee won’t turn good when brewed.

Another time, your coffee smells off, funky, or rancid. Perhaps you forgot to close the container, and the coffee absorbs odors from other foods. At this stage, your coffee can’t be saved.

With the passage of time, the vibrant aroma of coffee diminishes. At some point, the flavor is weak, and coffee tastes flat.

If you can’t really tell from the aroma, try to brew a cup and taste it. If you’re happy with it, go ahead. If the coffee tastes stale, it’s better to open up a new bag.

How Long Is Coffee Good For?

In general, coffee experts suggest using coffee beans within a few weeks after roasting. However, unless you are a coffee connoisseur or a barista, you probably won’t notice the difference. For many general consumers like us, the coffee still tastes fine after 2 or 3 weeks.

Whereas, if you grind the coffee in advance, try to use it within 2 weeks. The same timeframe applies after opening commercially-packed ground coffee. Volatile compounds on coffee evaporate immediately after the package is opened and exposed to air.

For commercially-packed ground coffee and instant coffee, you can find a “best by” date on the package. As long as unopened and perfectly sealed, it should be fine to use beyond the time.

The only golden rule with brewing coffee is that coffee tastes more delicious when brewed immediately after roasting. But other than that, the answer to “how long coffee is good for” comes down to your personal preferences.

As long as you enjoy the coffee, that’s all that matters, right? If you think it lacks flavor or tastes stale, then it’s time to throw the coffee.

Coffee typesPantryFreezer
Roasted coffee beans1 to 3 weeks3 to 4 months
Ground coffee (commercially packed – unopened)Best before + 3 to 6 months
Ground coffee (commercially packed – opened)2 weeks
Home ground coffee2 weeks
Instant coffee (unopened)Best before + 3 to 6 months
Instant coffee (opened)2 to 3 months–    

This table is a rough estimate for the freshest quality. The actual shelf life depends on its initial quality, storage conditions, and personal preferences. As long as coffee doesn’t show spoilage signs and the taste meets your standard, feel free to use it.


Does coffee go bad after brewing?

Coffee is best enjoyed shortly after it’s brewed. At least you should drink it within the same day, or keep it in the fridge for a couple of days. If you add milk or cream, it lasts shorter than black coffee.

Does coffee go bad overnight?

It depends. Black coffee should be fine when left out overnight, although the taste is questionable. But, with a latte or any coffee added with milk or cream, it’s probably spoiled. Dairy products are perishable and should not be left at room temperature too long.

What can you do with expired coffee?

An unopened pack of coffee may still be drinkable, so don’t rush throwing it out. Likewise, with opened bags, although the taste and flavor might be a little compromised. Other than that, you can use instant coffee for different purposes such as to deodorize your fridge, make a body scrub, soap, etc.

Final Thoughts

Coffee is a must-have beverage in every household. Keeping up a pack or two seems reasonable. As time goes by, your coffee supply loses its flavor and aroma and can eventually go bad.

Keep your coffee dry and protected from moisture. This applies to all forms—whole beans, ground, or instant coffee. Freezing may extend the shelf life with a little compromise on the quality.

While coffee is fine and drinkable as long as you agree with the flavor, don’t drink it if your coffee grows molds, smells off, or tastes rancid. Take good care of your coffee and enjoy it at its freshest!

Up Next: Does tea expire?

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