We all have a jar of unopened instant coffee we bought a long time ago and just forgot that it exists until we stumble upon it one day while searching for something else. More often than not, it’s already past its “best by” date, which makes us wonder whether it’s still safe to use it or not.
While the sensible person in us just tells us to throw it, a part of us tells us that it’s most likely fine to drink it, especially if it’s the only coffee we have left in the house. While we recommend erring on the side of caution most of the time, things are different when it comes to instant coffee.
Instant coffee doesn’t expire, considering that it has been stored properly. Since there is no moisture in instant coffee, instant coffee can’t spoil regardless of when you bought it. That being said, there is a reason for instant coffee having a “best by” date even though it can’t spoil. Simply put, it’s a guideline that tells you that your coffee will have lost most of its flavor by this date, making it less than pleasant to drink it.
Storing Instant Coffee
How you store your instant coffee is a deciding factor for the amount of time it will stay fresh. The shelf life of instant coffee can go up to 20 years with proper storage, regardless of whether it is opened or not.
The most important thing to look out for when it comes to storing instant coffee is moisture. Moisture is the one thing that can spoil your coffee and cause it to grow mold, rendering it completely unusable.
To prevent your coffee from being ruined by moisture, store it in an air-tight container in a dry area. By doing this, the humidity in the air will not be able to reach your coffee. When it’s time to brew, make sure that your coffee doesn’t come into contact with water. The most common cause of spoilage is a wet spoon ending up in the coffee container, which suddenly adds moisture.
While it won’t spoil your coffee like moisture, staying out in the open will quickly destroy the flavor of your coffee. Just like coffee beans, instant coffee is also very susceptible to oxidation, meaning that prolonged exposure to oxygen will cause coffee to release its flavor. For this reason, it’s of utmost importance to make sure that the container you’re using is sealed air-tight.
The next thing to look out for is heat. Coffee being exposed to heat for prolonged periods will also cause it to lose its flavor, which is why it’s a good rule of thumb to keep your coffee in a cold and dark place. By keeping your coffee in the dark, you won’t have to worry about sunlight coming into contact with it, which also could cause your coffee to lose freshness.
While not necessary, freezing your instant coffee can help you preserve it for an even longer time. A freezer checks all the boxes for proper coffee storage, and it also helps to slow down the oxidation of coffee. Make sure to keep your coffee in a separate area than the other things in your freezer to prevent your coffee from absorbing unwanted aromas.
If not done properly, freezing can cause more harm than good, so don’t feel inclined to freeze your instant coffee unless you’re sure that the things in your freezer won’t negatively impact your coffee.
By following these storage rules, it’s possible to have your coffee taste just the way it’s supposed to, even if years have gone by since the “best by” date. Since not everyone follows proper storage rules, the “best by” date acts more like a guideline that is directed towards the general public.
You can apply these storage rules to other coffee-related products such as coffee creamer as well to keep them fresh.
Things You Can Do With Instant Coffee
If you somehow ended up with more instant coffee than drink, here are some creative ways to use it up before it starts losing its flavor.
Smoothies & Milkshakes
The next time you’re making a smoothie or a milkshake, try adding a teaspoon or two of instant coffee into the mix. It will give your smoothie a nice and subtle coffee flavor.
You can use your instant coffee to prepare coffee ice to be used with iced coffee later on. Since regular ice can easily dilute iced coffee, coffee ice comes in extremely handy to preserve the flavor of your iced coffee.
Espresso Powder Substitute
You can use instant coffee as an espresso powder substitute in baking recipes that require espresso powder. While instant coffee isn’t as rich in flavor as espresso, it does a good enough job for the most part.
Ice Cream Topping
You can sprinkle some instant coffee on top of your ice cream to give it a little bit of coffee flavor.
Mix with Cereal
By adding instant coffee to the milk you’re preparing cereal with, you can integrate your morning coffee into your cereal.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Should you refrigerate instant coffee?
There is no reason to store your instant coffee in the refrigerator. Since all you have to do is to keep your coffee away from moisture, heat, and light, a simple cupboard is perfect for storage.
While storing in the refrigerator doesn’t cause any obvious negatives, it may cause your coffee to absorb unwanted flavors from the food stored inside.
How long can you keep instant coffee?
With proper storage conditions, instant coffee can stay fresh up to 20 years, whereas if storage conditions aren’t ideal, it could lose its freshness even before the “best by” date.
For this reason, the answer heavily depends on how well of a job you are doing to keep your coffee in top shape.
Does freezing instant coffee keep it fresh longer?
While proper storage of instant coffee is enough to keep it fresh for a long time, freezing can help to slow the oxidation process down and contribute to the length of your coffee’s shelf life when done properly.
On the flip side, improper storage will cause your coffee to absorb unwanted odors from your freezer, causing an unpleasant coffee experience.
How can you tell if instant coffee is spoiled?
In the rare case of instant coffee going bad, you will notice that the appearance and the smell of the coffee are off. The most common symptoms for spoilage are a foul smell and the visible development of mold.
If you see or smell anything out of the ordinary when you open your coffee container, immediately discard the coffee.
We hope that we managed to clear the air about instant coffee as there is a lot of misinformation on this subject.
There is absolutely nothing to worry about consuming instant coffee that has been around for a while if stored properly, so feel free to enjoy your cup of coffee.
Have a great day!