Many people have found themselves in the following situation:
When you ran out of coffee grounds or your coffee gear refuses to work, but you are in desperate need of caffeine. The only thing you can find in your pantry is a pack of instant coffee that has been expired for years.
You may wonder whether you should drink this old product. Instant coffee is one of those pantry items that you can easily forget about but could be a lifesaver in some cases. So, does Instant coffee expire?
Actually, I did find a few packs of Starbucks VIA Italian Roast I had for over a year in the drawer. I’ll tell you how it tasted later in the article.
Over the following sections, we will take a closer look into the average shelf life of your instant coffee. So, if caffeine drives you through the day, here is everything you need to know.
Does Instant Coffee Expire?
We discussed the manufacturing process of instant coffee in our previous article. We learned that instant coffee is actually the crystals or powders dehydrated either by hot air or freeze-dried method.
According to USDA, instant coffee is categorized as shelf-stable food. That means they can last for decades if they are stored properly.
In the simplest terms, instant coffee won’t expire when you store them correctly and prevent them from exposure to moisture. Once you follow this simple rule, your coffee will last several years even after crossing the ‘Best by/before’ date. Even though the taste may not be as fresh or tasty, it is still safe to consume the drink.
Note: We tested and reviewed dozens of instant coffee brands, most of the best instant coffees we picked in our review use the freeze-dried method.
‘Best Before’ Date Instead Of Expiry Date
While buying instant coffee, you are more likely to find a ‘Best before’ or ‘Best By’ date instead of your usual expiration date as in other products. If you are buying fresh coffee beans, you can also see the ‘roasting date.’ But what exactly do these dates imply? Essentially, they indicate the quality of your coffee instead of the safety. Although stale coffee doesn’t have the same flavor, they aren’t usually bad or unsafe to consume. You can apply the same thing to 3-in-1 coffee mixes that come with additives and milk-based substances. As long as you keep them well, they won’t go bad for years.
The Shelf-life: Does Instant Coffee Go Bad?
Typically, your instant coffee can last around twenty years on your shelf. If you don’t even open the jar and keep it well sealed, your product can last practically indefinitely.
Is This Really True?
As previously discussed, most foods under the free-dried category are shelf-stable. According to USDA :
What about the foods in your pantry? Most shelf-stable foods are safe indefinitely.Before You Toss Food, Wait. Check It Out! – https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/06/27/you-toss-food-wait-check-it-out
It is worth noting here, USDA is talking about storing coffee in the pantry. That means you can keep the instant coffee at room temperature without worrying about expiration.
If you manage to keep it in the freezer, the flavor will be even better, and your coffee will last for a couple of more years. Food poisoning bacteria won’t manage to grow or thrive in your freezer. So, regardless of how long you freeze it, you can still consume the same coffee, though the taste may be dry or mildly flavored.
Now we know how long instant coffee is good for. Next time when you have the instant coffee past the best before date for a few months or 1-2 years, don’t throw it out. You can have peace of mind to get the caffeine out of it safely.
What’s the Right Way to Store Instant Coffee?
You are probably wondering how exactly to store your instant coffee the right way.
Since moisture, heat, light, and temperatures have a significant impact on coffee’s flavor profile and freshness. Instant coffee is not that sensitive as freshly roasted whole bean coffee or ground coffee. However, for dehydrated instant coffee, their biggest enemy is moisture. Once the coffee crystals contact humid air, they will lump together.
To keep your instant coffee longer, here are some tips:
1.Storing Instant Coffee In An Airtight Container
An airtight container greatly extends the shelf life and the longevity of your coffee without compromising on the taste. Some airtight containers have a one-way valve to release the air.
If you don’t have such an airtight container, always keep the jar sealed. Keep in mind that once you opened the container, air will go in inevitably. So usually, it’s recommended to consume the coffee in a jar quicker.
2.Keeping It Away From Sunlight
While storing your coffee, make sure it doesn’t get direct sunlight. Try keeping the coffee at room temperature. One of the best ways to do this is by keeping your coffee in cabinets and pantries. In case you are keeping it in a clear glass or plastic jar, make sure it isn’t kept near your window.
3. Use Dry Spoon To Scoop Out The Coffee
Since moisture is detrimental to your instant coffee’s shelf life, it always makes more sense to use dry spoons for scooping out the coffee.
All you need to consider is whether it’s necessary to store coffee in an expensive airtight container. Also, put the instant coffee in the freezer can also retain the flavor better, but do you want to use your precious space? They are not the costly premium ground coffee beans, after all.
If you are an occasional instant coffee drinker, or you just store some of them for emergency only, buying single-serve packets will make your life much easier.
Can You Drink The Expired Instant Coffee?
You may find some unpleasant taste, but you are safe to drink coffee that is past the best before date. However, there is a premise. The coffee must be appropriately stored and didn’t contact with the moisture content.
Check if there’s any presence of fluffy and cottony white or grey stuff on top of your instant coffee. In case you find them, your coffee is moldy. This more likely happens to the opened instant coffee. From the moment you opened the lid, the air went in, and the moisture got trapped in the container and develop fungi and mold. In that case, there may be health risks, and it isn’t a good idea to consume it.
If your instant coffee is packed in single-serve sticks, you shouldn’t worry too much. The packet keeps the coffee in perfect condition since you won’t open it until you are going to brew it.
How Does The Stale Instant Coffee Taste
Lastly, we made a cup of ‘Starbucks VIA Italian Roast’ I found in the drawer. To the moment I’m writing this article, it’s ten months past best by date.
And I compared it with the fresher Italian Roast. They tasted pretty similar, with the same smoky aroma and bold flavor. Personally, I don’t particularly enjoy the classic Starbucks dark roast, just too bitter for my taste. However, the old coffee was still drinkable. Unlike the freshly brewed coffee, the difference between fresh and stale instant coffee was negligible.
Conclusion – Instant Coffee Lasts Longer Than You Thought
Consuming expired coffee may sound daunting, but as you dig deeper, you realize that coffee has a longer shelf life than you assumed.
Although there might be some differences in taste, the coffee is ‘stale’ but isn’t essentially bad and is still safe for consumption. So, follow our tips and your instant coffee won’t go to waste anymore!
Coffee beans and ground coffee will go stale after roasted, but they won’t actually go bad if stored properly. Fresh bean coffee lasts for 6-9 months, but the freshly roast coffee beans stay fresh for only four weeks or so. The aroma and flavor start to degrade after roasting. While ground coffee lasts for 3-5 months, and we suggest using it within two weeks after opening for the best flavor. Stale coffee tastes dull with less aroma.
If you brew a cup of coffee with fresh beans, drink it up as soon as possible for the best taste. Plain black coffee can sit out for a day after brewing at room temperature. If you store it in the fridge, it can last longer. But we don’t recommend drinking the day-old brewed coffee since it won’t taste good. However, coffee with milk can last no more than 2 hours at room temperature since milk is perishable. We discussed how long can coffee sit out in another article, check it out for more information.
The same applies to the brewed instant coffee. You should drink up your 3-in-1 instant coffee within 2 hours, while black coffee can last longer.