How To Tell If Coffee Is Rancid The Easy Way!

How To Tell If Coffee Is Rancid The Easy Way!

How long is it before your coffee goes bad?, How to tell if coffee is rancid are things that run around the minds of coffee lovers when they first discover that coffee does not stay fresh forever.

As a coffee lover and avid coffee drinker, I have the answers that you are looking for.

For those of you that are in a rush, the simple answer is easy!

Run a sniff and sip test. Discard your brewed coffee if they are off, but don’t pour it down the drain or bin your beans if they are rancid. There is something better that you can do, and we’ll tell you later in this article.

Keep reading as I dig into this article and get straight to the meat and bones of it.

How To Tell If Coffee Is Rancid

You can not tell if a coffee is rancid or if you have bad coffee just by looking at it. Coffee over time will lose a shade or so of its color, but that is not really a way of testing your coffee for freshness.

There is no other way but to jump right in there head first…literally and use your nose and mouth with the tried and trusted sniff and sip test.

Let’s get one with those tasks of identifying coffee spoilage.

How To Tell If Coffee Is Rancid
You can’t tell if your coffee is rancid just by looking at them.

Read: Why does my coffee taste bitter?

This is actually the second line of defence. If your coffee fails the first test and smells off, you will not need to taste it.

(Hang on, well get to the sniff test in a moment).

Don’t worry, bad coffee does not taste too awful, it is not going to make you gag or vomit. All it is going to take is a little tiny sip.

A little sip of bad coffee is not going to make your taste buds upset. The taste ranges from sour, to dull and overtly bitter depending on how off your coffee is, the type of coffee beans, how it was brewed and how long it was kept hot for, to name a few factors.

Even the most stellar coffees will lose their unique and distinctive flavors as time passes. I’ve even tried old brewed coffee and brewed with a bag of old very coffee beans. They were as bitter as a lemon!

The best way to tell if your coffee is rancid by tasting them is to brew a fresh cup of coffee and let it cool off for about one hour at room temperature, then take a sip.

If you taste more bitter tastes and sour flavors than what you would expect, it is probable that your coffee is rancid and out of date and past its best.

This, is, of course, assuming your brewing gear is nice and clean, and you brewed it perfectly well.

What Does Rancid Coffee Taste Like
You may need to complete the sip test.


What Does Rancid Coffee Smell Like?

Rancid coffee smells like mildew, a dusty old room or flat. The scent of stale coffee and old beans is not too different from an old vacuum cleaner or ashtray.

Compare that to what fresh coffee smells like! Tasty caramel, nutty, chocolatey and coffee flavors and caramel tones. A treat for the olfactory nerve.

This is true for all types of coffee, from instant coffee to ground beans and whole bean coffee. I just that fresh pleasant aroma of fresh coffee. All of which will be missing from old coffee.

Other Ways You Can Detect Rancid Coffee

There are other ways of checking your coffee and finding out if it is bad before you get to the sniff and sip tests.

If you have espresso beans, you can pull a shot of espresso an check the crema. If it is no longer thick and has gone thin, yellow and lightly colored, or yellowish, your beans will be past their best and more so if you have no crema or a very small and thin amount.

It is a clear sign of old coffee beans.

You can also check the carbon dioxide levels of your beans. Just take a handful of coffee beans and put them in a Ziplock bag and remove all the air before you seal it. Then just leave your bag overnight at room temperature.

If your Ziplock bag has puffed up, it is a sign that your coffee beans are still fresh and giving off carbon dioxide. If your bag is flat and has not puffed up and has no air, your beans are old.

You can still make a cup of coffee with them, but do use the sniff and sip test. Even though coffee snobs advise against it, I say waste not want not!

Ristretto Shot
Pull a shot and check the crema for color and consistency.

How Long Before Coffee Goes Bad?

Coffee does not stay fresh and does go off. But how long before coffee goes bad is like asking how long is a piece of string.

There are different types of coffee and each has a different shelf-life so to speak.

Green coffee beans after processing, can stay fresh for up to 18 months if they are stored well. These are what a roaster will use to roast coffee to any level. You cannot brew coffee with them.

Whole beans will stay at peak freshness for 7 to 10 days after roasting but still brewable for up to 6 months later.

Ground coffee beans are at at their peak freshness for 7 to 10 days after they have been roasted and ground. They are still brewable after that period for up to 3 months.

Instant coffee, depending on the brand and how it was processed, can vary from 2 years to 20 years.

These are only guidelines, as each brand and coffee varies on how long they will stay good for. The freshness of 7 days post roasting is what I stick to.

How Long Before Coffee Goes Bad
Brewed coffee can go bad in 30 mins.

Why Does Coffee Go Bad?

Because nothing lasts forever. When coffee beans are decomposing, unwanted chemical reactions occur, and they start to breakdown, which causes them to lose their freshness.

If you store your coffee in a environment with strong light, odors or moist – even moist in the air you will only accelerate their degradation.

