Does Instant Coffee Go Bad? [Shelf Life + Storage Advice]

There are times when you turn to instant coffee. But the problem is that it’s been a while since you bought it and you don’t know if it is in good shape. We’re here to answer that question. If instant coffee is your go-to coffee, you will find this super handy as well.

Does Instant Coffee Go Bad? Instant coffee does not go bad. Instant coffee comes with an excellent shelf life and you can use it even after its use-by date if stored properly. The lack of moisture in instant coffee preserves it for a long time and doesn’t spoil it. But instant coffee that has been stored for a very long lacks in flavor and aroma. Fresh instant coffee is always better than old instant coffee.

Does Instant Coffee Expire? What Is Its Shelf Life?

As we said, instant coffee does not expire. This is one of the biggest advantages it has over ground coffee. You can read our comparison of instant coffee vs ground coffee here.

If you take a close look at your instant coffee jar, you will only find a ‘best before date’ and not an expiration date. It might look subtle, but there is a clear distinction between the two.

The date printed on your coffee jar or packet gives you an idea of how long your coffee can stay fresh. This means the instant coffee will continue to retain its freshness and aroma up until that point.

If you are a regular instant coffee drinker, then your jar of instant coffee isn’t gonna last the fortnight. But if instant coffee is your last resort, then that’s when you’re worried about its expiration date.

Like we said, your instant coffee doesn’t have an expiration date but only a ‘best before’ date.

So what is the shelf life of instant coffee? How long can instant coffee last after the expiration date?

The shelf life of instant coffee can be from 2 to 20 years. When you properly store your instant coffee, even your opened jars of instant coffee can last for more than 20 years. You can store instant coffee either in your pantry or in the refrigerator but the place should be devoid of moisture.

When your instant coffee comes in contact with moisture, its shelf life takes a hit so it is important to pay attention to the storing condition of your instant coffee.

Storing Conditions of Instant Coffee

When it comes to regular coffee grounds, storage is one of the most important aspects. The same is true for instant coffee but you don’t have to be very careful about it. Just simple rules will save your instant coffee.

So what are the ideal storing conditions for instant coffee?

Low Oxygen Environment

Do you know that instant coffee is packaged in a low-oxygen environment? This is because oxygen can cause oxidation which can deteriorate the overall quality of the coffee. Oxidation is not only a problem for brewed coffee but also for packed coffee.

If your instant coffee is unopened, you don’t have to worry about oxidation. But if you have opened your coffee packet or jar, then you should be careful not to let too much air in.

So the first thing to do with instant coffee is to store it in an airtight container. If you bought an instant coffee jar, then the jar should be fine.

But if you bought instant coffee packets that will come in handy for more than a few uses, then you have to transfer the coffee powder or granules to an airtight container.

Do keep in mind that once you open your instant coffee jar or packet, air will go in. It is impossible to prevent that, but you can avoid overexposure to air by storing your coffee in an airtight container.

The air that creeps in will stay there for a long time and will cause oxidation but it won’t spoil your coffee. This is one of the main reasons why your opened instant coffee might become stale over a period of time.

No Direct Sunlight

Whether we are talking about ground coffee or instant coffee, direct sunlight is a no-no.

When you expose fresh coffee to direct sunlight, the chances of oxidation increase. This is true to instant coffee powder as well as instant coffee granules.

So it is a good idea to store your coffee in a cool place away from direct sunlight. If you storing your coffee in your fridge, then there is nothing to worry about. But if your pantry faces sunlight at any time of the day, store your instant coffee somewhere else.

Always A Dry Spoon

Never use a wet spoon to scoop coffee out of the jar.

A wet spoon will introduce moisture into your coffee jar and this can lead to the growth of bacteria and even mold in your coffee over time.

In most cases, the coffee will lose its dry nature and will become a wet mass of coffee that is almost useless unless you’re going to use them as a whole.

Make sure that you are using a dry spoon to handle your coffee. This tip alone will safeguard and preserve your instant coffee for a long time.

Use Single-Serve Packets

All the problems we tackled above are for coffee jars. When you buy a 3.5 or 10.5 oz jar of instant coffee, you will have to open it and store it safely for the best results.

You can avoid all these problems if you use single-serve coffee packets.

Single-serve packets are a great option for those who don’t drink coffee regularly. It is also a good choice for brewed coffee lovers occasionally who won’t have the time to play with coffee grounds.

You can buy these packets and store them in your pantry without having to worry about preserving their quality.

You can open a packet, use it, and chuck it in the bin. This is instant coffee without the headache of storing it.

Is It Okay To Drink Expired Instant Coffee?

So your coffee is somewhat older. You’ve forgotten about your coffee for a few years and it has clearly surpassed its best by date.

What happens when you drink expired instant coffee?

If your coffee is unopened, then it is going to be fine with a deterioration in aroma and flavor. But if we’re talking about a jar of opened instant coffee, then it is going to be as flat as possible.

The coffee is not going to smell or taste nice. You will still be able to make a cup of coffee out of it, but it will not be packed with any flavor. That is the problem when you leave instant coffee well beyond its use-by date.

If you’re worried about your health, then no need to worry. Expired coffee can’t make you sick unless it has bacteria or mold in it. You will be able to see or smell it when you open the coffee jar. If you can’t smell or see anything, then it probably doesn’t carry any health risk.

How Do You Know That Instant Coffee Is Bad?

The first indicator of bad instant coffee is the lack of smell. When you open your coffee jar, you should be treated with the fresh aroma of coffee. If you’re not getting any smell, then there is a good chance that this coffee is a lot older than it should be.

The second indicator is taste. How does stale instant coffee taste?

Old and stale instant coffee comes with a very flat taste. There is no flavor profile and it simply falls flat at every turn. If you can compare the taste difference of expired coffee with a fresh packet of instant coffee or regular coffee, you will see that there’s a world of difference.

You can also know that your instant coffee is bad if it has a bad odor or mold on top of it.

Can Instant Coffee Get Mold?

Yes, instant coffee can get mold. When your coffee develops mold, you can see a layer of cotton-like substance on your coffee. This mold develops because of the moisture content in your coffee jar. It is important to not let any moisture in as it can lead to mold or bacteria growth.

If you follow the instant coffee storage advice mentioned above, you should not have any problem with instant coffee storage.

What Can You Do With Expired Instant Coffee?

The best thing about instant coffee is that it doesn’t simply expire.

So if you’re looking for a way to use expired instant coffee, then drinking it isn’t such a bad idea. And for some reason, if you don’t want to consume it, there are other uses for your stale and expired coffee.

You can use your old coffee in your garden as a bug repellent. The coffee ground should be mixed with the soil and it can help in the growth of your plants.

You can throw your instant coffee in the compost bin as well.

Does Instant Coffee Go Bad? – Closing Thoughts

In my opinion, instant coffee will be never as good as ground coffee. But when it comes to shelf life, instant coffee beats regular coffee without any issues.

With a shelf life of more than 20 years, instant coffee is one of the most long-lasting consumer products out there. Whether it is Nescafe or Folgers, there should be some in your home when you can make your regular coffee.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to discard your instant coffee just because it has passed its best before date. It will still make a good cup of coffee if it is not way past its prime.

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