Most perishable foods are fairly easy to identify when they have gone bad. Slimy spinach, sour milk, and moldy bread have all pretty clearly passed their expiration date. However, other items in your kitchen might not be so obvious. After all, some foods, such as canned goods and condiments, have a very long shelf life, while other items in your pantry, like honey, actually never go bad. But when you are poking around your cupboards, it can sometimes be hard to tell exactly how long some items can really last.
According to How Stuff Works, coffee is the most popular beverage in the world, with over 450 million cups consumed daily in the United States alone. But just how well do you know your coffee beans? Whether you stock up on your favorite Costco brands or only brew coffee once a week, you probably have some coffee that has been in your cabinet for a while. But is it safe to use that old container of coffee beans?
It turns out, the answer is yes, but with a few caveats. Coffee beans do not expire in the same way that milk does. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t lose quality as time passes. They won’t rot or grow mold, but old beans will lose flavor and develop a stale, weak taste over time (per PureWow). Therefore, while brewing coffee with old beans is unlikely to make you sick, it will not produce a particularly tasty cup of coffee.
However, once the beans have come into contact with moisture, whether through brewing or through overexposure to moisture by other means, they can grow rancid. Additionally, coffee beans have a longer shelf life than ground coffee, so for optimal freshness, you should only grind the amount of coffee that you intend to consume on the same day. This is because once coffee beans are ground, a greater amount of the coffee’s surface area is exposed to elements, such as heat, light, and air, that can cause the oils in the coffee to evaporate and thus lose its strength and flavor, according to Does It Go Bad. The same rule applies to ground coffee as it does to coffee beans — ground coffee doesn’t spoil, per se, but it does lose its flavor and decline in quality at a quicker rate than whole beans.