There is no doubt that freshly ground spices have a lot more flavour and benefits than old spices – this is, after all, why you have invested in a decent spice grinder and why you grind your own spices. But how long can you keep your favourite spices without the risk of spoilage or lost health benefit, aroma and flavour?
Before we give you some guidelines on typical shelf life of these aromatic condiments, it is first worth noting that how you look after your spices will play a big role in how long they last. Some people believe that storing spices in the fridge will retain their power for longer. Some may even keep spices such as ginger or chilli in the freezer. There are many viewpoints on this, but for the most part, subjecting your spices and herbs to harsh temperatures (cold or otherwise) may end up causing more harm than good. Ideally, spices and herbs should be kept in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard or shelf that is out of the way of direct sunlight.
Using smaller amounts instead of grinding the entire leaf, root or spice will also help to keep them fresher for longer. Keeping your grinders clean and avoiding contamination from other sources is also advised, so instead of using the same grinder to prepare pepper, salt, coriander and cloves, rather invest in a few grinders to use for different types of spice.
Preserving Whole Spices without Spoilage
With that said, a good guideline of how long various types of whole spices will keep in your grinders or in sealed containers or bottles will give you an idea of typical shelf life. Guidelines include the following:
- Whole, unground spices, herbs, leaves and edible flowers: 1 – 2 years
- Spice seeds: 2 – 3 years
- Whole roots: 2 – 3 years
- Ground spices and herbs (prepared from whole): 1 year
- Ground roots (prepared from whole): 2 years
These guidelines refer to the amount of time before a spice or herb will spoil. Some spices however are best fresh, and while they may still be technically unspoilt, they may start to lose their flavour and potency after a while. The best way to determine whether or not a spice is still fresh, or whether it is close to its spoiling date is to consider the colour and the smell. Old spices that are no long as potent will have a dull, muted colour compared to their original shade. Likewise, they may not smell as flavoursome as they did when you first purchased them.
By looking after your spices, buying smaller amounts to use in a shorter space of time rather than stocking up in bulk, and regularly checking your spices appearance and aroma, you should be able to prevent spoilage.
Investing in a good set of spice grinders will also help to keep your favourite spices fresh when they are in the grinders, so be sure to stock up on some decent quality grinders so that you get the most from your favourite spices.