We’ve all been there: a long day at work that takes copious amounts of coffee to get through. Since working from home has become the norm, many people opt to skip the line at Starbucks and brew their coffee in the morning. You may find yourself drinking from the same pot throughout the morning.
Although this may be tolerable, it isn’t an ideal experience drinking four-hour-old coffee, raising the question, how long does brewed coffee last? Keep reading to find out the answer to this question, learn why coffee lasts as long as it does, and how you can preserve your coffee to enjoy later.
How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last on the Burner?
The short answer for how long does brewed coffee last is around 30 minutes. Many coffee burners may keep your coffee at optimal temperature for hours, but the taste typically begins deteriorating and turning bitter about 30 minutes after brewing time.
Your hot brewed coffee may remain drinkable, although not tasty, for a few more hours after being brewed and sitting in the coffee pot. But it isn’t advisable to drink coffee that’s been out all day – especially at room temperature.
How long does coffee last? Like most foods, stale coffee is prone to molding after a few hours, even if it isn’t visible. Therefore it’s best to make fresh coffee if you need an afternoon pick-me-up rather than drink day-old coffee or what’s left from your 8:00 am brew.
How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last in the Fridge?
As with most foods, you can prolong your coffee’s shelf life by putting it in the fridge, although this isn’t recommended.
In terms of safety, brewed coffee can last in the fridge for 3-4 days when sealed in a container. However, this doesn’t preserve the taste, which you’ll find is not super pleasant once you reheat your coffee.
It’s best to dump your leftover coffee at the end of the day and plan on making less the next day. If you plan to make iced coffee, putting your leftover coffee in the fridge is a better choice than leaving it out to cool all day.
Why Doesn’t Coffee Last Very Long?
The reason for brewed coffee’s short lifespan comes down to one term: oxidation.
Oxidation is a reaction that occurs when a substance is exposed to the air. As soon as coffee touches the air, the flavor and smell deteriorate, releasing into the air as the solubles begin to oxidize.
Oxidation begins to happen before you even start brewing your coffee. As soon as coffee beans are roasted, they begin to oxidize, which is why roasters store coffee in vacuum-sealed containers to slow down the oxidation process and retain its freshness for as long as possible.
Knowing this, you can assume that the more processed the coffee becomes, the more quickly it oxidizes. Grinding your coffee beans causes them to oxidize quickly and changes the brewing process itself. By the time your coffee finishes brewing, there is a short time frame before oxidation begins to take over and has notable effects on your cup of joe.
The process accelerates the longer your coffee stays on the burner. The chemical reaction that occurs causes your coffee to eventually taste “burnt.”
To avoid the negative effects of oxidation on your coffee, it’s important to:
- Drink your fresh coffee as soon as possible once it finishes brewing.
- Prevent stale coffee by keeping your coffee beans or ground coffee in an airtight container.
How to Prolong Your Coffee’s Freshness
There is one way to extend the life of your hot coffee without compromising too much on taste: using a thermos. An airtight thermos will prevent oxidation and keep your coffee hot and fresh for hours.
Something like this Contigo Autoseal West Loop Vacuum-Insulated Travel Mug is a great, affordable option to keep your coffee hot and tasty.
This thermos keeps drinks hot for up to seven hours and cold for 18 hours if you want to help your coffee stay fresh. It’s easy to drink from, easy to clean, and comes in many colors.
This product is perfect to keep your coffee with you on the go or preserve any leftover coffee at home that you want to save for later. Plus, it makes a great gift for any coffee drinker.
What About Cold Brew?
Cold brew is the exception for how long brewed coffee lasts because cold brew coffee is meant to be kept in the fridge and brewed over an extended period. You can brew your cold brewed coffee for up to 18 hours at room temperature before transferring it to the fridge.
In the right sealed container, cold brew coffee can last anywhere from 7 to 10 days in the fridge. It isn’t recommended that you add milk to an entire batch of cold brewed coffee that you don’t plan on finishing right away, but if you do, it can last in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.
Recap: How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last
So, how long is brewed coffee good for? Not very long. To get the most flavorful beverage, you always want to brew coffee fresh with the intent of drinking it right away.
However, sometimes the timing isn’t always right, or you end up making more coffee than you intended. When this happens, you have two options to preserve your coffee:
- Keep it in a vacuum-sealed thermos to keep it hot and preserve the flavor.
- Put it in the fridge and use it for iced coffee.
Either way, you want to avoid drinking cold coffee that has been left out for hours and probably doesn’t taste very good anyway!