In the world of coffee, there are always new trends to consider and enjoy. The hottest right now, ironically, is a concoction that isn't hot at all. Cold brew coffee is the newest revolution of the iced coffee craze. However, it's not made the same way as iced coffee, and while you may wonder why that is as well (we cover that topic here), you may be asking yourself, "How long does cold brew last?"
Why Should you Choose Cold Brew?
In the past, coffee shops only offered traditional coffee varieties on their menu, with hot coffee poured over ice to create a watered-down, cold beverage. In such cases, the ice dilutes its flavors quite a bit, since there was less coffee than ice or water. When you consider having iced or cold-brewed coffee, a glass of cold brew will almost always win in terms of flavor quality and shelf-life.
When Does Iced Coffee Go Bad?
One of the biggest problems with iced coffee (and one of the reasons that cold brew methods have become so popular) centers around how cafés deal with cold coffee beverages. In the past, cafes would store their fresh hot pots in an icebox but serve extremely bitter-tasting coffee to their patrons.
Therein lies a problem.
You must refrigerate iced coffee quickly so that it doesn't turn bad. Still, the refrigeration process encourages oxidation, which converts traditional coffee maker coffees into something more acidic than it would have been while hot.
You could just make a cold brew to prevent much of this oxidation by removing heat from the process entirely. In essence, choose a different coffee maker and method when brewing it.
Here are some reasons why cold brew is a better choice:
Cold-brew coffee may have up to double the caffeine content of regular coffee because cold brewing up to 24 hours creates a cold brew coffee concentrate.
The taste of hot coffee is volatile because it may change its flavor at different temperatures, but cold brew coffee does not, making it suitable for pre-packaging and ready-to-drink applications. Of course, that is where savvy companies get in on the action because they can easily package these products and sell them.
You've probably gone to your grocery store and noticed how the refrigerated section has rows upon rows of glass bottles with various styles of cold brew coffee inside of them.
Easy to Make at Home
While buying pre-packaged cold brew coffee is the route most people will take to enjoy the beverage, it gets pricey, as most single-serve bottles cost about half the price of your favorite bag of ground coffee beans.
You can find a variety of recipes that help you make your cold brew coffee at home, and the process is quite simple to do as long as you don't mind steeping coffee beans in water for up to 24 hours.
If you enjoy drinking coffee throughout the year, consider looking into a few recipes, get the right supplies, and dive into the fantastic world of cold brew.
Market and Economic Improvement
Manufacturers love how cold-brew coffee remains so popular, uniquely as innovators design the best tools to make it. Coffee maker sales are much higher now than in the past, according to the New York Times, and it's looking to stay high all year long.
Baristas used to have little to do in summer, except for those die-hard fans who drank hot coffee or espresso every day, but now they're much busier because there are cold-brew and iced recipes available.
It's great that we can enjoy cold brew all year long when made fresh. Still, the most pressing question you have is how long does cold brew last? Can cold brew coffee go bad? Let's cover the shelf life of cold brew next.
How Long is Cold Brew Coffee Good for in the Fridge?
When you remove all the ground coffee beans from a batch, your cold brew coffee should remain suitable to drink for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, a much longer shelf life than iced coffees. Of course, this is only an estimate and references using black coffee without any milk, sugar, cream, or flavor additives. If you add anything else to your batch, your result will be a shorter shelf life.
The most prominent cold brew conundrum people face is that they make a concentrate (which results in many cups of coffee) and find that their cold brew has gone bad before they use it all. Simply put, most recipes call for making big batches since coffee shops generally make large amounts.
Cold brew coffee is similar to iced tea in that it doesn't have a very long shelf life unrefrigerated. While coffee doesn't produce mold as quickly as iced tea, it can mold if it isn't refrigerated immediately after brewing. Along with such, the brew may develop mold if you don't use it within a couple of weeks.
It's always best to keep your batch of cold brew concentrate refrigerated. The product has no preservatives when you make it at home versus store-bought. Hence, you cannot expect it to last in the fridge for months. Keep this in mind as you go to make cold brew yourself.
How to Extend the Shelf Life of Cold Brew Coffee
No one is ever going to recommend that you keep your cold brew (either concentrate or prepared) more than a month in your refrigerator, but consider the following shelf-life extending methods for your extra cold brew.
Make Cold Brew Ice Cubes
One fantastic benefit of making cold brew coffee is that you can always warm it up and expect the same flavor quality; the same goes for freezing it.
You can always dilute the concentrate with water, add cream, or even sweeten it, once thawed. Coffee lovers won't have to worry about a bitter taste from regular coffee poured over ice, nor will ice cubes further dilute its concentrated form.
Use Smaller Storage Containers
If you're worried about it going bad before you finish it, make sure that, as you use the concentrate, to downsize the container you keep it in so that there is less air that can oxidize the coffee and remove flavor. Alternatively, storing your concentrate in smaller bottles from the beginning will also extend the shelf life.
Most experts agree that it is best to consume the concentrate within the first week of brewing it, regardless of whether you make it yourself or purchase it from the store, but bottling in this way helps you portion and share with others.
Cold Brew Preservatives
In my opinion, using preservatives for cold brew is a big no-no, but in the event you do plan on using them, consider citric acid or salt for preserving your cold brew. Remember that the best way to enjoy cold brew is by sharing a glass with a friend within 2, 3 days max. Don't preserve, share.
Cold Brew Pasteurization
If you do decide to preserve your cold brew, consider pasteurizing it after bottling. This method is best saved for an undiluted concentrate where you'll need to kill off any bacteria within the mixture while in a sealed container. We'll cover pasteurization deeper in another article. For now, just know that you'll need safety equipment, glass bottles, sous vide (to control temperature), and lots of hot water.
Does it Make you Sick?
Coffee may become stale, lose its flavor quality and aroma over time. That doesn't mean you will get sick from it. It does mean, however, that you're less likely to enjoy its taste as it ages. Don't drink homemade cold-brew that has aged more than two weeks, even refrigerated, unless you've pasteurized it.
Can you Store Cold Brew at Room Temperature?
Please do not store your finished cold brew on the shelf at room temperature. Coffee, cold brew, hot brew, of any style can go rancid, which means it is going to taste highly bitter and may become moldy with time. Consider storing your coffee like your store other perishable food, for as short a time as possible in your refrigerator.
How long does cold brew keep in the fridge? Cold-brew concentrate lasts up to two weeks, and you should never leave it at room temperature after the brewing process completes. Unless you take extra measures to preserve it when you make cold brew coffee, it's best to make smaller batches of cold brew that you are ready to drink within 2 weeks.
Once you make your cold brew to your desired likeness, you should immediately transfer the beverage to several small containers that will hold all the concentrate without leaving too much room for oxidation. Alternatively, consume it fast enough that you can get away with a single container.