Does Ground Coffee Go Bad

Does ground coffee go bad? It’s a question that pops up again and again, without a clear answer. While some people say that ground coffee lasts for years if stored in a freezer, this is not a universal truth.

Coffee aficionados are able to immediately tell the difference between coffee brewed with fresh grounds and grounds that you stored for months or even years.

There are, however, some ways to keep ground coffee fresh for an extended time. Below, we explore the shelf life of ground coffee and provide some tips to preserve its taste.

Freshly ground coffee in a grinder
Freshly ground coffee in a grinder

How To Store Ground Coffee

If you choose to buy ground coffee instead of coffee beans, I get it. Grinding coffee beans takes time, is quite messy, and in many cases, you just want to get your daily dose of caffeine in. If that’s the case, it’s important to store ground coffee properly, so it keeps most of its flavor for as long as possible.

The grinding process exposes the coffee’s surface area to all sorts of harmful elements. Once ground, coffee bean particles begin to gradually lose their flavor as their oils vaporate.

Because of that, ground coffee should be stored in an airtight container, in a dry area. Moisture is the worst enemy of ground coffee unless, of course, we want to brew ourselves a cup of coffee. A good seal, besides keeping the moisture away, also decreases the airflow, which helps with retaining coffee’s taste for longer.

If you’ve bought ground coffee in a vacuum-sealed package, you can leave it that way. Just put it in a cupboard in the pantry and you’re good to go.

Coffee grounds ready for water
Coffee grounds ready for water

After opening the package, or if you’ve bought the ground coffee in an unsealed bag, you should transfer it into an airtight container.

If you store a significant amount of ground coffee for the long term, here’s a nice trick. Use a sizable canister for the bulk of the grounds and a small container to store an amount to use in the next week or two. This storage strategy will reduce air and light exposure to keep the ground coffee as fresh as possible over the long haul.

While some are adamant that freezing ground coffee is the best way to keep it fresh, there is plenty of disagreement over this preservation practice. Most believe that freezing ground coffee keeps it fresh for much longer than storing it at room temperature. But if you wait too long, the flavor will diminish either way.

If you decide to freeze your ground coffee beans, always use an airtight container. When you remove the coffee from the freezer, you can use it right away. Ground coffee does not require defrosting.

Ground coffee in hand
Ground coffee in hand

How Long Does Ground Coffee Last

The shelf life of ground coffee depends on many variables. It hinges on when the consumer purchased the coffee relative to its “best by” date, the beans’ overall quality, and the storage method of choice.

In general, an unopened package of ground coffee stored in the pantry will retain the best taste three to five months beyond the best by date. Ground coffee stored in the freezer should taste great even one to two years beyond the best by date.

Tip

If you’re looking for ground coffee that retains quality for years, you might be interested in K-cups.

Making coffee in Aeropress
Making coffee in Aeropress

Once you open the package, most sources suggest using its contents within two weeks for peak quality. If you keep the ground coffee in the freezer, that period increases to about a month. These numbers show that after opening the package, ground coffee starts to lose quality quite fast.

Of course, all the numbers already mentioned are for the best quality only. Ground coffee does not expire in a way that it will make you sick unless you store it improperly. You can easily keep it for months or even years, and the coffee you make with them will still be quite okay in taste.

 PantryFreezer
Ground Coffee (Vacuum Sealed)“Best by” + 3 – 6 months 
Ground Coffee (Opened)2 weeks1 month

Please note that the dates above are for the best quality only. Ground coffee will last months and even years longer without spoiling.

Metal mug with coffee
Metal mug with coffee, my coffee mug

How to Tell If Ground Coffee Is Bad

There are two sets of circumstances in which you might want to discard ground coffee.

The first option is that it has actually gone bad. It almost always means that water got into the container. If that’s the case, there will be mold in the container, and you should throw it out. If there’s no mold, but the grounds are wet in any way, the same thing applies.

Provided that the grounds look and feel as they should, give them a good sniff. If the smell is pretty much what you expected it to be, the coffee grounds are safe for brewing.

Measured ground coffee
Ground coffee measured and ready

The second situation is when ground coffee loses its flavor and tastes stale.

You most likely won’t be able to tell that your coffee has lost its flavor by looking at it. Old ground coffee looks precisely the same as freshly ground coffee unless you wait for a very long period. If you wait long enough, the ground coffee might change from its deep black color to a lighter shade of brown.

Use the smell test to determine whether your ground coffee is past its prime. If it lacks the lovely aroma that you are used to, pitch it. It won’t have the same rich flavor that you have grown accustomed to enjoying.

If you’re unsure, you can always brew yourself a cup and taste it. If the taste isn’t up to your standards, get rid of it.