How Long Can Cold Brew Coffee Sit Out Without Going Bad

Cold brew can usually sit out at room temperature for up to around 18 hours before it goes bad. If you leave it out for much longer than this, oxygen in the air will cause oxidation, a process that results in stale, flavorless cold brew. Factors that might affect how quickly your cold brew goes bad include exposure to light and moisture, ambient temperature, and whether or not you’ve added milk, sugar, or creamer to your cold brew already.

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How Long Can Cold Brew Coffee Sit Out Without Going Bad - DarkHorseCoffeeCompany

Key Takeaways

  • You can leave cold brew to sit out for 14 to 18 hours without it going bad
  • Once you add creamer, cold brew will only last for two hours at room temperature
  • Cold brew goes stale because of the process of oxidation
  • You can brew cold brew overnight as long as you don’t brew it for over 24 hours
  • You can store cold brew for longer in the refrigerator
  • You could get sick if you drink cold brew after it goes bad
  • Drink cold brew as soon as it’s ready to enjoy peak freshness

Table Of Contents

How Long Can Cold Brew Coffee Sit Out At Room Temperature?

Cold brewed coffee left on the countertop can last between 14 and 18 hours without being refrigerated. Your cold brew will be safe to drink for up to 24 hours, but most of the time you should drink it before it sits out for this long.

Cold brew is known for having better flavor stability than hot brewed coffee. While cold brew does keep better than hot brewed coffee, it won’t stay fresh indefinitely. It’s important to monitor your cold brew for signs of staleness so that you can make a fresh batch before your current batch goes bad.

Factors that will affect how long your cold brew lasts at room temperature include heat, light, and humidity. If it’s warm, bright, and humid, cold brew will go bad more quickly than if it’s cool and dark.

You should also not add milk or cream to your cold brew if you aren’t going to drink it immediately. You can only leave your cold brew out for two hours after you mix milk or cream into it. Ideally, refrigerate your cold brew as soon as possible to maximize its shelf life.

Can Cold Brew Coffee Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?

Cold brew coffee can definitely go bad if it’s not refrigerated. Coffee goes bad when it’s left out because it’s exposed to oxygen, which hastens the process of oxidation. This process impacts the way your coffee tastes and smells.

Air, moisture, heat and light can all contribute to the process of oxidation. Oxidation occurs when your coffee is exposed to oxygen in the air, which is why it’s important to store cold brew in an airtight container. Heat and sunlight can both increase the speed of oxidation, and water contains oxygen, further contributing to this process.

Oxidation removes the flavor from your coffee and reduces its aroma. This results in ‘stale’ tasting coffee. You might not get sick from stale coffee, but you won’t enjoy drinking it, either. Oxidation happens as soon as your cold brew comments into contact with oxygen, but it will only cause your cold brew concentrate to go stale when it’s been sitting out for over 18 hours.

If you add creamer or milk to your cold brew, it can only sit out for around 2 hours before it goes bad. Adding sugar to your cold brew can also kickstart bacteria growth, so if you want to leave your cold brew to sit out for a few hours it’s better not to add sugar to it until you’re ready to drink it.

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Signs That Your Cold Brew Has Gone Bad

Signs that your cold brew has gone bad might include:

  • A foul smell or odor or no smell at all
  • Less flavor than you would expect
  • No caffeine effect
  • A very acidic taste

If you notice any of these signs in your cold brew, it probably won’t taste very good and it could even be harmful to your health. Cold brew that has a rancid or foul odor is of particular concern, because this could contain harmful bacteria that is bad for your gut. It’s better to dispose of cold brew after it’s gone bad and make a new batch instead. You can brew a new batch of cold brew in around 12 hours.

If you want to store your cold brew coffee for longer than this, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and thaw it out as and when you want to drink it. When stored properly in the freezer, cold brew can last for months, although it will likely still pass peak freshness within a couple of weeks of being frozen.

two cups of cold brew left out in the sun

Can Cold Brew Coffee Sit Overnight?

Cold brew coffee can sit overnight for around 8 hours without going bad, as long as you drink it within 14 to 18 hours of brewing it. If you can, store it in a cool, dry place overnight to reduce the amount of oxidation that occurs while your cold brew sits out.

It’s important to understand the difference between the time you spend brewing cold brew coffee and the time your cold brew spends in storage. You can brew a batch of cold brew coffee overnight without it going bad, because cold brew often takes around 12 hours to brew at room temperature.

