Can you drink coffee 2 years out of date?

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world. Many coffee drinkers buy coffee in bulk or take advantage of sales and promotions to stock up on their favorite blends. This means that some people may have coffee in their pantries that is past its “best by” date. But, is it safe to drink coffee after the date stamped on the can or bag?

Can You Drink Coffee 2 Years Out of Date?

The short answer is yes, you can safely drink coffee past its best by date, even if it is 2 years out of date. However, the flavor and quality of the coffee will slowly deteriorate over time.

How long coffee lasts depends on how it is stored. Properly stored coffee can maintain good flavor and quality for several months or even a year past the printed date. However, coffee that is stored improperly may start to lose flavor and aroma within a few weeks of being opened.

Here are some general guidelines for how long coffee will stay fresh and retain good flavor:

Unopened coffee:

– Whole bean coffee: 6-12 months past roast date
– Ground coffee: 2-6 months past roast date

Opened coffee:

– Whole bean: 4-6 months
– Ground coffee: 2-4 months
– Instant coffee: 2-3 years

The roast date, rather than the best by date, reveals more about the coffee’s freshness. Ideally, coffee should be consumed within 1 month of roasting for peak flavor.

So if properly stored, coffee that is up to 2 years out of date from the best by date should still be safe to consume. However, at that point, the coffee is likely to have flavor defects from being aged so long. The aroma, taste, acidity, and other flavor notes will have significantly deteriorated over time.

Why Coffee Can Last So Long

Coffee has a relatively long shelf life compared to other beverages and foods. Several factors contribute to its longevity:

Low moisture content:

Coffee beans naturally contain very little moisture. Their dry, crisp texture does not provide a hospitable environment for microbes to grow. Without moisture, the beans do not spoil quickly.

Natural acids:

Coffee contains powerful acids that help preserve it. Chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid act as natural antioxidants and antimicrobials that protect the beans from oxidation and spoilage.


Coffee is packaged in vacuum sealed bags or airtight containers that prevent oxygen, light, pests, and other external factors from ruining the beans. Proper packaging is essential for extending shelf life.

Low storage temperature:

Keeping coffee stored in a cool, dark place like a cabinet or pantry slows down chemical reactions that lead to stale flavor over time. Refrigeration can make coffee last even longer.

Thanks to these innate characteristics and careful packaging, coffee can maintain its quality and taste for many months or years after roasting. But there is a limit, and flavor eventually declines with age. Now let’s look at what happens to coffee as it gets old.

What Happens to Coffee as it Ages

While coffee beans can technically last a very long time, their quality and flavor diminish over time after roasting.

Here’s an overview of what happens as coffee gets old:


Exposure to oxygen causes the natural oils and compounds in coffee to break down. This leads to a loss of aroma and flavor.

Loss of carbon dioxide:

Roasted coffee emits CO2, which helps retain aromatic compounds. As coffee ages and CO2 is released, the aroma fades.


The organic molecules in coffee break down over time, leading to a stale, cardboard-like taste. Coffee stales faster at warm temperatures.

Moisture loss:

As moisture evaporates from the beans, it causes them to dry out and become brittle and flavorless.

Freezer burn:

Coffee stored in the freezer can get damaged by freezer burn, creating off tastes and odors.

While not spoiled or unsafe, coffee that is more than 1-2 years old will have a very flat, dull taste compared to fresh coffee. The flavors and aromas that make coffee so enjoyable dissipate over time. The older it gets, the poorer the flavor will be.

How To Tell if Coffee Has Gone Bad

If you’re wondering whether an old bag or can of coffee in the back of your pantry has gone bad and needs to be tossed, here are some signs to look for:


Coffee that has spoiled will have a rancid, pungent odor, versus the aromatic smell of fresh coffee. Sniff the coffee up close to detect any foul aromas.


Check for visible mold, which would appear as fuzzy green or white spots on the beans. Also look for any webbing, which would indicate insect infestation.


Brew a small sample of the coffee and taste it. Rancid, bitter, or stale flavors are a definite red flag. Bad coffee will not smell or taste like fresh roasted coffee.


Inspect beans for signs they have dried out. Coffee beans or grounds that are very dry and break easily are past their prime.

