Coffee is the most popular beverage in the United States and many countries worldwide.
Countless forms of coffee and coffee-based drinks vary in flavor and intensity. In addition to providing its signature boost in energy, coffee is rich in antioxidants that may promote health.
If you drink or prepare coffee, you may wonder how long it can last once purchased. Unfortunately, there is a lack of scientific research and food safety guidance on proper coffee storage. More research on coffee storage and safety is needed.
This article provides tips for storing all types of coffee, using evidence-backed information, guidance from coffee brands’ websites, and my recommendations.
General guidance on coffee shelf life
When stored properly, whole coffee beans and ground coffee can last long. Since coffee is dry, the varieties you buy for at-home use aren’t likely to develop mold or other forms of spoiling that stem from moisture.
However, the shelf life of coffee varies by its method of preparation.
In general, coffee that hasn’t been brewed lasts longer than brewed coffee. Where you store coffee — whether on the counter or in the pantry, fridge, or freezer — also makes a difference.
If coffee isn’t kept in a sealed, airtight container, its freshness and taste can deteriorate. Cold temperatures in the fridge or freezer can affect the taste of dry coffee, but they can also preserve coffee for extended periods.
Summary: Properly stored, dry coffee can generally last very long. However, the type of coffee and how it’s stored make all the difference.
Whole coffee beans
Depending on how they’re stored, whole, roasted coffee beans can last for a few weeks to several months — or sometimes even years.
A sealed package of roasted coffee beans that hasn’t been opened and is stored at room temperature away from heat, moisture, and light should stay fresh until its best-by date.
Depending on the manufacturer, packaging, and when you purchased the coffee, this could be a few weeks to months or more.
Once a package of roasted coffee beans is opened, the beans will stay fresh for 1–3 weeks. For best results, transfer opened coffee beans to a dry, airtight container that blocks out light. Keep the container at room temperature, away from any heat sources.
You can also keep coffee beans in the freezer in sealed containers for 3–4 months. Be sure there is no water present in the container before freezing. However, freezing isn’t the best way to preserve quality and taste.
Coffee beans kept past these periods may taste stale or lose freshness. Usually, they will just decline in quality and won’t be unsafe to consume.
To maximize your chances of getting the freshest beans, look for a degassing valve or a recent “roasted on” date on the packaging.
Degassing valves, which look like small circular vents, allow packaged coffee to release carbon dioxide that develops during roasting. This can improve freshness and prolong shelf life.
Summary: Unopened roasted coffee beans will stay fresh until their best-by date. Opened beans stored in an airtight container at room temperature away from heat and light will stay fresh for 1–3 weeks.
Similar to coffee beans, an unopened package of ground coffee should stay fresh until the manufacturer’s best-by date.
Opened packages of freshly ground coffee should be kept in an opaque, airtight container at room temperature. Keep ground coffee away from heat, light, and moisture. Ground coffee stored in this way will typically stay fresh for 1–2 weeks.
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If you live in a humid environment and don’t want to risk exposing your ground coffee to moisture, you can keep it in the fridge or freezer in sealed containers. It will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks in the fridge and 1 month in the freezer.
Instant coffee is a ground coffee with a longer shelf life. Some say that instant coffee can last for 2–20 years when stored properly — meaning in a sealed package or airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place.
Opened packages of instant coffee are also thought to last up to several years. Check the packaging to see what the manufacturer recommends.
Like those used in a single-cup coffee maker, coffee pods are another type of ground coffee. They will stay fresh until the best-by date, too.
Store coffee pods in a container or drawer away from heat and light. Since they are individually sealed, keeping them in an airtight or tightly sealed container isn’t as important.
Remember that ground coffee is usually safe to drink after the best-by date, similar to coffee beans. However, it probably won’t taste as fresh or robust.
Summary: Unopened ground coffee will stay fresh until its best-by date. Opened or freshly ground coffee should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, away from heat, light, and moisture. For maximum freshness, consume within 1–2 weeks.
