How Long Can Apple Cider Be Left Out

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Apple cider is a popular and refreshing drink that many people enjoy during the fall months. Whether you purchase it from the store or make it at home, it’s important to know how long it can be left out before it goes bad. In this article, we’ll explore the science behind apple cider spoilage, the factors that affect its shelf life, and provide tips for storing and preserving it properly.

The Science Behind Apple Cider Spoilage

Apple cider is a natural beverage made from apple juice that has been fermented and aged. During the fermentation process, yeasts convert the natural sugars in apples to alcohol. Over time, the alcohol content will decrease as the cider continues to age, and it may eventually turn into vinegar. When left out, cider can start to spoil due to the presence of bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms that thrive on sugar and moisture. These microorganisms can cause the cider to become sour, fizzy, or slimy, and may even produce harmful toxins that can make you sick.

It is important to store apple cider properly to prevent spoilage. The best way to store cider is in a cool, dark place, such as a refrigerator. This will slow down the growth of microorganisms and help to preserve the flavor and quality of the cider. Additionally, it is important to check the expiration date on the cider before consuming it, as expired cider may already be spoiled and can cause illness.

Factors That Affect Apple Cider Shelf Life

Several factors can affect the shelf life of apple cider, including the level of acidity, the presence of preservatives, and the storage conditions. High-acid ciders tend to last longer than low-acid ciders, as the acidic environment can inhibit the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate can also help extend the shelf life of cider by preventing the growth of yeast and bacteria. These additives are commonly found in store-bought ciders but may not be present in homemade versions. Proper storage is also crucial to keeping cider fresh for longer. Exposure to air, light, heat, and moisture can all contribute to spoilage, so it’s important to store your cider in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Another factor that can affect the shelf life of apple cider is the type of apples used to make it. Certain varieties of apples, such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, have a higher acidity level and can produce a cider that lasts longer. On the other hand, sweeter apples like Red Delicious may produce a cider that spoils more quickly.

It’s also important to note that unpasteurized apple cider has a shorter shelf life than pasteurized cider. Pasteurization involves heating the cider to a high temperature to kill off any harmful bacteria, which can extend its shelf life. Unpasteurized cider, on the other hand, may contain harmful bacteria that can cause illness if consumed after its expiration date.

Can Unopened Apple Cider Go Bad?

Unopened apple cider can go bad if it has been stored improperly or for too long. Most commercially-sold ciders have a “best by” date indicating the optimal time frame for consumption. While it’s possible for the cider to last past this date, it may start to lose its flavor and freshness over time. Additionally, if the container has been damaged or punctured, it may be unsafe to consume. When in doubt, always check the appearance, smell, and taste of the cider before drinking.

It’s important to note that unopened apple cider can also ferment over time, especially if it’s been stored in a warm or humid environment. This can cause the cider to become carbonated and develop an alcoholic content, which may not be suitable for everyone. If you’re unsure about the quality or safety of your unopened apple cider, it’s best to err on the side of caution and dispose of it properly.

How to Store Apple Cider Properly

To extend the shelf life of apple cider, it’s important to store it properly. If the cider is commercially-sold, check the label for any specific storage instructions. In general, it’s best to keep cider in its original, sealed container in a cool, dark, and dry place. Avoid exposing the cider to direct sunlight, heat, or moisture, as these can speed up spoilage. Once the container has been opened, it’s important to refrigerate the cider promptly and consume it within a few days.

It’s also important to note that apple cider can ferment if it’s not stored properly. Fermentation can cause the cider to become fizzy and alcoholic, which may not be desirable for everyone. To prevent fermentation, make sure the cider is stored at a temperature below 40°F. If you notice any signs of fermentation, such as bubbles or a sour smell, it’s best to discard the cider.

Another tip for storing apple cider is to avoid storing it near strong-smelling foods, such as onions or garlic. Cider can easily absorb odors from other foods, which can affect its flavor. It’s best to store cider in a separate area of the refrigerator or pantry to prevent any unwanted flavors from seeping in.

