Brewed coffee stays fresh for about 30 minutes to an hour before it starts to oxidize. Coffee oxidation is what makes brewed coffee lose its flavor, aroma, and become stale over time.
However, brewed coffee can last up to 3 days, depending on the type of coffee you use, how you brew it, and most importantly, how you store it.
Let’s dive deeper to explore coffee oxidation, brewing, storage, and more, to learn how long you can make your brewed coffee last.
The answer to the question ‘how long does brewed coffee last?’ is a bit complex, and it has everything to do with a process called oxidation.
Oxidation is a common chemical reaction that occurs when oxygen comes into contact with the substance that is being oxidized.
In the case of brewed coffee, oxidation occurs when the coffee comes into contact with the air around us, because the atmosphere contains 21 percent oxygen.
The oxygen in the air starts to react with the compounds in your brewed coffee when they come into contact with each other, slowly oxidizing the coffee compounds.
We cannot see this process immediately with the naked eye, but we can see, smell, and taste the effects of oxidation over time.
This is because oxidation causes brewed coffee to slowly degrade, lose flavor and aroma, and go stale.
Oxidation also occurs before the coffee is even brewed, when the coffee beans come into contact with the air.
This is why coffee beans are stored in vacuum-sealed containers, to minimize exposure to air, which can oxidize the beans and cause them to go stale or rancid on shelves quickly.
As for freshly brewed coffee, it can remain fresh for around 30 minutes to an hour before it starts to go stale from oxidation.
Most coffee drinkers may not notice the change in taste or aroma for up to an hour after the coffee is brewed and exposed to air.
However, expert coffee tasters and professional Q Graders may easily tell the difference.
If you’ve ever left fresh coffee out for an hour or two before drinking it, you have most likely noticed the subtle difference in taste and smell of the coffee.
Even if you reheat this coffee, it simply doesn’t taste the same as it does when it is freshly brewed.
Theoretically, if you can stop oxidation from occurring in brewed coffee, you can keep it fresh indefinitely.
However, this is easier in theory than in real life.
Still, there are ways to delay the rate of oxidation in your brewed coffee and make it last for up to 3 days, or even longer in some extreme cases.
The rate at which oxidation occurs relies on a variety of factors such as the kind of coffee you use, how you brew it, and how you store it.
Let’s explore each of these factors, so you can make your brewed coffee last longer while keeping it relatively fresh.
Type of Coffee
The type of coffee you use can have a significant impact on how long it lasts once it has been brewed.
Different types of coffees have different levels of acidity, and this acidity is what affects how quickly the coffee will oxidize.
For example, light roast coffees are generally more acidic than dark roast coffees, because the roasting process gradually reduces acidity over time.
Since dark roasts are roasted for longer, they tend to have lower acidity levels than lighter roasts.
This means that lighter roasts are more prone to oxidation and may go stale more quickly.
Whereas dark roast coffees have lower levels of acidity, which can help slow down the rate of oxidation, both in the dark roast coffee beans and their brewed coffees.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you must switch from light roast to dark roast to make your brewed coffee last.
There are other, more effective ways to delay the rate of oxidation, like how you brew your coffee or how you store it.
The brewing method you use can also affect oxidation and therefore how long your brewed coffee lasts.
For example, coffee brewed using a drip coffee maker or French press will typically go stale more quickly than coffee brewed using a cold brew method.
This is because the warmer brewing processes expose the coffee to more oxygen and heat, which can speed up the oxidation process.
On the other hand, cold brew coffee, also known as cold press coffee, is brewed using cold water and is typically steeped for longer periods of time, sometimes up to 24 hours.
This brewing method can help slow down the rate of oxidation, because there is less exposure to oxygen and almost no heat, resulting in a brewed coffee that lasts longer.
But of course, not everyone can stomach cold pressed coffee, especially in the mornings. This is exactly where storage conditions can play a huge role in making brewed coffee last longer.
When it comes to making brewed coffee last, how you store it is perhaps the most important factor of them all.
