What happens if I leave apple juice out?


Leaving apple juice out at room temperature is generally not recommended. When any perishable food is left out too long, it can become unsafe to drink due to potential microbial growth. However, the exact timeline for how long apple juice is safe at room temperature depends on several factors. In this article, we’ll take a close look at what happens when you leave apple juice out and for how long it stays safe to drink.

How Long Is Apple Juice Safe Unrefrigerated?

The shelf life of apple juice depends heavily on storage conditions. Here is a general timeline for how long apple juice lasts in different environments:

Storage Condition Shelf Life
Refrigerator (40°F or below) 5-7 days after opening
Pantry/Cupboard (room temperature) Up to 5-7 days unopened
Countertop (room temperature) 4-6 hours

As you can see, apple juice lasts much longer when stored in the refrigerator compared to sitting out at room temperature. The countdown begins as soon as you expose the juice to air by opening the bottle or pouring a glass.

Why Apple Juice Goes Bad

There are a few main reasons why apple juice won’t stay fresh forever:

Microbial growth – Bacteria, mold, and yeast are present everywhere in the environment. When apple juice is exposed to air, these microbes can start to rapidly multiply, especially in warm conditions. This microbial growth is what causes foodborne illnesses.

Enzyme activity – Fruits like apples contain enzymes that help ripen them. Once the apple is juiced, these enzymes start breaking down nutrients, affecting quality and flavor. Refrigeration slows this enzyme activity.

Oxidation – Exposure to oxygen causes the natural chemicals in apple juice to oxidize, or lose electrons. This reaction causes browning and off-flavors.

By keeping apple juice chilled at 40°F or below, you significantly slow these processes that lead to spoilage.

How to Tell If Apple Juice Has Gone Bad

Watch for these signs that indicate your apple juice is expired and potentially unsafe to drink:

Smell – Fresh apple juice smells pleasantly sweet. Foul odors like sourness or rotten eggs signal spoilage.

Color – The juice may darken or look brownish, which indicates oxidation. Mold can also cause spotty discoloration.

Texture – Spoiled juice may be slimy or have particles floating in it. It could seem thicker than normal.

Taste – Flat or bland flavor, bitterness, or sourness are red flags. The juice will not taste fresh.

Clumps/bubbles – You may see mold colonies, bead-like bubbles, or slimy sediment.

If you notice any of these warning signs, it’s best to discard the apple juice rather than risk drinking contaminated liquid.

Dangers of Drinking Spoiled Apple Juice

Consuming apple juice that has been left out too long can potentially make you sick. Here are some of the dangers:

Foodborne illness – Harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria can grow rapidly in perishable drinks when left at room temperature for too long. Consuming contaminated apple juice can cause serious gastrointestinal distress.

Toxic molds – Mold species that produce mycotoxins can also grow in apple juice over time. Ingesting these toxic byproducts of mold can be very dangerous.

Vomiting/diarrhea – Stomach bugs and food poisoning may cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cramps after drinking bad apple juice.

Off-flavors – While not directly dangerous, oxidation and enzyme breakdown create unpleasant tastes that are often described as bitter, vinegary, or rancid.

How to Store Apple Juice Properly

To get the most shelf life out of apple juice and prevent foodborne illnesses, be sure to:

– Refrigerate apple juice after opening. Keep bottles tightly sealed.

– Discard any unfinished juice after 5-7 days in the fridge. Don’t let it linger longer, even if refrigerated.

– When freezing apple juice, leave some headspace in the bottle as liquid expands when frozen.

– Always check the “best by” date on bottles and never consume past this timeframe.

– Store unopened bottles of apple juice in a cool, dark pantry. Avoid warm spots like next to the oven.

– Finish apple juice quickly once poured into a glass and don’t let it sit out long.

Can Spoiled Apple Juice Make You Sick?

Yes, consuming apple juice that has sat out too long can potentially make you sick. Here’s why:

Bacteria multiplies rapidly in perishable beverages that are left unrefrigerated for too long. Common culprits include Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. These foodborne pathogens can grow to dangerous levels after just a couple hours at room temperature.

Drinking juice contaminated with these harmful bacteria can cause vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, and other symptoms. Severe infections may even require hospitalization, especially for at-risk groups like children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.