Brewed hot coffee and espresso
Many believe that brewed coffee is freshest for about 20–30 minutes in an open cup or an hour in a sealed container.
However, you can still drink coffee a few hours after brewing. Brewed coffee that doesn’t have milk or creamer added, such as a pot of black coffee sitting on a burner, is likely fine to drink for up to 4 hours. Coffee with milk should be consumed within a couple of hours.
There is little research on the shelf life of brewed coffee. Most recommendations for discarding brewed coffee come from testimonials or personal experience.
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If you keep brewed coffee in a sealed container in the fridge, it may last longer. It’s likely safe to consume for up to 3–4 days when stored. However, it probably won’t taste that good.
If you add milk or creamer to your brewed coffee, drink it within 2 hours if left at room temperature. You can keep it in a sealed container in the fridge for a day or two. But be sure to smell it and check for any signs of spoiling before consuming it since milk can go bad.
Brewed espresso, like brewed coffee, should also be consumed shortly after brewing for the best taste. It can also be kept at room temperature for a few hours or in the fridge in a sealed container for a few days, but the taste will decline.
Summary: Brewed coffee and espresso taste best when consumed shortly after brewing. Within a few hours, the flavor will start to decline. You can keep brewed coffee in the fridge in a sealed container for a few days, but it won’t taste as good over time.
Cold brew coffee
Cold brew will last much longer than brewed hot coffee in the fridge.
Stored in a sealed container in the fridge, cold brew concentrate can last for 7–10 days. If you add water to the concentrate before storing or keep a cold brew from a coffee shop in the fridge, it’s best to consume it within 3–4 days.
Cold brew with added milk or creamer should be consumed within 2 hours, but it can also be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. However, it will only stay fresh for 1–2 days in the fridge. Before consuming, check for any spoiling — like mold or foul smells.
Finally, you can store cold brew and brewed coffee in the freezer, but not in the way you may expect.
Fill an ice cube tray with cold brew coffee. Let the cubes freeze for a couple of hours until solid, then transfer them to an airtight container or bag. Use within two weeks, either as an addition to fresh cold brew or melted down.
Summary: Cold brew concentrate lasts 7–10 days in a sealed container in the fridge. Cold brew already mixed with water stays fresh for about 3–4 days — unless it contains milk or creamer — when stored in the same way.
Risks of consuming spoiled or improperly stored coffee
If stored properly, a coffee past its prime rarely causes concern from a foodborne illness standpoint. Coffee made from old beans or grounds may not taste as good as fresh coffee, but it usually isn’t dangerous.
That said, assessing coffee for any signs of spoiling is still vital before drinking it. Mold, discoloration, or foul smells are a few of the signs that coffee has gone bad and should be discarded.
What’s more, be careful about coffee with added milk or creamer. Milk shouldn’t sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours to avoid bacterial growth. Drinking spoiled milk can increase the risk of foodborne illness.
So, coffee with milk or milk-based products should be consumed within 2 hours. Discard it after that time unless it’s stored in the fridge.
Summary: Coffee can be safe to drink, even after its recommended shelf life. However, its flavor and quality will decline over time. It’s crucial to check coffee for signs of spoiling before consuming it and to drink brewed coffee with added milk within 2 hours.
The shelf life of coffee depends on its type and storage.
Dry coffee beans and ground coffee should be kept away from moisture, heat, light, and air in unopened packages or airtight containers. Drinking old coffee that has been appropriately stored isn’t dangerous, but it probably won’t taste as good as fresh coffee.
Brewed coffee doesn’t last as long as dry coffee. For best taste, it should be consumed shortly after brewing. But it can be stored in the fridge for varying periods.
Refer to this list when figuring out how to store certain types of coffee. And remember: Before drinking coffee, check for any signs of spoiling, especially in drinks with added milk or creamer.
Love coffee but don’t have the time to brew it every morning? Try cold brew. It can last longer in the fridge than brewed hot coffee and tastes fresh.