Once they are in contact with oxygen, they start to degrade, which is why when they are ground they do not stay as fresh as long. This is only one reason why we encourage you to buy whole beans.

Why Fresh Coffee Is Important

There is nothing better than something when it is enjoyed fresh, be it coffee, your favorite fruit or even a fresh hot towel.

Fresh coffee is no different. The pleasing aroma and full, fruity, floral flavors and bitter notes, or whatever the flavor profile of the beans may be filling your morning cup of coffee, is much better than a coffee that is past its best.

Most coffee enthusiasts and coffee fans will have a taste preference for fresh coffee. Personally, I am not into coffee snobbery or any level of coffee elitism – there is no need to waste anything.

If your coffee is past its peak freshness, you can simply enjoy it as it is until the bag is finished or, you can make some excellent alternative uses for them and upcycle them.

Before we get to that, let talk about prolonging the life of your coffee beans.

Why Fresh Coffee Is Important
Fresh coffee tastes better!

How To Make Your Coffee Last Longer

My hot Vietnamese girlfriend swears blind that I love coffee more than her – and that is saying something as her family owns a coffee farm!

(She’s not wrong though!).

Still, treat your coffee (and your partner) right, and you will have a long lasting relationship!

Buy one of the countless professional containers for coffee storage that has a one way valve and an airtight lid. Use it to store your coffee beans in and keep your coffee safe from bright lights. Store your coffee container in your freezer. Your beans won’t freeze over, and they will stay fresh for a little longer.

What You Can Do With Your Expired Coffee Beans

If you don’t want to make coffee with your expired coffee beans you have many other uses for them. You can brew the largest batch of coffee that you have ever made and use it to water your garden and household plants once it has cooled down.

There are still plenty of nutrients and minerals in your beans and coffee that will benefit your garden and household plants.

You can grind your coffee beans down and mix your coffee grinds into your soil to add nutrients and revitalize it.

If the beans are still tasty and producing coffee that is alright and not rancid, you can even bake with them and make chocolate-coffee brownies, tiramisu, cakes and even use them as a meat rub or use them to make a marinade to break down meat protein and soften them.

You can also sprinkle them around your garden and the seating area and take advantage of their insect and mosquito repellant effect.

You can make a tiramisu.

FAQ Frequently Asked Questions Related To How To Tell If Coffee Is Rancid

The following questions are related to the topic of rancid coffee and how to tell if coffee is rancid. At Latte Love Brew we love helping our readers and responding to all the questions that we get. If you have a question related to this topic, seek us out on social media and ask us. We take pride in answering all your questions!

What Happens If You Drink Rancid Coffee?

Not a lot will happen if you drink rancid coffee. You are not likely to become seriously ill. At most and, in all probability, the worst thing that will happen to you is an upset stomach. Coffee can grow mold and dangerous bacteria and has the possibility of making you very seriously ill, which is why we do not suggest that you drink a cup of coffee that is rancid, old or off in any way.

Such a scenario is rare, but can happen.

Why Does My Coffee Smell Like Poop?

If your coffee smells like poop it has probably been over-roasted. Beans that have been roasted at too high a temperature or for too long produce a very strong aroma and have a thicker, more oily consistency and will taste burnt and bitter.

If it smells like poop it has likely been roasted beyond the French roast level, the highest roast profile.

How Long Does It Take For Coffee To Go Rancid?

 A cup of brewed coffee can go rancid in as little as half an hour and starts to lose that fresh coffee taste in about half that time. Coffee beans will lose their peak freshness 7 days after roasting and will go rancid after 2 weeks. This stands true regardless of which type of coffee beans.

Is 3 Day Old Coffee Safe?

Strictly speaking, it is safe to drink 3 day old coffee as long as it has no milk of any kind in it, and you have stored it in your fridge. Stale coffee is not at all a pleasant or enjoyable to drink. I don’t recommend drinking day old let alone 3 day old coffee. If you must, run the sniff and sip test. If it smells off or tastes off, discard it and brew a fresh coffee.

Final Thoughts, Frappé-Ing It All Up, How To Tell If Coffee Is Rancid

By reading this far, you know how to tell if coffee is rancid and what to look for and what tests you can run even before you get to the trusted last line of defence of sniff and sip.

Pulling a shot and checking its consistency and the Ziplock bag test require little effort and little know how.

Coffee is love, it's more than love — it's a passion of mine. I've had the luck to have travelled and enjoyed the most exotic of coffee's and unique flavors, brewing methods and techniques of making the perfect coffee from Thai hill tribe coffee to Indonesian volcanic coffee, Malaysian coffee that comes in a tea bag and the array of flavors in Vietnam, from Vanilla to Orange to Coconut to Avocado to even salt coffee and the famous egg coffee. The best part of my coffee adventures is getting to mix with the locals over a nice brew and learning how they make it! I'm cited and referenced on Google Scholar for the topic of coffee.

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