Ground coffee has been a staple to many people’s cabinets for hundreds of years due to its earthy notes and energy-providing caffeine content.
Coffee, as we know it, didn’t come into play until around the 15th century when people began cultivating it in Arabia. From here, roasting and grinding practices began with manual grinders. Then, in the 19th century, industrial grinding machines came into play to create our ground coffee favorites as we know them today!
Since ground coffee has been here for over 600 years, there must be a way to understand how long it can last. While manufacturers include expiration dates on our ground coffee bags and cans, they aren’t always accurate. Ground coffee can last much longer than these dates, especially if you store the coffee correctly.
So, how long does ground coffee last, and does ground coffee expire? Here is some information about how long it can last, whether it goes rancid, and how you can keep it fresh for as long as possible.(Looking for alternative coffees? Check this article!)
How Should You Store Ground Coffee?
The best way to keep your coffee as fresh as possible is to wait to ground the beans until you’re ready to drink it. However, grinding your coffee beans can be messy and time-consuming. You’ll also need to buy a coffee grinder for this. Due to this, it’s easier and more convenient for most people to get pre-ground coffee.
The quality of your coffee can significantly decrease after it is in the ground state. Exposure to oxygen, moisture, temperature fluctuations, and even direct light causes the grounds to degrade faster. With this exposure, you’ll notice the coffee becoming stale in the sense that it loses its powerful aroma, and it might taste a little flat when brewed.
To prevent this, you’ll need to figure out ways to store it and keep it from getting exposed to these things. So here are some of the best options when it comes to storing your ground coffee!
Use an Airtight Container
An airtight container is by far the best way to store your ground coffee. This should be okay if you buy coffee in a can with a cover. However, if your ground coffee is in a bag, you’ll need to get a little creative.
Most food storage containers should do the trick. Or you can invest in a coffee canister, which suctions the lid shut to prevent anything from entering. These containers will keep moisture, air, and heat out of your ground coffee. Doing this will ultimately extend the shelf life of your coffee.
You should try to opt for containers that aren’t clear, as clear containers will let light into your coffee grounds. Light, especially sunlight, can cause your coffee to decay and degrade as well. Your coffee needs to be in a dark environment to stay fresh.
Never Refrigerate Ground Coffee
Some people think that refrigerating pantry items like coffee will prevent them from expiring quickly. However, the refrigerator does quite the opposite to ground coffee.
You’re letting in small amounts of warm air into your fridge each time you open the door. Unfortunately, the warm air will end up colliding with the cold surfaces inside the fridge, leading to condensation.
With condensation comes moisture or water droplets. If this moisture makes its way to your coffee grounds, it can clump up and start losing its familiar aroma and taste.
While you shouldn’t refrigerate your coffee, you can freeze it if you don’t plan on brewing it anytime soon. An airtight container isn’t enough for this storage method. You’ll need to vacuum seal it to ensure absolutely no moisture can reach it, and do not open it until you are ready to brew it. Your coffee grounds should stay fresh for a few months in the freezer.
Store Your Ground Coffee In a Dry Area
Keeping your ground coffee in a dry, airtight container is essential, but putting this container in a dry area will extend the shelf life even longer. Don’t leave your coffee container out near the sink, under the sink, in the garage, or in any other place where water and other types of moisture can reach it.
The best option is to put it in a dark cabinet or your food pantry with other dry goods like pasta, cereal, etc. Keep it in a high place where children and pets cannot reach and open it. Opening the coffee container too often reduces freshness, and caffeine isn’t healthy for children or pets.
How Long Does Ground Coffee Last?
Now that you have an idea of how to store your delicious ground coffee, you can understand how long it generally lasts under specific circumstances.
Keep in mind that the FDA provides best-by dates to let you know when optimal freshness starts to deteriorate. Sell-by dates are there to let stores know how long they should leave the product on their shelves. However, this doesn’t mean you should throw it out immediately when it hits these dates. Both dates are not there for safety reasons.
Once you pick up some ground coffee from the grocery store, it will typically last up to about five to six months if you leave the package unopened. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the coffee will go bad after six months. It just might not taste as fresh and potent as it would if you had just bought it.
After opening your ground coffee, it will usually stay fresh for about two weeks if you leave it open and unsealed. Unfortunately, once these two weeks pass, the freshness will continue to deteriorate, ultimately impacting the taste and smell. However, you can still continue to brew and drink it if this doesn’t bother you.
If you open and seal your coffee grounds in an airtight container, you can expect your coffee to stay fresh for up to about six months after its sell-by or best-by date. Coffee grounds in a vacuum-sealed bag or pouch should last a minimum of one month in your freezer.If you want to have fresh coffee at all times, try a coffee subscription service!
Does Ground Coffee Expire?
