Have you ever been in a situation where you ran out of coffee when you least expected it? Thankfully, you discovered that you have a boxful of unopened Nescafe Classic packets stashed in your kitchen drawer. However, you are hesitant to use it since it is way beyond its expiry date. Read on for some enlightening details if expired instant coffee is safe to consume or not.
Expired instant coffee: Is there such a thing?
No, there is no such thing as expired instant coffee. It does not really expire because it contains no moisture. While it is standard procedure to have a “best by” date and expiry date stamped on it, instant coffee is safe for consumption for way beyond the said time as long as it is properly stored in a dry and airtight container. However, it is to be expected that instant coffee will lose most of its flavor and aroma after a certain period. Its taste will also be noticeably dull and unpleasant.
Is expired instant coffee harmful to your health?
No, expired instant coffee is not harmful to your health and experts do not think it can have any adverse effects such as death. It can go stale because it is not new or fresh anymore but you can still brew and drink it. There are no known health threats except that it will have a dull flavor.
The shelf life of instant coffee is more or less 20 years and regardless if it is opened or not, it won’t easily go bad as long as it is properly stored in a cool and dry place. Experts recommend that it should be kept in a dark place since harsh light can affect its flavor and promote oxidative reactions. These so-called reactions are the effects of oxygen exposure resulting in the release of flavor, making coffee stale. This is the reason why instant coffee is packaged in a low-oxygen element to prevent the loss of aroma.
Although you already opened your jar of instant coffee, it will not easily get spoiled. It may not taste as good as before and flavor may be compromised but it is safe to drink it. So, if you have instant coffee that’s been sitting in the pantry for a few years it can still be used, as long as it is stored properly. If it has not been opened, the taste will be better compared to an opened one.
However, if your partially opened or unopened instant coffee has been exposed to heat, light or humidity it may have a big impact on its flavor because of the unsuitable storage conditions. Moisture is a big no-no as the granules could lump together and develop fungi and mold. Always use a dry spoon when scooping out instant coffee to avoid putting moisture into the jar. Moisture could lead to bacterial growth and spoil the coffee.
Make sure that the jar or container is sealed well to ensure that the flavor of instant coffee will be maintained and avoid exposure to oxygen. Store the coffee in an airtight container to make sure that it stays free from oxidative reactions. If you are concerned about spoilage and storage conditions, you could opt to buy instant coffee single-serve packets.
Creative ways to use expired instant coffee
Here are some creative ways to use expired instant coffee if you do not want to drink it:
1. Use it as a fertilizer for your garden.
Coffee contains nitrogen, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and chromium. These minerals are important for plant growth and help absorb metals that contaminate the soil. Coffee grounds also attract worms that can further fertilize the soil. Simply sprinkle the coffee on the soil.
2. Use it as an insect and pest repellent.
Coffee contains compounds like caffeine and diterpenes that could kill pests and insects like bugs, fireflies and mosquitos. Simply sprinkle or place bowls of coffee grounds on your front porch.
3. Use it to neutralize odors.
Coffee grounds have nitrogen that eliminates foul sulfur gas from the air and other unpleasant odors. Use it as air fresheners or place some in your drawers, freezer, fridge, shoes or even under car seats. It can also remove the smell of garlic or onions from your hands. Just scrub it in your hands after chopping garlic or onions.
4. Use it to exfoliate your skin.
Coffee grounds are great exfoliating agents that remove dead cells and dirt from the skin. Just mix it with some water or coconut oil and scrub it on your face and body. You could also mix it with some honey and use it as an exfoliating lip scrub. Caffeine’s antioxidant properties also protect the skin from sun damage.
Aside from those mentioned above, you can also use instant coffee as a natural dye, to tenderize meat, grow mushrooms, clean your fireplace and remove fleas from your pets. There are many helpful hacks that you can do with instant coffee should you not find it suitable to consume.
If you run out of coffee and desperately need a hot cup of joe, you can always check your kitchen. Most likely, you will have expired instant coffee stashed somewhere in those cabinet drawers. It can still be consumed although it is already a few months or years old, as long as it is stored in an airtight container, has no moisture inside and no signs of mold or mildew.
Image: istockphoto.com / KrimKate