How To Tell If Coffee Is Rancid And What To Do With It?

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The smell of coffee is one of the most enticing aromas in the world. Yet, what if your coffee starts to smell a little off? –  Unfortunately, it is rancid!

Knowing how to tell if coffee is rancid is critical. Let’s figure out why, as well as what you can do to avoid your coffee turning into a sour taste in your mouth!

Why Does Coffee Go Bad?

Unwanted chemical reactions occur when coffee beans degrade. This process will cause their fresh tastes to deteriorate, ultimately turning rancid.

Coffee beans are usually resistant to bacteria, mold, and mildew. However, if you store them in a moist place, they can eventually degrade your coffee’s taste; at first, it’ll sour then become unsafe for consumption. 

Is Rancid Coffee Safe To Drink?

Coffee does not “go bad” in the same way that bread molds or bananas rot on your counter. Even though the expiration date has passed, drinking coffee prepared from old beans will not make you sick!

Rancid coffee beans aren’t harmful to your health on their own. Although they’ll taste old and weak, they can’t make you ill as long as you don’t consume too much. While rancid is safe to drink, its flavor can not satisfy you!

What Is The Typical Coffee Shelf Life?

The shelf life of coffee is a concern for many people. Some of the most typical are as follows: 

  • Whole bean coffee has a better flavor after four weeks of storage. Therefore, the best way to preserve its quality is by using it within that time frame. You may store it in the pantry for up to 9 months.
  • Ground coffee is susceptible to spoilage more quickly, as it has a larger surface area exposed to oxygen and carbon dioxide. We recommend you use them soon after opening the container! In fact, ground coffees can last up to 5 months in their original state if appropriately stored.
  • Suppose you’ve already made your coffee, attempt to finish it within 12 hours. If not, put some in the fridge for up to two more days of drinking pleasure!
  • It is vital to keep the expiration date of your coffee in mind, but don’t worry too much because it won’t create too many changes over time! 

How To Tell If Coffee Is Rancid?

Odd smell/dusty aroma

If your coffee goes wrong, you won’t be able to tell if it is fresh or not based on the physical appearance. Suppose you believe that the beans have gone moldy or soured; the easiest method to find out is to smell them.

If the coffee is still fresh, you can catch a specific caramel fragrance. When you inhale, you can feel strong coffee flavors at the back of the nose and mouth. 

Once coffee oils begin to degrade, the fragrance will change and become less pleasant. Rancid coffees have a dusty or mildewy scent with an ashtray-like quality, which is difficult for most people to withstand!

When buying coffee beans, there are several things you need to keep in mind: first off, the packaging will begin spoiling immediately, and secondly, once opened, they spoil faster with time as well! 

However, the best solution for this issue is simply using your freshly roasted coffee right away.

Sour and bitter taste

Bad coffee has a flavor that ranges from bland to sour. To identify an odd flavor, brew a cup and let it cool for an hour. Get rid of the drink if you detect more sour or bitter flavors than usual.

However, don’t just assess your coffee based on taste! Improper brewing can also cause unpleasant tastes, so be sure not to commit any of these frequent errors when making this delicacy.

No-bubbles crema

Have you tasted your brew to check whether it’s bad? First, check for crema, which is always on top. New beans may generate a thin layer of microbubbles on a cup of black coffee, while old beans cannot.

No air in ziplock bag coffee

Carbon dioxide testing is one of the best ways to determine if your beans are fresh or old.

Specifically, place a handful of beans in a ziplock bag and remove all of the air. If they puff up in a bag after sitting at room temperature for one night, it means that you’re dealing with ultra-fresh whole bean coffee (less than 10 days). Meanwhile, if there’s still no air coming from them, it would be some older beans.

This test is undoubtedly an effective one, as beans release CO2 till they oxidize. Yet, coffee snobs would consider the joe past its prime if it has been more than 10 days since roasting!

What To Do With Rancid Coffee Beans?

Before you chuck that coffee, make sure it still tastes good by smelling and tasting. If not, do not rush to waste your beans! The best way to do this? Recycle them for human consumption or other purposes!

Baking

Many baking recipes include tiramisu, brownies, syrups, meat rubs, and cakes. Just make sure the coffee isn’t too old, as it might add sour flavors to your dish.

Gardening

Fertilize your garden with ground coffee. It not only enriches the soil with vital minerals for plant development, but it can also attract worms!

Repulsion

Coffee is poisonous to insects and pests (such as slugs). To keep pests at bay, sprinkle the beans about your outdoor dining areas and plants.

Exfoliation

Combine the ground coffee with coconut oil to make a body scrub, which can eliminate dirt and dead skin while leaving you feeling smooth. 

How To Keep Your Coffee Stay Fresh Longer?

Do you want your coffee to be the best it can be? Then, make sure that when storing and drinking them, they are kept to preserve their flavor!

Store coffee in an airtight/thermal container.

Coffee spoils rapidly, so don’t keep it brewed for too long if you want it to taste its finest. 

Pour newly produced beans into thermal containers before they lose their volatile oils, which will change temperature fast once brewing stops.

You can also keep your coffee hot by placing it in an airtight container, but flavor problems can happen if you do not store it correctly!

Once out of the fridge, place it on any microwave or stovetop to reheat. Still, don’t overdo it since boiling can result in a bitter and burned flavor.

Keep your container in a cool place

Make sure the container is opaque to shield the coffee from light. Store your coffee in a cool, dark area to keep heat and moisture out.

Also, keep in mind that the delicious chemicals in the beans will degrade faster in a heated environment, so make sure your coffee container is kept cool!

Don’t freeze your coffee

Your coffee can lose its beans’ flavor if you freeze the coffee after brewing it. Ideally, this is done before brewing, so iced coffees are more likely to have a fresher flavor.

Additionally, be mindful that freezing beans can make them more rubbery and less flavorful.

FAQs

Can you get sick from drinking old coffee?

It is possible to become ill after drinking old coffee. It may make you feel sick if it is really old. Furthermore, if there is any dairy in your coffee, especially iced coffee, you risk getting food poisoning since dairy degrades rapidly.

How long does it take for coffee to go rancid?

Regular coffee typically lasts for a week or two, but specialty coffees may have a shorter lifespan. It’s important to note that those particles go rancid more quickly once you grind the beans up into a powder.

In addition to the type of bean, the humidity of your place also affects how long it takes for coffee to start going bad.

Can ground coffee go rancid?

It doesn’t go bad, but it does lose its flavor.

The environment you keep your ground coffee beans will affect the flavor quality. Air, moisture, and light may all speed up the oxidation process, causing your coffee to get stale.

Ground coffee should be stored in a securely sealed container in a cool, dry place to maintain its quality. 

Does unopened ground coffee expire?

Unopened coffee grounds have a five-month shelf life and only grow stale after being exposed to air for a lengthy period. Exposure to the air after opening speeds up the oxidation process by 3-4 months.

Final Thoughts

We all know that drinking rancid coffee isn’t a good idea. Coffee is a beverage that should be consumed as soon as it is ground and made, but if it has gone rancid, it may be time for a new batch.

This article should have provided you with some insight into how to tell if coffee is rancid. As mentioned above, drink your coffee as soon as possible after purchasing it. We hope these suggestions help you keep your taste senses satisfied!

Almost 20 years already spent committed to coffee and more than 3 years of experience as a barista at Starbucks. Madelyn Doyle graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Science from the University of California and finished the Coffee Skills Program at the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).