Is it bad to drink old iced coffee?

Quick Answers

Drinking old iced coffee that has been sitting out for too long can potentially make you sick. How long iced coffee lasts depends on factors like how it was prepared and stored. Well refrigerated iced coffee can last up to 5 days, while improperly stored iced coffee can spoil in as little as 8 hours. Signs your iced coffee has gone bad include changes in taste, texture, and smell. If you drink spoiled iced coffee, you risk food poisoning symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. To maximize freshness, store brewed iced coffee in the refrigerator in an airtight container and avoid introducing extra bacteria with utensils or your mouth. When in doubt, remember the general food safety rule – if it smells or tastes funky, throw it out!

How Long Does Brewed Iced Coffee Last?

The shelf life of iced coffee depends on several factors:

Brewing Method

Cold brewed iced coffee lasts longer than hot brewed iced coffee. Cold brewing involves steeping coffee grounds in room temperature or cold water for 12-24 hours. This long steeping time extracts the flavors and caffeine while leaving behind acidic oils that cause coffee to go rancid quickly. Hot brewed coffee has higher acidity, which means it spoils faster. So cold brew iced coffee has a shelf life around 7-10 days, while hot brewed iced coffee lasts only 3-5 days.


Added ingredients like milk, cream, sweeteners, and flavorings shorten the shelf life of iced coffee. Dairy products like milk and cream spoil faster than black coffee, so iced coffee with dairy will last only 2-3 days. Sugary syrups or sweetened condensed milk can also cause iced coffee to go bad quicker. Plain black cold brew coffee has the longest shelf life.

Storage Method

Proper storage is key for extending the shelf life. Iced coffee stored at room temperature will go bad much faster than coffee stored in the refrigerator. At room temp, iced coffee may only last 8-12 hours before breeding dangerous bacteria. In the fridge, it can last 5-7 days if stored in an airtight container. Exposure to air and cross-contamination speeds up spoilage.

Container Type

The vessel you store iced coffee in also affects shelf life. An airtight container like a mason jar or insulated thermos prevents air exposure and keeps iced coffee fresher longer. Permeable containers like plastic pitchers or cups with loose lids cause iced coffee to spoil faster. Reusable containers are best since transferring between disposable cups can increase contamination.

How Can You Tell if Brewed Iced Coffee Has Gone Bad?

Watch for these signs that indicate your iced coffee has spoiled and should be thrown out:

Change in Color

Freshly brewed iced coffee is typically a dark brown color. As it spoils, it may turn a paler tan color or take on a cloudy appearance.

Sour or Bitter Taste

Stale iced coffee will begin to taste sour or bitter as the flavors break down. It may also lose its robust coffee taste.

Moldy or Rotten Smell

Rancid iced coffee gives off an unpleasant rotten, stale, or moldy odor instead of a bright, aromatic coffee scent.

Change in Texture

Spoiled iced coffee may get slimy or develop a fuzzy film on the surface as mold starts to grow.

Gas Bubbles

Bubbles or fizzing when you pour it indicates fermentation and spoilage.

What Happens If You Drink Bad Iced Coffee?

Drinking iced coffee past its prime carries some health risks:

Food Poisoning

Consuming rancid iced coffee can lead to food poisoning caused by bacterial growth like staphylococcus, salmonella, bacillus cereus, or E. coli. Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, and chills.

Mold Toxicity

If visible mold is growing in old iced coffee, drinking it puts you at risk for mold toxicity. Mold can cause allergic reactions and respiratory irritation in some people.

Unpleasant Symptoms

Even if not completely toxic, bad-tasting iced coffee can cause stomach upset like indigestion, bloating, and gas.

Tips for Keeping Iced Coffee Fresh Longer

Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life of your brewed iced coffee:

Use Cold Brewing Method

The longer steeping time of cold brewing results in less acidity and a smoother flavor that lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Steep Properly

For cold brew, use a coffee to water ratio of 1:4 to 1:8 and steep for 12-24 hours. Grind beans to a coarse consistency. Stir mixture before straining through a coffee filter.

Store in Airtight Container

After brewing, transfer to an airtight glass mason jar or stainless steel thermos. This prevents air exposure and contamination.


