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How Long is Ground Coffee Good for?

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How to Prevent Stale Coffee

I can’t count the number of times I’ve forgotten to finish off a bag of coffee and left it sitting in the cabinet for a while. Most coffee drinkers have done this at some point, and you always wonder the same thing. Is it still good? Can I still drink it? What can I use it for? I have a few ideas on that.

Does Ground Coffee Go Bad or Taste Different?

Coffee doesn’t expire in the traditional sense. It doesn’t go rancid; it just goes stale over time. Consuming coffee past its printed best by date won’t hurt or have any ill side effects. It just loses its flavor and freshness the longer you wait to use it.

The time it takes to lose its flavor is going to be dependent on the form it’s in and the conditions it is stored in. In-ground form, it goes stale the quickest since it has the most surface area open to oxygen and light. 

The time it takes ground coffee to stale is increased if you use an airtight container and store it in a cool, dark, and dry place.

It can be kept even longer if your sealed container has a one-way carbon dioxide valve on it. This allows the carbon dioxide that the coffee naturally releases to escape the bag while keeping oxygen and moisture out. Some companies’ coffee packaging will have these built into the bag.

The only time coffee ever really becomes bad for you to drink is if it gets wet and grows mold. Don’t try to use wet moldy grounds for your coffee because it can make you sick. If it’s already prepared, you should drink it within twelve hours times at most unless it is refrigerated. 

Never drink coffee that has been mixed with sugar or creamer after twelve hours.

How Can You Tell if Coffee is bad, rotten, or spoiled?

Coffee is considered a shelf-stable dry good, so it doesn’t change much if it’s stored properly. The biggest indicator that your coffee has sat in the cabinet for too long is the smell that comes from the grounds. 

Ground-up coffee beans will have a very strong and pleasant aroma. If your coffee just doesn’t have the same smell you are used to or doesn’t have a smell at; then the taste will probably follow. 

Another indicator is the color of the coffee grounds. If you are used to seeing your favorite coffee with a rich dark brown color, then any change in coloring can be a clue. Most coffees will start to lighten and turn a light brown color as the oxidizing process goes on. 

The biggest indicator that you shouldn’t use your ground coffee beans at all is if they are damp at all or if there are signs of mold growing on them. This can make you sick if you ingest it, and it’s usually unpleasant smelling. If you see any mold, just toss the whole bag of coffee grounds out.

Typical Coffee Expiration Dates (Check Your Package, though)

Coffee beans start to oxidize as soon as they are ground. We can slow this process by packaging and storing them properly. The packaging your coffee beans come in is super important to keeping them fresh.

If your coffee comes in a brown paper bag, then you will have the shortest amount of time before the beans become stale. These coffee grounds will last for about two weeks.

If you buy your coffee grounds in an airtight sealed container that is either plastic or metal, they will last for around three weeks. Coffee grounds that are stored in sealable containers but also have a carbon dioxide valve can be kept fresh for up to 4 weeks.

 It’s important to check the packaging on your favorite coffee brand since it will have a best buy or expiration date printed on it somewhere. If you need to keep coffee for longer than a month

How To Store Ground Coffee for Freshness

Sometimes you just don’t drink enough coffee to beat the expiration date to the finish line. There are a few ways you can store your coffee grounds that way; you can get some extra life out of them and keep them fresh

Keep your coffee grounds away from there four major enemies; oxygen, light, moisture, and heat. These four things will shorten the life of your coffee beans substantially. 

Oxygen is the first enemy, especially when your coffee beans are already ground. Since ground coffee has such a large surface area. The moment your coffee grounds are exposed to oxygen, they will start to stale.

If you leave them completely out to the elements, they won’t last more than a week or two. Keep your coffee in an airtight container to prevent this from happening. If you want to extend their life, even longer use a container with a one-way carbon dioxide valve.

Light is the next enemy of your delicious coffee beans. Never store your coffee grounds in a clear plastic or glass container no matter how much you want to show the world how beautiful they are. If coffee grounds are stored in light, they will go stale quicker, so use an opaque container and store them in a cabinet or pantry where the sunlight can’t reach them. 

Another problem for coffee grounds is moisture. Even just a bit of moisture can ruin a bag of coffee grounds and can potentially start the growth of mold and bacteria if it gets too damp. No one wants to open their coffee early in the morning to see green mold growing everywhere. Keep them in a dry place to keep from stimulating the growth of dangerous mold.

