As someone who frequently drinks cold brew, I often wonder how long it would last if I didn’t drink it. That led me to write this guide.
Here’s what I’ll cover:
Table of Content
Keep reading to learn more.
- Cold brew can last for up to 2 weeks when refrigerated.
- You must refrigerate cold brew, otherwise, it’ll get moldy & lose flavor.
- Watch out for a lack of aroma & acidic taste with your drink.
- Store cold brew in an airtight container to make it last longer.
How Long Does Cold Brew Last After Making It?
Cold brew concentrate (undiluted) will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks when stored in a refrigerator between 30 and 40 °F . Temperatures between 34 °F and 38 °F are ideal. Temperatures above 40 °F will shorten its lifespan due to encouraging bacterial growth.
Say you’ve had it in your fridge for more than a couple of weeks. You’ll need to know whether it’s bad.
Why does cold brew last for so long? When you heat coffee, you remove quinic acid. An acid responsible for oxidation and a component that makes coffee more acidic. With this acid intact, you have less acidity and a not-so-significant oxidation process.
Here’s a timeline of what happens to your cold brew as the days pass:
- 1–3 days: Cold brew is fresh.
- 3–7 days: Diluted concentrate begins to stale.
- 7–13 days: Concentrate begins tasting stale.
- 14 days: Drink tastes sour.
- 15–30 days: Drink may grow mold.
I recommend drinking your cold brew between 1 and 3 days after it’s made for the best taste. Once you reach day 14, I recommend dumping it or feeding it to plants that prefer acidic soil.
You’ll want to watch for certain signs in case your drink tastes funky before the 2-week mark. Here they are.
How to Tell Whether Cold Brew Is Bad
The following tells will let you know when your cold brew is no longer fresh:
- Lacks aroma: Won’t taste as good.
- Less of a caffeinated boost: Not ideal.
- Acidic taste: Probably should feed to plants.
- Much less flavor: Consider dumping.
- Cloudy appearance: It should have a clear, amber tint; discard immediately.
- Rancid or moldy smell: Immediately dump.
- Mold growth: Don’t think about drinking it.
Prevent these signs from happening by prolonging your cold brew’s shelf life.
How to Make Cold Brew Last Longer
Here are steps you could take to ensure that your cold brew lasts longer:
- Store in airtight containers
- Avoid additives & ingredients in stored cold brew
- Use fresh coffee beans
- Avoid oxygen & light exposure
- Freeze your cold brew
The following sections will dive deeper into each of these steps. Ensure you keep reading to prevent yourself from making potential mistakes.
1. Store in Air-Tight Containers
Stainless steel and glass containers that are airtight are the best options to store cold brew in. They don’t release chemicals into your drink and almost eliminate your drink’s exposure to oxygen, which could otherwise make it go bad quicker.
In addition to storage, you should ensure your drink remains undiluted.
2. Don’t Add Anything
Avoid adding sweeteners, creamers, and other ingredients to your cold brew to prolong its shelf life. For instance, adding lemon wedges could make your drink stay fresh for a couple of days.
I’ll provide more details in a bit.
For now, let’s talk about coffee beans.
3. Use Fresh Coffee Beans
Before grinding your beans, ensure they’re fresh. Otherwise, they’ll likely go stale during storage, which could make all your other efforts of preserving your drink go in vain.
Ways to tell if your beans are fresh include:
- Ensure they’re glossy: This ensures they have adequate oils.
- They shouldn’t leave residue on your hands: Self-explanatory.
- They should have an intense aroma: If not, they’re not in their prime.
Let’s cover an additional factor that involves storing your coffee.
4. Limit Exposure to Light & Oxygen
Exposing your drink to UV rays from artificial light or sunlight sources, in addition to oxygen, will speed up the degradation process of your cold brew. These factors will cause chemical reactions that’ll negatively affect your cold brew’s flavor.
How do you avoid light and oxygen exposure?
I mentioned to store your beverage in an airtight stainless steel or glass container. Ensure these containers are opaque to shield your brew from light. The airtight nature of your container will prevent oxygen from getting in.
5. Freeze it
Freezing your cold brew at 0 °F could extend its shelf life by up to 2 months. However, doing so will make it not taste as smooth due to ice crystal formation within the liquids.
When freezing, use freezer bags or airtight containers to minimize exposure to air. If you know you’ll finish your frozen cold brew within a week or 2, consider pouring your concentrate into an ice cube tray.
And when you’re ready to make a drink, get a cup of milk, add a handful of your cold brew ice cubes, and wait for them to melt for an icy drink on a hot day.
Now that you know how to store your cold brew properly, let’s see what’ll make it go bad quicker.
Effects of Additives on Cold Brew Shelf Life
Avoid adding other ingredients or additives to your cold brew. Otherwise, it could make your cold brew last as long as 3 days. Let’s explore examples.
Fruit slices, such as lemon wedges, contain enzymes and microbes, which could accelerate fermentation. If added to your cold brew, your beverage will have a shelf life of 2 days.
Adding dairy products does reduce acidity, but increases perishability and could encourage bacterial growth. Thus, they’ll reduce your drink’s life to 3 days.
Sugar could also reduce its shelf life to a few days, since it sustains yeast and bacteria. But sweeteners like honey could affect its shelf life for a week.
Not all additives have negative effects. Vanilla extract won’t reduce your drink’s shelf life but may impact the flavor. And citric acid will extend your cold brew’s lifespan since it inhibits bacterial growth. However, I couldn’t find specific numbers on this claim.
What happens if you don’t refrigerate cold brew?
How Long Does Cold Brew Last Unrefrigerated?
Cold brew coffee can last unrefrigerated for 1–2 days. However, it’s best to refrigerate it to extend its shelf life.
Nitro cold brew has a much different shelf life than its ungassed counterpart. Let’s see the difference.
How Long Does Cold Brew Last in a Keg?
Storing cold brew in a keg that’s under pressure with nitrogen will keep your cold brew fresh for up to 3 months . So long as you keep the keg refrigerated.
Some folks have claimed that they’ve kept nitro cold brew in a keg for 8 months without it going flat. However, that information came from a forum, not an “official” source.
Before storing your cold brew in a keg, ensure there aren’t any issues with your keg’s seal. Otherwise, your nitrogen-infused cold brew will go flat, and your beverage may last a couple of weeks.
I recommend you keep reading in case you have any unanswered questions.
FAQs for Cold Brew
Read on to find frequently asked questions about storing cold brew coffee.
Does Cold Brew Coffee Need to Be Refrigerated?
Yes, you need to refrigerate cold brew. Refrigerating cold brew slows the growth of bacteria and extends its shelf life.
Does Cold Brew Go Bad in the Fridge?
Yes, cold brew can go bad in the fridge. However, it has a longer shelf life than hot-brewed coffee. Properly stored cold brew can last in the fridge for up to 14 days.
On average, regular cold brew concentrate will stay fresh for up to 14 days when refrigerated. So long as you avoid additives and store it in proper containers. Nitro cold brew will stay fresh for a couple of months. An unrefrigerated cold brew will stay “fresh” for a couple of days.
What are the differences between cold brew and its nitrogen-infused counterpart? Check out a comparison we wrote.