In my years of being a barista, cold brew is one of the trends that really gave me a brand new view of how we brew. It offers richly extracted coffee with less acidity, and more importantly, it can be preserved longer than traditional brews.
But this takes us to the question, how long does cold brew last exactly?
Let me share the answer to that very question, and how certain factors can affect your coffee’s shelf life. I’ll also share some of my tried-and-tested tips on storing cold brew to give it a longer lifespan.
Let’s get right into it.
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brew coffee is produced through a special immersion brewing method that involves steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in room temperature or cold water for an extended period — typically around 12-24 hours. The result is a cup of coffee with well-extracted rich flavors and a hint of sweetness but without the acidity found in traditional hot brewed coffees.
The long immersion process is what really differentiates it from other chilled or iced coffee drinks. But if you like, cold brew coffee can be served as hot coffee by heating it directly on the stove or adding hot water to a cold brew concentrate.
How Long Does Cold Brew Last?
A cold brew that has not been diluted typically lasts up to 10 days inside the refrigerator. This applies to both homemade cold brews and those bought in stores or coffee shops.
Here is a general timeline of how long cold brew lasts and how it degrades:
- It is as fresh as new for about 2-3 days.
- You can feel the taste changing after 3 days.
- After 7 days, it starts to go stale, so drinking it is not a great coffee experience anymore.
And remember though that the more diluted the concentrate is, the shorter its shelf life is. For example, a cold brew already mixed with water is best consumed in just 2 to 3 days.
However, as with any type of coffee, the rule of thumb is that fresher is always better. After a week in the fridge, your cold brew will usually degrade in flavor, so you’d want to drink it before that time comes.
Tips to Make Cold Brew Last Longer
To ensure that your cold brew coffee stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible, here are a few tips I have learned along the way that you can also follow:
- Keep it in the fridge: Always store your cold brew in the fridge after brewing. The cold temperature plays a crucial role in preserving it. While it can stay at room temperature for a day or two, the taste won’t be the same.
- Use an airtight container: High-quality glass or plastic containers with tight seals are best for storing cold brew. I prefer glass containers because they don’t absorb flavors or odor from previous uses.
- Don’t dilute it right away: It’s best to store your cold brew concentrate rather than diluting it right away so it won’t spoil as fast. You also have more control over how much water or milk you add when preparing each serving.
- Keep it pure: When storing your cold brew, avoid mixing it with other ingredients such as dairy products which could really cut down on its storage life. Check out my handy list of flavorings you can add to your cold brew.
- Pick high-quality beans: Using freshly ground, high-quality coffee beans will generally result in a longer-lasting and better-tasting cold brew. Your coffee roast of choice will also affect your cold brew. Medium roasts are considered ideal for cold brew.
Cold brew involves long waiting hours to make your coffee (unless you’re using the AeroPress coffee maker method which only takes minutes), so you don’t want it to just spoil on you. You’d want to make sure you have everything right, from grinding your coffee beans to their proper size with a reliable grinder to storing it properly.
How Large-Scale Producers Prolong their Cold Brew’s Shelf Life
Have you ever bought a bottled cold brew and wondered how it gets a longer shelf life compared to the ones you make at home? Mass-produced cold brew coffee producers consider the following factors when making their coffee:
- Purity: Secondary extraction, which shortens the lifespan of your cold brew, happens when there are residual coffee compounds in your cold brew even after filtration. Large producers use commercial-grade machines to ensure the purity of their cold brew on a micro level.
A study even found that pasteurization allows cold brew to last for up to 4 months without an effect on its flavor.
- Sanitation: As with any food or drink, sanitation is a key factor in giving your cold brew a long life. These producers make sure that anything that touches the cold brew, from the water containers to the bottles, is fully sanitized.
- Refrigeration: Like your cold brew at home, these bottled cold brew coffees are refrigerated the whole time before their consumption.
Signs of Cold Brew Coffee Going Bad
Like any food or beverage, cold brew can go bad if not properly stored or consumed within a certain timeframe. Here are some signs that your once delicious cold brew has gone bad:
- Off odors: If you notice a sour, acrid, or moldy smell coming from your cold brew, it’s a clear indication that it has spoiled and should be discarded immediately.
- Loss of flavor: As time goes on, the taste profile of your cold brew may change significantly. It might become duller, weaker, or even develop an off-putting acidic taste.
- Decreased freshness: A fresh batch of cold brew should have a strong aroma and robust flavors. Over time, these qualities may diminish as the coffee oxidizes and loses its natural oils responsible for intense flavor profiles.
- Mold growth: Always keep an eye out for any visible signs of mold or mildew formation on the surface of your storage container or floating on the drink itself. Use a clear container to see such unwanted agents in your coffee.
With these in mind, you should be able to judge if your cold brew is still good to go for your consumption.
What I really love about cold brew coffee is that I can prepare larger batches of my much-needed caffeine fix ahead and drink it anytime without compromising on quality. Just be sure to store it right by keeping it in the fridge using proper containers and consuming it within the week (ideally) for the best coffee experience.
What about you, do you have a cold brew coffee experience that you want to share? Let me know in the comments.