While the process of brewing coffee isn’t very time consuming, we understand more than anyone that some mornings you don’t even have enough time to pour coffee, let alone make it. An excellent option for those who have limited time before work, or who simply aren’t morning people, is to brew a big batch and drink it over the course of a few days. But how long is brewed coffee good for?
Below, we’re going to discuss how long your brewed coffee will last, when it’s freshest, and how to store it properly. Let’s get started!
How Long is Brewed Coffee Good For?
Brewed coffee will eventually go bad, and there are really two ways that it can do so. The first is in freshness. For the coffee drinker who wants a flavorful cup of bold and delicious coffee, drinking it no more than 15-20 minutes after brewing is ideal.
The reason for this short time period is the same that you’d buy whole beans and grind right before brewing: oxidation causes loss of freshness. When oxygen interacts with your brewed coffee, it strips it of its flavor and freshness very rapidly. Your beloved coffee will taste stale within about 20-30 minutes of brewing and may have gotten more bitter due to oxidation after this time.
While the loss of freshness and flavor is just about the worst thing we can think of, there is one thing worse: spoiled coffee. Brewed coffee can actually go bad in the sense that it becomes potentially unsafe to drink. You should consume brewed coffee at least within 24 hours if kept at room temperature, and within 3-4 days if kept in the fridge. Your coffee will taste far less fresh within these timeframes, but it will still be safe to drink.
Is Brewed Coffee Ever Unsafe to Drink?
It certainly can be! Beyond the timeframes mentioned above, brewed coffee can start growing bacteria that can be unsafe to consume. It can make you ill, and it will also taste rather disgusting.
It’s also important to note here that brewed coffee with milk can spoil even more quickly than we’ve described above. Milk products — even dairy alternatives — can cause bacteria growth very rapidly in brewed coffee. If you add milk to any black coffee, we recommend drinking within 1-2 hours at room temperature or within 48 hours in the fridge. You wouldn’t let milk sit out on the counter for a day and then drink it, so don’t do it with milk in coffee either!
What’s the Best Place to Store Brewed Coffee?
The answer to this question depends on where you store it and what’s in your coffee.
If your coffee is black, it can be left in the carafe you brewed it in or some other container at room temperature for up to 24 hours. If you have the means to seal it, that’s even better. We don’t recommend leaving your coffee on any kind of warming plate, as this will lead to a bitter and burnt taste rather quickly. Black coffee can also be stored in a covered carafe in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, or in a thermos or travel mug.
If you’ve added milk to your coffee, it can be left out on the counter for a very short time. By the time your cup has cooled to room temperature, we wouldn’t recommend drinking it, given how quickly milk can spoil and attract bacteria. Milky coffee can be stored in the fridge safely for up to 48 hours.
What’s the Best Container for Storing Coffee?
The vessel in which you store your coffee can be just as important as how long you store it. We’ve found that the best container material for storing coffee of any kind is porcelain or glass. These materials won’t impart any flavors in your coffee, so the only loss of freshness and taste you’ll need to combat will be from the time of storage.
If you intend to drink your coffee warm within a few hours of brewing, porcelain will suit you better, as it is a better insulator. Glass is fine too if that’s all you have. However, you may need to heat your coffee, and reheating brewed coffee can create unwanted bitterness.
Many coffee drinkers choose to store their coffee in stainless steel, which many travel mugs are made out of. Stainless steel is all right for short-term storage — up to an hour or two — but beyond that, you’ll find that your coffee takes on a bit of a metallic taste from interacting with the stainless steel.
Plastic containers are cheap and convenient, but they can leach chemicals and bad tastes into your coffee. Plastic isn’t recommended for any kind of storage, short-term or long-term. You’ll also find that plastic quickly becomes stained by the coffee and holds onto a vague coffee taste. This flavor will then be picked up by any other liquid you store in the container.
The Bottom Line
Brewed coffee loses its freshness rapidly, and it should be consumed within 15-20 minutes for the best flavor. However, it can be stored safely at room temperature for about 24 hours and about 3-4 days if kept in the fridge without additional flavorings or dairy products. Coffee with milk or sugar shouldn’t be left at room temperature for longer than an hour or so, and it can last up to 48 hours if kept in the fridge.
No matter where you store your coffee, using a porcelain or glass container that seals is the best option for keeping your coffee as flavorful as possible.
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