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Does apple juice have a shelf life?

Apple juice is a popular beverage enjoyed by many for its sweet, fruity taste. But like all foods and drinks, apple juice won’t stay fresh forever. So does apple juice have a shelf life and if so, how long does unopened apple juice last? Here’s a comprehensive look at how long apple juice lasts, signs of spoiled apple juice, and how to store apple juice to extend its shelf life.

The Shelf Life of Apple Juice

The shelf life of apple juice depends mainly on how it is packaged:

Unopened Apple Juice

Type Shelf Life
Pasteurized apple juice 5-7 days refrigerated after opening
2-3 weeks unrefrigerated before opening
Shelf-stable juice boxes/bottles 1-2 months refrigerated after opening
9-12 months unrefrigerated before opening
Canned apple juice 12-18 months unrefrigerated before opening
Apple juice concentrate 12-15 months frozen

Pasteurized apple juice has the shortest shelf life since it is not processed at high temperatures like shelf-stable bottled juice. Canned juice and frozen concentrate last the longest.

Opened Apple Juice

Once opened, apple juice should be consumed within:

  • 5-7 days if pasteurized apple juice stored in the fridge
  • 1-2 months if shelf-stable juice stored in the fridge
  • 6-8 months if reconstituted from frozen apple juice concentrate stored in the fridge

Keeping opened apple juice refrigerated and properly sealed in an airtight container helps extend its shelf life.

Signs Apple Juice Has Spoiled

Watch for these signs that your apple juice is past its prime and should be discarded:

  • Change in color – Apple juice will appear darker or duller than its usual bright golden color.
  • Clumping – Particles and pulp clump together and sink to the bottom instead of being evenly dispersed.
  • Mold – Visible mold grows on the surface.
  • Fermentation – Carbonation, bubbling, alcohol smell or taste indicating yeast is acting on the natural sugars.
  • Off odors & flavors – Smells or tastes unpleasant, bitter, sour, or rancid instead of tasting fresh and mildly sweet.

Apple juice that shows any of these signs of spoilage should not be consumed.

How to Store Apple Juice Properly

Follow these tips to help apple juice maintain quality and freshness as long as possible:

  • Always refrigerate apple juice after opening. The colder temperature slows microbial growth and enzymatic activity.
  • Pour juice into an airtight container or jar, filling as much as possible to limit oxygen exposure.
  • Wipe any spills from the lid or rim to prevent stickiness that draws microbes.
  • Store apple juice on a refrigerator shelf, not in the door where temperature fluctuates.
  • Finish apple juice within 5-7 days of opening for best quality and taste.
  • Don’t return leftover juice to the original container – always use a clean vessel.
  • Keep unopened shelf-stable juice in a cool, dry pantry away from direct sunlight.
  • Avoid freezing apple juice if possible for best texture, color, and flavor.

Following refrigerated storage times and conditions helps make the most of apple juice’s freshness once opened. For long-term storage when juice won’t be finished quickly, freezing is a good option. Frozen apple juice stays safe indefinitely but may suffer some loss of texture and taste.

Does Apple Juice Go Bad When Frozen?

Freezing apple juice allows it to maintain quality and safety for much longer storage compared to refrigeration. However, freezing does impact some quality characteristics of apple juice over time:

  • Texture – Can separate into watery and icy layers rather than being uniform, smooth, and homogeneous.
  • Color – May become slightly duller or darker over many months of freezing.
  • Flavor – Can lose some fresh apple taste, especially if stored frozen for over a year.
  • Nutrition – Some loss of vitamin C can occur over long frozen storage.

While these effects on texture, color, flavor and nutrition aren’t harmful, they may make apple juice a little less appetizing. For best quality frozen juice, consume within 6-8 months. Properly stored frozen apple juice remains safe to consume even if quality declines over a year or longer.

Does Canned Apple Juice Go Bad?

Commercially canned apple juice is shelf-stable and safe at room temperature for a very long shelf life thanks to the canning process which heats juice to destroy microbes and enzymes:

  • Unopened canned apple juice will stay fresh for 9-18 months past the “best by” date.
  • After opening, pour canned apple juice into a tightly sealed container and refrigerate. It will stay good for 5-7 days after opening.

Long unrefrigerated storage can affect the flavor before the juice is actually unsafe to drink. Opened canned juice also has a shorter shelf life compared to juice boxes due to the canning process destroying vitamin C.

Does Apple Juice Go Bad When Pasteurized?

Pasteurization is a gentle heat treatment that destroys enzymes and reduces microbes while maintaining more flavor and nutrients compared to canning. Pasteurized apple juice typically comes in plastic bottles rather than cans or juice boxes. Since it’s less processed than other types of apple juice, it has a shorter shelf life:

  • Unopened pasteurized apple juice will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks past the “best by” date.
  • Once opened, pasteurized apple juice should be refrigerated and consumed within 5-7 days.

The more delicate pasteurization process leaves in more natural apple flavor but also shortens shelf life compared to heavily processed juice that’s canned or boxed.

Does Juice Go Bad When Refrigerated?

Refrigerating apple juice is the best way to maximize shelf life after opening. Here’s how long apple juice lasts when properly stored in the fridge:

Apple Juice Type Refrigerator Shelf Life After Opening
Pasteurized 5-7 days
Bottled/Boxed 1-2 months
Canned 5-7 days
Frozen Concentrate 6-8 months

The refrigerator temperature of 40°F or below significantly slows the growth of spoilage microbes, preventing apple juice from going bad quickly. Juice boxes and bottles that have been shelf-stable can last months in the fridge while delicate pasteurized juice only lasts about a week.

How Long Does Apple Juice Last When Unrefrigerated?

Leaving apple juice at room temperature speeds up spoilage. Here’s how long different types of apple juice can last unrefrigerated before opening:

  • Pasteurized juice – 2-3 weeks
  • Boxed/bottled juice – 9-12 months
  • Canned juice – 12-18 months
  • Frozen concentrate – 12-15 months frozen

Shelf-stable juice boxes and bottles stay fresh the longest at room temperature thanks to pasteurization and packaging. Refrigerating unopened juice isn’t necessary but will help maximize freshness.

Does Apple Juice Last Longer Than Orange Juice?

Apple juice typically lasts a bit longer than orange juice thanks to some chemical differences between the two juices:

  • Apple juice has higher acidity which inhibits microbial growth.
  • Orange juice contains more vitamin C which breaks down quicker.
  • The wider pH range that supports microbial growth means orange juice spoils faster.

Shelf life also depends on whether the juice is pasteurized or shelf-stable. Here’s a comparison:

Juice Type Apple Juice Unopened Orange Juice Unopened
Pasteurized 2-3 weeks 1-2 weeks
Bottled/Boxed 9-12 months 3-5 months

Both pasteurized and processed types of apple juice last 1-2 weeks longer than orange juice when unopened and stored properly. The differences are modest but show apple juice does have a small shelf life advantage.

Conclusion

Apple juice can remain fresh and safe to drink for 1-2 weeks when pasteurized up to 1-1.5 years when canned or packaged as juice boxes or bottles. Once opened, apple juice should be refrigerated and consumed within 5-7 days for best quality and taste. Freezing apple juice can extend shelf life almost indefinitely but may somewhat diminish texture and flavor over time. With proper refrigerated storage after opening and monitoring for any signs of spoilage, apple juice can stay pleasantly fresh and delicious to drink.