Chances are you have expired coffee in your hands and you’re at a loss about what to do with it. You’re contemplating just ripping the packet off but then you think “what happens if you drink expired coffee?”
Drinking expired coffee will not necessarily make you sick —but it won’t taste good either. However, you should still check the quality of your coffee such as its packaging, smell, and appearance (mold, etc.).
Does coffee expire?
Not exactly. Coffee doesn’t expire like most of the food we buy from the grocery.
It’s not like it becomes inedible after the best-before date on the label, but keeping this in mind is pretty helpful.
If you’re debating “Can you use expired coffee?” you need to consider that although it’s not going to make you sick, it might make you regret making it in the first place.
Is expired coffee still good? Heck, no. I mean, we’re talking about liquid cardboard-flavored regret.
To better answer this question, let’s quickly be clear about expiration dates and best-before dates stamped on our grocery items.
Is it OK to drink expired coffee or if it is past the “best before date?” Well, expiration dates aren’t printed on the packaging of our coffee products for nothing.
Ideally, best-before dates and expiration dates are ways to maintain the quality of the products we buy.
These dates tell us, their consumers, the last day a product should be safe to consume.
Expiration dates on food products are not required by federal law. Well, that’s except for infant formula.
When they're used, expiration dates usually indicate that the food should have its best taste and texture up until that date. Let’s say it’s more of an assurance of the product’s quality, not necessarily a safety assurance.
Best before date on the other hand tells you that the food is no longer of its best quality from that date. Although, it may already have lost its freshness, taste, aroma, or nutrients.
On its own, coffee does not become smelly or toxic when it expires.
It simply loses the effects of its components, like its aroma and taste. You’d think that when it has additives like dairy products or sugar, though, it might be a whole different story.
But then even instant cappuccinos have a pretty extensive shelf life.
During roasting, coffee beans are subjected to heat that removes their moisture. This would then produce gasses and oils from the process. The beans then become lighter and more porous.
All these include the by-products like carbon dioxide and similar gasses trapped within the beans. But this also makes coffee more unstable and sensitive to light, moisture, oxygen, temperature, and time.
Unlike wine, age wouldn’t make coffee taste better.
So what happens when coffee expires?
Because the smell of coffee is such an important part of its flavor profile, if it just smells flat, it will taste flat.
Ugh! No satisfying “Hmmmnn” quality in my sip of coffee means “meh.”
You shouldn't get sick from expired coffee unless it's moldy, but just because you can drink coffee that's past its expiration date doesn't mean it's a good idea. 💡❌👎
Freshness is important!
Since its inception, the concept of freshness has been central to specialty coffee. It is one of the most important parameters to control when a manufacturer shows off exceptional specialty coffee products.
There might be times when you just had to so it helps to know how long is coffee good for.
- Ground coffee
Your ground coffee can stay good on your shelf for up to 3-5 months.
If it stays unopened, ground coffee is good for up to 5 months.
But after opening your bag of coffee, it could only last for another 3-4 months. exposure to air accelerates the oxidation process.
These rules also apply to coffee bags. You need to store ground coffee in an airtight container after opening the bag.
Otherwise, it would just feel like you’re drinking dirt.
Airtight containers are a must when storing your precious coffee. This is one of the things to look for when buying grind and brew coffee makers. You’d be storing your beloved coffee beans in the bean hopper for at least a week so it’s pretty important.
Coffee will quickly lose flavor if exposed to different elements like heat air, and moisture. So you have to make sure your coffee, whether in bean or ground form, isn’t exposed to these elements.
Glass or ceramic containers are the best for storing coffee because they add nothing to the flavor. Stainless steel containers can also work well for storing your coffee.
- Instant coffee
Instant coffee can last for 2-20 years.
Dang, that’s long!
I was watching The Last of Us on HBO and there was a scene where Pedro Pascal was drinking coffee. I was like: “Wait! Where could they get their hands on coffee during a zombie apocalypse?”
Now it makes so much sense. 💡
Instant coffee is a type of ground coffee that has a longer shelf life than regular coffee. This is as long as it is stored properly in a sealed package or airtight container. Not to mention, it should be kept in a cool, dry, dark place.
It is also believed that opened packages of instant coffee can last for several years.
Like ground coffee, you should store your instant coffee in airtight containers and keep it away from sunlight.
And because coffee is sensitive to moisture, make sure you use a clean dry spoon to scoop your coffee out. I suggest that you use a different spoon each time.
Single-serve instant coffee packets have an advantage in this regard because it is difficult to get them wrong. Single-serve 3-in-1 packets keep your coffee in perfect condition until you rip the packaging.
After all, one packet equals one serving, which is quite convenient, don’t you think? This is also the case with popular Starbucks instant coffee packets or even Nescafe packets.
They'll most likely be in excellent condition long after the "Best Before" date has passed.
If your instant coffee is in packets, you better check that there aren’t any holes in them. There should be a little bit of air in packets to know the contents are still okay. 👌
- Bottled coffee
Bottled coffee can last up to 5-6 months depending on the kind.
You can keep an unopened bottle of concentrated coffee for up to 6 months as long as you keep it in the fridge. However, once you open the bottle, the clock starts ticking. ⏰
This means you have four to six weeks to finish it. A coffee concentrate is also a pretty convenient way to drink coffee. So, it makes sense if you want to know how long can you use expired coffee milk like cappuccino concentrate.
Unopened canned or bottled coffee can last up to 5 months. Cold brews that have been opened should be kept in the refrigerator.
