Does juice go bad if not refrigerated?

Juice is a popular beverage that many people enjoy as part of a healthy diet. However, an open bottle of juice sitting on the counter or pantry shelf for more than a day or two can cause some people to wonder: does juice go bad if it’s not refrigerated?

The short answer

Yes, juice can go bad if it’s left unrefrigerated. The exact shelf life depends on the type of juice and other factors, but most juices will start to degrade in quality and safety within a couple of days without refrigeration.

Why refrigeration is important for juice

There are two main reasons why refrigeration is important for maintaining juice quality and safety:

  1. Slows microbial growth – Refrigeration slows the growth of mold, bacteria, and other microbes that can spoil juice or cause foodborne illness.
  2. Retains nutrients – Some of the vitamins and other nutrients in juice can start to break down more rapidly when left at room temperature for too long.

So keeping juice chilled helps prevent spoilage, retain nutrients, and reduce any risk of foodborne illness from harmful microbes.

Signs that juice has gone bad

Here are some signs that juice may have spoiled and is no longer safe to drink:

  • Off odor – If the juice smells sour or funky, it’s likely gone bad.
  • Fizziness – Fermentation due to microbial growth can cause carbonation.
  • Mold – Fuzzy mold spots are a definite sign of spoilage.
  • Changes in color – The juice may darken or separate.
  • Clumping – Solids from the juice pulp may clump together.
  • Off taste – The flavor may become unpleasantly sour or bitter.

If you notice any of these signs in juice that has been unrefrigerated for more than a couple of days, it’s safest to discard it.

Shelf life of common juices

The exact shelf life of juice varies based on the type and other factors. Here is a look at how long some common types of juices can typically last unrefrigerated before going bad:

Juice Type Unrefrigerated Shelf Life*
Orange juice 2-3 days
Apple juice 5-7 days
Grape juice 5-7 days
Cranberry juice 2-3 days
Tomato juice 4-5 days
Vegetable juice 3-4 days

*Times are approximate for juice stored around 70°F. The shelf life decreases at warmer temperatures.

As you can see, most common juices will start to go bad after just a couple days without refrigeration. The shortest shelf lives are for juices like orange and cranberry juice. Apple, grape, and tomato juice fare slightly better. But none of these juices will maintain good quality for more than 5-7 days on the counter.

Does shelf life depend on bottle size?

Yes, the shelf life can vary depending on bottle size. In general:

  • Small single-serve juice bottles have the shortest shelf life, just 1-2 days.
  • Larger containers like quart or half-gallon sizes may stay drinkable for 3-5 days.
  • Jugs or large-volume containers may last 5-7 days once opened.

This difference occurs because the more juice there is in the container, the longer it takes for microbial growth and nutrient degradation to make the juice go bad. But regardless of size, juice should always be refrigerated after opening for best quality and safety.

Can you extend the shelf life of juice?

There are a few tricks that can help extend the shelf life of juice for a little while longer without refrigeration:

  • Keep it cool – Storing juice in the pantry or other cool, dark place can buy you an extra day or two.
  • Full bottles – Juice in mostly full bottles lasts a bit longer than half-empty ones.
  • Add preservatives – Adding a small amount of citric acid or vitamin C can act as a preservative.
  • Freeze it – Freezing juice lets it last for months but can change the texture.

But ultimately, refrigeration is still the best way to maximize the shelf life once a juice bottle is open. The fridge temperature of 40°F or below significantly slows spoilage.

Can spoiled juice make you sick?

Yes, consuming juice that has spoiled can potentially make you sick. The main risks are:

  • Foodborne illness – Bacteria like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli can grow in spoiled juice and cause food poisoning symptoms if ingested.
  • Mold exposure – Drinking juice contaminated with toxic mold can cause allergic reactions or other health issues in some cases.
  • Toxicity – Microbial growth may produce trace amounts of toxic chemicals like ethanol or methanol in badly spoiled juice.

Severe cases of foodborne illness can even become life-threatening to certain high-risk groups like the elderly, infants, or immunocompromised. So it’s very important to discard juice once it shows any signs of spoilage.