Mold can also grow in apple juice over time, producing toxic byproducts called mycotoxins. Consuming juice containing dangerous molds can cause side effects ranging from nausea to neurological problems.

So while a sip of apple juice that’s been left out overnight may seem harmless, the accumulation of bacteria or mold can actually make you very sick. It’s just not worth the risk. Remember to refrigerate juice quickly after opening and discard any leftovers after 5-7 days.

Should I Throw Away Apple Juice Left Out Overnight?

Yes, it’s best to throw out any apple juice that has been left sitting out on the counter overnight. Here’s why it’s unsafe to drink after sitting at room temperature for that long:

Rapid bacteria growth – Harmful pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella multiply quickly in perishable drinks left unrefrigerated. Just a few hours at room temp provides ideal conditions.

Potential toxins – Bacteria can release toxins into the juice that are not destroyed by refrigeration or freezing. These can still cause illness.

Increased acidity – Enzyme oxidation and microbial fermentation increases acidity, giving juice an unpleasant vinegary taste.

Thick texture – Changes in the juice’s structure and viscosity due to enzyme breakdown may give it an unappetizing slimy mouthfeel.

Mold risk – Apple juice left out can also grow potentially dangerous molds and yeasts around the bottle rim, even if you can’t see it.

While an unopened, properly stored bottle would still be safe the next morning, apple juice poured into a glass or partially consumed bottle should always be discarded if left out overnight. It’s simply not worth taking any risks with your health.

Does Refrigerating Kill Bacteria in Old Apple Juice?

Unfortunately, refrigerating apple juice that has already been left out too long will not make it safe to drink again. Here’s why:

– Refrigeration slows further microbial growth, but does not kill off bacteria that have already grown and multiplied to dangerous levels at room temperature.

– Toxins released by bacteria that can cause food poisoning are not destroyed by later refrigeration.

– Mold species can continue to thrive and produce mycotoxins even in colder fridge temperatures.

– Enzymatic breakdown and oxidative changes that degrade the quality and taste will not be reversed.

– Bacteria can form spores or biofilms that protect them in cold environments.

The bottom line is that once apple juice has sat unrefrigerated long enough for substantial bacterial growth, which takes just a few hours, returning it to the fridge will not render it safe. Any contamination or toxins that developed at room temp will still be present. So always remember to refrigerate apple juice quickly after opening. Discard any juice left out more than 4-6 hours.

Can You Boil Apple Juice That’s Been Sitting Out?

Boiling apple juice that’s been left out at room temperature can kill potentially harmful bacteria and make it safer to drink. However, it’s not guaranteed to destroy all toxins or make the juice taste fresh again.

Here’s what boiling can and can’t do:

Kills most bacteria – Bringing the juice to a rolling boil for 1 minute will destroy most vegetative bacteria cells and pathogens.

May eliminate some toxins – Boiling may destroy or neutralize some, but likely not all, of the heat-sensitive toxins released by bacteria.

Won’t reverse oxidation – Boiling does not reverse chemical changes like oxidation that degrade the flavor over time. The juice will still taste unpleasant.

May improve texture – Heating can break down some of the enzymatic changes that cause thickened texture, sedimenting, and cloudiness.

Won’t remove molds/spores – Boiling does not get rid of mold growth or bacterial endospores, which can survive boiling temperatures.

Overall, boiling apple juice left out too long may provide some safety benefit by killing vegetative bacteria cells. But boiling cannot guarantee the juice is completely safe again if toxins have developed or molds are present. Taste and quality will also be diminished. Your best bet is to refrigerate and drink apple juice quickly, rather than relying on boiling as a fix.


Leaving apple juice unrefrigerated for too long allows bacteria, molds, oxidation, and enzyme activity to quickly diminish its safety, quality and taste. Apple juice left sitting out at room temperature should always be discarded after 4-6 hours. Once substantial microbial growth occurs, refrigeration and freezing cannot undo the contamination. Consuming apple juice that has sat out overnight can potentially cause foodborne illness, so err on the side of caution. Your best bet is finishing or properly storing apple juice quickly after opening. Follow proper food safety practices to get the most enjoyment out of each bottle.

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