Can Instant Coffee Go Bad?

Ever woken up craving for coffee, as usual, and all you have left is a jar of instant coffee that’s been there for heaven knows how long?

The first thought that pops into your mind is whether it’s safe to use?

Read on to learn more about this and other questions. Read on to learn whether instant coffee goes bad, its shelf life, how best to store it, and what to do with coffee you don’t want to drink.

Does Instant Coffee Go Bad?

There are three main factors linked to coffee going bad. These include moisture or water, air, and light. Without exposure to these three factors, and especially moisture, instant coffee doesn’t expire.

When stored properly, instant coffee can last for as long as 20 years.

Nevertheless, instant coffee may lose some of its aroma and flavor with time. The result is a dull and sometimes unpleasant taste.

It’s the reason, if you’ve noticed, instant coffee cans, jars, or packets don’t have an expiration date printed on them.

Instead, they have a “best before” or “best by” date. This date indicates the period up to which your instant coffee is likely to retain optimal quality and flavor.

Instant Coffee Shelf Life

As mentioned earlier, the shelf life of instant coffee is approximately 20 years.

There are a few different methods used to make instant coffee.

But it often starts as regular coffee, and then the coffee is freeze-dried and turned into shelf-stable powder. Of course, this powder is revertable to coffee upon mixing it with hot water.

Whether the coffee is opened or unopened, it won’t go bad as long as it’s well stored. Ensure you keep it in a cool, dry place.

You can also store it in a freezer where you’ll find it can remain wholesome for longer than 20 years.

How to Store Instant Coffee

Because light may also hurt your coffee’s flavor by instigating oxidative reactions, some experts recommend storing your instant coffee in a dark place.

You should also ensure you keep instant coffee tightly sealed. That’s because oxidative reactions occur when coffee is exposed to oxygen, resulting in flavor getting released. Ultimately, it’ll cause the coffee to go stale.

That explains the reason behind packaging instant coffee in an oxygen-limited atmosphere to prevent the loss of aroma.

Once you open a can, jar, or packet of instant coffee, oxidation begins, and, subsequently, the flavor starts to wane. But this shouldn’t alarm you. The reduced flavor doesn’t ruin or compromise the quality. All it means is that it won’t taste as nice as expected.

In other words, if you’ve had a packet of instant coffee for, say, three years, it’s possibly fit for consumption. And if you’ve been storing it correctly, it may even taste as good as it did when you purchased it.

But the chances of a more favorable outcome are even higher if the coffee is unopened.

On the other hand, if you’ve been storing your instant coffee in unfavorable conditions (excess heat, light, or humidity), then its flavor will be significantly affected.

And if you’ve been exposing it to moisture, it may have formed lumps and even developed mold, which contains mycotoxins.

How to Handle Instant Coffee

Here are some habits and tricks to consider incorporating into how you handle your instant coffee:

  • Avoid scooping the coffee out of the jar with a wet spoon to ensure no moisture gets in. Moisture can induce the growth of bacteria, and you don’t want that.
  • Make it a habit to check and ensure the storage can is well-sealed to prevent moisture from seeping in, especially on humid (sauna-like) days. Doing so also minimizes exposure to oxygen, preserving your coffee’s original flavor.
  • Opt for single-serve coffee packets. With these, it’s not easy to mess up how you handle the coffee. It’s likely to be in great condition even long after the “best by” date. Why? Single-serve packets keep the coffee in perfect condition. There’s no opening and closing. Also, you need one sachet for each serving, which is pretty convenient.

How about instant coffee containing powdered creamer or powdered milk?

The same principles apply. If you store it well away from moisture, it will last for years. It remains safe for consumption no matter if you’ve had it for a long time.

However, it’s good to look out for any changes in the powder. Is the color or texture off? Is there anything different about the way it dissolves, smells, or tastes? Most importantly, does it have mold?

If the answer to these questions is no, then you can consume it. But especially if it has mold, it’s not safe to drink.

How to Tell If Your Instant Coffee Is Bad

The best way to test whether your old instant coffee is still good for consumption is to try it out.

So, as usual, dissolve it in hot water, then take a sip. Does it taste okay? If so, then it is. And even if you notice blandness or a change in the smell and taste, don’t worry. It won’t make you sick.

However, moldy coffee is harmful and could make you sick.

What to Do With Old Coffee You Won’t Drink

Old instant coffee that’s been well stored can never go bad. But if you don’t intend to drink it, don’t be in a rush to throw it away. Here’s what you can use it for:

1. Plant Fertilizer

Diluted coffee is a source of organic fertilizer. It works exceptionally well on acid-loving indoor plants, making them bushier and healthy.

It contains significant amounts of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and other micronutrients essential for plant growth.

2. Marinade

Coffee makes an excellent marinade for meat. Due to its acidity, it pairs perfectly with especially beef to create a perfect flavor explosion. It also acts as a tenderizer.

Whether in dry rubs or as a marinade, old instant coffee is going to add some dimension to your meat’s overall flavor.

3. Hair Treatment

Surprisingly, instant coffee can stimulate hair growth and improve luster.

Prepare some and give it time to cool. Next, pour the coffee onto your hair as you massage it onto your scalp. Allow it to stay on for about 15 minutes before washing it off.

4. Deodorizer

Coffee’s ability to absorb odors is one exciting feature. It’s this feature that makes it possible to use your old instant coffee as a deodorant.

Place some granules in your fridge or any other place you notice a foul smell, and it’ll get rid of the bad smell.

5. Clear Your Drain

Putting some old instant coffee granules into your drain and running the tap for a while will help clear it. You could also brew it first and then pour it into the drain.

Some FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions:

How do you know if instant coffee is bad?

Taste it. It’s the easiest way to figure out if it’s stale.

If it tastes bland, smells funny, or tastes funny, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s most likely the flavor that’s been compromised probably due to poor storage.

Can drinking bad instant coffee make you sick?

Coffee exposed to heat, light, or humidity will taste or smell weird but won’t make you sick.

However, if exposed to moisture, it will form lumps with mold and fungi. Consuming such coffee will make you sick.

How long does instant coffee last?

Instant coffee can last for as long as 20 years as long as it’s stored properly.

When opened, how long the instant coffee lasts largely depends on how well you store it. You can maximize opened instant coffee shelf life by keeping it tightly sealed in a cool, dry place.

At room temperature, opened coffee stored appropriately can remain at peak quality for 13 to 18 months.

Is instant coffee safe to use after the “best by” date?

Yes, instant coffee is safe to use after the “best by” date. The “best before” date doesn’t mean the coffee expires after that date.

It just means the manufacturer deems the coffee to be at optimal quality and flavor during the period before that ”best before” date.

Therefore, it’s safe to consume the coffee long after that date, provided you don’t expose it to heat, light, or moisture.

Take Away

Instant coffee can go bad, but this is a rare occurrence.

It can last for years, but only when appropriately stored away from water, air, and light. I hope this information eliminates any misconceptions you had about instant coffee that’s been around long past its “best before” date.

Now you know how to store your instant coffee properly, what you can do to retain its flavor for longer, and how to tell if it’s bad.

You also know now how you can put old coffee you don’t want to drink to use.

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