"Coffee can definitely go bad," says food scientist Makenzie Bryson Jackson, MS. "It can't make you sick, but it changes and loses flavor over time. It is never not safe to drink or consume, but the quality of the experience won't be as great. It will be stale and potentially rancid as the oils in the coffee go off."
It doesn't take a coffee connoisseur to be able to tell when coffee goes bad. Jackson says it will taste and smell bland and give off an unpleasant odor. "Your beans or grounds will just be blah and bland," she says.
To get the longest life out of your coffee, Jackson says to buy whole beans over ground. When stored properly, ground coffee is good for about a week after grinding while whole beans can keep for about three months. Investing in a good grinder leads to fresher cups.
"I recommend grinding beans right before brewing for the best experience," says Jackson. "Whole beans can keep much longer than ground beans. The ground beans have a greater surface area exposed so they will oxidize more rapidly and you'll lose all of the delicious volatile compounds that give coffee its characteristic flavor."
How to store your coffee to keep it fresh
"If you vacuum seal and store [coffee] in ideal conditions, it may keep for up to nine months, but flavor degradation will slowly happen over time," says Jackson. While some recommend storing coffee in the freezer, Jackson says that's a no-no. "Freezing can cause freezer burn and cause the coffee to lose flavor and become bland," she says.
The best way to store your coffee is in a dark, cool location in an airtight container. "I like to use an airtight metal canister," says Jackson. "Light, heat, moisture, and oxygen are all going to cause your coffee to lose freshness." Your beans will be at their freshest a week or so after opening the bag, says Jackson. But, proper storage can keep it tasting good for longer.
The Bean Envy Airtight Coffee Canister ($25) keeps your coffee fresh with a secure clasp lid that keeps out moisture, oxygen, and light. Plus, it has a one-way vent to allow the CO2 that coffee naturally produces to escape rather than hang out and further diminish the flavor. The lid features a number dial which allows you to mark the month (or date) you filled the canister so you know how long it will be fresh for. The canister also comes with a scoop and is available in stainless steel, or coated in gray, red, or blue.
These are the benefits of coffee:
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