Juice is a popular beverage that many people enjoy as part of a healthy diet. Freshly squeezed juice contains important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. However, juice can spoil if not stored properly. This article examines how long juice lasts when refrigerated versus not refrigerated, and provides tips on how to maximize juice freshness.
How long does juice last refrigerated?
Properly stored, juices can maintain both their nutritional value and taste for relatively long periods in the refrigerator. Here are some general guidelines on juice shelf life when kept chilled:
- Pasteurized fruit juice: 7-10 days
- Freshly squeezed fruit juice: 3-5 days
- Vegetable juice: 3-5 days
- Juice blends: 5-7 days
The acidic nature of fruit juices helps them last longer compared to more neutral vegetable juices. Citrus juices like orange juice tend to have the longest shelf life. Keeping juice bottles tightly sealed also preserves freshness.
Does juice go bad if left unrefrigerated?
Yes, juice will spoil much more quickly if left out at room temperature instead of being refrigerated. Here’s how long different types of juices are likely to be still good for:
- Store-bought pasteurized juice: 24-48 hours
- Fresh squeezed juice: 4-6 hours
- Open juice carton: 1-2 hours
The warmer environment causes juice to deteriorate faster. Enzymes from fruit pulp interact with oxygen to degrade color, texture, nutrients, and flavors. Microbial contamination also increases risk of spoilage and foodborne illness.
Signs that juice has gone bad
Check for these indicators that juice is over the hill and should be discarded:
- Smells sour or unpleasant
- Appears cloudy
- Has fizzing or bubbling
- Mold is visible
- Tastes off, such as bitter, sour, or rancid
- Changed consistency, such as being thicker or more watery
- Separation between layers
If you see any of these warning signs, err on the side of caution and toss the juice. Drinking spoiled juice could potentially cause food poisoning.
How to extend juice shelf life
Follow these best practices to get the most days out of your juice before it goes bad:
- Refrigerate after opening. Keep juice chilled at 40°F or below.
- Store in airtight containers. Limit oxygen exposure by using bottles with tight-fitting lids.
- Keep light away. Light can degrade juice over time, so store in the refrigerator door or other dark location.
- Freeze for longer storage. Juice concentrates hold up well in the freezer for 3-6 months.
- Check dates. Don’t purchase or use juice products beyond the printed expiration or best-by dates.
Does concentrated juice last longer?
Yes, concentrated fruit and vegetable juices generally have a longer shelf life compared to ready-to-drink juices. Here’s a comparison:
The removal of water to make concentrated juice gives it a longer shelf life by inhibiting microbial growth. Concentrates should still be refrigerated after opening for best quality.
Does freezing juice prevent it from going bad?
Freezing juice is an excellent way to extend its shelf life while preserving the taste and most nutrients. Here’s how freezing affects juice freshness:
- Slows down enzymatic and microbial degradation
- Maintains vitamin content better than refrigeration
- Can keep juice safe indefinitely at 0°F or below
- May cause some separation which can be fixed by shaking
- Can damage texture slightly, giving a watery or icy consistency
For optimal freezer storage, leave some headspace in containers as juice expands when frozen. Thaw in the refrigerator before drinking for best flavor.
Can you drink expired juice?
It’s not recommended to drink juice after its printed expiration or best-by date. These dates account for potential spoilage under proper storage conditions. While expired juice may still be safe if refrigerated, its taste, color, aroma, and nutrition can degrade over time.
Some guidelines for consuming expired juice:
- Within 2-3 weeks past date – Evaluate sensory qualities and use caution.
- 1-2 months past date – Consider tossing.
- More than 3 months past date – Discard immediately.
If juice develops any sour, moldy, or unpleasant odors, err on the safe side and throw it out regardless of dates.
Does juice last longer in glass or plastic bottles?
Juice can last slightly longer when stored in glass rather than plastic containers. Glass provides these advantages:
- Glass doesn’t absorb juice flavors and odors over time.
- No interaction between juice acids and plastic chemicals.
- Better oxygen barrier to limit nutrient degradation.
- Easier to clean and sterilize.
- More resistant to stains.
However, plastic is considerably lighter than glass and won’t shatter if dropped. Overall glass offers a small benefit for maintaining juice freshness.
Pasteurized vs. unpasteurized juice
Pasteurization is a heat treatment process that destroys bacteria, yeast, molds, and enzymes that cause spoilage. This table compares shelf life of pasteurized vs. unpasteurized juice:
While pasteurization diminishes some nutrients, it dramatically increases juice’s safety and shelf life. Unpasteurized juice must be handled with care like a perishable food.
Does sugar help preserve homemade juice?
Adding sugar can help homemade fruit and vegetable juices last longer by reducing microbial growth. Here’s how sugar affects juice shelf life:
- High-sugar juices above 10% sugar tend to resist spoiling.
- Sugar binds with water making less available for microbes.
- Sucrose, glucose, and fructose are most effective.
- 5-10% sugar addition works best for preservation.
- Too much sugar can make juice syrupy.
Other tips for extending homemade juice life include lemon juice for acidity, vitamin C, and bottling while hot. However, homemade juices still require refrigeration and have a shorter shelf life than store-bought.
Juice eventually spoils if left unrefrigerated due to natural enzymatic processes and microbial growth. For best quality and safety, fruit and vegetable juices should be refrigerated and consumed within a week of opening. Freezing can greatly prolong juice freshness while maintaining most nutrients. With proper cold storage, juices can retain their delicious flavors and nutritional benefits. Discard juice that smells, tastes, or looks off.