Should Cold Brew Coffee Be Refrigerated During And After Brewing?


Should You Keep Cold Brew In The Fridge During or After Brewing header image

Do you have to keep your cold brew coffee in the fridge while steeping it? And what about after it’s done brewing? Here’s what you want to know.

Cold brew coffee can be steeped in or outside the fridge. Steeping cold brew outside the fridge takes about 12 hours while inside takes up to 24 hours. After brewing it’s best to put cold brew coffee in the fridge because it’ll keep longer and it’s usually served cold.

For more details on both the brewing process and storing your cold brew, keep reading below.


Brewing cold brew

Cold brew on a wooden slab overlooking garden

Does cold brew have to be kept in the fridge while the brewing is in process? Yes and no. It’s both possible. You can choose if you want to brew yours while cold or at room temperature. The end results might be slightly different though.

Let’s take a look at what the differences are.


Brewing in fridge

The biggest difference is that the steeping process in the fridge takes longer than outside.

Cold brew steep time is anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. That covers the whole spectrum of steeping your cold brew in and outside the fridge.

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In the fridge, it’s better to go for the longer end of the brew time. That means 12 to 24 hours.

Caffeine dissolves in water pretty easily. And for cold brew in the fridge it takes about 8 hours to extract all the caffeine from the coffee. However, other compounds in the coffee grounds that make up the taste take a little bit longer. Up to 24 hours the taste will change a little. After that, it doesn’t really matter anymore. There is no point in steeping the coffee any longer than 24 hours.

So if you plan on making cold brew frequently, you can experiment with brew time and taste. See which you prefer. Obviously a longer steep time will make the taste stronger. But since cold brew is usually quite mild in taste anyways, this is not a bad thing.  


Brewing outside fridge

As said, the steep time can be a bit shorter outside the fridge. The warmer water extracts the coffee a little bit more efficiently.

At room temperature the caffeine takes about 4-6 hours to extract and just like in the fridge, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the taste to fully develop. About 12 hours will get you to a fully developed taste.

That means that brewing outside the fridge takes about half the time compared to inside the fridge. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Want to make cold brew in the evening for the next morning? Outside the fridge is the right choice.

Since the extraction time is different and the water temperature also has an impact on how the coffee is extracted, the taste can be slightly different inside compared to outside the fridge. And, it also depends how warm it is outside your fridge. In tropical climates without A/C it’ll easily be 15 degrees warmer than in moderate climates. That means slight differences in extraction times although minor.


Storing cold brew

What about storing your cold brew after you take out the coffee grounds? At this your cold brew coffee is ready to drink so what would be the best option for storage?

Again, it depends although the choice is a bit easier than for brewing.


Storing in fridge

The biggest reason to keep you cold brew in the fridge after brewing is that you can keep it for longer. Inside the fridge it’ll keep for a week or even a little bit longer. That will be plenty of time to finish your batch if you make it at home. If you’re making for larger groups of people, this is probably not really an issue.

However, while it will stay safe to drink for one to two weeks, the taste won’t stay the same for the same amount of time. You’ll probably start tasting something different after three of four days. Again, it’s still perfectly safe to drink but you might prefer the taste of freshly brewed coffee.

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If that’s not long enough to finish off your batch, the best solution is to simply brew smaller batches. This isn’t any more difficult than brewing a big batch. You just have to do it a little more often but you get better tasting coffee.

For most people, simply storing it in the fridge will be the best option. Alone because of the taste and how most people like to drink it. The vast majority wants to drink their cold brew cold. Sure you can add ice and cool it down. However, if you have to cool down the beverage with ice from room temperature, you dilute the coffee quite a bit.

If you keep it in the fridge, you might not even need the ice.


Storing outside fridge

Storing your cold brew outside the fridge is not a great idea. It will go bad pretty quickly. After one or two days you probably won’t want to drink it anymore.

If you finish the batch in that time and you prefer to have it at room temperature, go for it. But, since most people prefer it chilled anyways why not keep it in the fridge?

Keeping it outside the fridge for a while is no problem as long as it stays reasonably cool. It’s not like milk that goes bad in the blink of an eye.


How to keep cold brew longer

Is there a way you can keep your cold brew good for longer than one or two weeks?

The best solution is to keep your fresh coffee in an airtight container. Get it into an airtight container as soon as you’ve finished brewing it. This will extend the time your coffee keeps a good bit.

If you want to take it to the next level, get a few airtight containers that are small enough to contain your coffee ration for a single day. This way you don’t have to open any of the other containers and not let any air into the container. Just make sure the containers are sterilized before you use them.

This is also a good option if you want to take cold brew from home. Just take a bottle from the fridge and throw it in your bag to enjoy good coffee on the go. If you want to do that, it’s probably a good idea to take containers that are easy to drink from.

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Another solution is to freeze it. This will help keep it good for a long time although you might lose a little bit of taste in the freezing and thawing process. You also have to wait a little bit before you can actually drink it.

Tip: if you like your cold brew high in caffeine and don’t like diluting it with ice, make cold brew ice cubes. This way you get that ice cold drink without adding any extra water.


Favorite cold brew tools

With these items, you will brew better cold brew

  • Grinder: Fresh beans have to be ground. A hand grinder like the Hario Slim (Amazon) is affordable yet effective hand grinder that will improve your cold brew.
  • Scale: The amount of grounds you use makes a big impact on what your cold brew tastes like. A simple set of scales will makes your brews more consistent. I’ve been using this one (Amazon) for over a year wit h great success. Not the most aesthetic but effective.

Can you keep cold brew coffee in plastic bottles? Putting cold brew coffee in plastic bottles is not the worst thing you can do but glass is certainly better. Because of the mild and smooth taste of cold brew, it’s very likely you’ll get a noticeable extra taste from storing it in plastic.

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