Like most agricultural products, coffee is perishable. This raises the question: “When is coffee too old to drink?” The answer to this question depends on whether you’re wondering when the coffee shipped to you is past its peak or if you want to know whether you can safely consume the grounds found in the back of your grandmother’s cupboard. Here is a brief look at a coffee’s lifespan after roasting that will answer the question at hand, regardless of why you’re asking.
Fresh Coffee Lasts 2 to 3 Weeks
Freshly roasted coffee will retain its flavor for two, perhaps three, weeks. After roasting, coffee needs a couple of days to degas and then it is ready for consumption. At about three days after roasting, coffee is at its peak. You’ll still be able to pick out flavorful notes, and appreciate a selection’s body and acidity, though, for a few weeks after roasting. By three weeks, at most, coffee is no longer fresh.
Coffee’s Safe to Drink for Several Months
Although you might not be able to pick out notes of cherry or caramel from a bag of coffee that’s several months old, it’s still alright to drink. In fact, much of the coffee for sale on grocery store shelves and in chain coffee shops was roasted several months ago. Assuming it’s kept in a cool, dry place, coffee is usually safe to drink for six months after roasting. It won’t taste as good as it originally did, but you can still brew it.
Of course, you don’t have to drink old coffee. There are many creative ways to use up beans that have been lying around for several months. You can:
- make coffee ice cream with them
- brew them and use the coffee in baking
- keep them in your car as an air freshener
- dip them in chocolate
- experiment with different manual pour-over techniques
Don’t Store Coffee in the Fridge or Freezer
In an effort to increase a coffee’s lifespan, some people put it in the fridge or freezer. This actually has the opposite effect, though.
Storing coffee in a fridge or freezer won’t prolong how long it stays fresh for, because coffee goes stale as the beans release gasses containing flavorful compounds. They’ll release these gases regardless of whether they’re stored at room temperature or below freezing.
Keeping coffee cold also won’t prolong its shelf life beyond six months, for it doesn’t need to be kept below 41°F or 0°F. In fact, storing coffee in the fridge or freezer may actually shorten its shelf life. When you place coffee in the fridge or freezer, the sudden temperature change often causes condensation to form on the inside of the bag or can that your coffee is in. Although it’s in a cool place, the container becomes moist, and the beans may spoil.
Using Up Your Old Coffee
No matter how much people strive to enjoy freshly roasted coffee that’s less than three weeks old, we all seem to end up with beans that are several months old. These are safe to drink, as long as they’re properly stored, but we also enjoy cooking, baking and experimenting with them.
What do you do with your old coffee? Do you drink it, or do you have another creative use for it? Let us know below by leaving a comment.