Last Updated on July 14, 2021

Can Old Coffee Make You Sick? Find Out Before Brewing Your Next Pot

can old coffee make you sick?
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We’re busy folk, aren’t we? And we don’t always have time to grind fresh coffee beans or run to the store for a new bag of ground coffee. So what are the risks of using old beans or grounds that are sitting in the pantry? Does it matter if you brew it right away? Can old coffee make you sick? Is it safe to drink? Can coffee go bad?

These questions may not be on your mind when you’re in a rush, because after all, your top priority is a fresh, hot cup of brewed coffee and the caffeine injection. Keep in mind, though, that the taste, aroma, and satisfaction of that cup of coffee will definitely be impacted by the freshness of the beans or grounds.

So, let’s find some answers. You might not know how long coffee can last before going bad, or why stale coffee could be more dangerous than fresh-brewed. We’ll cover some surprising truths about coffee so that you’ll be an informed java lover!

Is Drinking Old Coffee Bad for You?

can old coffee make you sick?

Is drinking old coffee bad for you? It can be, if you’re not careful.

Drinking old, brewed coffee (more than a few hours) could cause stomachaches and headaches due to the bacteria that grow in it. This will not likely happen, my friend, unless you leave that brewed coffee sitting in the pot for a long time (at least in my world, where anything over 30 minutes is “old”). Deciding to reheat yesterday’s brew might not be a wise decision!

Keep in mind that germs are basically everywhere, including in our coffee makers. Could bacteria be growing in a coffee pot that is not cleaned regularly? Yep. So it might not be the coffee that has been sitting around as much as the pot it was brewed in.

The same is true for old coffee beans or ground coffee that has passed the expiration date. If you forget to check the ‘use by’ date on the bag of coffee, or an old bag of beans ends up in your pantry, it would be better if you don’t use them to make coffee. We’ll give you some options for using those beans a little later, and it doesn’t involve drinking the coffee.

Drinking old coffee might not hurt me, but it certainly won’t satisfy my coffee snob taste preferences!

What Happens to Coffee When It Gets Old?

Coffee beans store oils that are provide flavor and aroma. But the longer they’re stored, these oils go rancid, affecting both taste and smell. Ground coffee also oxidizes when exposed to air which removes its freshness.

Brewing a pot of coffee with old beans or ground coffee may not cause you to get sick, but you certainly won’t get the same result, or enjoyment, as you would if the beans used were freshly ground. It just won’t taste as good, my friend. And, remember the comments above about the cleanliness (or lack of it) of the coffee maker, too!

So if you want to avoid the flat taste of old coffee…and it WILL taste flat if the grounds are old…make sure your whole beans or ground coffee are fresh, and the coffee itself is freshly brewed…in a nice, clean coffee maker.

How Long Can You Keep Coffee Beans?

how long can you keep coffee beans?

When coffee is exposed to air, it oxidizes. Actually, the oxidation process begins as soon as coffee is roasted. Heat, moisture, and even other aromas in the area the coffee is being stored can affect the flavor, but oxidation is the biggest culprit.

In general, whole coffee beans should be used within two weeks of their roast date. Most coffee experts recommend using them within a week to preserve the flavor and aroma, but many folks say that they can last up to four weeks when properly sealed in an airtight container. I keep my whole bean coffee in an airtight non-clear container like those shown below, and as long as I use it within a month, 30 days or so, it tastes great.

whiskey barrel coffee gift

Of course, I grind just enough of the whole bean to make my cup of coffee, so I can take advantage of the best flavor. It’s all about the bloom of the coffee, you know!

If you prefer to purchase your coffee already ground, or if you have it ground at the store by the roaster, your coffee will remain fresh for 3 to 5 months if it is stored in an airtight container as described above, and away from heat and light. That unopened bag of ground coffee could last even longer, just remember to check the expiration date.

What is the Shelf Life of Coffee?

Coffee, like many other types of foods and beverages, is perishable. It starts as fresh coffee beans that are shipped to roasters where they are roasted. They may then be ground or put in a capsule for purchase at the grocery store. As soon as you open your package of coffee it starts to deteriorate just sitting there as it is exposed to the air. That is called oxidation. From there, the flavor continues to escape from the little beans as they sit in the bag.

Always remember this: the greatest enemies of coffee beans are air, moisture, light, and heat.

In general, The shelf life of ground coffee is about 6 months, and up to one year if left unopened. Be sure to check the ‘use by’ date when you purchase ground coffee. And, the best way to store your ground coffee is to keep it in an airtight container, away from heat and light.

If you want to keep some of your ground coffee on the kitchen counter in a decorative container that complimentes the style of the space, think about keeping a small amount in that container, with the balance of the ground coffee in an airtight container that is away from heat and light.

There is a philosophy that states freezing your unused coffee beans will help them stay fresher. If you choose to use this method, know that an airtight container is absolutely critical. When you remove some of the coffee from the freezer for use, do it as quickly as you can, and then return the rest of the coffee to the freezer. You want to avoid letting any condensation form on the frozen coffee that is not going to be used.

How Can You tell If Coffee has Gone bGad?

Can coffee go bad? One way to tell if your coffee has gone bad is to smell it. If the coffee has a sour, moldy or ammonia-like smell, it’s time to discard it.

You can also try the “old coffee taste test”. What is the old coffee taste test? How does it work?

The old coffee taste test may be considered a myth, but here it is in case you want to give it a try. It involves adding boiled water and grounds to the cup, letting it steep for 30 seconds before tasting. If there is no sour or moldy smell from the coffee then it can’t be that old.

But seriously, my friend. Are you really going to consider using coffee that is old enough to make you wonder if it’s still safe to consume?

Here’s a thought: buy some fresh, whole bean coffee. That way there is no question about what you’re about to brew. Here are a few of my current favorites:

What is the Best Way to Store Coffee Beans?

what is the best way to store coffee beans?

Here is the best way to store coffee beans.

  • Store in a sealed container that is airtight and opaque.
  • Keep out of direct sunlight or heat sources.
  • Place in an area with low humidity levels to keep them from spoiling too quickly.
  • Use within 1 month after opening for the freshest product possible.
the coffee files

What are some other uses for old coffee beans?

other uses for old coffee beans including baking

If you’ve determined that those coffee beans languishing in the pantry are just not up to standard for brewing but you’re not ready to toss them, there are some other creative uses for them.

Here are some creative ways to use those old coffee beans or ground coffee so that you don’t have to discard them.


Drinking freshly brewed coffee should be a pleasurable experience, from the first sip to the last drop, with the nary a thought if the coffee you’re about to drink could make you sick. Who wants to worry about that?

The best way to make sure that the coffee you drink is not going to cause any issues for you is to make sure it is fresh (as noted above), stored properly, and brewed in clean coffee gear.