Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative for many people. However, there is some debate around whether it is safe to drink almond milk that has been left out of the refrigerator overnight. In this article, we’ll look at the factors that determine the safety of drinking overnight almond milk and provide some recommendations.
How long can unopened almond milk be left out?
First, let’s consider an unopened carton or bottle of almond milk. As long as the container remains properly sealed, unopened almond milk can generally be left out at room temperature for the same amount of time as dairy milk before it goes bad. Here’s a quick overview:
- Unopened shelf-stable almond milk: Can be left out for 5-7 days past the printed “best by” date.
- Unopened refrigerated almond milk: Can be left out for 2-3 hours.
Once opened, the timeline changes because exposure to oxygen and bacteria reduces the shelf life. Let’s look at how long opened almond milk lasts outside the fridge.
How long can opened almond milk sit out?
Once opened, almond milk has a shorter shelf life and needs to be refrigerated. Here are some general guidelines for how long opened almond milk can be left out before it may become unsafe to drink:
- Refrigerated almond milk: 1-2 hours max after opening.
- Shelf-stable almond milk: 4-6 hours after opening.
The above timeframes are for freshly opened containers. Overnight would push opened almond milk past these recommended time limits at room temperature.
Does the type of almond milk matter?
There are several varieties of almond milk available, which can impact how long it lasts unrefrigerated:
|Shelf Life After Opening
As you can see, homemade almond milk has the shortest shelf life after opening. Commercially prepared shelf-stable varieties last a bit longer. But none are intended to sit out overnight.
What causes almond milk to spoil?
There are a few main factors that can contribute to opened almond milk spoiling faster outside of the fridge:
- Bacteria and mold growth – Being cold helps inhibit microbial growth. Sitting out allows bacteria and mold to multiply faster.
- Oxidation – Exposure to oxygen can cause faster nutrient breakdown and rancidity.
- Separation – The liquid and solids can separate, which indicates spoilage.
Leaving opened almond milk out basically accelerates all of these processes. Refrigeration helps slow them down.
What are the risks of drinking spoiled almond milk?
Drinking almond milk that has been left out too long comes with some potential health risks:
- Food poisoning – From bacteria like Bacillus cereus, Salmonella, and E. coli producing toxins.
- Gastrointestinal issues – Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
- Unpleasant taste and smell – From souring and nutrient degradation.
The risks are higher for certain groups like pregnant women, small children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems. Healthy adults may just experience temporary discomfort.
How can you tell if almond milk is bad after sitting out?
Watch for these signs that indicate almond milk has spoiled and should be thrown out:
- Sour, curdled, or chunky texture
- Change in color
- Off smells
- Mold development
- Fizzing or bubbling
- Separation between solids and liquid
Tasting almond milk that displays any of these warning signs is not recommended, as it could make you sick. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe and discard it.
Does the container type make a difference?
The type of container used to store almond milk can impact how long it stays fresh outside the fridge:
|Effect on Shelf Life
|Plastic bottle or jug
|Fair – allows some air contact
|Foil gable top carton
|Good – more air tight
|Best – nonporous and air tight
Plastic bottles and jugs are porous and let in more air. Cartons and glass bottles have a tighter seal. But no container can prevent spoilage forever once opened.
Does light exposure affect overnight almond milk?
Light can degrade the nutrients in almond milk over time. Here is how light exposure affects its shelf life:
- Indirect sunlight – Still harmful to nutrients and flavors.
- Artificial light – Not as damaging but can impact quality over time.
- Darkness – Best for maintaining freshness and nutrient content.
So sitting out overnight on the counter top where it is exposed to light can speed up the rate at which opened almond milk spoils.
Can you extend the fridge life of opened almond milk?
To get the most shelf life out of opened almond milk once refrigerated, follow these tips:
- Transfer to an airtight container to limit air exposure.
- Store in the back of the fridge, which is the coldest area.
- Keep the temperature at 40°F or below.
- Avoid repeated openings of the fridge door.
- Don’t return unused milk to the original container.
Properly stored in the fridge, opened almond milk should last 4-7 days past the “best by” date printed on the package.
Can you re-refrigerate almond milk after leaving it out?
If you’ve left the almond milk out for longer than recommended, is it safe to put it back in the fridge?
The FDA recommends not to re-refrigerate milk, almond or dairy, if it has been left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. The repeated temperature fluctuations can create an environment where bacteria multiply rapidly.
If the time window is within 2 hours, then promptly refrigerating opened almond milk can prolong its shelf life. But leaving it out overnight is too long without proper temperature control.
Should you microwave almond milk left out overnight?
You may wonder if you can salvage almond milk left out overnight by microwaving it. However, this is not recommended for a few reasons:
- Microwaving may not kill all harmful bacteria that grow overnight.
- It can change the taste and nutritional content.
- Heating and recooling breeds bacteria growth.
While microwaving may improve the smell or taste, it does not necessarily make overnight almond milk safe for consumption again. It’s better to play it safe and throw it out.
Does adding coffee or tea help?
What if you added the leftover overnight almond milk to hot coffee or tea? Would the hot liquid make it safer to consume?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Hot coffee or tea is typically not hot enough to destroy organisms that can develop in milk sitting out too long. And adding almond milk can actually cool down the coffee or tea temperature.
Bottom line – don’t take chances with overnight almond milk. The safest choice is to discard it, even if you’re adding it to hot drinks.
Almond milk should not sit out at room temperature overnight after opening. The combination of time, air exposure, light, and warmth creates an environment for harmful bacteria to multiply quickly. Drinking spoiled almond milk can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms or food poisoning.
Following proper storage methods, like prompt refrigeration in an airtight container, gives opened almond milk the longest shelf life. But once almond milk is left out too long, it’s best to throw it out rather than take risks or try to re-cool it. When in doubt, remember it’s better to be safe than sick!