Cold brew coffee has long since move on from being a trend. It’s now a very well-known coffee brewing method and one that’s easy to enjoy all year round.
If you’re making a batch at home yourself, you might be wondering how long your cold brew concentrate will last.
In this article, I’m going to answer that question and also give you some tips to help your delicious batch of cold brew last a little longer.
(Want to learn more about home coffee brewing? Take a look through my guide for other brewing methods, buying guides and more!)
What is cold brew coffee?
Let’s start with a quick overview of what cold brew coffee is exactly. If you want more detail, I’ve put together a cold brew coffee brewing guide that will walk you through the whole brewing process.
Unlike iced coffee, which is really just hot coffee chilled with ice cubes, cold brew requires a longer preparation time.
The coffee beans are steeped in water for up to 24 hours. Once strained, you have an extremely strong, flavorful and highly-caffeinated coffee concentrate.
This concentrate can then be diluted with water, cream or milk to remove some of the bitterness you’ll otherwise experience.
How long does cold brew last?
The big question.
As a general rule of thumb, cold brew coffee will last for up to two weeks if it’s stored in the refrigerator. You should treat it like any other short-life refrigerated item.
I’ll go a bit further than that though.
Cold brew coffee concentrate remains at its best for one week if it’s stored this way.
It’s not that the drink will taste terrible after this point, but it will definitely lose some of its impact during the second week of storage.
I recommend making enough of this stuff to keep you caffeinated for a week at a time. It’s the kind of brew I like to prepare at the weekend, along with the other culinary chores I have around the kitchen.
Once you’ve finished the brew, get it straight into the refrigerator to ensure it stays fresh for the longest possible period of time.
One final note. The two week rule is made on the assumption that you’re storing only the concentrate.
How long does coffee last in the fridge once it’s been diluted though?
Well, once you’ve diluted that concentrate with milk or cream, you really should drink it within 48 hours. You’ll definitely notice the drink spoiling after that point!
Can cold brew coffee go bad?
Yes it can.
When you’re making cold brew coffee in your home kitchen, you’re almost certainly not working in a sterilized environment.
The big manufacturers can make their bottles last longer by operating in a sterilized production facility. They’ll also have access to preservatives and pasteurization methods.
That’s why bottles at the store last much longer.
After a couple of weeks in cold storage at home, your own concoction will start to become rancid. When it’s notably more acidic and sharp, you know you’ve kept it too long.
Worse than that though, with enough time your cold brew concentrate will start accumulating mold and bacteria. It goes without saying you don’t want to drink it at that point!
Stick to the two-week rule though and, assuming your refrigerator is functioning properly, you’ll be absolutely fine.
It also goes without saying that cold brew concentrate is not suitable for storing at room temperature.
There are one or two things you can do to get the best out of your cold brew concentrate.
Make smaller batches
If you’re following a recipe online, pay close attention to the volumes involved. A lot of online guides focus on making big batches.
You need to strike a bit of a balance here. You want to make enough to suit your household needs, without making so much that you end up throwing away perfectly good coffee.
It’s going to take time to find the right approach for your own needs.
I would recommend starting with a smaller batch and then ramping up production levels as you learn how much concentrate you actually need to keep on tap.
Ice, ice baby!
If you’ve got a spare ice cube tray, you can add some of the concentrate and then store it in the freezer.
All you have to do then is pop a cube or two into your glass, let it thaw at room temperature and then drink it right away.
This is best done right after preparing the batch though. I wouldn’t recommend putting your two week old concentrate leftovers on ice!
Cold Brew Vs Iced Coffee
I’ve touched on the basic differences between cold brew and iced coffee at the start of this article.
There are a few other differences though:
When you brew hot coffee over ice, you’re simply chilling a hot drink. It’s certainly delicious stuff on a hot day, but it’s a very different experience to cold brew.
The act of adding ice to hot coffee creates a problem in that it naturally dilutes the flavor.
Iced coffee also tends to be much more acidic than its cold brew counterpart.
The whole point of cold brew is to create a super-concentrated coffee experience.
This produces a very strong coffee drink with a big caffeine punch. You can expect the long steeping process to deliver double the caffeine of an equivalent hot brew.
So, to summarize the main points in this article:
- You can store cold brew concentrate in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- The brew will be at its best in the first week of storage.
- If you dilute the concentrate with milk or cream, consume it within 48 hours.
You should now be armed with all the information you need to keep your cold brew coffee lasting longer.