If you are an avid coffee drinker, then you might have jumped on the cold brew craze of the last few years. It’s the fastest-growing coffee market in the United States and is equally popular in other countries.
For those of us that love cold brew (and home brewing our coffee), it’s been important to master the art of overnight brewing. However, we don’t necessarily know how long we can keep the coffee. This affects how much we make, especially for meal preppers. How long does cold brew last, anyway?
Cold brew coffee generally lasts between 7-10 days in the refrigerator. However, it can last longer in the freezer, and shouldn’t be left out in the open at all. In this article, we’re going to give you the skinny on cold brew coffee – how long it lasts, what kinds last longer, and how to get the longest life out of your cold brew.
How Long Does Cold Brew Last?
Cold brew coffee has a bolder and richer taste than drip coffee and doesn’t have the bitter or acidic flavor of traditional iced coffee.
Cold brew isn’t very hard to make, but it does get a little finicky when it’s time to store it. So, how long does cold brew last? If you want your coffee to last longer without going bad, make sure you watch how long it spends outside of the fridge (hint: not very long). Here are the approximate shelf lives of cold brew coffee, depending on where it’s stored.
Outside of the Fridge
Cold brew coffee shouldn’t be stored outside of the fridge. That’s the rule. However, if you do leave it out, know that it will probably go bad after a day or two. There’s no reason to panic and drink your coffee more quickly than ever, though. Even if you’re a slow coffee drinker, you’ll be fine as long as you don’t drink day-old cold brew!
Some baristas swear by cold brewing coffee outside the fridge. However, that can be a risky business, especially if you won’t be home to put it in the fridge after straining it. Because of its incredibly short shelf life, cold brew coffee that’s left out too long will mold and sour. If you’re just beginning to cold brew at home, do it in the fridge.
In the Fridge
Storing cold brew coffee in the refrigerator is the most common way of keeping it from going bad. If stored properly, cold brew in the fridge can last 7-10 days. We’ll go into detail on how to store cold brew later on in the article.
If you’re a slow coffee drinker or a coffee forgetter (it happens), try and store your mug in the fridge. Leaving coffee out on the counter will make regular coffee go bad, but it’s especially undesirable with cold brew.
In the Freezer
If you’ve just made a huge batch of cold brew and are now reading this in a panic, don’t worry! You won’t have to drink it all within the next week or pass it out to all your neighbors. Instead, put some aside and freeze it for later. Frozen cold brew can last up to three months in the freezer, as long as it’s in an airtight container.
You can do several things with frozen cold brew. Of course, the most obvious thing is to let it thaw when you’re ready to drink it. Once it’s thawed, the cold brew lasts just as long as it would pre-freezing. However, you can also make cold brew ice cubes with extra coffee and use them to cool down iced coffee (coffee ice cubes won’t dilute it).
As long as you thaw and consume your frozen cold brew before three months, you should be good to go. Cold brew left in the freezer for too long won’t go bad, but it can get a sharp, tangy taste and begin to lose the coffee flavor. There is also an increased chance of freezer burn.
How Can I Make My Cold Brew Last Longer?
Now that you know how long cold brew lasts, you’re probably wondering how to make it last longer. While there’s not a ton you can do to drag out the shelf life of cold brew, you can adjust the storage container you use and store it in a better place. There are also a few smaller factors that go into how long a cold brew can last!
What Container Should I Put My Cold Brew in?
By far, the most important factor in the longevity of cold brew coffee is the container that it is stored in. If you leave an open coffee mug on the table, it’s going to go bad by the end of the day. However, with the proper storage container, you can make your cold brew coffee last as long as possible.
First, you need a closed, airtight container. Whether this is a Ball jar or a Tupperware, if it’s close and airtight, your coffee will last much, much longer.
The less air (especially warm air, thus the fridge) that gets to your cold brew, the better! What you don’t want is a container that lets in air, even if it’s in the refrigerator.
Believe it or not, the material of the container does make a small difference. While the main concern is that it’s completely closed and airtight, you should store your cold brew coffee in a glass container.
Why is a glass container preferable to plastic? It’s not just about the environment. Glass containers have fewer pores than plastic, which means that less air can sneak in through the material itself. Not only is glass better for you in general, but it will also keep your coffee good for a little while longer.
Where Should I Store My Cold Brew?
If you’re planning on drinking your cold brew coffee within the next week or two, keep it in the fridge. Leaving cold brew out on the counter, even in an airtight container, will cause the coffee to go bad overnight. However, storing it in the fridge can keep it tasting fresh for 7-10 days.