Expiration date:

If the coffee has surpassed its expiration by more than a few months, it may have gone bad. However, remember the printed date is not always definitive.

Storage conditions:

Consider how the coffee was stored. If it sat on the shelf at room temperature for years, it is unlikely still good. But if vacuum sealed and refrigerated, it may be fine.

Trust your senses—if the coffee smells, looks, or tastes off, the safest bet is to discard it. Brewing rancid coffee can yield some very unpleasant results.

Health Risks of Drinking Rancid Coffee

While spoiled coffee does not pose severe health hazards, it can cause some temporary digestive upset:

Upset stomach:

Rancid coffee beans contain oxidized oils that can irritate the lining of your stomach, causing nausea, cramps, and discomfort.

Food poisoning symptoms:

The toxins produced by mold and bacteria growth on bad coffee can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and fever if consumed.

Allergic reaction:

Mold spores and other contaminants can trigger allergy symptoms similar to food poisoning.

Consuming a large volume of spoiled coffee could make these symptoms worse, but drinking a small amount will typically only cause minimal stomach irritation in most people. The allergy risk mainly applies to those with mold allergies.

To avoid any adverse effects, always inspect coffee before brewing and do not drink any that smells or looks potentially spoiled. And stick to consuming coffee stored properly within recommended time limits.

How To Store Coffee For Maximum Freshness

Proper storage is key to keeping your coffee tasting fresh and full-flavored. Follow these tips:

Purchase freshly roasted coffee:

Try to buy only coffee that has been roasted within the past 1-2 months for optimal flavor and longevity.

Store in airtight packaging:

Keep coffee sealed tightly in bags with one-way valves or airtight containers.

Keep cool:

Store coffee at temperatures less than 70°F, in cupboards or the refrigerator. The freezer can cause moisture damage.

Minimize light exposure:

Protect coffee from light, which accelerates staling. Store in dark opaque bags or canisters.

Don’t refrigerate indefinitely:

Fridge storage prolongs freshness, but coffee can still absorb odors. Limit to 1-2 weeks refrigerated.

Use oldest coffee first:

Practice first in, first out when using up coffee inventory.

Following these guidelines helps lock in coffee’s complex aromas and flavors for many months past the packaged date. But remember, nothing lasts forever. Drink coffee within 1 year of roasting for the best quality.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can expired coffee make you sick?

Coffee that has merely expired or gone stale will not make you sick. However, coffee that has become moldy or contaminated could cause temporary digestive issues if consumed.

Does the 2-year rule apply to instant coffee?

Instant coffee can last 6 months to 2 years past its printed date if sealed properly. Since the coffee is freeze-dried into powder form, deterioration happens more slowly than ground or whole bean coffee.

Can you drink coffee after opening if it has reached its expiration date?

Pre-ground coffee typically has a shorter shelf life of 3-6 months once opened. But if vacuum sealed, whole bean coffee can last 6-12 months past its packaged date when opened. Taste and assess quality before drinking coffee past date.

Is coffee still ok if it smells funny but has no visible mold?

It’s best to throw out coffee with any rancid or off odors, even if no mold is visible. Unpleasant smells indicate deterioration has started—it’s just a matter of time before the flavor goes bad.

Does storing coffee in the freezer make it last longer?

The freezer can extend the shelf life of coffee that is vacuum sealed or in an airtight freezer-safe container. But condensation can damage beans, so limit freezer time to 1-2 weeks.

The Bottom Line

While coffee does slowly lose quality and flavor as it ages, beans that have been properly stored can last up to 2 years past the “best by” date printed on the package and still be safe to consume.

However, coffee that old will not taste nearly as delicious as freshly roasted coffee. For the best flavor, it’s recommended to drink coffee within one month of roasting. Once opened, ground coffee only stays fresh for a few months whereas whole beans last 6-12 months.

The keys are purchasing freshly roasted coffee, keeping it in an airtight container in cool, dark storage, and practicing first in first out when enjoying your stash. With proper care, you can enjoy great tasting coffee for up to 1 year after the roasting date. But anything older than 2 years is past its prime. Ultimately, your nose and taste buds will tell you when your coffee has become too stale to delight your senses.

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