The Shelf Life of Cold Brew: How Long Does It Last?

by Jeremy Turner on June 12, 2023

Cold brew coffee is a popular drink among coffee enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals. Its unique brewing process creates a smoother, less acidic taste that many people love. However, like any food or beverage product, it has a limited shelf life before it goes bad. In this blog post, we’ll explore the factors that affect the shelf life of cold brew and how to store it properly to extend its freshness.

cold brew

Understanding Cold Brew

Cold brew is a type of coffee that is created by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for an extended period of time, typically 12-24 hours. The long steeping process results in a smooth and less acidic coffee compared to traditional hot brewed coffee.

One important factor to consider when making or buying cold brew is its shelf life. Unlike hot brewed coffee, which can lose flavor and quality within minutes of being brewed, cold brew can last up to two weeks if stored properly in the refrigerator. However, it's important to note that after a certain point (around the two week mark), the taste may start to deteriorate and become stale. Therefore, it's recommended to consume cold brew within one week for optimal freshness and taste.


What is Cold Brew?

Cold brew is a type of coffee that is made by steeping ground coffee beans in cold water for an extended period, usually 12-24 hours. Unlike traditional hot brewed coffee, which uses hot water to extract the flavors and aromas quickly, cold brew takes longer to steep but produces a smoother and less acidic flavor profile.

Here are some key differences between cold brew and iced coffee:

  • Cold brew uses room temperature or chilled water while iced coffee is brewed using hot water.
  • Cold brew has a longer brewing time (12-24 hours) compared to iced coffee (a few minutes).
  • Cold brew has a smoother taste with less acidity than iced coffee.

The exact origin of cold-brewed or "toddy" style coffee remains unclear. However, it's believed that this method originated in Japan in the seventeenth century as Kyoto-style slow drip or Dutch Coffee before spreading globally over time.


How is Cold Brew Made?

When it comes to making cold brew, the equipment needed is relatively simple. All you need is a large container, water, coffee beans (preferably coarsely ground), and a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. The process involves steeping the coffee grounds in water for an extended period of time to extract flavor without heat.

Cold brew can be made at home with just a large container, water, coffee beans and a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
Dark Horse Coffee Company Cold Brew Maker

To make cold brew at home, start by combining the coffee grounds and water in your container. Let this mixture sit for anywhere from 12-24 hours depending on how strong you want your cold brew to be. Once this step has been completed, use your strainer or cheesecloth to remove any remaining sediment before enjoying your smooth cup of long-lasting cold brew.

Don't hesitate to experiment with different types of beans or flavors when making cold brew at home! You can adjust the ratio of coffee-to-water based on personal preference and even add spices like cinnamon or vanilla for added depth of flavor. With these variations in recipes available, there's no limit to creating unique and delicious blends that suit individual taste preferences.


Why is Cold Brew So Popular?

Cold brew has gained immense popularity in recent years due to its unique taste profile and health benefits. Unlike hot coffee or iced coffee, cold brew is brewed with cool water over a long period of time, resulting in a less acidic and smoother flavor. This makes it an ideal alternative for those who find traditional coffee too bitter or strong.

Moreover, the 'third wave' coffee movement that emphasizes artisanal and specialty coffees has also contributed to the rise of cold brew's popularity. As more people become interested in exploring different types of coffee beverages beyond basic drip brewing, they are drawn towards trying out new methods like cold brewing.

In addition to its delicious taste, cold brew is known for its potential health benefits such as reducing inflammation and boosting antioxidants levels. Hence it not only makes for a refreshing summer drink but can also be viewed as a healthier choice compared to other caffeinated beverages on the market today.


Factors That Affect the Shelf Life of Cold Brew

The temperature at which cold brew is stored plays a significant role in its shelf life. If you store it under room temperature, it can last for up to 24 hours, but if you refrigerate it, the shelf life increases to up to two weeks.

Exposure to air and light can also affect the quality and longevity of your cold brew. To maximize its freshness, make sure that you keep the container sealed tightly after each use and avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or bright artificial lighting.

 Dark Horse Coffee Company cold brew coffee maker


Maintaining the right temperature is crucial when it comes to extending the shelf life of cold brew. The ideal temperature range for storing cold brew is between 34°F and 38°F, as this range minimizes microbial growth and oxidation. Fluctuations in temperature can significantly affect the shelf life of cold brew by accelerating bacterial growth, leading to spoilage at a faster rate.