Manufacturers generally list the brew date and expiration date on the packaging of store-bought cold brew. Cold brews made in commercial facilities can be good for you to drink for up to four to six months from the brew date on the package.
On the other hand, homemade cold brews keep in the fridge for two weeks. For example, Starbucks Bottled Coffee has an expiration of two weeks from the date of bottling. The coffee is still safe to consume after the printed expiration date, but it may not taste as fresh. If you want to add flavor to your coffee quickly, you should consider purchasing Starbucks syrup.
Does coffee expire if unopened?
Coffee grounds have a shelf life of about five months if unopened. Unopened instant coffee can last for up to 20 years while bottled coffee can last up to 6 months.
Sealed or not, your coffee is still bound to expire. Right after roasting, beans immediately undergo degassing. This is where the beans continually release the carbon dioxide and other volatile gasses that were by-products during the roasting process.
40% of these gasses escape when this process peaks, which usually happens around the first 24 hours of roasting. The rest of the gasses continually spill out even as the beans are sealed off and packaged for distribution.
Unopened coffee lasts significantly longer than opened ones, even more so when they are vacuum-sealed. Proper storage will always extend the shelf-life of food items and coffee is not exempt from this.
For example, unsealed ground coffee kept in ideal conditions may last 3 to 5 months even after its expiration date.
Does expired coffee lose its caffeine?
Expired coffee may taste different, but the caffeine content stays the same.
The flavor of your coffee will begin to deteriorate as the compounds break down due to oxidation, but the caffeine levels will remain constant. So significant changes can be really hard to miss.
Regardless if your coffee is packaged as whole beans or grounds, it will keep the same caffeine levels. Still, you need to make sure that you store them properly.
However, the same can’t be said for its aroma, freshness, and flavor. Can you drink expired coffee? Yes, but a lot of coffee attributes are sure to deteriorate as its compounds break down because of oxidation.
If you tried to brew coffee from a grocery trip from years ago, it will taste bland and nothing coffee-like. But since it still has as much caffeine as when you first bought it, it will keep you awake.
I guess it's still a win because —staying awake is the purpose, right?
Can old coffee make you sick?
Old coffee, on its own, is generally harmless. Well, Joel lived another day to fight clickers after drinking a 20-year-old coffee.
Its quality might have degraded to a point that it feels like drinking from an ashtray, but it should be safe and nothing to worry about even if you accidentally drank from the dusty pack of unopened coffee you found on the back of your cupboard.
Check out this video of James Hoffman drinking coffee from the 70s. 👇
But when you’ve been opening your coffee pretty often, its exposure to oxygen increases. Oxidation speeds up the chemical reactions of enzymes responsible for coffee’s aroma and flavor, facilitating degassing and deterioration.
When you are left with zero choices, it helps to know “Is it safe to drink expired coffee?” Or how do you make sure it is safe? Your coffee can be good for longer when you keep it in the fridge though.
So, old coffee might not get you sick, but you might feel sick from the musty smell and stale flavor when you try to gulp it down.
It’s a different story with hot coffee with milk. Again, if you add milk to your black coffee, its shelf life is significantly reduced.
Most hot coffee with milk will only be safe to drink for about two hours at room temperature. This includes any milk-based espresso beverage, such as a cappuccino or latte macchiato.
What happens if you drink expired coffee?
Aside from probably feeling disgusted, nothing significant would happen to you if you drink expired coffee.
No, coffee doesn't exactly spoil in the same way that your salmon rots on your countertop or bread becomes moldy. EW! 🤮
Drinking coffee made from old beans won't make you sick, even if the expiration date has passed. But if we’re talking about the taste? bleugh!
However, there is a risk when your coffee has been opened and exposed to moisture. Roasted coffee, specifically, is highly hygroscopic after being subjected to high temperatures during the roasting process.
A hygroscopic substance can adsorb and absorb moisture or water from its surroundings, and this property is known as hygroscopy. Silica gel, honey, methanol, concentrated sulfuric acid, glycerine, ethanol, and other substances are examples.
This means that they tend to absorb more moisture from their surroundings. The more moisture the beans collect, the more it becomes the perfect environment for molds and pathogens to grow.
Molds have mycotoxins, and exposure to this could cause various respiratory, digestive, and even neurological illnesses.
It’s worse if your coffee has packaged add-ons like cream, milk, and sweeteners in it.
The presence of spoiled additives will make the coffee toxic and may cause complications and symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pains.
Spoiled coffee creamers can turn into a source of food poisoning. Coffee creamers that have expired can cause stomach pains, bloating, vomiting, and nausea. You may even experience diarrhea.
You can drink expired coffee around a few months past the expiration date on the packaging. This could even be prolonged a bit more if you have proper storage practices.
Let me emphasize that the most important thing to consider is avoiding exposure to oxygen and moisture. Getting your food wet is one of the main things that speed up the deterioration of your coffee.
You can use expired coffee if…
You can use expired coffee if it is unopened, the package it came in is still intact, or if it doesn’t smell rancid or look moldy.
Maybe you’ve been drinking your coffee but haven’t really checked that the expiration date written on the packaging has passed long ago. It helps to know how long is coffee good for.
Throwing it away feels too much of a waste, so you wonder if you can still keep drinking it anyway. But is it really worth a trip to the emergency room?
Not only would expired coffee taste bland and smell nothing like how a fresh pack would, but its health benefits would also be gone already.
Your coffee may have already lost most of the antioxidants it should contain due to processes like degassing and oxidation.
Drinking expired coffee should be safe if you’re feeling quite adventurous, but there’s not that much merit for you if you actually use them. I don’t think anything is worth drinking crappy coffee.