So your meeting went for too long (groundbreaking), and your cup of coffee has been sitting at your desk for a few hours, and now you're wondering: "How long can coffee sit out before it has to be thrown away?"
Some might be reluctant to do so because it was damn delicious and throwing it away would be wasteful!
Even the easier variations like black coffee and a standard coffee with cream seem like liquid gold to the tongue, so it makes sense that people are reluctant to throw away a single drop.
We're here with the ins and outs of your brewed coffee and its shelf life, explaining how long it lasts before you should consider getting rid of it.
One of the first things that you should consider is whether cold coffee tastes nice, otherwise, there'd be no point in drinking the stuff. It's unlikely that you'll reheat your coffee, so ensuring that it doesn't taste stale is very important.
Keep in mind, when we say cold coffee, we don't mean the famous cold brew coffee. That drink is intentionally cold for those who love having iced coffees!
So, if you do decide to refrigerate your leftover coffee, try not to store it too far below freezing as this could cause ice crystals to form. This will result in an extremely bitter drink which may as well be better off thrown away than trying to ingest the beverage.
If your coffee has milk or cream in it, then you'll need to make sure that it stays refrigerated, otherwise, it can turn sour and ruin the flavor of your drink.
We recommend throwing away leftover coffee that has milk or cream added to it, just to avoid any risks of an upset stomach...
The temperature of the drink plays a big part in keeping coffee safe to drink. Leaving brewed coffee at room temperature for hours at a time will turn it stale, bitter, and sour, making it not worth drinking.
However, having hot coffee or keeping it cold for consumption later, does keep it safe. Just be sure not to burn the coffee from reheating it too many times or to consume refrigerated coffee that is more than a day old.
Whether coffee has milk or cream in it will make a huge difference in how long a cup of coffee can stay safe. Because dairy tends to go bad very quickly unless kept cold, having milk in your coffee will definitely shorten its lifespan.
If you're having black coffee with no added dairy then it's likely it'll stay a bit nicer for a bit longer.
But it goes without saying, having freshly brewed coffee is the best way to enjoy this drink!
If you use a container or a mug with a lid then the life of your brewed coffee will last longer because the process of oxidation will take longer. This means your morning coffee will take longer before it turns bitter.
But if you use a regular mug without a lid or cover, then the opposite happens. So if you're a slow coffee drinker, then it would be better to use a container or a mug with a lid.
As we've mentioned earlier, drinking freshly brewed coffee is the best way to consume your favorite drink.
But if you're looking for an actual time frame for how long is brewed coffee good, then the answer is usually about half an hour (30 minutes) before the flavor begins to change, and about 4 hours before the oils in the coffee go bad. At that point, you are better off heading back to your coffee maker and brewing another cup!
If your coffee has dairy in it, then the life of your drink will diminish a lot quicker than a plain black coffee. Dairy spoils quickly at room temperature and needs to stay refrigerated. So, if your dairy-filled brewed coffee has been sitting out for more than 2 hours, then throw it out and make yourself a new one!
Coffee goes bad due to a process called oxidation. This is because the bold flavors from the coffee that we love so much are made of compounds that oxidize easily when they come into contact with oxygen in the air.
The process of brewing coffee includes a lot of chemical reactions where the hot water mixes and infuses with the ground coffee.
This releases a strong and rich aroma and the flavors and oils inside of the drink will start to deteriorate. This is due to the high temperatures involved in brewing coffee or a coffee maker.
However, oxidation doesn't stop once the drink has been brewed and the taste will continue to change the longer the drink sits out.
Using containers, keeping your coffee hot or cold by refrigerating it, can increase the length of time for safe consumption, but as we mentioned earlier, it's just easier to make yourself a new drink.
Trivia: did you know the coffee beans will start to lose their flavor and freshness within 15 minutes of being ground, even before they're exposed to hot water?
The answer to this question depends entirely upon how you prefer to consume your coffee. If you like your coffee black, then you'll probably find that it's best to drink it right after the brewing is done or maybe a few minutes after if you don't want to burn your tongue!
If you have a third-wave coffee drink with micro-foam, like a latte or macchiato for instance, then it should be consumed immediately after it's made as the foam texture will not last for long.
In either case, you should avoid leaving coffee sitting out for long periods of time. Plus you don't want to be throwing out that cup of java that you just bought from your local coffee shop.
Unless you are someone who enjoys having cooled-down coffee, then maybe you should look into trying out cold brew coffee, which can be enjoyed with or without milk and ice!
The answer here is not so simple. It's a yes but with conditions!
Day old coffee is still drinkable, however, the beverage wouldn't taste nearly as good as a fresh brew and would likely leave a sour taste in your mouth. Unless you're having a cold brew, then it's fine. It might even be better to wait a day before having cold brew concentrate!
The good news is that caffeine is a very stable molecule. So your day old coffee, albeit unpalatable, will still give you that caffeine kick!
If the coffee has milk in it then the best thing to do is to throw it away. The only way to save coffee with milk for a day is to place the mug of coffee in the fridge and ensure that the drink is sealed tightly.
The best thing to do in this situation is to throw the excess coffee away if you don't intend to drink it on the same day and make a fresh pot every day. Try to make the correct amount of coffee to avoid wasting it!
This will limit the amount of sourness in your coffee and keep things fresh, as they should be!
Keeping your coffee in a tightly sealed container will slow down the oxidation process and keep the flavors intact for long, as well as keep the coffee hot if you're using a double-walled tumbler.
However, we recommend that you don't keep your coffee for more than a few hours or you run the risk of drinking something bitter and cold.
Because of the high temperatures used in making brewed coffee, you need to ensure that the drink will be hot when you drink it unless you're making iced coffee or a cold brew concentrate.
Although keeping the coffee refrigerated will keep the drink safe for consumption for longer periods of time, keep in mind that even iced coffee has its own shelf life!
As we've already talked about, dairy can affect the quality of your drink massively. If you think that you're likely to drink leftover coffee then it's best to make sure dairy is left away from the drink altogether. Or instead, make yourself an iced coffee with milk or an iced latte.
Making your drink out of the best quality coffee beans you can find and ensuring the coffee is fresh is always a good place to start.
Higher quality coffee beans will always last longer than cheaper coffee and that's a small price to pay for a drink that we enjoy so much. Plus using pre-ground coffee grounds will often leave you with a drink that fades a lot quicker.
It’s always easiest to try and have black coffee to keep your drink fresher for longer. Because making coffee at home can be cheap, depending on which form of caffeine you choose, it's usually best to throw the coffee out and make yourself a new batch.
Or even better, make the correct amount so that you don’t have to throw it away or subject yourself to sour and bitter flavors!
Leaving your drink out unrefrigerated and unsealed for over half an hour can make a huge difference in the taste of your coffee and we recommend consuming your hot beverage as soon as possible to limit the bitterness in your drink.
Just remember 30 minutes as the golden time frame for the question: how long can coffee sit out!
This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.