The smell and taste of fresh coffee can’t be beaten. There’s something about the freshly roasted aroma and taste that is unmistakable. But we’ve all had stale, bad tasting espresso before too. Which begs the question, when does espresso expire? And how can you extend how long your stash of espresso stays fresh?
The answer is that it depends on if you are using pre-ground espresso or whole beans. Pre-ground espresso expires after around a month if you don’t seal it properly. Whole beans will last longer, usually up to 4 or 6 months.
But it’s important that we discuss what we mean by expiring. You can definitely still drink espresso from grinds that have been left out for over a month – it just won’t taste as good. In this article, we’ll go over exactly when espresso expires, what you can do to make espresso last longer, as well as what to do with old coffee grounds.
We’ll also get into how you can prevent wasting money on unused coffee, along with the types of roasts that will stay fresh the longest. We’ll also go over how long you should wait before drinking a cup of espresso.
Let’s jump in!
How and Why Espresso Expires
Let’s first go over how and why espresso expires. When we’re talking about expiring, we’re meaning the flavor of the espresso when you pull a shot from the grounds won’t taste as good. As we mentioned earlier, espresso coffee grounds that are left open will expire in around a month.
This is because when the grounds are exposed to open air, they begin to oxidize. Oxidation degrades the flavor of the espresso, making its flavor go flat and weak. Oxidation is a chemical reaction where oxygen molecules combine with carbon molecules over time.
Author Note: It’s a natural process that degrades the flavor of pretty much all foods. This is why we often seal leftover food in a plastic bag or Tupperware container. Oxidized coffee is still fine for you to consume, it just won’t taste as good as fresh coffee.
The reason why espresso coffee beans don’t expire as quickly as espresso grounds is because they have less surface area exposed to be oxidized. The coffee material inside the bean is protected from the open air and doesn’t oxidize as quickly.
This means that when you grind the beans up, the fresh part of the bean on the inside has its flavor protected for longer. That is why whole coffee beans take 4 to 6 months to expire.
When Does an Espresso Shot Go Bad?
Unlike espresso grounds or beans, espresso shots go bad much faster. Some coffee connoisseurs believe that an espresso shot must be enjoyed within 5 minutes of pulling it. After 5 minutes it will have cooled down too much and the flavor profile will have changed.
We think that an espresso shot can be enjoyed within 15 minutes before it gets truly bad. After 15 minutes it has been exposed to the open air (causing oxidation) too long and has also cooled down to a tepid temperature.
If you’re enjoying an espresso shot, drink it quickly!
How Long Does Espresso Stay Good in the Fridge?
If you’re in a pinch and realize you can’t drink your espresso right away, one option is to put the cup in the fridge. This will obviously cool the espresso down, but it will also reduce the rate of oxidation. It will also preserve the flavor longer.
We recommend putting a lid on your cup if you put it in the fridge. And don’t leave your espresso in the fridge for longer than 12 hours. Once you’re ready to drink your espresso again, pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds to heat it up. Then enjoy!
How to Make Your Espresso Grounds Last Longer
One of the most common questions we get is how to make your coffee and espresso grounds last longer. Luckily there are actually many different ways to make your espresso and coffee grounds last longer. Let’s go over each below.
Buy Whole Beans and Grind Them Yourself
This is probably the easiest way to make your espresso and coffee beans not expire as fast. As we mentioned earlier, whole coffee beans don’t go stale nearly as fast as grounds do. This is because the inside of the bean that has tons of coffee flavor isn’t exposed to the open air.
Top Tip: When you grind the beans up, the flavor is unleashed and only exposed to the air for a very limited amount of time. It’s then captured in the shot of espresso or pot of coffee that you make with it!
Granted it takes longer to grind your own beans, but we do believe this makes a big difference. It also requires you to get a coffee bean grinder (we recommend getting a burr grinder), which also costs more. You’ll also have to tamp the grounds, which means getting a tamper or learning how to do it without a tamper. But you can usually make up the difference price by buying whole beans in bulk from Costco or other large format suppliers.
This doesn’t mean that whole beans are cheaper than grinds on average. The opposite is actually true – whole beans are on average more expensive than grounds. You can check out our in-depth article for a detailed explanation, but the short answer is that whole beans are on average a higher quality product (which costs more).
Use an Air-tight Coffee Container
The first thing we recommend to people trying to extend the life of their espresso beans and grounds is to put them in an air-tight container. If you don’t want to buy a dedicated airtight container, we recommend at least using a Ziploc bag.
If you don’t have a Ziploc bag, at least try and seal the original bag they came in tightly. This can be with the handy wire most bags come with or with tape. Keeping the least amount of air in the bag is your goal. Any way that you can reduce the amount of coffee that is exposed will prolong its life.
Store Your Grounds and Beans in the Freezer
Another super-easy way to extend the life of your espresso beans and grinds is to store them in your freezer. That’s right, throw them in with all of your frozen foods! The ice-cold air in your freezer slows down the oxidation process and prolongs the time it takes for your espresso to expire.
Make sure you tightly close the bag of grounds or beans to prevent excess air from hitting the grounds or beans. That’s it!
Since making coffee and espresso requires you to pour hot water over the grounds, the fact that they are cold doesn’t make any difference in the taste of the coffee. The hot water in your espresso machine will heat them up instantly. The same goes for your coffee maker.
Store Your Grounds and Beans in the Fridge
The same thing goes for storing your beans and espresso grounds in your fridge. The cooler air will slow down the oxidation process and allow your beans and espresso to last longer.
We prefer storing our beans and grounds in the freezer (as it is even more effective), but if you don’t have the room or only have access to a fridge they work great too. Just be sure to keep your coffee beans or grounds bag as tightly closed as possible.
This will prevent excess exposure as well as accidentally making a mess. If you want even less exposure to air, another trick you can try is to store your grounds or beans in the vegetable bin.
The vegetable “crisper” bin is designed to limit airflow in order to keep vegetables fresher for longer periods. This also does wonders in keeping your coffee and espresso beans or grounds fresh.
Buy Your Coffee from Shops
As a last resort to avoiding drinking expired espresso, you can always buy espresso from your local coffee shop. It’s definitely more expensive than making it yourself (and against what we stand for on this site), but you will rarely end up drinking expired espresso.
Coffee shops have such a high throughput of coffee production that they are roasting and buying beans wholesale all the time. If the shop is popular, their beans don’t stay on the shelf very long.
Make More Espresso or Buy Fewer Beans
Another more obvious way to prevent your espresso from expiring is to simply buy fewer beans, or make more coffee. The more often you buy fresh beans, the longer you have before they expire. This means sometimes it’s smarter to buy the smaller package of coffee grounds or beans.
Author Note: You can also use your coffee grounds for other foods, such as desserts like tiramisu or espresso martinis. We also love pouring espresso over ice cream for a decadent treat!
That being said, we believe the most economical option is to buy a big bag of espresso beans and store them in the freezer. This option maximizes all of the ways to prevent your espresso from expiring and is also the most financially economical.
The answer to when does espresso expire is multi-faceted, and not as straight forward as you might think. We hope that after reading this article you not only know when espresso expires but also how to prevent your espresso beans from expiring quickly.
We provided several techniques that have worked very well for us over the years in keeping our espresso fresh. If you have your own techniques you would like to share with us feel free to comment below.
Stay caffeinated friends!