Tips for Extending the Shelf Life of Apple Cider

There are several strategies you can use to extend the shelf life of your apple cider:

  • Add preservatives like potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate
  • Pasteurize the cider before storing it
  • Use an airtight container or vacuum sealer to limit exposure to air and moisture
  • Store cider in the refrigerator or freezer

Signs That Your Apple Cider Has Gone Bad

There are several telltale signs that your apple cider has gone bad, including:

  • A change in color, texture, or clarity
  • An off or unpleasant odor
  • A sour or spoiled taste
  • Fizziness or foam on the surface
  • Mold or bacterial growth

What to Do with Spoiled Apple Cider

If your apple cider has gone bad, it’s important to dispose of it properly. Do not attempt to drink or consume it. Instead, pour it down the sink or toilet. If you compost, you can add the spoiled cider to your compost bin, as the natural acids and sugars can help break down organic materials.

How to Tell If Your Apple Cider Is Safe to Drink

If you’re unsure whether your apple cider is safe to drink, use your senses to assess its condition. Look for any signs of spoilage, such as mold or bacterial growth, and check the color, texture, and clarity of the cider. Smell the cider to detect any off or unpleasant odors, and taste a small amount to ensure it hasn’t gone sour or spoiled. If in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and avoid consuming potentially unsafe cider.

The Health Risks of Drinking Expired Apple Cider

Drinking expired apple cider can pose several health risks, as the bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms that grow on spoiled cider can produce harmful toxins that can cause food poisoning, stomach upset, and other illnesses. In rare cases, consuming contaminated cider can even lead to serious health complications like botulism. It’s important to always store and consume cider safely and within its recommended shelf life to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.

Comparing Fresh vs Store-Bought Apple Ciders: Which Lasts Longer?

While fresh apple cider and store-bought cider may taste different, they generally have similar shelf lives when stored properly. Fresh cider may last slightly longer due to its natural acidity and lack of preservatives, but both types of cider can spoil if not stored properly. Generally, cider that has been commercially produced and contains preservatives will have a longer shelf life than homemade cider.

Preserving Homemade Apple Cider: Methods and Tips

If you make your own apple cider, there are several methods you can use to help preserve it and extend its shelf life:

  • Pasteurize the cider before storing it
  • Add preservatives like potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate
  • Use an airtight container or vacuum sealer to limit exposure to air and moisture
  • Store cider in the refrigerator or freezer

How to Reheat Leftover or Chilled Apple Cider Safely

If you have leftover or chilled apple cider that you’d like to reheat, it’s important to do so safely to avoid bacterial growth. The easiest way to reheat cider is to do so on the stovetop. Simply heat the cider slowly on low heat until it reaches your desired temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. You can also reheat cider in the microwave, but be sure to do so in short intervals and stir frequently to prevent overheating. Never let cider sit at room temperature for an extended period of time, as this can increase the risk of spoilage.

The Best Ways to Enjoy Your Apple Cider Before It Expires

There are countless ways to enjoy apple cider before it expires, from drinking it plain to using it as a cocktail mixer or marinade. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Add a splash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla for a cozy fall twist
  • Spike your cider with bourbon, rum, or whiskey for a warming winter drink
  • Use it as a base for hot cider cocktails, like mulled wine or spiked cider
  • Make cider donuts, muffins, or other baked goods with your leftover supply
  • Use it as a marinade for pork, chicken, or other meats for a sweet and tangy flavor

Bonus Recipe: Creative Ways to Use Up Your Leftover/Expiring Apple Cider

If you find yourself with leftover or expiring apple cider, try this delicious and creative recipe:

Spiced Apple Cider Pancakes


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, apple cider, melted butter, and vanilla extract.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Scoop 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet for each pancake.
  5. Cook until the edges of the pancake start to dry and the surface begins to bubble. Flip the pancake over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  6. Serve with your favorite pancake toppings, such as butter, maple syrup, or whipped cream.

This recipe yields approximately 8-10 pancakes and is a delicious and creative way to use up your leftover or expiring apple cider.


Apple cider is a delicious and refreshing drink that can be enjoyed during the fall and winter months. To maximize its shelf life and ensure its safety, it’s important to store and consume cider properly, and to be aware of the signs of spoilage. With the tips and tricks outlined in this article, you can safely enjoy your apple cider and create delicious recipes for yourself and your loved ones.

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