Does Instant Coffee Go Bad? (Shelf Life & Storing Tips)

We all know that instant coffee can last for a long time, forgotten in the depths of your kitchen cabinet.

But does instant coffee go bad?

Technically, instant coffee will not go bad quickly. An unopened pack of instant coffee will be good for years. But, there are many factors that can influence its lifespan.

Keep on reading, because we will talk about these factors and how to know if your coffee went bad. Plus, I’ll give you some helpful tips on how to store your coffee or use stale coffee leftovers.

Let’s start!

Does Instant Coffee Go Bad? 

instant coffee in a spoon

Wondering how is it possible to open a 5-year-old jar of instant coffee and have it still smell so fresh?

Well, the main reason is the way instant coffee is made.

Instant coffee (powder coffee, coffee crystals, or soluble coffee) is actually already brewed ground coffee. But, after that, it is dehydrated and ground into crystals.

That’s why you can just pour over the water and have a cup of coffee in just a few seconds.

Now, let’s see what makes instant coffee last so long.

Two factors that affect coffee grounds the most are water and air.

Air will speed up the oxidation process. Coffee will start releasing all the aromas and flavors. This will result in one terrible-tasting coffee.

Water is a different story. If your instant coffee granules are in contact with water, or even humid air, your coffee will absorb it and become sticky and lumpy. The next stage is mold forming all over your coffee jar. (Yuck!)

Considering this, no wonder that an unopened package of instant coffee can last up to 20 years, or maybe even longer.

If you look carefully at the package, you probably won’t find the “Expiration Date”. Instead, you will find something like “Best By” or “Best Before”.

That is just a manufactures assumption for how long coffee powder will stay fresh and flavorful in unopened packaging.

If it’s unopened, it will be safe for use long after the recommended date.

But, once you open the original packaging, the process of oxidation will start.

This process is much slower with instant coffee than with regular roasted coffee beans.

The same goes for moisture and mold.

Store your opened instant coffee properly, and it will taste great for a long time. 

I remember that one summer, I left an opened jar of instant coffee in my family’s vacation house. Next summer I forgot to buy coffee and found that last year, old instant coffee.

I desperately needed my caffeine intake, so I gave it a shot.

Guess what?

It tasted great! Okay, I put two scoops instead of one because the taste was milder than fresh coffee.

But, for a one-year-old, opened jar of instant coffee, the flavor was surprisingly good.

How Do You Know That Instant Coffee Has Gone Bad?

bad instant coffee

It is easy to notice mold on your coffee. If you see that fluffy, white stuff on your coffee, you definitely won’t use it. It also has a very distinctive smell to warn you that drinking coffee will be a terrible experience.

So, if there’s no mold, how can you tell if your instant coffee is still good for use?

Well, old coffee won’t really make you sick.

But, the oxidation process takes the best out of your coffee. If it’s sitting in your pantry for too long, you may end up with a really bad-tasting beverage.

The first sign of stale coffee is a lack of smell. If the smell is off, that means you probably won’t have a flavor-packed cup of joe.

And not only the bad instant coffee will lack all the good flavor, but it can also be really bitter.

IN A NUTSHELL
If you want to check if your instant coffee is still good, simply use your most reliable tools – smell and taste.

How To Keep Instant Coffee Fresh Longer?  

Okay, now let me tell you how to keep your instant coffee fresh as long as possible:

1. Keep it in an airtight containers 

This one is crucial. We want to avoid coffee being in contact with air as much as possible. 

Air will speed up the oxidation process. Also, if humidity is high, you risk getting mold on your coffee. 

A quality airtight container will keep the freshness of instant coffee.

Nowadays, you can find good coffee containers for everyone’s budget. Plus, there are some really cool designs.

2. Keep it in the dark place 

Yep, sunlight also increases the chances of oxidation.

So, if you’re using a glass container or jar for your coffee ground, place it in your kitchen pantry, or any other dark place.

An opaque container is an even better option.

3. Never use a wet spoon

Never, ever use a wet spoon to scoop your coffee.

Most people don’t even think about this, but hear me out:

When you put a wet spoon into your coffee container, water particles will stay inside the container.

You can see where this is going:

It is a playfield for developing mold and bacteria.

So, just use a clean and dry scoop for your coffee.

What To Do With Expired Instant Coffee? 

I really don’t like wasting any food.

So, I often find creative ways to use any leftovers.

The same goes for instant coffee.

If it’s just stale, expired coffee, without any traces of mold, there’s no reason to throw it away.

1. Caffeinate your smoothie

Love your morning smoothie routine? A little additional caffeine buzz won’t hurt you.

A scoop or two of instant coffee in your smoothie is a great way to charge up with caffeine.

And it will taste even better than brewed coffee!

2. Make coffee ice cubes

Prepare instant coffee, pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze it.

Those coffee ice cubes can be a great way to add more caffeine to your ice coffee (and they look amazing!).

3. Face scrub 

Coffee skin scrubs are super popular, and you have probably seen that type of product in stores.

Well, you can make yourself a coffee skin scrub from expired instant coffee.

There is a plenty of different recipes online for DIY coffee scrubs. Find the one that suits you depending on which ingredients you have.

Conclusion 

Bottom line:

Instant coffee is pretty much everlasting.

Joke aside, an unopened pack of instant coffee can stay good for 20 years.

Once it is opened, it will start losing its flavors and might get moldy in contact with water.

But, if you keep it in an airtight container, your instant coffee can stay good for a very long time, even years.

Are you trying to reduce your caffeine intake? Here’s the list of the best decaf instant coffees you can try!

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Tijana Veljovic
Tijana spent a few years working as a barista. Now she’s enjoying writing about everything she learned about coffee and sharing it with you. Her weapon of choice for making it through the day is a hot latte. Besides writing and coffee, she loves traveling, camping, cooking, and good music.