If your cup of coffee has been sitting out a long time and you’re wondering does brewed coffee go bad, the answer is yes.
Yes, brewed coffee goes bad, and if you’ve ever left a mug of cold coffee on the—no pun intended—coffee table for a couple of days, you’ll know it gets an oily film on top, with a “ring” in the mug where it was evaporating, and worse yet, a few spots of mold. What you can’t see without a microscope is that your hot coffee gradually turns warm then room temp and bacteria and yeasts start feeding on it. If it has dairy and sugar, all the better for the little beasties.
It usually takes overnight to a couple of days for that to happen, but the taste of brewed coffee starts to degrade after 15 minutes, and after a couple of hours, can become downright bitter. If you want to save leftover coffee, it’s best to seal and refrigerate it and reheat it once (just once) the next day.
Signs that brewed coffee has gone bad:
It tastes stale and flavorless or sharply unpleasant
It offers a more bitter and acidic taste than fresh brew
Any mold has started developing on the surface
Cream or nondairy creamer has lumped or curdled in or on the coffee cup.
More About Brewed Coffee
According to NCA (National Coffee Association), coffee is more popular than any other drink in the United States. Brewed coffee offers a pleasant aroma and rich flavor, and it makes for a great drink to kickstart your day. If you’re one of us coffee drinkers, you’d probably have experienced those mornings when you don’t have enough time to finish your morning brew.
The first thought that’ll pop up in your mind in such a situation is if brewed coffee goes bad?
Let’s discuss this topic in detail to find out more about if brewed coffee goes bad, how to store brewed coffee, how long can coffee sit out, does brewed coffee lose caffeine, and answers to lots more.
An old story suggests that a goat herder from Kaffa, named Kaldi, discovered coffee beans in the 9th century in an Ethiopian forest.
However, the cultivation and trade of coffee started in the 13th century in the Arabian Peninsula, and at that time, the only method to brew coffee was steeping coffee grounds in hot water for five to 10 hours.
The first proper coffee brewing method was invented in the 16th century when coffee beans reached Turkey.
It’s known as the Ibrik method, and people in many parts of the world still use it.
The Ibrik is basically a small copper or brass pot in which coffee grounds, sugar, spices, and water are added and the mixture is heated multiple times to make a hot cup of coffee.
There were many coffee brewing methods invented between the 16th and 18th centuries, but what revolutionized the coffee world was the drip brewer, invented in the early 19th century.
In this method, the water is passed through a filter containing coffee grounds at a high temperature and it’s still one of the most popular ways to brew coffee in America.
Now we have many modern methods for brewing coffee, including an espresso machine, French press, instant coffee, AeroPress, and Hario V60 (affs).
And who remembers the mid-century modern coffee percolator? They still sell them.
Each brewing method offers a different flavor, caffeine level, and brewing time to meet everyone’s unique taste preferences for their favorite blend of coffee.
Does Brewed Coffee Go Bad?
Yes, brewed coffee goes bad.
“Bad” in this case can mean that it will eventually taste bad and that it can become “bad for you” after a while, too.
Brewed coffee is mostly water and has been heated, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
Even though coffee is acidic and doesn’t go bad as fast as some other food and drink, it does go bad, and there is a loss of flavor as soon as 30 minutes after brewing.
The general rule of thumb is to enjoy your cups of coffee within just a couple hours of making it, and after that, your best bet is to discard it, especially if there’s creamer or dairy product in it.
The caffeine content remains unchanged, and in fact, as the water evaporates, the caffeine can become more concentrated.
The duration for which brewed coffee remains fresh and safe depends on several factors, including the storing method, exposure to air, and the surrounding temperature.
For example, a cup of brewed coffee at room temperature will go bad faster than the one that you’ve stored in the refrigerator.
Oxidation of coffee is the primary reason why it goes “bad,” which is mostly that flavor goes flat, bitter, and often undrinkable.
And it occurs when oxygen comes in contact with different coffee compounds, including coffee oils, aromatics, and acids.
This process deteriorates the flavor of aromatic compounds of coffee, and it starts to taste bitter and sour, which is perceived as staleness.
