How Long Can Coffee Sit Out?

Coffee is a staple in the home and workplace, but it’s also one of the most common sources of foodborne illness. 

Many people don’t know that coffee can become unsafe to drink if left out for too long or stored improperly.

The good news is that you can enjoy your favorite cup at work without worrying about its safety as long as you follow these simple guidelines. We’ve laid out everything you need to know below so you in enjoy your morning…or afternoon cup without having to worry about getting sick.

man pouring coffee that has been left to sit out

How long can coffee sit out?

We’ve all been there, you desperately need that next cup of coffee. You stop at the workplace coffee pot and grab an hours-old, scalding hot cup of coffee. Is it safe to drink? How long is brewed coffee good for?

Coffee is a staple in the home and workplace, but it’s also one of the most common sources of foodborne illness. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coffee can become unsafe to drink if left out for too long or stored improperly.

The CDC recommends that brewed coffee be consumed within 30 minutes of brewing, and iced coffee within four hours. But what is the exact length of time you can wait to drink your coffee before it becomes unsafe?

The good news is that you can enjoy your favorite cup at work without worrying about its safety as long as you follow a few guidelines. But first, let’s take a look at what happens when coffee is left to sit out.

What happens to brewed coffee if is left to sit out?

Let’s start with the chemistry of coffee oxidization. When coffee is left out, it starts to lose its flavor and aroma. This happens because of the interaction of oxygen with the coffee beans. The oils in the coffee beans start to go rancid, and the antioxidants in the coffee begin to deteriorate.

Brewed coffee is a great drink to enjoy in the morning or at any time of day, but the length of time it remains safe to consume depends on several factors. These include temperature, exposure to air, and how you store it.

Even though it’s not going bad and is still safe to drink, the flavor profile and aroma will begin to fade. This process, known as oxidization, occurs more quickly at higher temperatures. That’s why the flavor of cold brew coffee lasts longer and a pot of coffee sitting on the hot plate of your coffee maker quickly becomes bitter.

Technically speaking, you can store the black coffee in the fridge for up to a week, but why would you do that? No matter the capacity of your coffee maker, you don’t want to make more coffee than you can drink within a day.

coffee pots sitting out  on a burner how long can coffee be left out,

Why does old coffee turn bitter?

As we mentioned before, exposure to heat speeds up the oxidization process. Since hot coffee is also more acidic than room temperature coffee, the exposure to heat will make your cup of Joe even more bitter!

When you brew a pot at home, you might think it’s okay to leave it out as long as you reheat it within 30 minutes. But what happens if someone gets distracted and leaves it on the burner for hours? Even though the coffee is still technically safe to drink, it will take on a burnt or bitter flavor.

What if your coffee has milk in it?

Hot coffee containing milk or cream is only safe to drink for about an hour or two at room temperature. The milk proteins start to denature after this time, and they can cause foodborne illness.

If you prefer coffee with milk or cream, it’s best to store it in the fridge and drink it within a day or two.

Where should I store my brewed coffee?

You should ideally keep your home-brewed coffee in an airtight container like this one from Thermos at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Coffee experts recommend transferring the coffee to an airtight container after brewing so it doesn’t lose its flavor.

For maximum freshness, experts also recommend storing your home-brewed coffee in the freezer and thawing out only what you need for a few days. Coffee can be stored in the freezer for up to three months without any significant loss of flavor. But remember if you do take it out of the freezer to drink it within 24 hours.

So how long can coffee sit out and still be safe to drink?

If coffee is left out on the counter, it should be consumed within about six hours to maintain optimal flavor and aroma. Even though it will still be safe, the taste won’t be as good as when you first brewed it.

As far as safety is concerned, brewed coffee at room temperature should be consumed within about 12 hours. After this time, the coffee is no longer considered safe to drink.

coffee beans pouring out of a cup.

What about unbrewed coffee? How long does it last?

The freshness of unbrewed coffee depends largely on the type of coffee and how it is stored. For example, green coffee beans can last up to two years when stored in a cool, dry place. Roasted coffee beans, however, will not last nearly as long

Whole Bean Coffee

Whole Bean roasted coffee lasts about a month when stored at room temperature in an airtight container like this one. In order to maintain maximum freshness, it should also be stored in a cool dark location.