Extreme temperatures also have adverse effects on the quality of cold brew. Exposure to high temperatures causes rapid degradation of flavors and aromas, resulting in a stale taste that's unappealing even before its expiration date. On the other hand, too low a temperature may cause freezing or lead to off-flavors due to incomplete extraction during brewing. It's therefore essential to maintain consistent storage conditions within recommended ranges for optimal results when it comes to maximizing your batch's shelf-life expectancy.


Exposure to Air and Light

When it comes to cold brew, exposure to air and light can significantly impact its shelf life. Oxygen is a key factor in the degradation process of cold brew, leading to a stale taste and aroma over time. On the other hand, UV rays from sunlight or artificial light sources can also cause chemical reactions that affect the flavor profile of your cold brew.

To minimize exposure to air and light during storage, it's best to store your cold brew in an airtight container made of opaque material such as glass or stainless steel. These containers will shield your cold brew from direct sunlight while also preventing any excess oxygen from entering the container. Additionally, keeping your stored container in a cool and dry place away from windows or bright lights will help maintain its freshness for longer periods.


Type of Container

When it comes to storing cold brews, the type of container you use can make a big difference in how long your coffee will last. Homemade cold brew should be stored in an airtight container such as a mason jar or vacuum-sealed bottle to extend its shelf life and preserve its flavor. On the other hand, store-bought cold brew typically comes in opaque containers that are designed to block out light and air for optimal freshness.

To ensure that your homemade or store-bought cold brew stays fresh for longer periods of time, it's important to choose materials that are effective at preserving flavor over time. Glass bottles and jars are great options because they don't absorb odors or flavors from previous contents like plastic containers may do. Stainless steel is another excellent material choice since it won't rust or corrode over time.

No matter what type of container you choose, make sure it has an airtight seal to prevent exposure to air which can cause oxidation and spoilage. A properly sealed container will help keep your coffee tasting fresh for up to two weeks if refrigerated - but always remember: when in doubt, give it a sniff test before drinking!


Additives and Ingredients

Different additives can affect the shelf life of cold brew in various ways. Here are some examples:

  • Citric acid:
  • extends shelf life by inhibiting bacterial growth
  • Sugar:
  • shortens shelf life by providing a food source for bacteria and yeast
  • Vanilla extract:
  • doesn't have a significant impact on shelf life, but may add flavor nuances

Some ingredients, if left too long, can cause spoilage in cold brew. For instance:

  • Dairy products (milk, cream):
  • they contain protein and sugar that encourage bacterial growth; after a few days in the fridge, they may cause off-flavors or curdling.
  • Fruit slices (lemon wedges):
  • as natural sources of microbes and enzymes, they accelerate fermentation and breakdown; after 24 hours at room temperature or 2 days in the fridge, they might make your cold brew taste funky.

Adding milk, cream or sweeteners to cold brew affects its pH balance and nutrient content. It also alters its storage requirements. Specifically:

  • Milk/cream:
  • reduces acidity levels but increases perishability due to higher water activity; store for up to 3 days max.
  • Sweeteners (honey, syrup):
  • increase viscosity but don't affect pH much; store for up to 1 week max if refrigerated.


it's important to be mindful of what you put into your cold brew if you want it to last longer than a few days. Experimenting with different additives is fine as long as you know their properties and effects on safety and quality.


How Long Does Cold Brew Last?

Cold brew is a delicious and refreshing coffee beverage that has gained popularity in recent years. But how long does cold brew last before it goes bad? The answer depends on several factors such as storage temperature, whether or not the container is sealed, and the type of water used to make the cold brew.

If refrigerated at 35-40°F (2-4°C), cold brew can last up to two weeks without losing its flavor or quality. However, if kept at room temperature for an extended period, it will only remain fresh for about six hours before starting to spoil. Alternatively, freezing your cold brew can extend its shelf life up to three months but may result in a loss of flavor and aroma once thawed. Proper storage techniques are crucial for ensuring you get maximum enjoyment out of your cold brew!

 Dark Horse Coffee Company - Cold Brew Maker and Colombian whole bean or ground coffee

Refrigerated Cold Brew

Factors affecting the shelf life of refrigerated cold brew include the brewing method, filtration, and the type of water used. Generally, cold brew coffee will last up to two weeks when stored properly in a refrigerator at temperatures below 40°F (4°C).