Your brewed coffee will still go bad after a while even if you store it in an airtight container because of the presence of oxygen molecules in the water that you use to make coffee.
Additionally, the higher the surrounding temperature, the faster the coffee will go rancid because it increases the rate at which oxidation takes place and that’s why hot brewed coffee deteriorates faster than cold brewed coffee.
It’s important to note that the brewing process is itself the oxidation of coffee, and it forces coffee beans to release acids, oils, and aromatics into the water.
These compounds give coffee the bold taste that you like, but they evaporate in the air after brewing as the oxidation process continues.
Coffee maker Death Wish says:
If you’re one that would rather take it slow and savor the moment, then you should for sure drink your cup of joe the same day—within 12 hours—if it stays at room temperature. It will still be safe to drink, as long as it’s just black coffee (with maybe a little sugar added too).
How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last?
According to this Starbucks-related crowd-sourced document, hot brewed coffee will stay at its optimum flavor for 30 minutes, and iced coffee can last for up to 12 hours at room temperature.
It’s important to note that different coffee shops follow different standards for letting their brewed coffee sit, and it can range from 15 minutes to up to an hour.
However, your coffee will be safe to drink a couple of hours after it’s brewed if you keep it in an airtight container; although, you won’t be able to enjoy the best flavor of day-old coffee, and it might also offer a sour mouthfeel with an unpleasant bitter taste, too.
If your brewed coffee has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours, we recommend you smell it and check for signs of staleness before consuming it.
Bear in mind that your coffee will start to lose its taste as soon as you brew it, and if you’re a purist, you’ll experience a difference in flavor even after a few minutes.
So, the sooner you drink your coffee after brewing, the better taste you’ll enjoy.
Can You Drink Coffee Left Out Overnight?
Technically, you can drink your hot brewed coffee left out overnight, but the rich, complex flavor starts to degrade after a few hours.
That’s because the coffee will lose most of its natural flavor and probably “go bad” during that time, giving you a bitter and harsh taste.
If you’ve ever peered into a cup of coffee left out overnight and witnessed the evaporation ring and maybe a “skin” of creamer on top of the coffee leftover, the rather unappetizing appearance should dissuade you from drinking it.
Whereas your iced coffee will probably taste ok if you leave it out in an airtight coffee thermos, as it can last for up to 12 hours.
From longtime coffee brand Folgers:
In order to guarantee the best taste and quality, we don’t recommend that you … reheat leftover coffee, as it will not taste the same.
How to Store Brewed Coffee
A quick conversation with the coffee experts at Fire Dept. Coffee reveals the best way to store brewed coffee:
“You can keep brewed coffee fresh by leaving it in a thermal carafe for an hour or two. While you can technically keep brewed coffee in the fridge for around a week, we really don’t recommend it, as it’ll compromise its flavor (unless it’s a cold brew, of course!).”
If you want to enjoy the best taste possible from leftover brewed coffee, store your brewed coffee using a double-wall stainless steel carafe that can lock in the heat to keep your coffee as fresh and hot as possible for a few hours.
How to store brewed coffee in the refrigerator:
Although you can store your brewed coffee in the refrigerator to keep it drinkable for a longer time, it’ll lose its complex flavor when reheated.
Step 1: Transfer the leftover coffee that has been freshly brewed within the last 12 hours to a glass container with an airtight lid, like a mason jar. Or use a drinking glass and cover with saran wrap.
Step 2: Move the covered container to the refrigerator, where it will be safe to drink if kept chilled at an uninterrupted 42F for two to three days. The flavor, however, will probably have degraded.
Note: If you are unsure if the coffee you want to save for later has been freshly brewed within the last 12 hours, it is safest to throw it out and make a fresh pot or cup.
How to reheat brewed coffee that has been stored in the refrigerator:
To reheat leftover coffee that has been stored in the refrigerator, make sure that you warm it gently without letting it reach a boil.
Boiling coffee leads to over-extraction of the bitter elements from the coffee grounds.
- To reheat the entire amount of leftover coffee, use a stainless steel pan on the stovetop to reheat the entire amount of coffee at once on medium low heat.
