How Long Does Coffee Last? The Guide to Keeping Coffee Fresh

how long does coffee last

For many people, nothing sets the day off right more than a fresh pot of coffee. This rich, delicious beverage is chock-full of good-for-you chemicals and antioxidants. They enhance its unique flavor and add to its unique physiological and mental effects. So much so that even the smell of coffee can cause our brains to perk up and pay attention. But how long does coffee last?

The short answer is a really long time. Coffee beans are one type of shelf-stable dry goods. It would take years for coffee beans to become unfit for consumption. Since coffee beans don’t go bad for years, manufacturers often don’t put an expiration date on the package. However, they put a roasted date on the package. This indicates when the beans were roasted and packaged.

To maintain all these great qualities, it’s important that we know how to store coffee properly. It’s the only way to ensure you get a delicious cup of rich coffee every time.

Today, we’re going to talk about the basic types of coffee and how they should be preserved to maintain their freshness. Let’s start by answering this question: How long does coffee last, and what makes it lose its flavor?

How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?

Close up of roasted coffee beans

Many coffee lovers are always wondering if coffee ever goes bad. As we mentioned above, the quick answer is ‘No.’

The National Coffee Association (NCA) recommends that we consume our coffee within a month after roasting. It’s during this time that you can make the most of their aroma and distinct flavor.

Yet, if coffee beans aren’t kept somewhere cool and dark, they can start to lose their freshness after around 10 days.

Why does this happen? During roasting, beans go through a process known as ‘degassing.’ This is when they open up and release trapped carbon dioxide.

This release of gases continues for the first couple of days after roasting. Then, once they’ve released all the carbon dioxide, coffee beans start to absorb oxygen. This is when they start to oxidize, which causes their deterioration. Once that begins to happen, coffee beans will begin to lose their freshness and unique flavor.

Author Note: One way to boost freshness is by storing coffee beans in an opaque, airtight container. While many people love how coffee beans look, it’s not recommended to keep them in clear canisters. The reason? Light can enter these canisters and compromise the taste and flavor of the bean.

You can also use a container with a one-way valve. These are airtight vacuum canisters that let the carbon dioxide out, but don’t let the oxygen in. It also locks out moisture and light, which may alter the flavor of the coffee. With proper storage, you can slow down the oxidation process considerably. That can keep your coffee fresh for an additional couple of weeks.

How Long Do Coffee Grounds Last?

Ground coffee is the least fresh option with a shelf life of about one week. Why the quick deterioration? Ground coffee can’t handle the constant exposure to oxygen.

This means that once you open the package, it’s best to consume it within a couple of weeks. This way, you get the most out of the taste and aroma. One way to maximize freshness is to store ground coffee in a sealed canister.

If you’re buying it from a coffee store or supermarket, make sure it’s in an airtight package. Unopened bags can go from three to five months before their flavor begins to degrade. If you place an unopened, sealed bag of coffee ground in the freezer, it can stay fresh for up to two years. While we don’t know of any household that keeps its coffee for that long, it’s still a good tip to know.

It’s worth noting that the Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) advises against freezing coffee. Since coffee easily absorbs moisture, it can become stale when stored in the freezer or fridge.

How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last?

So you’ve made a fresh pot of coffee with your fresh, ground coffee beans. How long will that last? While we like to believe that a full pot of coffee can last us an entire day, that’s not the case.

The quality of freshly brewed coffee will begin to diminish as soon as it’s exposed to oxygen. When brewing starts, this signals the beginning of the oxidation process. Once the coffee grounds are exposed to oxygen, their compounds break down. It’s mainly what gives coffee that rich goodness we all crave in the morning.

The bad news is that this same process is the reason why coffee goes stale after some time. The best time to drink coffee is between 15 to 30 minutes after brewing. This time frame ensures you get rich, delicious coffee before it loses its quality.

After it’s been sitting in the pot for longer than 30 minutes, the brew will start cooling down to reach room temperature. Then, it’ll lose its rich flavor bit by bit. Finally, it’ll become more acidic and bitter because of an increase in its pH levels. This is due to the interaction that takes place between the hydrogen in the coffee and the oxygen in the air.

Author Note: In this regard, the longer the brew is exposed to air, the faster the oils will start to degrade. While technically, it hasn’t gone bad, experts agree that it’s a lot safer if you throw it out and make a fresh pot.

How to Put Old Brewed Coffee to Good Use

Coffee beans in a coffee spoon

One way to extend the life of a fresh pot of coffee is to pour it into an airtight thermos or thermal coffee carafe. But what if you’ve made too much coffee, but hate the idea of throwing it away?

Try these ideas to put your old coffee to delicious use.

Coffee Milkshake

In a blender, combine the cooled down coffee, some vanilla ice cream, half a cup of milk, and a handful of ice cubes. Whip everything up for a tasty coffee milkshake that will give you a terrific boost of energy.

Cake Flavoring

Use the leftover coffee brew in place of water in your next vanilla or chocolate cake recipe. That extra bit of coffee flavoring will give your cake a delicious mocha flavor.

Ice Cubes

Pour the cooled coffee into ice cube trays. Place them in the freezer until your next gravy recipe, where they can be used to add color and texture to your gravy.

Coffee ice cubes can also be used in making iced coffee drinks and frappuccinos. They’re a great alternative to regular ice cubes that water down your drink and leave it tasteless.

How Long Does Instant Coffee Last?

In theory, instant coffee can stay fresh anywhere from 2 to 20 years. But in reality, it’s best used during the first 12 to 18 months after production. Either way, that’s still the longest time out of all the coffee types.

Author Note: How do manufacturers do this? If you’ve probably noticed that instant coffee packages have an inner aluminum lining. It’s this layer that helps protect the coffee grounds against heat and moisture.

Instant coffee can be stored in the freezer, just like other coffee types. Not only does it keep it fresh for longer, but it also seems to augment its aroma and flavor.

How to Ensure Long-Lasting Freshness

Coffee beans for the production of coffee

We’ve seen how important proper storage can be when it comes to maximizing your coffee’s freshness. A good idea is to invest in an opaque, airtight container. Place the coffee in the container in a dry and cool place inside your pantry or kitchen cupboard.

Also, getting a high-quality coffee grinder is another smart investment. Having a grinder in the comfort of your home is convenient and handy. You can grind up as much as you need whenever you need it, and store the rest. This ensures your grounds stay fresher for longer, and your brew is always rich and delicious.

To ensure proper and accurate storage, check out these tips.

  • Keep coffee beans and grounds somewhere dark and cool to avoid any loss of flavor.
  • Store all coffee types away from air, moisture, and sunlight to prevent staleness.
  • Make sure the container is tightly sealed at all times.
  • Squeeze all the air out of the bag before resealing it, if you’re using one.
  • Don’t store coffee in the grinder.
  • Buy just enough coffee to last you a few weeks at most.

The Takeaway

‘How long does coffee last?’ and ‘What are the best ways to keep it fresh for longer?’ are always popular questions among coffee connoisseurs. Being rich in chemicals, oils, and compounds, coffee can be a bit complicated to handle.

The components that make up the coffee bean are sensitive to moisture, oxygen, and light. This makes knowing how and where to store coffee vital to ensure maximum freshness without compromising its quality.

With the helpful tips we’ve compiled, we hope you now have all the necessary know-how to keep your coffee well-preserved. The next step is to brew yourself a fresh pot, sit back, and enjoy a cup of deliciously creamy coffee.

Stay caffeinated friends!

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