If you realize that you won’t be able to drink all of your coffee before the end of the next week or so, you can store some of it (in an airtight container, of course) in the freezer. Frozen coffee stays good for nearly three months, so you won’t have to watch your freshly brewed coffee go bad!
How Should I Store My Cold Brew?
Once you’ve decided where you’re keeping your coffee (the fridge) and what container (an airtight glass container, please), you might be ready to go. However, there are a few other things to think about before putting your coffee away for tomorrow. Here are some of the other tips for storing coffee for a longer lifespan.
When you steep the coffee, you might prefer to keep it out on the counter overnight. This procedure does lead to a quicker steeping time. However, when the coffee is done, put it into an airtight (glass) container and refrigerate it immediately. As soon as you strain it, you want it to stay cool so that it lasts longer.
If you are only diluting one cup at a time, this next step is common sense. Never store your cold brew with creamer or milk in it. The dairy products curdle the cold brew in about a day, and the whole batch will be ruined. Only add milk, creamer, sugar, or any other additive to each cup of coffee!
What Kinds of Cold Brew Last Longer?
The main factors affecting the shelf-life of cold brew coffee are the temperature at which it’s stored and the kind of container it uses. However, different kinds of coffee do tend to last a little longer than others.
Essentially, the more properly ground your beans are, the longer your cold brew will last. Also, if you use a higher quality brew and bean, you’ll be able to enjoy it longer. However, this doesn’t make a very large difference at all. You might be able to make your coffee last a day or two longer with higher quality beans, but it won’t add weeks to the life of the brew.
Does Cold Brew Last Longer than Regular Coffee?
If you can store cold brew in the refrigerator for 7-10 days, what about regular coffee? Why are you making a pot every morning when you could keep it longer? Hold up! Regular drip coffee is very different from a cold brew.
The brewing process makes the cold brew more of a tea than a drip coffee, and it lasts much longer than regular coffee. Drip coffee will go bad after a day or even a few hours. In the fridge, even in an airtight container, coffee usually gets acidic and stale after two days. If you want a coffee that lasts, cold brew is the way to go!
What Should I Do If My Coffee Goes Bad?
Alas, coffee is of nature, and nature decomposes. Even with the best storage plan, your cold brew will go bad if you don’t drink it. While you could simply dump it down the drain, there are other ways to dispose of coffee that can help the environment (and your guilty conscience if you hate wasting food).
How to Tell If Your Cold Brew Coffee is Bad
As your coffee ages, it will gradually lose many of the qualities that make it coffee. The less like coffee it is, the closer it is to going bad. While it’s not dangerous at first, you should consider throwing out your coffee once you see these signs:
- Tastes less like coffee (or tastes stale)
- Doesn’t give you a caffeine kick
- Has a weaker smell
- Feels more watery
These are only the beginning signs. If you don’t mind watery or weak coffee, you can continue to drink once it starts to go stale. However, the next step is bad or sour coffee, which could be dangerous to your health. Get rid of your cold brew if any of these are present:
- A sour or acrid smell
- A sour or acidic taste
- Curdling or discoloration
- Mold or mildew
Once you’ve hit this point with your cold brew, there is no going back. It’s time to say goodbye and drink drip coffee until you’ve had time to make a new batch of cold brew. Throw that sour coffee away and start fresh – your body (and taste buds) will thank you.
Can I Water Plants with Old Coffee?
You might have heard of some earth-conscious baristas watering plants with their old coffee or using their coffee grounds as fertilizer. If you’re wondering whether your plants will benefit from your old cold brew, the short answer is: it depends on the plant.
Coffee is very acidic, and only certain plants (with more base-heavy soils) need those nutrients. If you have plants that prefer more acidic soil, watering them occasionally with coffee can be a great way to keep them healthy. Here are some of those plants:
- Blueberry bushes
Of course, you also need to water your plants with actual water. Coffee does dehydrate both people and plants, so you’ll need to water them regularly. Also, don’t over-coffee your plants – only use old coffee occasionally, and only if it’s not moldy.
So to recap: how long does cold brew last? Cold brew coffee lasts 7-10 days in the fridge when it’s stored properly, which is much longer than regular coffee.
With a freezer, you can have cold brew ice cubes ready for use for up to three months. Now that you know all about how long cold brew lasts and how to make it last longer, go forth and brew some coffee!
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