The summer months are here and it’s time to break out the cold brew kit and get to chillin’.
But you go ahead through all the steps and get your big batch of cold brew that goes into the fridge, then what? You don’t want to be pulling it out of the fridge 3 months from now and cracking the mold off the top.
Cold-brew coffee will last for 1-2 weeks when stored properly in the fridge. After 1 week it will still taste as good as when you made it and after 2 weeks it will be drinkable but not as good as when you made it.
A lot of it comes down to how much you prepared beforehand, if you took your time to make sure everything was sterilized and filtered it after it was brewed through a paper filter then after 2 weeks it will still be absolutely delicious.
But if you didn’t do those things then you might find that it’s starting to turn bitter after just 5 days in the fridge.
How Long Does Store Bought Cold Brew Last?
It depends on a lot of factors and step 1 is always to check the bottle to see if it has a use-by date on it, or some indication telling you how long to leave it after it’s opened.
Once you’ve opened a bottle of Cold Brew you’re going to want to store it in the refrigerator and drink it within 3 days. That is the best way to avoid any problems of it spoiling.
Because while shop-bought cold brew is likely treated with more preservatives to make it last longer, you don’t know how long it’s already been in the bottle, it could have spent months in a warehouse or shipping containers before it ever gets to the shelf where you buy it.
So keep 3 days in mind but use your senses, if it looks funny, smells funny, or even tastes different, just get rid of it.
Can You Leave Cold Brew At Room Temperature
This is pretty much a terrible idea all in, you can do it and it will still be drinkable for about 24 hours, but you’ll be drinking room temperature cold brew…
Does that sound appealing to you? I didn’t think so.
So storing cold brew on your countertop is out, and as I wrote in my previous article about letting coffee sit out, hot coffee is good for about 30 minutes, fine for about 24 hours, and then quickly downhill after that.
But with cold brew, it’s a little different, because if you leave it on the countertop after you’ve had it in your fridge for several weeks you’re asking for trouble.
This is a prime bacteria growth scenario and is pretty much guaranteed to at least ruin the flavor let alone have the whole thing go moldy.
Sterilizing your equipment
If you’re brewing beer, then there’s no end of advice telling you how and when to properly sterilize all your equipment. If you’re making jam there are huge discussions about the best way to sterilize equipment.
And if you’re making cold brew? Nothing.
Now cold brew doesn’t last nearly as long as beer or jam so I can see why the advice doesn’t come up, but it’s such an important factor that it definitely deserves attention.
All equipment that’s coming into contact with your coffee during the cold brew process should be properly sterilized, this ensures that no bacteria can get in. But as Justin Metcalf explains on Cafe Culture it can be so much worse:
“Non-pathogens like yeast and mold can taste unpalatable which you will reject when you taste it.
But pathogens like salmonella, E. coli, listeria are tasteless and can cause you harm, which is dangerous and can be disastrous to your customer and the coffee industry in general.”
Now he’s talking about if you’re making cold brew to sell, the same dangers apply if you’re making it at home so it’s worth taking some time to be careful about what you’re doing.
So you want to either submerge all the equipment you’re going to be using in boiling water for about 5 minutes, or you can place glass in the oven on a high heat for 10 minutes.
This will get rid of all the germs and could actually improve the flavor of your coffee.
Tips For Storing Cold Brew
1. Filter with a paper filter
This is a big one and is the downfall of most cold brews that’s more than a week old.
If a couple of coffee grounds make it through into your final bottle they continue to extract while it’s in the fridge, slowly but surely making your coffee more bitter and more disgusting.
But there’s an easy solution, filter your coffee through a paper filter and it will do the best job at removing all the coffee grounds and all the fines that could possibly be in your coffee.
Reusable filters also work pretty well but paper is better. And avoid Metal filters all together they let far too many fines through that keep on extracting after you’ve stored it.
For instance, you can make cold brew in a French press but you’ll want to filter it a second time to make sure it’s crystal clear of all coffee grounds.
2. Leave no room in the bottle
When you’re filling it up with coffee fill it nice and close to the top if you’re going to store it for more than a week.
The air can react with the coffee causing oxidation, and just like metal will eventually begin to rust so too will your coffee start to degrade and lose all its freshness.
But if you leave as little air in the bottle as possible then you’ve avoided this problem. And I’m not saying get yourself some fancy vacuum sealer just keep it nicely topped up to the top.
And if you have made so much that you are left with a half bottle, just drink that one first because oxidation happens slowly over time so you will still have plenty of time to drink a half bottle.
How do you know if cold brew has gone bad?
It’s one of those things that’s going to be obvious if it ever happens, but there are 3 things you can specifically look for.
1. Bad Smell
If you open it up and it doesn’t smell like coffee, don’t drink it…
You can usually trust your senses when it comes to telling if food has gone bad, they’ve kept people like you alive and free from food poisoning for a long time so you can trust that if it doesn’t smell right, something isn’t right.
2. Bad Taste
The taste can go off and it’s still perfectly safe to drink, but life is too short for bad tasting coffee so if the taste has gone, scrap it and make some fresh coffee.
But if it tastes like sour horribleness then you should probably spit it out, that is not how coffee should taste and is a sure sign your cold brew has gone bad.
3. Mold On Top
And finally, we have mold…
If it’s stored in the fridge it’s going to take a long ole time before this happens, especially if you’ve sterilized all your equipment and gone through all the steps to filter it and store it properly.
But if you do in fact see some mold then you should definitely back away slowly and pour it down the sink. And then make double sure it’s clean and sterile before you use it again.
Your only other choice is to freeze your cold brew or make it into cold brew ice cubes, which while it can work isn’t the most effective way of storing it, nor is it the tastiest way.
You’re better off just making enough that will last you a week drinking it and then making some more the following week. Same as with batch cooking, no point making more than you’re going to eat!
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How Long Does Coffee Last in the Fridge?