If you leave your brewed coffee out in the open, it will be most exposed to the oxygen in air, resulting in faster oxidation.
However, if you store the same coffee in an airtight container, you can slow down the rate of oxidation and keep your coffee fresher for far longer.
This is why brewed coffee from an airtight travel mug can still taste fresh for hours after you fill it up.
Additionally, temperature is also a key factor to consider when it comes to storing brewed coffee.
Coffee stored at room temperature can last a lot longer than coffee stored at higher temperatures.
Exposure to heat can increase the rate of oxidation, causing your brewed coffee to go stale more quickly.
On the other hand, if you store your brewed coffee at cold temperatures, it can cause condensation to occur, which can also affect the flavor of the coffee.
However, it will slow down oxidation even further, preserving your coffee for even longer.
Now that you have a better understanding of the factors that impact the rate of oxidation in brewed coffee, let’s discuss how to make your brewed coffee last up to three days or longer.
Make Your Brewed Coffee Last Up to 3 Days (Or Longer)
Generally, brewed coffee will start to go stale within 30 minutes to an hour of being brewed.
This is why you should drink your coffee shortly after brewing it to get the best flavor and coffee drinking experience.
However, if you want to keep your coffee fresh for longer, you should store it in an airtight container at room temperature.
When stored correctly like this, brewed coffee can last for up to 24 hours before it starts to go stale.
This means that you can make your morning coffee last till the next morning, by simply storing it in an airtight container at room temperature.
A useful tip to remember is to leave as little room for air as possible inside your airtight storage container.
This will reduce the amount of air inside the container with the brewed coffee, which means there is less oxygen for your coffee to deal with.
If you want to keep your coffee fresh for even longer, you can store it in the refrigerator at cooler temperatures.
When stored in an airtight container in the fridge, brewed coffee can last for up to three whole days without losing much of its freshness.
However, you must account for condensation, which can affect the flavor of your brewed coffee, so this is not the most ideal option, especially if you are looking for the best taste.
Another useful tip, that can help reduce condensation, is to let your brewed coffee cool down to room temperature in the airtight container before you refrigerate it.
This may help limit the change in taste from condensation, but not by a lot.
In some cases, you may want to store your brewed coffee for even longer than three days. For this, you must freeze it.
When brewed coffee is frozen in an airtight container, the oxidation process is slowed down significantly, which can help preserve the flavor and aroma of the coffee for a lot longer.
To freeze your brewed coffee, simply transfer it to an airtight container or a freezer bag.
Squeeze out as much air from the container/bag as possible before sealing it. This will help prevent freezer burn and allow you to preserve the flavor of your coffee.
Let it cool down for a bit at room temperature, before placing it in your freezer.
When you are ready to drink the frozen coffee, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Once it is thawed, you can reheat the coffee as you normally would.
The important thing to note here is that while freezing can help preserve the flavor of your coffee, it is not a perfect solution.
Coffee that has been frozen may have a slightly different taste and aroma than fresh coffee, so it may not be the best option if you care about freshness.
This is simply an extreme solution to preserve as much flavor and aroma from brewed coffee for as long as possible.
While freshly brewed coffee may only stay fresh and last for up to an hour in open air, you can make it last a lot longer when you understand how oxidation impacts it.
From using lighter roasts and colder brews, to airtight containers and refrigeration, you can make brewed coffee last for up to three days or even longer.
Generally, you should consume your coffee shortly after you brew it for the freshest and best coffee drinking experience.
This way, you will ensure that you get the best flavor and aroma possible. But when it comes to making coffee last, reducing the rate of oxidation is the way to go.
While your choice of roast level and brewing method can help slow down oxidation, nothing works better than proper storage conditions.
If you want to drink your coffee within 24 hours, a simple airtight container at room temperature will amaze you by how effectively it can keep your coffee fresh for long.
Anything longer, and you should consider colder temperatures, all the way up to the point of freezing your brewed coffee.
While frozen coffee will last significantly longer, you will end up losing some of the good flavor and aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
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