However, you shouldn’t steep cold brew for too long. If you steep it for longer than 24 hours, you could end up with bitter cold brew. Experiment with different cold brewing methods and lengths to find out what results in the best tasting coffee for you, but don’t exceed a 24-hour brewing period.

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What Is The Peak Time For Cold Brew to Stay Fresh?

Your batch of cold brew will be at its peak freshness if you drink it straight away after brewing it. If you store it in the fridge, peak freshness can last for a few days. After this, while your cold brew will still be fine to drink, you might start to notice a degradation in the quality and flavor of your cold brew.

That’s because the process of oxidation will already have started to occur, even after just a few hours on the countertop. In fact, coffee aroma starts to deteriorate before you even brew your coffee, which is why it’s important to use fresh coffee beans when you’re brewing hot or cold brew.

Are There Any Risks Associated With Consuming Stale Or Spoiled Cold Brew?

Yes, drinking stale or spoiled cold brew can pose a danger to your health. If the cold brew you drink has just gone a little stale, it likely won’t cause you any serious harm, although it could still make you feel sick.

However, if you drink cold brew after it has started to smell bad or rancid, this is an indication that there is harmful bacteria in the coffee that could make you sick. If you drink cold brew with creamer or dairy in it after it goes bad, this could also cause sickness.

If you’re worried that your cold brew has gone bad, it’s best to throw it away immediately to prevent the risk of illnesses or contamination to other foods in your kitchen.

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Cold Brew Storage: Room Temperature Vs. Refrigerator

Storing cold brew at room temperature means it won’t stay fresh for as long as it will if you store it in the refrigerator. If you like to drink your cold brew at room temperature, you might choose to store it outside of the fridge. It might also be more convenient to store it outside of the fridge if you don’t have a lot of fridge space.

If you have to store your cold brew at room temperature, keep it in an airtight container somewhere cool and dark. A cool pantry or cellar is the next best place to store cold brew if it’s not in a refrigerator.

Ideally, you’ll store your cold brew in the fridge if you want to keep it fresher for longer. Some of the benefits of refrigerating your cold brew include:

  • It will stay fresh for up to a week
  • It will always be cold and ready to drink (if that’s how you like to drink it)
  • It will retain its flavor for longer

cold brew stored in the refrigerator

How To Keep Cold Brew Longer

You can keep cold brew fresher for longer by storing it in the fridge for around seven days. After this, your cold brew will still be drinkable but it might have lost some of the depth of flavor that it will have when it’s at peak freshness.

If you want to keep your cold brew fresh for even longer you can store it in the freezer. If you store your cold brew in the fridge, keep it in an airtight container without adding any sugar, milk, or creamer to it.

If you want your cold brew to last longer than a week, you can pour it into ice cube trays to store it in the freezer. By freezing cold brew in ice cube trays, you can portion out a few cubes at a time to enjoy a cold brew coffee, or you can add cold brew ice cubes to room temperature cold brew to cool your drink down without diluting it.

When cold brew is frozen, it will stay at peak freshness for around two weeks. It will still be safe to drink for at least another couple of months after this, and many people don’t notice any significant impact on the flavor of their cold brew at all once it’s frozen.

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How Long Can Coffee Sit Out With Added Creamer?

If you add a creamer to your cold brew, such as milk or cream, you can only leave your cold brew at room temperature for around two hours before it will be bad to drink. This is because potentially dangerous bacteria can grow very quickly in coffee creamer, regardless of the dairy content of the creamer you’re using.

The two-hour rule applies to other forms of dairy such as milk and cream, which can also go bad very quickly. You should not leave dairy to sit out at room temperature for longer than two hours regardless of whether it has been pasteurized or not. While the pasteurization process is intended to kill harmful bacteria, bacteria can still grow quickly even in milk that has been pasteurized.

keep cold brew longer with ice cubes

Frequently Asked Questions About How Long Can Cold Brew Coffee Sit Out

Cold brew coffee can sit out for around 14 to 18 hours at room temperature provided you haven’t added milk or creamer to your cold brew yet. However, factors such as room temperature, light, and humidity could mean that your cold brew goes bad more quickly than this.

You can store cold brew for longer by keeping it in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Kept in an airtight container in the fridge, cold brew can last for up to around a week.

Cold brew will peak in freshness the moment it has finished brewing. If you store your cold brew at room temperature, it will stay most fresh for a few hours, whereas if you store your cold brew in the fridge it will stay relatively fresh for a few days.

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