How Your Business can Keep Coffee Safe for Consumption

If you sell or serve coffee, follow these tips to ensure it’s not just tasty, but safe to drink.
November 18, 2021

Air, moisture, heat and light: what do these things have in common? They are all natural enemies of the coffee bean!

Most people don’t think coffee poses any food safety risks, but coffee beans can harbour harmful bacteria. Additionally, if not cleaned or maintained properly, coffee machines can become dirty or have mould build up inside that can contaminate the drink. Customers can get sick with food poisoning if Food Handlers fail to take the proper precautions, or neglect the coffee maker as part of the cleaning schedule.

5 tips to keep coffee safe from food safety risks

From sourcing to serving, food safety needs to be part of the process of getting coffee to the consumer.

1. Start with the supplier

Are your beans from a reliable source? Just like with food products, you need to inspect coffee deliveries upon arrival at your business, and only purchase from reputable suppliers whom you’re sure follow proper safety practices. If the beans arrive pre-roasted, they should have a glossy appearance, as oils are still escaping from the beans. This is a rare product in which oil is actually a sign of freshness.

Packaging also provides a clue to the contents’ quality. Because freshly roasted beans emit gas, there should be a valve in the packaging from which that gas can escape.

2. Buy the right amount

With a product like coffee, you don’t want to stock up on a lifetime supply. To ensure freshness and safety, only buy the amount you need. Almost immediately after roasting, beans lose their freshness. Buy enough for one or two weeks, but no more. Because air exposure harms beans, consider dividing beans to be used first into small portions, and keep the larger portions in an airtight container.

3. Focus on storage

Coffee beans or grounds should be stored in airtight, opaque (preferably ceramic) containers that protect it from bacteria or foreign objects. It should be stored in a cool, dry place to prevent a fungus from growing. Never store coffee in the refrigerator or freezer — the beans will absorb tastes and smells from other products in the fridge. Also, the moisture in the fridge or freezer can spoil the beans.

Keep beans away from sources of steam in your food business, as the heat and humidity will cause them to spoil more quickly.

4. Get rid of expired goods

Expired milk and creamers can be dangerous and should always be thrown out. But it's also important to remember that non-dairy creamers and other milk substitutes that people put in their coffee can also expire and cause a food safety issue — they can even be contaminated with Salmonella. Put milk substitutes in a cool place, and check them frequently to ensure they’re not expired. Toss them before their use-by date.

5. Clean the coffee machine

This sounds obvious, but it’s not always clear in a busy food business that all parts of the coffee machine need cleaning. The water container or filter box need attention; if they are not properly cleaned, bacteria and mould can form.

When staff make coffee, they may leave the paper filter with used grounds in the machine until the next pot. This should be avoided, because bacteria and mould can grow on the damp paper and grounds. Throw out or compost paper filters after every use.

Coffee machines should be part of your food business’s cleaning schedule. Download and use the Canadian Institute of Food Safety’s (CIFS) Restaurant Cleaning Checklist to help ensure that all the necessary items are cleaned on a regular basis, including coffee machines and espresso makers.