There is nothing nicer than a coffee in the morning. In the winter, we like hot coffee, but we find an iced coffee really refreshing and enlivening in the summer. We are amazed at the sheer number of ways to serve coffee, and it isn’t just a case of hot or cold. Aside from the usual manner, you can also have cold-brewed coffee or iced coffee: same result, different process. And the weird thing is that they all last for different amounts of time. How long does iced coffee last? Well, in this article we are going to find out.
How Long does Iced Coffee Last?
Provided you store it correctly, iced coffee can last for around 12 hours after it was first made. This does depend on several factors, which we’ve highlighted below.
1. Ambient Temperature
By ‘ambient temperature’, we actually mean the temperature of the air surrounding the coffee. If your iced coffee has been out on the counter in a warm climate for a while, it may degrade much quicker than if you have kept it somewhere cold. Such as the refrigerator.
2. The Amount of Ice Used
It shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that the amount of ice used will affect the quality of your iced coffee over time. By using more ice in your iced coffee, you can keep it colder for longer.
However, this comes with a catch. By using more ice, you are increasing the water content of your iced coffee. More ice means more meltwater, and as a result, eventually, more ice will mean a watery coffe. And nobody likes a watery coffee.
3. How you Made Iced Coffee
Iced coffee doesn’t last as long as you might think. It isn’t the same as cold brew coffee as it has one key difference (aside from the temperature). Iced coffee is, in fact, made with hot water. As a result, the coffee compounds are activated and start to degrade as soon as they touch the hot water. This degradation will make iced coffee unpleasant (and if you leave it long enough, dangerous to drink).
Coffee grounds, due to their surface area, are particularly great breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. You may notice that wet coffee grounds go moldy really quickly. When you also consider that while your coffee started off hot, as it cooled, it went through the ‘danger zone’ where it was just cool enough for bacteria to begin to breed. If you drank it right away, this isn’t a problem, but leaving those bacteria to multiply over time is not a good thing.
This effect is magnified even more when using dairy in your coffee. So if you want to know how long does iced coffee last with milk. The answer is an even shorter amount of time. We’d say no longer than 2 hours outside of a refrigerator.
Cold brew coffee doesn’t have the same problem. Provided it is kept chilled, you can keep cold brew coffee for up to 5 days.
How Do You Make Iced Coffee?
Making Iced coffee is really simple. To make it, first prepare your coffee in the usual way. This can be using a French press, a cafetiere, or an espresso machine. Once you have made hot black coffee allow it to cool down to almost room temperature. From there, it is just a case of serving it over some ice. Remember, the longer you leave your coffee before drinking, the more watery it will be as the ice melts. Some like to add a splash of cream, allowing it to snake and seep through the ice cubes.
You may find iced coffee bitter as the coffee has had more chance to oxidize. To counter this and make a really sweet treat, we like to add a generous spoonful of sugar to our coffee and give it a stir while it is still hot before allowing it to cool.
How Long does Iced Coffee Last Unrefrigerated?
The main limiting factor here is how long it takes your ice to melt. If the ice has melted, then you no longer have iced coffee. If it is cold, it still might be good to drink, but room temperature coffee is something we try to avoid. Yuck!
Can you Drink Day Old Iced Coffee?
We wouldn’t recommend drinking day-old ice coffee. From a health point of view, it is asking for trouble. Further to this, after a day, it will almost certainly have gone bitter and wouldn’t be pleasant to drink. Any coffee with a bad or sour smell (especially a coffee made with dairy or milk) should be discarded. If you want to enjoy chilled coffee more conveniently, we would suggest that you look at how to make cold-brewed coffee, which will keep for far longer.
So how long does iced coffee last? Not that long, actually. Certainly no more than 12 hours. If you are looking to drink chilled coffee over a longer amount of time (and we are talking days), then cold brew coffee could be a really great solution. We wouldn’t recommend drinking iced coffee that has been stood for a while. A good rule of thumb is if the ice is melted, it is time to make yourself a new batch. It is vitally important that you don’t consume dairy that hasn’t been refrigerated for more than two hours. So if you have milk in your ice coffee and it has been stood, then just make a fresh one.