The thing about coffee beans is that technically speaking, they don’t go bad. Coffee beans don’t have an expiration date like almost everything else in our kitchen. But things can happen to coffee beans that cause your coffee to taste stale or bitter.
But if coffee beans don’t technically go bad, how do you know if they’re stale or the taste will not be what you would typically expect when making a cup of coffee?
How to Tell If Your Coffee is Stale
You’re probably not going to take a bite of a coffee bean, so the best way to know if your coffee has gone stale before you drink it is if all that comes out of the coffee maker is a dark black liquid.
Coffee that has gone stale will be solid black. Coffee that isn’t stale will generally have some foam or a layer of crema on top. If you still see a layer of foam, but when you taste your coffee, and the flavor is weaker than usual, that’s another significant indicator that the coffee is stale.
Is Drinking Stale Coffee Bad For You?
If you’ve taken a sip of your coffee and realize it’s stale, you don’t need to rush and clean out your mouth. The good news about stale coffee is that it’s not actually bad for you. Unlike eating expired food, stale coffee won’t make you sick.
Obviously, the flavor will be different, and it may repulse you simply because it doesn’t taste how it usually does, but stale coffee will not cause you any harm.
How to Check How Fresh Your Coffee Beans Are
Before you even brew your coffee and look for a layer of foam, there are several ways you can check to see how fresh your coffee beans are before you end up tasting a stale liquid.
1. Smell the Coffee Beans
One of the best things about coffee beans is the smell. You can smell coffee beans from quite a distance away. If you cannot smell your coffee beans immediately when you pull them from the pantry of their container, there’s a good chance your coffee beans have gone stale.
2. Check for Oil Residue
Coffee beans have natural oils that come from the beans. To check for oil, all you have to do is look inside the bag or container where you’re keeping the coffee beans. If you see oil residue, then your coffee is still fresh.
If you cannot tell if there’s oil residue on the bag or container, there’s another way to check. Grab a few coffee beans from the container or bag, and if they leave an oily residue on your hands, they’re ready to go.
3. Test Them With a Zip Lock Bag
This test to see if your coffee beans are fresh or not takes a little longer than the other options but is still simple to do. All you have to do is take a plastic zip lock bag and place your coffee beans in it.
Remove all air from the bag before sealing it. Be sure to leave the bag away from heat, light, and moisture while performing this test as you would when storing beans. Leave the bag alone overnight.
When you wake up in the morning, if your bag has inflated due to carbon dioxide being released, your coffee beans are fresh. If the bag hasn’t inflated at all or only minimally, you may want to toss your coffee beans out unless you’re okay with drinking stale coffee.
4. Check for a Glossy Appearance
Coffee beans that are still very fresh or relatively fresh are going to have a glossy appearance due to the oils released when they’re roasted. If you cannot see a glossy appearance on your coffee beans, they’re more than likely stale.
How to Keep Your Coffee Beans From Going Stale Too Quickly
Coffee beans will lose their flavor over time and eventually go stale. There are a few things you can do to keep your coffee beans as fresh as possible for as long as possible, though.
1. Keep Them Away From Heat
You don’t want your coffee beans anywhere near heat until you’re ready to brew coffee. The best way to do this is to store coffee beans away from your stove and oven and in a room temperature area. The pantry is great for this, as is a cabinet that’s away from heat.
2. Keep Them Away From Moisture
Moisture is the second enemy of coffee. Moisture that isn’t brought on by the brewing process can cause your coffee beans to go stale too quickly. The best way to keep your coffee beans away from moisture is using a proper container and storing them in a room without humidity.
3. Keep Them Away From Oxygen
You probably have heard people talk about storing coffee beans in an airtight container. There’s a major reason for this. Too much oxygen can cause your coffee beans to spoil. Using an airtight container will keep oxygen out of your coffee beans.
Using an airtight container will also help with preventing moisture from seeping into the coffee beans.
4. Keep Them Away From Light
The best place to keep your coffee beans is in a dark area. If you choose to use your pantry, you’ll want to avoid opening the pantry unnecessarily or just a container that is not translucent. An opaque container can limit the amount of light that reaches your coffee beans.
Even though it can be convenient to leave your coffee beans or grounds on the counter near your coffee maker, you’re allowing your coffee to go bad quicker than if you were to store them properly.
A cabinet you rarely open is another great option for keeping your coffee beans away from the light. If you’re going to do this, make sure it’s a dry cabinet that isn’t too close to any heat sources in your kitchen. That could be your stove or even a window that lets light and heat in.