Ground Coffee

To maintain optimal freshness, ground coffee only lasts up to three days after being ground, so it’s best not to grind more than you can use within this time period. While ground coffee older than three days is perfectly safe to drink, it will not taste as fresh since the coffee oils begin to evaporate as soon as the bean is ground.

Instant Coffee

How long instant coffee lasts depends on how it is stored. Some instant coffee comes in jars while others come in single-use straws. If stored in a cool, dark place, instant coffee will last for about two years. If it is stored in a hot environment, it will only last for about six months.

Coffee Pods and K-Cups

Single-serve coffee pods are notorious for going bad quickly. The coffee pods themselves are not airtight and the coffee inside them can easily become stale. Most coffee pods have an expiration date stamped on them, but they can also be tested by smell. If the pod doesn’t smell like fresh coffee, it’s probably best to toss it.

K-Cups last about a year if stored in a cool, dark place. Like coffee pods, most have an expiration date stamped on them for your convenience.

Coffee Oils Will Go Rancid With Time

Whole bean and ground coffee definitely keep longer than brewed coffee, but that doesn’t mean that lasts forever. All coffee will eventually go bad. The oils in coffee will go rancid and the coffee will start to taste sour, musty, or like paper bags.

Rancidity results from oxidation, which happens when the oils in coffee are exposed to oxygen. Coffee is not actually dangerous to drink after it has gone rancid, but it will no longer taste good either.

To keep your coffee tasting great, it should always be consumed within about six months to a year of its roast date.

Remember That Stale Grounds Equal Stale Tasting Coffee

If your coffee tastes a little off, it might not be the coffee itself, it might be the grounds you’re using. It’s important to use fresh coffee grounds if you want your coffee to taste its best. Old or stale grounds can make your coffee taste sour or bitter.

What factors degrade coffee beans?

A number of factors can degrade the quality and flavor of coffee beans, including exposure to air, light, moisture, and heat. These elements will make the coffee oils go rancid and affect the overall flavor of your cup.

How can I tell if my coffee has gone bad?

If your coffee looks or smells different than the last time you used it, there’s a chance that it has gone bad. Coffee will start to lose its natural flavors and have more of an acidic bite. Of course, if mold appears on the surface of your coffee beans, they are definitely no longer safe to drink.

How do roast profiles and brewing methods influence the shelf life of coffee?

A number of factors can influence the shelf life of coffee. Beans that are roasted lighter have lower oil content, so they will not last as long. This is why darker roasts are often considered to be more flavorful-they have less surface area exposed to the elements and will keep for longer. The way you brew your coffee can also affect its shelf life. If you use hot water to extract coffee oils from the beans, the coffee will not last as long since the oils are responsible for giving it flavor and the heat causes them to evaporate.


Can I drink day-old coffee?

We certainly don’t recommend it, but If it has been stored in the fridge and was not left out longer than 12 hours, it should be safe.

Will the caffeine content will be preserved?

Even if your coffee tastes a little off, its caffeine content should not be affected. Caffeine is a stable compound and will not degrade over time.

How long can you store brewed coffee in the fridge?

Coffee that is stored in the fridge will be safe to drink for about two weeks. However, as we mentioned earlier, the flavor will start to diminish after a few days.

How long can coffee sit out with milk?

Coffee with milk or creamer will not be safe to drink after sitting out for about an hour. Coffee mixed with milk or cream should either be consumed immediately, refrigerated or tossed within 12 hours of preparation.

Will microwaving the coffee kill bacteria?

Microwaving your coffee will not kill any bacteria that may be present. In fact, microwaving can actually increase the growth of bacteria.

Final Thoughts

The length of time coffee can sit out before it becomes unsafe to drink depends on several factors. You should also take into account how you store your coffee at home in the fridge or at room temperature, which will impact its shelf life. A general rule is that if you have a sealed container and keep it in a cold place like a refrigerator, then up to 5 days is probably safe. If not, we recommend drinking within 2 hours after brewing for the best flavor and freshness!