Does Cold Brew Coffee Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?

When you make your own batch of cold brew, there is not an expiration date stamped to the bottom of the jar, is there? The good news is that due to its unique brewing process, cold brew has a longer shelf life than hot brewed coffee. (It is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold or room temperature water for an extended period of time, usually 12 to 24 hours.)

Also, storing it in the refrigerator can extend that time.

But as with any perishable food or beverage, it will go bad eventually, even in the fridge. There are, however, a few other things that you can do to prolong the shelf life of your cold brew. In this article, we will look at the shelf life of cold brew coffee. I will also provide some best practices for storage to help preserve the coffee for longer.

You can skip to the answer about if you should refrigerate cold brew.

Or if you simply cannot wait to hear how you should store your cold brew, you can skip to the section with my cold brew storage instructions.

Why Does Cold Brew Have a Longer Shelf Life?

Compared to regular hot coffee, cold-brewed coffee has quite a long shelf life. There are several factors that affect the microbial growth and oxidation in cold brew coffee drinks. That is basically just a fancy way of saying that some things help cold brew stay drinkable for longer. These things include:

  1. Lower temperature: Cold brew is brewed using cold or room temperature water. This creates an environment that is less conducive to the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Cold temperatures slow down the growth of microbes. This reduces the risk of spoilage and extends the shelf life of the coffee.
  2. Lower acidity: Cold brew typically has a lower acidity compared to hot brewed coffee. The acidic compounds in coffee can contribute to the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Cold brew’s lower acidity can inhibit the growth of these microbes, helping to prolong its shelf life.
  3. Concentrated form: Cold brew is usually brewed in a concentrated form by steeping coffee grounds in water for an extended period of time. This cold brew coffee concentrate can act as a preservative, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. When diluted with water or milk before consumption, it can still retain its flavor and quality.
  4. Reduced oxidation: Oxidation is a process that occurs when coffee comes into contact with oxygen. This can affect its flavor and quality. Cold brew, when stored in the refrigerator, is exposed to less oxygen compared to hot brewed coffee, which is brewed with hot water and quickly oxidizes upon cooling. This reduced oxidation can help preserve the freshness and taste of cold brew, contributing to its longer shelf life.
  5. Avoid freezing: Freezing cold brew is not recommended as it can alter the taste and texture of the coffee. The expansion of water when frozen can also cause the container to crack or break, leading to potential contamination.

However, even though you can store cold brew for a longer period of time as compared to regular hot coffee

Does Cold Brew Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?

Yes, cold brew coffee can go bad if not refrigerated. If cold brew coffee is not refrigerated, it can spoil due to the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. This will influence the taste of your coffee. Off-flavors, a sour taste, and even potential health risks are all possible negative risks of drinking old coffee that has gone bad.

When stored properly, cold brew can last for up to 7-10 days in the refrigerator. However, the freshness and quality of cold brew can start to decline after the first few days. The concentration of the coffee extract and the presence of water or milk can create an environment that helps the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. This can lead to spoilage and a decline in taste.

Should Cold Brew Be Refrigerated While Steeping?

No, you can brew your cold brew at room temperature or in a fridge. It will have a more intense flavor when steeped at room temperature. Also, if you are a bit pressed for time, steeping it at room temperature might also be a good option. The reason is that the amount of time that it can take is up to 3-5 less than if you did it in a fridge.

How Long Does Cold Brew Last Unrefrigerated?

As a general rule of thumb, it is not recommended to leave cold brew coffee unrefrigerated for too long. Some say that unrefrigerated cold brew can last for up to two days. However, I recommend that you leave it outside of the fridge as short as possible. This is especially true in warmer weather conditions. The longer it is not in the refrigerator, the greater the risk of bacterial growth. This, as I mentioned above, can lead to spoilage and potential health risks if consumed.

If you plan to consume cold brew coffee later and won’t have access to refrigeration, it’s best to brew only the amount you intend to consume within a couple of hours. Then, discard any leftover coffee that you won’t be able to get into a refrigerator anytime soon. Proper refrigeration is key to preserving the freshness and quality of cold brew coffee. The reason is it helps inhibit bacterial growth and maintain its desired flavors and aroma.

Best Practices for Storing Cold Brew

To ensure the longevity and freshness of your cold brew, here are some best practices for storage:

  1. Store in a clean container: It’s important to use a clean and sanitized container to store your cold brew. Avoid using containers that have been previously used for other food or beverages. They may introduce contaminants that can affect the quality of your cold brew.
  2. Use an airtight container for storage: Exposure to air and heat can cause the cold brew coffee to oxidize and become stale. This results in a loss of its desirable flavors and aroma. This also helps to prevent bacterial growth.
  3. Keep refrigerated: Cold brew should always be stored in the refrigerator to slow down the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Make sure the container is tightly sealed to prevent exposure to air. Such exposure can cause oxidation and affect the taste of your cold brew.
  4. Avoid storing for too long: While cold brew can last for up to 7-10 days in the refrigerator, it’s best to consume it within the first few days for the best taste and quality. As time goes on, the flavor may become dull and the freshness may decline.
  5. Keep away from strong odors: Cold brew can absorb odors from other foods or beverages in the refrigerator, which can affect its taste. Keep your cold brew away from strong-smelling foods, such as onions or garlic, to maintain its original flavor.

Dairy Products and Your Cold Brew

Black coffee will last longer than if you added milk or some other dairy product to your cold brew. The reason is that these things tend to go bad faster and it might influence the shelf life of your cold brew. I think that the best way to store your cold brew if you like it diluted with something such as milk or cream rather put the cold brew concentrate in the fridge and dilute it as you drink it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, cold brew coffee can last for a long time compared to regular coffee if you follow good storage practices. These practices include storing your coffee in a clean, sealed container, keeping it refrigerated, diluting it before storing it, avoiding storing it for too long, avoiding freezing it and keeping it away from strong odors. This will help ensure a delicious and refreshing coffee experience every time you enjoy a glass of chilled perfection.

However, it’s still best to consume it within the first few days before the quality of the coffee degrades, so try to refrain from making too much coffee. If you notice any off-flavors or signs of spoilage, such as a sour smell or mold growth, discard the cold brew coffee to avoid potential health risks.

Should you put your cold brew in the fridge?

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