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.
But many coffee drinkers claim cold brew as their preferred brewing method because of the long shelf life, and the ability to make it in concentrated form. If it’s diluted you can add hot water to it and you’ve got a hot cup of coffee just like that.
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.
Although in saying that, there’s a growing trend of people who enjoy heating up cold brew for the lower acidity compared to hot brewed coffee.
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.
Tips For Storing Cold Brew Coffee For A Longer Shelf Life
1. Filter with a paper filter
This is a big one and is the downfall of most cold brews and cold brew concentrate that are more than a week old.
If some of your ground coffee makes 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 be in your coffee, removing any bitter taste that might appear.
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.
3. Sterilize 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 cold brewing? 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 high heat for 10 minutes.
This will get rid of all the germs and could actually improve the flavor of your coffee.
How do you know if cold brew coffee 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.
Cold Brew vs Iced Coffee
A quick word to start this off saying that cold brew is not the same as iced coffee.
Cold brewed coffee is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water in the fridge for 8-24 hours.
Meanwhile, iced coffee is made by pouring hot coffee (usually espresso) over ice.
Now this completely changes the shelf life of each one, because the cold brew has never been hot it lasts longer and the flavor quality stays high. But iced coffee is only really good until the ice in it melts after that it’s diluted and ruined.
If you put it in the fridge you’ll still be able to drink it for the next couple of days but chances are you won’t want to.
This is again different to nitro brewed coffee which uses cold brew and then infuses it with nitrogen but I go into the differences between nitro coffee and cold brew here.
What is the Shelf Life Of Cold Brew Coffee
You’ve got 3 types of cold brew, stuff you’ve bought at the grocery store or online, stuff you’ve made yourself, and cold brew you bought in a coffee shop and have taken home. Depending on which you have will affect the shelf life.
How Long Does Store Bought Cold Brew coffee 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 coffee drink 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 the shop-bought cold brew is likely treated with more preservatives and additives 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.
How Long Does Coffee Shop Cold Brew Last?
I am the first to say I’m a coffee lover, but even I have been to Starbucks taken home a regular coffee, and not finished it. A venti is a lot to drink!
If you did this with a coffee shop barista-made cold brew I’d get it in the fridge as soon as possible. As long as it hasn’t been sitting at room temperature for days on end I wouldn’t worry about going ahead and drinking it in the next day or two. I can’t vouch for how good it will taste but it will be fine to drink.
How Long Does Cold Brew Concentrate Last?
Cold brew coffee concentrate can be treated the same as regular cold brew when it comes to storage and shelf life. 1-2 weeks with the flavor best in the first week.
Any ground coffee beans should be filtered out and it should be sealed in an airtight container to keep it fresh, think of a mason jar. Double bonus of the mason jar is that it can make it ready to drink if you’re feeling hipster!
And for those that don’t know concentrate is made by using a much lower water ratio, sometimes 1:4 coffee to water. The undiluted concentrate is like rocket fuel but add some hot or cold water, or use it with milk to make an iced coffee/frappuccino type thing and it’s wonderful.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the caffeine content go up the longer you leave it?
No, sadly not, the only thing that can happen is if you’ve left some grounds in the mixture then it can get more bitter over time. But sadly no more caffeine is extracted into the mixture. The same is largely true about all brew methods when you’re looking to make strong coffee.
Why does my cold brew taste like alcohol?
This is a weird one, and one that could make you think that your cold brew has started fermenting in the fridge. But this actually happens with the washing process in the beans, sometimes when they are left in the sun to dry they do start to ferment a little and that fermented flavor is similar to alcohol which gets passed through into your coffee beans.
But no actual alcohol is likely to be present and it’s the beans rather than the brew method that causes this.
What should cold brew taste like?
A good question! And one you should certainly be familiar with before you start wondering how long is cold brew good for. Well, it’s less acidic than regular coffee, with a smooth flavor with a lot of the darker flavors.
It depends largely on the coffee beans you’ve used so I’m afraid that’s the best I can do for a description, best to head to a coffee shop to try it yourself.
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!