- To reheat a single serving or one cup of leftover coffee, use a microwave-safe mug in the microwave in increments of 45 seconds on high. Stir and reheat another 45 seconds. Continue reheating a few seconds at time, again, without bringing it to a boil.
- ”Any reheating of coffee will affect quality; however, to minimize ‘off’ flavors from developing, try to heat the coffee gently and avoid boiling.” (Fire Dept. Coffee)
Your reheated coffee still won’t have the freshest taste, but a low-and-slow reheating process will help you retain some of its flavor.
The best way to store brewed iced coffee or cold brew:
A great way to store iced coffee or cold brew is to place it in the refrigerator using a sealed container, like a covered metal or glass cup or mason jar with lid.
It’ll hold up much better in the fridge as compared to hot brew, as it’s a concentrated form of coffee with less acidity and bitterness that loses its complexity and flavor at a lower rate than hot brew.
Additionally, you don’t need to reheat it before drinking, which helps to retain some of the original fresh coffee flavor.
The best way to to freeze brewed ice coffee or cold brew:
Store your iced coffee by making ice cubes in an ice cube tray out of it and using a freezer-safe plastic bag to store the cubes.
They can be used in blended smoothies and shakes, or added to your next batch of cold brew.
The coffee quality will be affected but the frozen coffee should be safe to consume indefinitely when used frozen.
How to Tell if Brewed Coffee Has Gone Bad
Coffee has a distinct aroma that leads to its taste, so the easiest and most effective way to tell if it has gone bad is to smell it.
Any changes in your coffee’s smell will be easily noticeable; if the aroma of your cup of joe has diminished, most of its flavor is gone, and it might also have gotten a little stale.
The flavor of your coffee will likely offer a sour taste if it smells flat, and this indicates that it has become rancid coffee.
You can also inspect the surface of your coffee, and if you see discoloration or mold growth on it, it’s best to discard your brew.
In the case of cold brew, you’ll find it difficult to determine whether or not it has gone rancid by using
your sense of smell because it is less aromatic than hot brew.
You can use the following signs to determine whether your cold brew may not be safe or enjoyable to drink:
- It tastes stale and flavorless or sharply unpleasant
- It offers a more bitter and acidic taste than fresh cold brew
- Any mold has started developing on the surface
- Cream or nondairy creamer has lumped or curdled in or on the coffee cup.
How Long Can Coffee Sit Out with Creamer in It?
Generally, hot brewed coffee with creamer will last for up to an hour at room temperature if you store it in a sealed carafe.
After that, it’ll become unsafe because of the multiplication process of bacteria, doubling in number after every 20 minutes at room temperature (40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit).
The shelf life of brewed coffee with milk or creamer is shorter than plain black coffee containing no dairy product.
That’s because dairy products are perishable and can go rancid pretty quickly at room temperature.
The creamer or milk starts to curdle and turn the coffee sour, and you’ll need to discard the drink if it sits at room temperature for too long.
If you add creamer to your cold brew, it will last for up to two hours at room temperature in a sealed coffee pot.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t store your brewed coffee with creamer or milk in the fridge if it has already been sitting at room temperature for over a couple of hours, since the freshness has already been compromised—our best advice is to throw it away, especially if you have a particularly sensitive stomach.
How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last in the Fridge?
Your brewed coffee will last for up to four days in the fridge if placed inside a sealed pot, but it won’t taste as good as a fresh, hot brew.
Storing your coffee in the refrigerator is quick and easy, and it allows you to enjoy your brew later.
But it’s important to know how long brewed coffee lasts in the fridge so that you can use it before it goes rancid.
While it’s best to store your hot coffee in an airtight container like a carafe for no more than two hours at room temperature for the best taste, you can also store it in the refrigerator.
If you have added creamer or milk to your coffee, you can store it in the refrigerator until the next day.
However, you’ll need to make sure that you don’t let it sit at room temperature for more than one hour, and the temperature of the fridge should also be around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Don’t forget to smell and look at your cold coffee with creamer before drinking it…
Dispose of coffee that has curdled milk lumps, mold spots floating on top or along the edges of the coffee, or is discolored, or smells sour or “off”.
How long does cold brew or iced coffee last in the fridge?
