We’ve all been there: we pour the perfect cup of coffee, take a few sips to wake up, and then get so distracted by morning tasks, we forget all about that gratifying brew. But have you ever wondered if your forgotten cup is safe to reheat and drink?
It’s true that a hot mug of coffee’s taste shifts as it sits and gets cold, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe (or not) to drink. Here’s what you need to know.
How Long Does Brewed Coffee Last?
So, there’s a difference between quality and safe consumption when it comes to straight-up black coffee that’s been sitting around for some time.
First, let’s talk about quality. The flavor of brewed coffee begins to shift pretty quickly as it sits. The longer it comes in contact with oxygen, the more the flavor begins to alter. In fact, within 30 minutes, the flavor and freshness begin to fade.
It’s safe to drink from a pot of black coffee within 24 hours, but even better if you do so within 12. After the pot has sat at room temperature for more than a day, it’s time to toss it. Feel free to store it in the fridge for a few days if you want it to last a little longer. Just keep in mind, a rewarmed cup of old coffee doesn’t taste so good—although mixing the cold coffee into a smoothie or protein shake is a great way to use it as the flavor will end up mixed in with everything else.
That’s in regard to black coffee though. As soon as you add a swirl of cream, honey, sugar, or anything else to your coffee, food safety rules come to the forefront. Dairy products shouldn’t be left out for more than an hour or two. Once it hits that danger zone between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria start growing and can make you sick.
So, do your stomach a favor and toss out any cream-filled coffee from earlier in the day.
How to Tell If Brewed Coffee Has Gone Bad
There are a few ways to know if your coffee has gone bad. The amount of time it sits out makes a big difference. Any latte or coffee with dairy should get tossed after an hour. Black coffee will safely last you all day.
If you aren’t sure how long the coffee has been sitting out, we recommend tossing it and making a fresh pot. You’ll appreciate the flavor of a fresh brew anyway.
There’s an even better motivation than taste when it comes to tossing old coffee: When coffee or the damp ground beans sit out at room temperature for an extended period of time, they’ll begin to form a mold that’s very unsafe to consume. If this ever happens, you’ll have to deep clean your entire coffee machine.
In addition to appearance, you’ll notice an old pot of coffee also often gives off a slightly rancid odor as the coffee oils break down. Your best bet for quality, safety, and freshness is to just brew another pot.
Other Factors That Affect the Flavor of Coffee
There are lots of other factors that alter the taste of brewed coffee. Do your best to avoid all of the following, and you’ll get a fresh-tasting cup of joe every time:
- A dirty coffee machine: A clean carafe always brings out better flavor in your brewed cup. Those stains are brought on by oily buildup from daily coffee-making and will give your coffee a bitter, unpleasant taste. Frequent cleaning is ideal for optimum flavor.
- Oxygen: Coffee starts losing its freshness when it comes in contact with oxygen. Pouring your hot coffee into something with excellent insulation and a sealed lid, like a Yeti tumbler, will keep it fresh and hot all day.
- Using pre-ground coffee beans: Of course, whole beans ground just before you brew your coffee will give you a more complex, pronounced flavor. But pre-ground is the perfect solution for those who need a quick and convenient morning boost.
- Letting a pot of coffee sit on the hot plate for ages: The longer it sits on the burner, the more likely your coffee will scorch, leading to that gross, burnt flavor.
- Microwaving it too many times: Letting your coffee cool only to reheat it a few times throughout the day will also alter the flavor, and not in a good way.
In a perfect world, we’d only drink the finest cup of joe within 30 minutes of brewing a pot, but let’s get serious, most of us are too busy to do this every day. Hopefully, though, these tips will help you preserve the taste of your coffee a bit more.
Can You Put Brewed Coffee in the Fridge?
Nothing says “afternoon pick-me-up” quite like a delicious iced coffee! The idea of storing brewed coffee in the fridge sounds pretty great. However, we’ve done it and definitely noticed a decrease in quality and flavor. If you’re picky about the flavor of your coffee, you probably won’t like this.
When placed in the fridge, the difference in flavor is even more noticeable than after reheating a cold cup. Again, it’s perfectly safe to do this with black coffee—if you desperately need your caffeine, go for it! It just won’t taste as good as the iced coffees from your local drive-thru.
Coffee tastes the absolute best when it’s brewed and consumed right away. However, while coffee aficionados would rather not sip something that’s been sitting around for hours, others don’t mind, as long as they can get their caffeine. And we totally get it!
By the way, if you love iced coffee and you feel like cooling brewed coffee in the fridge just doesn’t give the same results you get when you buy bottled iced coffee or iced coffee at the local shop, you’re right. It doesn’t. Iced coffee is prepared differently from the start, so you’ll want to grab one of these iced coffee makers to brew it properly.
If you got so busy, you forgot all about your morning brew, that’s okay! As long as you take it black, you can reheat it. Just keep in mind, it won’t taste as good as a fresh pot. And hey, if you want hot fresh coffee but you always end up with extra that goes to waste, it sounds like a perfect time to get a French press —you’ll be able to make coffee in smaller volumes on demand so a hot and rich cup is just a moment of preparation away.