fresh saffron vs old saffron
Written by Vahid Epagloo, Food Consultant Updated:

You should know that saffron does not expire and the shelf life of saffron could be more than a year, in the desired conditions. During the time the quality of saffron and its properties changes, hence there are many differences between old saffron and the fresh stigmas, we are going to check these differences.

What is saffron?

Saffron is the stigmas of the lilac saffron flower with the botanical name of Crocus Sativus. These stigmas are separated from the saffron flower and need some process to be ready to use. In these processes, the root parts of the stigmas, the orange part at the end of the stigma, are cut. The longest red parts of stigmas are the saffron threads that have all the saffron properties.

These processes are very important, in each of them the producers should attend a lot, if they make mistakes the saffron threads burn or the quality would change and the saffron would not stay in the standard range.

The saffron properties

Saffron has various properties. The famous properties of saffron are the golden color, fragrant aroma and the pleasant bitter taste. There are many other properties like health benefits and medicinal properties.

Actually, these properties are the main reason of the saffron components. The saffron components are the main compounds of Carotenoid. These Carotenoid compounds are Crocin, Crocetin, Safranal, and Kaemphral. These four components are the reason for the color, aroma and taste. These components are also the main reasons for all saffron health benefits like antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory features.

The Crocin give the red golden color to this expensive spice. These components also cause the exotic aroma and unique taste of saffron.

Shelf life of saffron

Saffron as a spice has a long shelf life when it stores in the correct conditions. These conditions are simple but very important. You should store your dried saffron in the metal or glass airtight container. The light and specially sunlight affect saffron and its properties. That means you should keep you saffron away from light and sunlight. It is better to put your spice in a dark place. The temperature and humidity is important in storing saffron too. In other words, you should keep your saffron in a cold and dry place. These conditions are needed to store your saffron without expiration and mold. Although, you store the saffron in the best keeping conditions, the properties of this expensive spice would change during the time.

The changes in the saffron properties

The effects of the time passing on the saffron property are different. We want to check each properties change during the time.


The color of fresh saffron stigmas is dark red. When you brew them in hot water or ice cubes, the golden color of them release and you can see bright reddish yellow. When you see old saffron, you should pay attention a lot to understand that the color is a bit darker. But if you brew the grounded saffron of this kind you see that the releasing color is less. You may also see the golden and bright yellow, but it is not as great and coloring as the fresh saffron.

If you use saffron as a food coloring or you buy it for coloring properties, you should always buy fresh saffron. Restaurant and cosmetic industrials look for real saffron and they always emphasize on buying fresh spice. The main reason for them to use saffron is its golden color.


The fragrant aroma of saffron is one of its properties that you can recognize its quality with. There are many people who ask what happened to the aroma of this golden spice by passing the time? The answer is unbelievable it becomes stronger. In other words, the old saffron has a stronger aroma than the fresh one.

The perfume industries look for old ground saffron to use as their raw material. This kind of saffron is cheaper and has the great aroma, the exact properties that these industries need. They should be careful; frauds may grind the root parts of saffron flowers and mix them with the powder of corn silk threads, and sell them as real saffron, they may have aroma but it is not saffron and lose its aroma.


The taste of old saffron and fresh one has almost no difference; both of them have a sweet bitterness. If you test an old saffron thread and fill it is different or bitterer than the fresh one, it may expire or due to the storing conditions it may spoil.


The shape of the old and fresh saffron is different and these differences depend on the storage period and method. Old saffron is drier than the fresh one and the threads break even when you shake the container. The fresh high quality saffron has long and smooth threads without broken strands, or there are little broken strands. While in old saffron, you may not find unbroken threads.

If you see old and fresh threads of this magical spice beside each other, you see there is a little different in colors. The color of old strand is a bit darker. But when you brew the two kinds of saffron in warm water you see the fresh one is the golden saffron and has the bright yellow color.

Health benefits

The health benefits of old saffron and fresh one are different, but both of them are effective in disease treatment. You can use the old saffron for its clinical properties. The amount of saffron components changes during the time, but these changes should not affect its treatment properties. Experts did lots of different tests on it and now they believe that time could not change or affect the saffron health benefits.

Why these changes happened?

The chemical saffron components have changed during the time. The Crocin and Crocetin are two Carotenoid compounds, which are the cause of almost all saffron properties. These two components have similar molecules. The chemical bonds are different they can cut and join together in different conditions. These cut and join may cause the conversion of Crocetin to Crocin or Crocin to Crocetin.

The main reason of the saffron golden color is Crocin, theses conversion cause the reduction in the amount of Crocin and that is why the old saffron could release less color and its coloring property is less. The Crocetin cause saffron aroma, the increase in its amount due to the conversion of Crocin to Crocetin, cause stronger aroma in old saffron threads.

Points about old and fresh saffron buying

You should buy this expensive spice from the trusted sellers. The producers of saffron should have and sell authentic saffron. You should avoid fake saffron. The trusted sellers tell you about the age of the products. You should ask about the quality and age of the spice you want to buy, but there are always frauds in profitable businesses. Try to recognize real and fake saffron. With study and search you even can recognize the high quality saffron.


The old and fresh saffron have differences. These differences may cause effects on your usage. If you want to buy saffron, you should first highlight the reason you use saffron. If you want it for culinary use and you want to add it to your recipes as your secret ingredients, you need color and aroma, so it is better to buy fresh saffron. When you want the stronger aroma, for example, you want to make a perfume or the aroma is more important than the color in your recipes, you can buy old saffron.

The Ghaaneh saffron brand always tries to be honest with the costumers, and if you ask about saffron age, you got the right answer. As you know, Ghaaneh saffron is Iranian saffron and presents the highest and the best quality of saffron for you.


Can I mix my old saffron with the fresh ones?

Yes, why not. The main properties of these two kinds of saffron are the same. Experts said it is better not, but there is no limitation.

Which kinds of saffron are better for medicinal use? Fresh or old?

You can use both of them for medicinal use and as a drug. Both of them are effective. There are little differences that depend on the disease you use saffron for. May be it is better to consult your doctor.

How can I recognize old saffron from fresh one?

You should know about the differences between these two kinds of saffron. The old saffron has lots of broken threads and really stronger aroma than the fresh one. The fresh saffron has a better coloring property than the old one you should test it.

Are the prices of old and fresh saffron different?

Yes, the old saffron is cheaper than the fresh one. Most of the saffron sellers make ground saffron from their old saffron for an affordable saffron price. The Ghaaneh saffron brand uses Super Negin to make saffron powder.

Is it safe to store saffron in a long time?

If you store your saffron in the right storage conditions, you can store it near a year. You may keep your saffron more than this time, there is no problem, but it is not recommended. You should better buy the usable amount of saffron.

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