Just like at room temperature, cold brew and iced coffee last much longer than hot-brewed coffees in the fridge, and if you use an airtight carafe for storing, it’ll stay drinkable from the refrigerator for up to seven days.
Adding creamer to cold brew will decrease its shelf life; it’ll last for up to two days in the refrigerator.
Does Brewed Coffee Lose Caffeine After It Sits Out?
“No, the caffeine molecule is very stable and there will be no degradation in caffeine over time.” (Fire Dept. Coffee)
Ways to Use Brewed Coffee
There are several ways to use leftover brewed coffee.
Lots of recipes call for leftover coffee, and we have a few ideas for you here.
Storing in the fridge isn’t the only way to deal with your leftover brewed coffee, as there are tons of recipes that call for this drink.
Try our recipe for Nutella Iced Coffee.
Nutella Iced Coffee
Nutella iced coffee is a delicious and smooth caffeinated beverage that you can make within a matter of minutes.
- Brewed coffee: 2 oz
- Water: 1 c
- Nutella: 3 T
- Heavy cream: 0.5 c
- Whole milk: 0.5 c
- Ice cubes: 3 to 4
- Mix water and brewed coffee in a glass/bowl to achieve even consistency.
- Add the mixture to a blender, along with Nutella, and blend until they become smooth.
- Mix heavy cream and whole milk together.
- Pour the mixture into a glass containing ice cubes (or your premade coffee ice cubes) and top it with the mixture of cream and milk.
- Drink immediately.
Here are more ways to use leftover brewed coffee
- Make an iced coffee drink, iced latte, or coffee milkshake.
- Layer brewed coffee in a coffee cocktail or two for the grownups.
- Freeze into ice cubes to use in iced coffees later, which helps keep from diluting the drink with water.
- Mocha Cupcakes With Mocha Buttercream Frosting—both use leftover brewed coffee.
- Instead of the water called for on the box, add to chocolate cake and brownie mixes to make the chocolate flavor even richer.
- Mix plain brewed coffee into a roux for gumbo.
- Give the holidays a lift with these holiday coffee drinks.
- Copycat Starbucks Mocha Syrup with strong decaf brew.
- Cook it down with sugar for a luscious coffee glaze to top cake or ice cream.
- Transform a cup of brewed coffee into a Pumpkin Spice Irish Coffee.
- Create a frosting with strong brewed coffee.
- Substitute leftover brewed coffee for water in protein drinks, shakes, and smoothies for a caffeine kick.
- Lots of yummy coffee desserts to choose from here on CookingChew.com.
- Make your cuppa into Bulletproof Coffee.
- Add to a slow cooker with beef or pork roast for a robust depth of flavor.
The bottom line
Brewed coffee offers the best taste if you drink it within 15 minutes to one hour after the brewing process.
It remains drinkable for a couple of hours, but you won’t experience the complex flavors that a fresh brew offers.
Storing your brewed coffee, without creamer or any other dairy product, in the refrigerator will increase its shelf life, and it’ll last up to four days.
It’s best to not leave your coffee with creamer at room temperature for more than an hour, then store it in the fridge to keep it fresh for one day.
And place your coffee in a fully airtight carafe or pot to keep it as flavorful as possible.
The coffee people at Fire Dept. Coffee left us with some thoughts on whether brewed coffee goes bad:
“The best advice is to drink coffee 1 to 2 hours after brewing. All coffee is going to have some noticeable taste differences an hour after brewing (I know some cafes that toss any coffee brewed after 45 minutes).”
- 2 oz brewed coffee
- 1 c fresh, cold water
- 3 T Nutella
- ½ c heavy cream
- ½ c whole milk
- 3 or 4 ice cubes (or premade coffee ice cubes)
- Combine heavy cream and whole milk together. Set aside.
- Add water and leftover brewed coffee to blender. Pulse briefly.
- Add Nutella and pulse until smooth.
- Into a large serving glass, add the ice cubes.
- Pour the coffee mixture from the blender into the glass.
- Then top the coffee mixture with the combined cream and milk.
- Drink immediately.
If you don’t have both heavy cream and whole milk, a cup of half-and-half will do the trick.
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