Heat is the final nemesis of your ground up coffee beans. You want to keep your coffee grounds at a cool, comfortable temperature until you are ready to brew them to preserve the flavor. If they are kept in a hot environment, they will stale quickly. Try not to store your coffee in a cabinet that is in direct sunlight most of the day or above the stovetop.

As a last resort, you can freeze it. It doesn’t actually freeze solid, but if you store your coffee grounds in the freezer, it will extend the life of them up to three months if opened. This will have some unpleasant side effects depending on what you keep in your freezer though, since coffee absorbs the odors around it, and that can change the taste.

How to use extra before your Coffee goes bad

There are tons of uses for coffee grounds around the house to keep you from throwing them away. They can be used in cooking recipes, gardening, and skincare. Here are just a few things you can try.

If you have a compost pile, then you can throw your coffee grounds in there. It adds an abundance of nitrogen to your compost. Coffee grounds are considered a green composting material, so you will need to balance accordingly. 

On top of being great for composting, you can add your coffee grounds directly to your soil and use it as a fertilizer. This can be done with old unused coffee grounds or with used coffee grounds. If you are using unused coffee grounds, just keep in mind that they do have a high acidic content, so only use them for plants that like acidic environments.

Adding ground coffee beans to your soil will also attract worms that will help keep your soil healthy. The coffee grounds are a great deterrent for snails and slugs that could damage your plants as well. Coffee grounds are just an all-around great thing to use in a garden or flower bed.

If you have a strong nasty odor hanging around in your freezer, then coffee grounds can be an easy solution. Coffee is naturally absorbent, especially when it is ground up. It is rich in nitrogen, which, when combined with carbon, will eliminate sulfurous gas around it.

If you place your coffee grounds in the freezer in an open container, the grounds will absorb any lingering smells over time. You can fill some older socks with unused coffee grounds and use them as air fresheners in your gym bag or car to get rid of unwanted scents. If you chop onions or garlic a lot, you can use coffee grounds to wash your hands and remove the smell. 

If they are just past that freshness window, then you can still use them in a lot of cooking recipes. The addition of other ingredients masks the flavor of the coffee, not being as strong. You can replace the water in a recipe for a cake with brewed coffee to give it a mocha flavoring. 

After brewing, you can also combine it with vanilla ice cream and ice to make a delicious coffee-flavored milkshake. If you take this coffee brewed from your old grounds, you can also freeze it into ice cubes. Later, when you make a gravy for dinner, you have a convenient browning agent for it. 

My personal favorite thing is to use old coffee grounds as a meat tenderizer. You can either put it into a dry rub recipe, or you can brew it, refrigerate it and use it in a marinade. Coffee contains natural enzymes that help tenderize meat. It is also highly acidic, which can help with the flavor of some meats.

Avoid Storing Ground Coffee When Possible

The easiest way to keep from having coffee grounds go bad is to make sure you don’t have to store them in the first place. When you buy coffee, you should try to only buy the amount you need to get you through a week or two. 

Buying coffee in whole bean form and then grinding only what you need is also a way to keep your daily coffee fresh. It also keeps you from having to run to the grocery store several times in a month.

Bonus: Interesting Facts About Coffee:

Here are a few extra little facts about coffee that might help you out. If you have old coffee grounds lying around the kitchen, make sure they are out of reach of your pets. Caffeine is incredibly toxic to dogs, and coffee grounds can kill them if they eat too much of it. 

If your dog or any household pet gets into a bag of coffee, make sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.

Also, don’t let pets drink any brewed coffee, either. This also applies to decaffeinated coffee as well. Even decaffeinated coffee still has about 12 milligrams of caffeine per cup.  

Another interesting fact is there is only one difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee grounds; the caffeine. They go through a process that removes up to 97 percent of the caffeine content in them. 

Decaffeinated grounds still apply to all the topics we discussed. If you make it into a milkshake, you just don’t get the coffee jitters like you would with caffeinated grounds.

Last little fact will have you thinking about how to recycle those coffee grounds instead of throwing them out. Coffee beans are grown on trees around the world. In order to grow one coffee tree yourself that is mature enough to bear fruit, it would take three to four years. One tree can produce enough beans for a little over one pound of beans a year.

Summary and Conclusion

Now you at least know what you can do with that old bag of coffee you found in your cabinet. If you need to keep coffee on hand for a long period of time, then it’s best to store it in a cool, dry place away from light and in an airtight container. 

Always check the expiration date on your favorite coffee and make a note of when it should be drunk. If you do accidentally let a bag go stale, don’t throw it away. Try and find a way to reuse it and recycle it.

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