Chill cold brewed coffee immediately and store in the refrigerator. The cold temperature inhibits bacterial growth.

Avoid Dairy

Dairy products reduce shelf life. For longest freshness, avoid cream and milk.

Don’t Reuse Cups or Utensils

Using dirty reusable straws or spoons can introduce new bacteria. Use clean utensils only.

Keep Top Clean

If you do reuse a container, wash thoroughly between uses, especially the lid and drinking spout.

Freeze for Even Longer Storage

Frozen iced coffee concentrates can last up to 3 months frozen. Thaw and dilute with water or milk before drinking.

Trust Your Senses

If iced coffee smells or tastes “off,” err on the side of caution and throw it out.

How Long Is Iced Coffee Good For In Fridge?

Here is a table summarizing how long iced coffee lasts refrigerated:

Type of Iced Coffee Refrigerator Shelf Life
Plain cold brew 7-10 days
Hot brewed 3-5 days
Added dairy or cream 2-3 days
Sweetened or flavored 3-5 days

As you can see, plain cold brewed coffee stored properly in the fridge remains fresh for up to 10 days. Hot brewed varieties last for less time. Factors like dairy ingredients or high room temperatures reduce shelf life further. But following the storage best practices above allows you to enjoy iced coffee for 5-7 days safely.

Can You Drink Iced Coffee That’s Been Sitting Out?

It’s generally not a good idea to drink iced coffee that has been left to sit at room temperature. The danger zone for bacterial growth is between 40°F and 140°F. So coffee that has been left out on the counter for several hours falls right in that risky temperature range.

After 4 hours sitting out, iced coffee becomes unsafe to drink. At room temperature, the coffee is an ideal environment for bacteria like staphylococcus aureus to multiply quickly. Staph bacteria can produce toxins that cause severe food poisoning symptoms.

If you choose to drink iced coffee that has been sitting out longer than 4 hours, you risk digestive issues like:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps and pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever and chills

The longer iced coffee sits at room temperature, the greater the likelihood harmful pathogens will grow. So err on the side of caution and throw out any coffee that’s sat out for more than a few hours.

Does Iced Coffee Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?

Yes, iced coffee goes bad much more quickly if it is left unrefrigerated. The refrigerator temperature of 40°F or below inhibits most bacterial growth. At room temperature of 68°F or hotter, bacteria multiply rapidly.

Without refrigeration, here is how long different types of iced coffee will last:

Type Shelf Life at Room Temp
Plain cold brew 12-24 hours
Hot brewed 8-12 hours
Added dairy 4-6 hours
Sweetened 6-8 hours

As you can see, plain cold brew has the longest shelf life up to 24 hours before spoiling if left at room temperature. But food safety experts recommend drinking or trashing refrigerated foods left out for longer than 2 hours. So it’s generally not a good idea to consume any iced coffee that has been sitting unrefrigerated.

Does Iced Coffee Go Bad in the Freezer?

Freezing is a great option for longer term storage of iced coffee. At freezer temperatures below 0°F, bacterial and mold growth is halted completely. Cold brew coffee concentrate or leftover iced coffee can last 3-6 months frozen.

To freeze iced coffee:

  • Portion into ice cube trays, muffin tins, or small freezer bags.
  • Leave some headspace for expansion.
  • Seal tightly.
  • Label with date.
  • Freeze for up to 6 months.

Thaw frozen coffee ice cubes or concentrate at room temperature or in the refrigerator before using. Then stir to recombine and dilute with water, milk, or ice as needed.

Freezing prevents iced coffee from going bad. But freezing does degrade the taste over time. Coffee may lose aroma and flavor nuances after prolonged freezing.


Enjoying freshly brewed iced coffee requires proper storage methods to maximize shelf life and safety. Chilling coffee immediately after brewing and storing in an airtight container in the fridge allows cold brew to last 7-10 days before spoiling. Added dairy or sugars shorten shelf life to just 2-5 days. Drinking rancid iced coffee that has been left out too long can cause foodborne illness, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. Trust your nose and taste buds – if your iced coffee smells or tastes “off,” it’s safest to discard.

Leave a Comment