Tips for handling juice safely

Here are some tips for maximizing juice safety and minimizing the chances of it going bad or making you sick:

  • Refrigerate juice after opening and drink within 3-5 days for best quality.
  • Keep juice bottles sealed until ready to pour to prevent microbe contamination.
  • Rinse juice spout/lip before pouring each glass.
  • Keep refrigerated juice as cold as possible, at 40°F or below.
  • Don’t let juice sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours before refrigerating again.
  • Discard any juice that smells or tastes off, even if refrigerated.
  • Don’t drink juice past the use-by date on the container.
  • Wash containers before opening to prevent dirt and germ transfer.
  • Keep refrigerated juice away from raw meat juices to avoid cross-contamination.

Shelf-stable and pasteurized juices

There are some exceptions to the rule that juice always requires refrigeration after opening:

  • Shelf-stable juices – Some juices are processed using pressure, heat, and vacuum sealing to allow them to be stored at room temperature until opening.
  • Pasteurized juices – Heat pasteurization allows juices like orange juice to maintain quality without chilling for 5-7 days after opening.

These shelf-stable and pasteurized juices can maintain safety and nutrients without being kept refrigerated. But they still should be consumed within a week or so for best flavor.

Commercially bottled vs. fresh juices

There are some difference between juices you make fresh at home versus commercially packaged juices when it comes to refrigeration needs:

  • Freshly squeezed homemade juices have the shortest shelf life, just 1-2 days without refrigeration.
  • Commercially produced juices are more shelf-stable for 2-5 days if kept cool and dark before opening.
  • Opened bottled juices can last 3-7 days refrigerated depending on the type.
  • Juice bars use preservatives and chill holding containers to extend the shelf life of prepared juices.

No matter what juice you’re dealing with, it’s always safest to refrigerate juice as soon as possible after squeezing or opening. Commercially processed bottled juices have slightly more leeway thanks to pasteurization and vacuum sealing, but they should still be refrigerated after opening.

Does frozen juice go bad?

Frozen juice generally does not go bad if it remains continuously frozen. The freezing process stops any microbial growth or enzymatic breakdown processes that can spoil juice. However, there are still some caveats:

  • Thawing and refreezing juice can degrade texture and flavor over time.
  • Condensation when thawing can lead to some oxidation and vitamin loss.
  • Juice separation is common during freezing.
  • Bottles may crack or break if juice expands during freezing.

As long as frozen juice stays frozen, it remains safe and nutritious indefinitely. But the freezing process itself can impact taste and quality. It’s optimal to thaw only what you plan to drink and keep the rest frozen.

Can you freeze juice to extend shelf life?

Yes, freezing juice is an excellent way to significantly extend its shelf life beyond the normal few days:

  • Most juices can be frozen for 6-12 months with minimal quality loss if kept frozen.
  • Freeze juice in airtight containers to prevent freezer burn.
  • Glass jars or freezer bags work better than rigid plastic bottles.
  • Leave some headspace for juice expansion during freezing.
  • Thaw frozen juice overnight in the fridge before drinking.

Freezing lets you stock up on juice buys and minimize waste. Just be aware of textural changes from freezing. Juice may become slightly watery or separated after thawing.

Can you freeze juice in ice cube trays?

Freezing juice in ice cube trays is a great way to make single-serve portions of juice or add juice to drinks and recipes over time. Here are some tips:

  • Most juices freeze well in trays, though pulp separation can occur.
  • Mix juices together for flavorful combinations.
  • Add juice cubes to water, smoothies, cocktails, and punches.
  • Store juice cubes in resealable plastic bags after freezing.
  • Label bags with juice type and freeze date.
  • Use within 6 months for best quality and taste.

Juice cubes provide convenient small serving sizes. They can jazz up many foods and drinks. Just be sure to label and rotate stock as juice cubes will degrade faster than juice frozen in bulk.


Proper refrigeration is important for keeping juice fresh and reducing the risk of spoilage or foodborne illness. The shelf life of juice without refrigeration generally ranges from just 1-3 days for orange, apple, and other common juices. And drinking spoiled, unrefrigerated juice can potentially cause unhealthy side effects. To get the most quality and safety out of juice, it’s best to refrigerate it after opening and consume within 3-5 days. Juice can also be frozen for extended storage, just be aware of textural changes. Following basic safety practices helps ensure you can keep enjoying juice as part of a healthy diet.

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