What Happens If You Drink Expired Coffee?
Coffee beans and grounds may stand the test of time, but there are a few considerations that you need to keep in mind before consuming coffee that has remained in storage for a very long time.
What happens if you drink expired coffee? Expired coffee may lose its original flavor and texture, but it will be safe to drink. But you should avoid consuming coffee that shows signs of spoilage like mold, a foul odor, or a different flavor as spoiled coffee may cause stomach issues and could also make you sick.
Read below to learn more about how coffee can go bad, how to tell if it has gone bad, and a few tips on how to prolong the shelf life of stored coffee.
Causes for Coffee Going Bad
Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world and there is a chance that you might already have a pack of ground or whole coffee beans in the pantry.
But when it comes to the expiration date of coffee, things can get complicated.
For example, whole coffee beans are likely to last the longest because the outer layer of the bean encloses all the flavor, aroma, and oil which preserves its quality.
Ground coffee is also likely to last long due to its low moisture content – and since coffee is also bitter, it’s likely to remain safe from pests and animals too.
But as soon as you add moisture or expose the coffee to air for prolonged periods, it will start to go bad.
Let’s talk about what goes behind the scenes in each scenario.
Moisture and Oxidization
The first (and fastest) reason why coffee goes bad is when it is exposed to moisture or prepared with water, dairy, or a combination of liquids.
Bacteria love moisture and a nutritionally favorable environment, like when you use milk to make coffee.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), bacteria cultures can multiply every 20 minutes in favorable conditions.
This means that if you were to leave a glass of coffee over the counter at room temperature, it could start to go bad quickly, depending on the temperature of the milk and the added ingredients.
In this scenario, the coffee will likely be unfit to drink within 2-3 hours and may even cause stomach problems.
The second (and slowest) reason why coffee expires is due to overexposure to air.
Check the back of the packaging of your favorite ground or whole-bean coffee. You should be able to see a “best before” date.
The best-before date differs from the expiry date because as long as the coffee is stored properly, it won’t go bad in the traditional sense.
However, whether it will taste the same is another story.
See, every biological thing is at the behest of oxidization. In simple terms, oxidization is when oxygen begins to slowly decompose any organic material.
The process is slow, and can even take months, or even years depending on ambient factors, but soon enough, the coffee will succumb to oxidization.
When this happens, the beans will not go “bad” like a slice of bread would, but the beans will lose their original aroma and flavor.
Will oxidized coffee be safe to consume?
Yes! But it will not taste the same as the day you bought it and it might even not have the same “kick”.
Signs of Spoilage
Detecting signs of spoilage in coffee can be difficult, but we have the perfect guide to help you detect whether the coffee has gone bad.
We recommend that you look out for these signs:
Aroma, or lack of it, is one of the most obvious signs of spoilage in coffee.
Coffee has a nutty and almost caramel-like aroma, and these notes are even more prominent when you prepare a freshly brewed cup.
However, if the coffee is improperly stored, then you may either get extremely faint notes or nothing at all.
This is because the coffee beans have oxidized almost completely and there is nothing left of their original aromatic features.
It is important to keep in mind that “flat” coffee that has lost its aroma may still be safe to drink.
But if you smell sulfuric notes or a foul odor, then it’s safe to assume that the coffee has been compromised by bacteria and you should avoid consuming it.
Mold or any similar growth on the coffee is another clear indication of it going bad. Before brewing a cup, inspect the coffee beans for a fuzz-like growth.
To be safe, always shake the beans and inspect them before you grind them.
We recommend the same test for pre-brewed coffee that has been sitting at room temperature for some time.
If the coffee was prepared with milk, a milk substitute, or water, then check the surface of the cup for mold or visual features that would indicate rot.
Finally, if the coffee passes the above two tests, then it’s time to put it through a taste test. For this test, we recommend that you sip the coffee and inspect its flavor notes.
The flavor of the coffee will differ depending on its type, roast, and preparation method.
Most manufacturers print the flavor notes of the beans/grounds on the back of the packaging.
We recommend that you cross-check the flavor notes to confirm if the coffee is consumable.
Oxidized coffee will likely lose its original flavor so it might not give off the same sweet, bitter, or acidic flavor notes, but it will still be safe to drink.
But if the coffee has developed a sour, overly bitter, or foul flavor then it’s likely gone bad. In this case, please spit out the spoiled coffee and rinse your mouth!
Possible Symptoms of Consuming Expired Coffee
If you do end up consuming coffee that had visible signs of spoilage then there are a few symptoms that you need to look out for.
Consuming spoiled coffee will likely cause a variety of stomach issues like bloating, pain, or general discomfort. You might even experience mild diarrhea after consuming compromised coffee.
These symptoms can vary in intensity from one person to another, but if you begin to experience severe pain or discomfort then you should seek immediate medical help.
Coffee prepared with milk products or substitutes will likely cause a more severe reaction than drinking just spoiled black coffee.
Mild stomach issues will likely resolve as soon as your body detoxifies the bad coffee and you should start to feel better in 1-2 days.
Nausea and Vomiting
In addition to stomach problems, you might also experience mild to severe nausea which may or may not lead to vomiting.
If you have consumed bad coffee, then we highly recommend that you don’t induce vomit and seek professional medical help, especially if your symptoms worsen over the day.
In severe and rare cases, bad coffee may cause an allergic reaction or even a low-grade fever. These additional symptoms can appear with the other symptoms listed above.
If you experience mild fever, then we recommend that you seek medical help.
Please keep in mind that all of these symptoms can appear either immediately or within 24-48 hours after consumption.
Remember, in most cases, consuming expired coffee may not lead to serious issues, but if you have previously experienced a bad reaction after drinking old coffee, then we recommend speaking to your primary health provider, just to be on the safe side.
Now that you know what happens when you drink expired coffee, here are some related questions:
What can you do with expired coffee?
Expired coffee may be bad for you but it will still hold some utility. For example, expired coffee grounds can be used as compost.
Expired whole beans can also be ground and used in the same way.
Coffee beans contain nitrogen and other important nutrients that can enrich the soil and improve its overall quality. But please use coffee beans in moderation since they can be acidic and may cause an imbalance in the pH of the soil.
How do you store coffee beans or grounds?
The correct way to store coffee is to store it in an airtight jar. Most coffee bags come with an airtight zipper lock. But you can also move the coffee beans or grounds to a separate airtight container for longer storage.
Keep the coffee away from moisture, sunlight, and air for the best experience.
How long does brewed coffee last?
Brewed coffee has a shorter shelf life than dry coffee beans/grounds. If you have prepared a freshly brewed cup with water or milk, then we recommend consuming it within 2-3 hours.
If you wish to drink it later, then store the coffee in a sealed container at the back of the fridge at 40F.
Refrigerated coffee will last up to 2-3 days in the fridge while frozen coffee can last up to 3-4 months at 0F. Always check for signs of spoilage before consuming stored brewed coffee.