At this point, you’re probably wondering, does ground coffee expire?
Well, you’ll be happy to know that it doesn’t expire in the same sense that other food expires. It won’t make you sick if you consume it months or years after its best or sell-by date, as long as you store it properly.
It might not taste as good as fresh coffee, but it’s still consumable.
The only time you shouldn’t brew and consume ground coffee after its best-by date is if there’s something physically wrong with it. This might include things like obvious signs of moisture, such as mold, or tampering with the container due to mice or other animals. Other than that, it shouldn't make you sick if it looks okay and feels okay.
How Do You Know If Ground Coffee Is Bad? Are There Scenarios When You Need To Throw It Out?
Again, ground coffee doesn’t expire but can lose its freshness. As the freshness starts to deteriorate, you’ll notice a different smell and taste of the coffee.
In extreme cases, you might see mold if you expose your coffee grounds to moisture. However, this is unlikely to happen if your coffee is always in an airtight container.
Over 200 chemical components are responsible for coffee's delicious scent, which is why the aroma is so strong. Fresh ground coffee should have earthy, nutty, and caramel scent notes. Depending on the type and roast of coffee you have, it might have other scents too. Regardless of this, the smell of your coffee grounds should be pleasant.
When ground coffee gets exposed to oxygen, moisture, and other elements, you’ll notice an off-scent after a few weeks. There might be a reduction in the strong coffee aroma, and it can smell a little ash-like. It might even smell a little musty or sour, especially if you exposed it to moisture at some point.
If you see that your coffee grounds look and feel normal, deciding to brew a cup is still okay. However, there might be a change in taste. The delicious coffee taste you’re used to might be a little flat and underwhelming. It can also be on the other side of the taste spectrum and taste more bitter or sour than usual.
Presence of Mold
If you ever see signs of mold in your coffee grounds before or after its sell-by date, immediately throw the coffee out. There’s no saving it at this point, even if you scoop the moldy parts out. You might not get all the spores out, and it’skeeping the grounds is not worth the health risk.
Typically if you’re aware of moisture entering your coffee grounds, you should just throw them out immediately, even if you recently bought them. This could mean you dropped water in the container, a pipe burst in your cabinet, or maybe the coffee container was in a humid environment for a while.
Coffee grounds, moisture, and a dark container are the perfect recipe for mold and possible illness in the future. Science proves that coffee grounds retain moisture, as well as absorb smells. This is great if you’re using the grounds in your garden or as an air freshener in your stinky fridge, but not when you plan on consuming a cup of coffee from them.
Even just one drop of water can cause mold to grow, and possibly getting sick over this isn’t worth it. Don’tSo don’t try to save them. Just buy new coffee.
Evidence of Pests
If you reach for your morning coffee ground bag and notice chewed holes or signs of pests, like droppings, don’t bother using the coffee. Pests like mice have the potential of carrying a long list of diseases that can be harmful to humans. So, just consider this as contaminated coffee and throw it out.
Most animals and bugs don’t like how potent the smell of coffee is, so they’ll usually stay away. However, the scent deteriorates as the coffee loses freshness, so they might get curious if they’re desperate for food.
Are There Any Repercussions to Drinking Coffee From Expired or Contaminated Coffee Grounds?
Generally, if your coffee grounds smell and taste a little off without the presence of mold or pests, you should be okay if you drink the coffee. Sickness usually doesn’t happen. However, when mold is present or signs of pests, things can get a little tricky relating to your health.
Specific species of mold can create mycotoxins or aflatoxins, which are poisonous to us and can cause disease. However, even if the type of mold growing in your coffee grounds doesn’t produce these toxins, you can still get sick due to a mold allergy or sensitivity.
Unfortunately, many people don’t even know they have a mold or allergy sensitivity until they come into contact with it.
Signs of mold toxicity due to ingestion can include the following:
Stomach and gastrointestinal upset
Shortness of breath
Most people will not experience detrimental symptoms if they ingest moldy coffee, but there is still a slight possibility of getting sick.
If you find that something broke into your coffee ground stash, handling the grounds and drinking the coffee can expose you to some nasty things. Some diseases that pests, like mice and rats, can carry include the following:
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (a respiratory illness)
Leptospirosis (a bacterial disease)
Plague (a bacterial disease)
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (a virus)
Typhus (a bacterial disease)
Mold and diseases from pests are typically the only things that can harm you when it comes to coffee grounds.
Concluding Thoughts On the Lifespan of Coffee Grounds
So, how long does ground coffee last, and does ground coffee expire?
Ground coffee can technically last from months to years if you store it correctly, and it will not expire, but will rather lose its familiar smell and taste.
Ensure you keep your coffee grounds in an airtight container and keep the container in a dry place so you can enjoy it for many mornings ahead.