Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice has become increasingly popular in recent years. Advocates claim it’s a great way to get a concentrated dose of nutrients. However, there is some debate regarding whether fresh juice needs to be stored in the refrigerator.
The Case for Refrigerating Juice
There are a few reasons why it may be advisable to refrigerate fresh juice:
- Prevents microbial growth – Juice contains water and nutrients, an ideal environment for microbes like bacteria and mold to thrive. Cold temperatures slow microbial growth.
- Retains nutrients – Heat and exposure to air can cause loss of vitamin C and other nutrients. Refrigeration helps retain nutrients.
- Extends shelf life – Keeping juice chilled prevents spoilage and fermentation, extending how long it stays fresh.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that any perishable fruit or vegetable juice should be kept refrigerated to prevent foodborne illness. This includes juice you make at home as well as bottled, unpasteurized juice.
Shelf Life of Refrigerated Juice
How long fresh juice lasts under refrigeration depends on a few factors:
- Ingredients – Juices with herbs and vegetables high in nitrates like beets or spinach will spoil faster.
- Acidity – Acidic juices like orange juice tend to last longer than less acidic options.
- Processing method – Juice that is exposed to more oxygen during pressing may deteriorate faster.
- Packaging – An airtight container will extend shelf life compared to a loosely capped bottle.
As a general guideline, you can expect properly refrigerated juice to last:
|Juice Type||Shelf Life|
|Vegetable juice||3-5 days|
|Citrus juice||3-6 days|
|Apple juice||5-7 days|
Juice should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the coldest part of the refrigerator, ideally at 40°F or below.
Signs Juice Has Spoiled
Here are some signs that refrigerated juice has gone bad and should be discarded:
- Unpleasant odors – Spoiled juice gives off sour, unpleasant odors.
- Fizzing or bubbling – Fermentation causes carbon dioxide bubbles.
- Mold growth – Fuzzy mold colonies appear on the surface.
- Cloudiness – Solids and bacteria create a hazy appearance.
- Unpleasant taste – Flavor becomes very sour or bitter.
- Slimy texture – Increased viscosity from microbial growth.
Rotten juice may also change colors, becoming more dull, brown, or slightly greenish in hue.
Does Pasteurization Allow Storing Juice at Room Temperature?
Pasteurized juice has been briefly heated to destroy pathogens and extend its shelf life. Many people wonder whether pasteurization enables juice to be stored at room temperature.
While the heat treatment does make juice safer, pasteurized juice will still spoil faster if left unrefrigerated. Pasteurization destroys most, but not all microorganisms. Over time, remaining bacteria and molds can multiply and cause spoilage.
The FDA requires that pasteurized juice also bear the warning label “Keep Refrigerated” because its shelf life is still reduced at room temperature. Juice you find on shelves at the grocery store has generally been processed using more intensive heat methods than simple pasteurization.
What About Storing Fresh Juice in the Freezer?
Freshly squeezed juice can also be frozen, allowing it to be stored for several months. To freeze juice:
- Store in an airtight container, leaving headspace to prevent the container from bursting as the juice expands.
- Ensure juice is already chilled before freezing for best results.
- Leave at least 1/2 inch at the top unfrozen to allow for expansion and prevent leakage.
Frozen juice may suffer some loss of vitamin C, but retains more nutrients than juice kept in the refrigerator. It’s best to drink frozen juice soon after thawing and not refreeze.
Tips for Refrigerating Juice
Here are some top tips for properly storing juice in the fridge:
- Fill containers as full as possible to limit oxygen exposure.
- Use opaque containers to protect against light degradation.
- Let juice cool completely before refrigerating after making.
- Store juice as far away from the door as possible.
- Consume refrigerated juice within a few days for best quality.
- Check periodically for any signs of spoilage.
- Keep refrigerator set below 40°F.
Refrigerating juice not only extends its shelf life, but helps retain taste and nutrients. Leaving juice unrefrigerated provides an opportunity for microbial growth and spoilage to occur much more rapidly. Pasteurized juices labelled as refrigerated should still be kept chilled. For maximum freshness and nutritional benefit, it’s advisable to refrigerate juice and drink within a few days of production or purchase.