To ensure maximum shelf life duration, it's important to store your refrigerated cold brew in an airtight container and avoid exposing it to light or air as much as possible. Signs of spoilage may include changes in color or texture along with off-flavors such as sourness. When this happens, it's best to discard and make a fresh batch for optimal taste and safety.


Room Temperature Cold Brew

Room temperature cold brew has gained popularity due to its convenience and ease of preparation. However, it is important to note that room temperature storage can significantly shorten the shelf life of cold brew compared to refrigerated storage.

To prolong the freshness of your room temperature cold brew, store it in an airtight container away from direct sunlight or heat sources. It is also recommended to consume within 12-24 hours after brewing for optimal taste and quality. When in doubt, always check for any signs of spoilage such as off-flavors or mold growth before consuming.

It is crucial to discard any leftover room temperature cold brew beyond 24 hours even if it appears fine as harmful bacteria may have already grown at this point. Therefore, it’s best practice not to leave room temperature cold brew unrefrigerated for more than a day to ensure safety and prevent foodborne illnesses.


Freezing Cold Brew

Freezing Cold Brew can be an effective way to extend its shelf life without compromising taste and quality. However, it's important to note that freezing may alter the flavor profile of your cold brew due to ice crystal formation, resulting in a slightly different taste after thawing. To minimize this effect, it's recommended to use high-quality coffee beans and avoid additives like sugar or cream before freezing.

The ideal conditions for long-term storage of frozen cold brew are at 0°F (-18°C) or below in an airtight container. When you're ready to consume the frozen cold brew, allow it to thaw slowly by placing the container in the refrigerator overnight. Once fully thawed, stir well before serving over ice or adding any desired flavors or creamers. With proper care during freezing and thawing, you can enjoy deliciously fresh-tasting cold brew for up to six months after preparation!


Signs That Cold Brew Has Gone Bad

One sign that cold brew has gone bad is a sour smell and taste. Cold brew typically has a smooth, slightly sweet flavor with subtle notes of chocolate or caramel. If the coffee smells or tastes sour, it could be an indication that it has gone bad and should not be consumed.

Another indicator of spoiled cold brew is a cloudy appearance. Freshly brewed cold coffee should have a clear, amber color. If the drink appears hazy or murky, this may suggest bacterial growth in the liquid, making it unsafe to drink.


Sour Smell and Taste

Acidic odor, tart or bitter taste, and unpleasant sourness are the telltale signs of a spoiled cold brew. These flavors and smells indicate that your drink has gone bad and should be discarded immediately to avoid any health risks. To ensure that you're getting the most out of your coffee experience, it's important to know when your cold brew has gone bad.

If you notice any of these warning signs in your cold brew, it's time to toss it:

  • Acidic odor
  • Tart or bitter taste
  • Unpleasant sourness

Remember: if you're ever unsure about the safety or quality of your coffee, don't hesitate to discard it. It's always better to be safe than sorry!


Cloudy Appearance

Murky or hazy liquid, sediment settled at the bottom of the container, and opaque coloration are all signs of a cloudy appearance in your cold brew. This can be caused by a variety of factors such as using low-quality beans, improper filtration techniques or brewing for too long. While it may not look visually appealing, it doesn't necessarily mean that your cold brew has gone bad.

To ensure your cold brew lasts longer with clarity and freshness intact, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10-14 days. If you notice cloudiness after this period or any sour smells or tastes, discard it immediately as these could be signs of spoilage. Regular monitoring and proper storage can help extend the shelf life of your cold brew while ensuring its quality remains top-notch.


Mold or Yeast Growth

If you notice visible spots on top of the cold brew, it may be a sign of mold or yeast growth. This could happen if the cold brew has been stored in an unclean container or kept for too long past its expiration date. Another indicator of this is a funky smell like wet gym socks, cheese, or bread dough. It's important to discard any cold brew that shows signs of mold or yeast growth as consuming it can lead to food poisoning and other health issues.

Additionally, the presence of a white film on the surface can also signify mold or yeast growth in your cold brew. If this happens after only a few days' storage, then something went wrong during brewing - possibly using contaminated water and/or equipment which led to bacterial contamination post-brewing. In any case where these symptoms occur with your homemade iced coffee concentrate; it's best practice not to risk drinking it as contaminants may have produced toxins leading to illness if ingested.

