Updated: May 2, 2022 by Owen Richardson
So you’ve made your batch of cold brew, but how long can you draw out your enjoyment of it?
It’s all well and good making larger batches to last the week, but that’s no help if you don’t know how long you can safely drink it. As with all food and drink, it’s important that it’s stored correctly to avoid mold or a stale taste, either of which has the ability to put you off drinking cold brew ever again.
I’ll cover exactly how long cold brew lasts, how long cold brew can stay in the fridge, what it should be stored in, and even how to extend the life of cold-brewed coffee.
What Is Cold Brew?
I’m sure that if you’re reading this article, you know what cold brew is. We’ve all got to start somewhere, though, so I’ll summarize for any newbie cold brewers.
Cold brew is created when coarsely ground coffee beans are left to steep in cold water for a period of between 12 and 18 hours. The product that’s left when the coffee grounds are removed from the water is less bitter than traditional coffee.
It can be consumed hot or cold, in fact; the name “cold brew” refers to the brewing process involved in making the concentrate, as opposed to the serving temperature.
How Long Does Cold Brewed Coffee Last?
This question can be easily misinterpreted so I’m going to break it down to make the information easier to digest.
If we’re only talking about the concentrated product that you get after the steeping process, cold brew coffee lasts in the fridge for up to two weeks. But it is best to consume it sooner rather than later, as the quality and flavor diminish the longer you leave it.
Using a container like this will extend the life of your cold brew so you can enjoy it longer.
Once the concentrate has been diluted, the shelf life of the product decreases dramatically. After adding water the cold brew will only last for around three days. Adding milk or cream shortens this time frame even further, down to only eight hours or so.
Why Cold Brew Shouldn’t Be Stored at Room Temperature
Cold-brewed coffee shouldn’t be stored at room temperature. It will start to go moldy very quickly, the taste will become stale, and it will smell bitter and very acidic.
Again, the best place to store cold brew is in the fridge. As I said above, it can be kept in the refrigerator, undiluted, for around 14 days; however, in an ideal world, the batch would be consumed within seven to ten days.
As each day passes, the quality of the brew dwindles. The taste starts to weaken and you won’t get the caffeine hit that you would if you drank it within a couple of days.
Just to add a disclaimer, these are only estimates. There’s no guarantee that your batch of cold brew will last for two weeks or that it will spoil as soon as those 14 days are up. These are rough guidelines for you to work with if you’re making cold brew at home.
Does the Brewing Method Affect How It’s Stored?
There are two ways to make a batch of cold brew; at room temperature and in the refrigerator. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the storage would depend on the brewing method, but you’d be wrong.
No matter how the cold brew is created, whether it’s in the refrigerator or at room temperature, you must store the finished product in the fridge. This will lengthen the shelf life and allow you to enjoy it longer.
What’s the Best Way to Store Cold Brew?
Now that you’re clued up on how long cold brew can stay in the fridge, it’s time to talk about the best way to store it.
An airtight container is the recommended way to store a batch of cold brew. Using this type of container prevents oxidation within your batch from spoiling it quicker than anticipated.
Cold Brew Shelf Life
What Is Oxidation?
Without getting too technical, because I’m definitely not a scientist, oxidation creates a change within a chemical substance when oxygen is added. Have you ever left a cut apple out on the side? The color changes from white to brown quickly because the oxygen in the air has caused a chemical change within the apple.
How Does Oxidation Affect Cold Brew?
As I mentioned above, oxidation isn’t exclusive to cold brew or even liquids in general, but the way it affects cold brew is that it makes it taste stale, bitter, and even acidic. This is the opposite of how cold brew should taste, as the entire process of cold brewing is meant to result in a sweeter and more balanced drink.
Is Expired Cold Brew Safe to Drink?
While drinking expired cold brew wouldn’t necessarily make you sick, it wouldn’t be a pleasant experience. The recommended shelf life exists for a reason and it wouldn’t be a good idea to ignore it.
What Are the Signs That Cold Brew Has Expired?
You would know if a loaf of bread had gone bad, and the same logic can be applied to your homemade cold brew.
Look out for:
- Mold growing in the brew itself or on the container it is in
- An unpleasant or stale smell
- A change in taste (if you’re brave enough to sample it)
- A change in color
These signs all apply to both undiluted and diluted cold brew but will show themselves much earlier in diluted cold brew.
Is There a Way to Extend the Shelf Life of Cold Brew?
Here are three ways by which you can extend the shelf life of homemade cold brew.
1. Don’t Dilute It
It’s been mentioned several times above, but adding anything to your cold brew will shorten the life dramatically. Leave the brew in the fridge and only add water, milk, cream, or sugar to your brew when you’re ready to consume it.
2. Use Airtight Containers
Keeping the air out of your beverage will prevent the oxidation that will cause your cold brew to go bad more quickly.
3. Make Cold Brew Ice Cubes
We’re all trying to be more conscious of the food waste we create. If you make up a large batch of cold brew and don’t drink all of it within two weeks, you can extend its life even further.
Check that the brew is still fine to drink; there are no signs of mold and the smell and flavor are still good. If you would still drink it, pour the remaining brew into ice cube trays and freeze them. When you want to drink it, you just have to wait for it to defrost or add some warm milk to help it on its way. You can also use these cubes to make iced cold brew to keep it from getting watered down!
Other FAQs About Cold Brew
Do I Need a Cold Brew Maker to Brew at Home?
You don’t necessarily need a special cold brew maker, but it will make your life easier if you have one. If you’re interested in purchasing a cold brew maker for your home, this article will provide you with all the information you need to choose the best one.
What Happens if You Leave Cold Brew for Too Long?
If the cold brew is left for too long, it will start to grow mold. The flavor will also weaken and become more acidic and bitter. This isn’t what you want from a cold brew. It’s designed to be sweet and flavorful.
Does the Quality of Coffee Beans Make a Difference?
As with all coffee, the better the quality of beans you use, the better the coffee will taste. As far as shelf life, though, the bean quality does not matter. When you’re making your own cold brew, feel free to choose the coffee beans you enjoy the most.
How Long Does Cold Brew Last Unrefrigerated?
If cold-brewed coffee isn’t refrigerated as soon as it’s ready, it will only last a matter of hours before it starts to turn and go bad.
You Now Know How Long Cold Brew Lasts
I hope this article has answered your questions about how long cold brew lasts. In the fridge it can last for around 14 days, but do try and drink it as soon as you can to get maximum enjoyment from it.
After all, you spent so long steeping the grounds to create the cold brew in the first place. It would be a shame to waste it because it wasn’t stored correctly or consumed soon enough.