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How long does coffee last: An Overview

Dave Carter

August 24, 2020

If you have ever picked up a whole coffee beans package from your local supermarkets and looked for an expiration date, you may be surprised that there's none. This situation may lead you to think of questions such as how long does coffee last? Can coffee go bad? How long does caffeine last?

Many roasters label their coffee products with a 'roasted on' label that determines how recently these roasters made the coffee beans and coffee grounds. Unfortunately, not all coffee products have the 'roasted on' label, and with the lack of expiration date, you can't possibly know how long ago these coffee products were produced and how long they can last. And it often leaves you with a stale cup of coffee.

To help you avoid the struggle of settling with a stale cup of coffee, here's a guide about how long coffee lasts to answer all your aching questions.

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How long does coffee last in the pot​

After grabbing your first-ever modern remote control coffee maker, learning how to use a coffee machine, and discovering what has more caffeine coffee or espresso, you may wonder how long a freshly brewed pot of coffee can last?

Research from the ACS (American Chemical Society) shows that a freshly brewed pot of drip coffee or ground coffee can go bad or lose its freshness after two to three hours. That's because the longer you keep a pot of java hot, the higher the degradation of the delicate aroma molecules present in coffee. Besides losing its fragrance, the longer you leave it out, its acidity increases over time due to the lactones in the coffee brew forming free acids. It makes your freshly brewed coffee stale and sour, emphasizing the less desirable flavors.

Another bad habit that most people unconsciously do is leave the coffee pot on a hot plate for later consumption. Doing this allows its content to continue cooking, making it bitter and ultimately undrinkable. That's because when you leave it on the hotplate longer, you extract more bitterness from the brew, leaving you with burnt coffee.

It can also affect the half-life of caffeine, drastically offsetting its standard half-life of 1.5 to 9.5 hours. If you want more than just a caffeine jolt, do not leave your coffee pot on the hot plate for a long time and enjoy a cup while it's still warm.

In addition to freshly brewed coffee pots, you may wonder how long espresso or a cup of brewed coffee lasts? Espresso coffee can maintain its freshness around 15 to 30 minutes, and if it surpasses that time, its half-life caffeine and flavors get wholly ruined. A cup of coffee can stay fresh about 10 to 15 minutes before it loses all its flavor and caffeine content. When you leave it out for too long, you're allowing the taste to slip away, giving you a flat and stale cup.

However, if you don't have time to prepare your daily cup or running late for work, don't worry because you can still save your coffee for later. To preserve the delicate flavors of your favorite coffee, follow the remedies below.

Opt for Plain Coffee​

If you insist on drinking your coffee past its prime, the best way is to brew black or plain coffee. That's because adding flavorings such as sugar, creamer, and milk can cause a chemical reaction in your coffee. This reaction ruins your coffee in the long run, so opt for black and pure coffee for later consumption.

Seal in an Airtight Container​

The best solution to store freshly brewed coffee grounds or coffee beans is storing it in an airtight container because when you leave it out, the drink becomes dull and tasteless due to its exposure to oxygen. When you use this kind of container, you're blocking the coffee from contacting oxygen.

Store it Inside Treated Glass​

The best material to store coffee in is porcelain or treated glass. It doesn't affect the taste of your brew, and it insulates well, keeping the flavor and temperature of your favorite coffee at its best condition.

Does coffee go bad​

If you've finally learned how to do French Press coffee but realized you're running late for work, you may wonder, can my coffee go bad? The shelf life of coffee grounds and coffee beans depends on its preparation and storage condition. Here's how long each type of coffee can last and how you can store them to maximize its freshness and overall flavor in the long run.


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Whole Coffee Beans​

Whole beans last the longest of all coffee variations, and it's good practice to know the proper ways of storing coffee beans whole until brewing for ultimate freshness. Fresh beans that are unopened or sealed have a shelf life of 6 to 9 months in the pantry at room temperature and can stay fresh up to 2 to 3 years when you freeze the coffee beans and store them inside the freezer. When you open a package of whole coffee beans, when you store them inside the pantry, it can last up to 6 months and 2 to 3 years in the freezer before it goes bad.

Ground Coffee​

Coffee grounds can quickly go bad or turn stale when you don't consume it immediately. That's why it's best only to grind the amount of coffee you need daily for the freshest brews. If you use fresh coffee ground beans, it's best to use the beans within two weeks of opening the package.

However, if you buy ready-made unopened ground coffee, it can stay fresh for 3 to 5 months when your store is in a pantry at room temperature and 1 to 2 years in the freezer. And opened coffee grounds can last for 3 to 5 months in the pantry or fridge.

Instant Coffee ​

The shelf-life of sealed instant coffee depends on its packaging, but averages around 2 to 20 years. Most instant coffee packets contain aluminum layers that keep out moisture and heat, eliminating mold spores' access to the coffee inside, giving it longer shelf life.

Opened instant coffee can have the same shelf life of unopened ones, depending on its package. Instant coffee that's tightly re-sealed, ziplocked, or rolled-up tends to stay optimal longer and keeps freshness intact for a long time.

If you receive a lot of beans, coffee grounds, or instant variations from loved ones that feed your coffee addiction, freezing coffee beans is a great way to preserve its freshness, giving you fresh brews for years.

Does coffee expire​

After purchasing the best coffee syrups and your favorite grounds or beans for home, you may notice that most coffee products don't have an expiration date. However, despite this, even the best coffee beans or grounds expire eventually. There are several reasons and factors why coffee goes bad and why it spoils faster than its expiration date (if applicable). These can include the form the coffee is in (whole beans or grounds), how it's roasted, and how it's stored.

According to studies, coffee doesn't last forever because it's composed of degradable compounds that break apart over time. These compounds include lipids, carbohydrates, and amino acids, and they break down chemically and physically over time. It alters the quality and overall taste of the caffeinated beverage.

If you want to preserve the taste of your brewed coffee, you can store coffee in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dry, and dark place. If you store coffee this way, you can use it a few months past its expiration date, allowing grounds to pass a couple of months its prime, instant variations for twenty years, and whole beans for nine months.

How to tell if coffee is rancid​

The best way to know if your brew has gone bad is by using your nose. If the coffee has indeed gone rancid, you will notice the absence of its natural, pleasant aroma. However, for beans, if they smell rotten or have any signs of discolorations or mold, it's a sign that they have spoiled. Spoilage of coffee beans is due to water getting into its container. When it comes to instant and ground coffee, similar rules apply. If there is water in its packaging or any signs of mold, throw out the powder.

Your brews will also lose its deep dark color and appear a lighter brown. Remember to practice food safety, as there are several health risks associated with the consumption of spoiled drinks.

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How long do coffee beans last​

The best whole coffee beans can never go bad, and they're considered a shelf-stable dry good, making it last for several years. However, they do lose their freshness around 7 to 10 days after being roasted. During the roasting process, these beans undergo a natural process called 'degassing,' releasing carbon dioxide.

That's why most coffee beans are packaged in bags with holes because it lets CO2 escape from the coffee beans, allowing them to prevent oxygen from coming in and moisture locked in. Once the beans finish releasing the carbon dioxide, they start to absorb oxygen and begin to oxidize, causing them to deteriorate and lose their freshness slowly.

We hope this guide helped you get your answer to how long does coffee last. Embrace this new-found knowledge tightly, and you'll be indulging in fresh brews for years to come. Happy caffeinating!


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