Overall: never compromise hygiene when dealing with homebrewed drinks since they tend to harbor bacteria easily due mainly because chemicals aren’t used as compared with commercially made items.


Storing Cold Brew to Extend its Shelf Life

To extend the shelf life of cold brew, proper storage is crucial. Refrigeration is the most effective way to keep your cold brew fresh for an extended period. Cold brew can last up to two weeks if stored in airtight containers and kept refrigerated at all times.

When it comes to freezing, while it is possible to freeze your cold brew, the quality may suffer when thawed. Freezing should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Using glass or stainless steel containers with airtight seals can help prevent contamination and extend shelf life as well.

To avoid additives that may compromise your cold brew's freshness, make sure you are using high-quality coffee beans and using clean equipment during preparation and storage. By following these simple tips, you can enjoy fresh-tasting cold brew for longer periods without worrying about spoilage or wasted product.



The temperature range for refrigeration is crucial in determining the shelf life of cold brew. Keeping your cold brew at 35-40°F can help it stay fresh for up to two weeks, while anything above 40°F may shorten its lifespan.

Duration of cold brew in the fridge also plays a vital role in maintaining freshness. Typically, cold brew can last up to two weeks when stored properly inside an airtight container and kept consistently chilled.

However, temperature fluctuations caused by frequent opening and closing of the refrigerator door or power outages can significantly impact shelf life. To avoid this issue, store your cold brew on the middle or bottom shelves and minimize opening the fridge as much as possible.

In summary:

  • Cold Brew should be kept between 35-40°F
  • Duration of Cold Brew lasts up to two weeks
  • Temperature fluctuations from frequent opening/closing impact shelf life


Can cold brew be frozen? Yes, it can. However, the question remains: should you? Freezing cold brew can extend its shelf life for up to 2 months. However, when freezing cold brew, it is important to note that the texture and taste will change due to ice crystals forming in the liquid.

The effects of freezing on taste and quality cannot be ignored. The process alters its smoothness and flavor profile as a result of breaking down compounds in the coffee beans. If you must freeze your cold brew, make sure you use airtight containers or freezer bags to minimize exposure to air which could further deteriorate quality over time.


Using the Right Containers

Storing cold brew properly is essential to maintaining its taste and quality. The best materials for storing cold brew are glass and stainless steel, as they do not interact with the coffee and can be easily cleaned. When it comes to containers, air-tight options will keep your cold brew fresh for longer periods of time. However, breathable containers like mason jars can also work well if consumed within a few days.

If you're taking your cold brew on-the-go, consider using a reusable travel mug or thermos instead of plastic bottles. These options are better for the environment and will maintain the temperature of your drink for hours. Additionally, some travel mugs come with built-in filters that allow you to make fresh cold brew directly in the container while on-the-go.


Avoiding Additives

Impact of additives (cream, sugar, flavors) on shelf life:

When it comes to adding cream or milk to cold brew, it's important to note that these additives can significantly reduce its shelf life. Cream and milk are prone to spoilage and bacterial growth when left at room temperature for too long. Additionally, flavorings like syrups or extracts often contain preservatives that can affect the taste and freshness of your cold brew.

Storage considerations when adding cream or milk:

To avoid spoiling your cold brew prematurely, consider storing any containers with added dairy in the refrigerator as soon as possible after brewing. If you plan on keeping your cold brew for an extended period of time with cream/milk already mixed in, try freezing portions into ice cubes then add them directly into your drink later.

How to keep flavorings fresh without compromising freshness:

If you prefer flavored cold brews but want to avoid preservatives found in many commercial options while still maintaining freshness over longer periods of time - consider making homemade syrups using natural ingredients like honey or fruit juices instead!



Proper storage is key to maximizing the shelf life of cold brew. Keeping it in an airtight container and refrigerated can extend its freshness for up to two weeks. If you want to preserve it even longer, consider freezing it in small portions.

Reducing wastage can also help maximize the shelf life of your cold brew. Instead of making a large batch that may go unused, try making just enough for your needs. This way, you'll have fresh cold brew every time without worrying about wasting any excess coffee. By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your cold brew lasts as long as possible without compromising on quality or taste.