Nothing beats a cup of coffee in the morning. Some people like to grind their own beans, but others understandably don’t always have the luxury of time to make fresh ground coffee. Instead, they reach for some pre-ground coffee to brew. Whichever side of the fence you stand on, it’s important to make sure your coffee stays as fresh as it can, for as long as it can. But the question is, how long can ground coffee last?
The shelf life of ground coffee depends on several variables, including how it’s stored and how you store it.
- Unopened, airtight containers allow coffee grounds to last several months.
- Freshly opened grounds will last around a week or up to two weeks.
- Freezing coffee will extend it further by about a month or two.
Keep reading to get a better look into keeping your coffee grounds fresh for as long as you can keep it.
How do I find out if my coffee has gone bad?
There are several ways to tell if your coffee has gone stale, or rancid.
First check if there’s mold, if you see any sign of fuzzy material in your grounds it means that water has gotten into your container and that your coffee is long gone.
Another method is the tried and true smell test normal coffee will have a strong, almost earthy, fragrance with notes of caramel.
If your coffee is past its prime, it will have an almost sour smell or something similar to cigarette ash, the latter is more of a subjective comparison.
The last way to see if your coffee has gone bad is giving it the old college try.
Once you make sure there’s no mold or mildew growing in your container, brew a cup and let it sit for around for about an hour. If it tastes sour like spoiled milk or very bitter it means your coffee is rancid.
How Does Ground Coffee Go Bad?
Like anything derived from nature, coffee is not immune from going bad. However, it’s not actually the beans or grounds themselves you need to protect, it’s the aromatics and water-soluble compounds in them.
In essence, aromatics is just a fancy name for oils and the water-soluble compounds are materials that break down and change when exposed to water.
The coffee grounds are simply what carries the flavors, in order to preserve them we need to keep in mind that there are several things that contribute to your coffee going bad. Those being oxygen, moisture, sunlight, and heat.
Thankfully there are simple solutions to remedy the effects of these factors.
How to Make Ground Coffee Last Longer?
Reduce the Oxygen that Your Grounds are Exposed To
When it is exposed to air, oxygen starts to break it down, making it decay. This process is called oxidation. When coffee oxidizes, its chemical structure breaks down causing it to grow stale. It’s especially bad for ground coffee because grounds have more surface area.
Pre-ground coffee is usually packaged in a sealed bag, unopened packages can go around a month before the taste starts to go. If you already have some grounds, placing them in an air-tight container will help them last about a week or two.
Keep Moisture Out
Moisture is just as bad, if not worse for coffee than oxygen. Where oxygen will make your grounds go stale, moisture of any kind getting into the container can cause them to get moldy.
Even if it isn’t moldy, wet grounds are most definitely not good anymore, in other words, you’ll have to toss out (or compost) your coffee. Make sure where you store your grounds are nice and dry. Also, make sure that your scoop or spoon that goes into the grounds is dry as well.
Sunlight and Heat makes your Coffee Go Bad Faster
You’ll of course need heat to brew your coffee, but not when you need to keep it fresh for the next cup. Excessive heat from any source, like sunlight, will make the oils in the coffee go bad and speed up the oxidation process. Keeping it in a dark cool place and container is an easy fix.
Avoid putting your grounds in glass containers as that lets light in, another reason to avoid this is because glass conducts heat very well. If you want to keep your grounds for a long time and/or protect them from the heat and other things that make it rancid you should consider freezing your grounds.
Can you Freeze your Coffee Grounds?
If you want your beans to last a while, freezing your grounds can extend its life by a month or so! Sealing it inside an airtight container will keep it from absorbing the smells and tastes from the other things in your freezer.
Speaking of taste, will your coffee taste different once you thaw it? The answer to that is subjective but generally speaking there is a risk.
Putting your coffee grounds in the freezer has mixed opinions across the board. Some very dedicated coffee experts can taste the difference between coffee that was frozen before brewing and coffee that wasn’t.
Unless your an aficionado or obsessive, most people won’t find that big a difference in taste.
In summary, coffee is affected by heat, oxygen, light, and moisture. These factors speed up the decay of the coffee’s oils and flavors.
Putting your grounds in an airtight container and keeping it in a moisture-free, dark, and cool place will ensure they last a good two weeks. Freezing your grounds can extend it to a month but may affect flavor.
When you can, try to consume all your coffee in the first couple of weeks you buy it.