Lemonade may seem like a rot-resisting beverage, after all, it has a high acidic content and bacteria-fighting compounds. But you would be surprised by just how quickly improperly stored lemonade can go bad!
Does lemonade go bad? Yes, lemonade is shelf stable only if it is stored in an airtight container and is consistently refrigerated over its storage life. However, once you open a bottle of lemonade, it can go bad within hours at room temperature and should be consumed within 3-4 days if refrigerated.
Continue reading below as we debunk the myth of storing lemonade and the best practices that you should use when you need to store lemonade for the long term!
Self-Sustaining Lemonade – Myth or Fact?
No one truly knows how the myth of lemonade’s longevity came about, but one can assume that the reason why people believe it to be rot-resisting is because of its acidic content and bacteria-fighting capabilities.
After all, you will usually find lemon at the center of many anti-bacterial products such as soap and dishwashing liquids.
But the truth is, lemonade contains a dangerous mix of all the things that bacteria love: sugar and moisture – and when you factor in a cozy temperature, then you are looking at a ticking time bomb that is just waiting to go bad!
But if lemon juice has a low pH, why does it go bad?
It’s true, bacteria can’t thrive in an acidic environment, and this is why high-acidic products like brined foods can survive even at room temperatures – but two other factors go unnoticed in this equation: water and air.
Causes of Rot
See, even if you have a highly acidic food such as lemons, it will simply bow down to the basic laws of chemistry and biology.
The first point of concern is air.
Air causes oxidative stress on organic material. Whether it is fruit, meat, or even you.
Given enough time, oxygen, along with other naturally present factors, will gradually cause organic material to lose its original characteristics.
In the case of lemonade, even when you store the glass in the fridge, it will likely lose its flavor and quality, especially if you store it in an open glass.
The second thing to consider is temperature and moisture.
Bacteria love a humid and warm environment, and no matter how acidic a food is, these little bugs will easily compromise the superficial layer of the food before making their way inside.
This is why lemonade should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours!
How to Store Lemonade
Storing lemonade is very easy and you can follow a few basic best practices to prolong the shelf life of the beverage by up to 3-4 days for homemade lemonade and up to a week for commercial lemonade.
Homemade Vs. Commercial Lemonade
Before we get into the storage method, it is important to note the difference between homemade and commercial lemonade.
See, most homemade lemonades are made from 100% natural ingredients – so they are more likely to go bad compared to commercial lemonade that is fortified with chemicals and has added preservatives.
Commercial unopened lemonade will be shelf stable up till the best-before date printed on the bottle, and this type of beverage may even survive room temperatures for longer!
But they too will succumb to air and other factors over time.
Here are some tips on how to store lemonade:
Airtight Bottle and Refrigeration
Your first line of defense against lemonade going bad is an airtight bottle and colder temperatures. If you bought fresh lemonade, then we highly recommend that you store any leftovers in an airtight bottle.
Storing lemonade in an airtight bottle will not only prolong its shelf life but will also keep the beverage from changing its color, aroma, and flavor – or at least these effects will be delayed!
Store the bottle in the fridge at 40F for the best experience. While the airtight bottle will keep the beverage fresh, refrigeration will ensure that the bottle remains free of any bacteria.
Properly stored lemonade will last up to 3-4 days in the fridge. You can push the storage time to about a week but the beverage might lose its flavor due to slow oxidization.
Keeping Sunlight Away
The reason why food should be kept away from sunlight isn’t just because of the heat, but also because sunlight can damage the compounds in food and can make them go bad faster!
This is why even in colder ambient temperatures; sunlight can easily cause the food to dip in quality. Always store unopened bottles of lemonade in a cool and dark place to get the most out of its shelf life!
Freezing is the best way to prolong the shelf life of lemonade by up to several months. But this method also requires a few key best practices to get the most out of the flavor and quality of the beverage.
Luckily, lemon juice freezes well and since lemonade is a mixture of water, sugar, and lemon juice, you can easily freeze the beverage for later use.
To freeze lemonade, we recommend storing it in a freezer-safe airtight bottle.
Tightly seal the lid and store the bottle at the back of the freezer at 0F.
For the best results, keep the bottle upright and don’t fill the bottle up to the cap. Leave a bit of room inside for the liquid to expand as it cools.
Frozen homemade lemonade should last about 2-3 months while commercial lemonade can be frozen for up to 6 months. Please always check the storage indication mentioned on the bottle for a better storage experience.
To thaw lemonade, just shift the bottle from the freezer to the fridge and thaw overnight. You can also run warm water over the bottle to quickly defrost it – but never defrost lemonade at room temperature!
Once thawed, avoid refreezing the bottle and try to consume the lemonade within 2 hours. If you have leftovers then store the defrosted lemonade in the fridge and consume it within 1-2 days for maximum flavor.
Signs of Spoilage
Fortunately, there are a few things that you can look out for to determine the overall quality and safety of lemonade.
Here is one of the most important signs:
Color and Texture
Fresh lemonade will maintain its color so long as it is stored properly. Always visually inspect a stored bottle of lemonade before consumption.
If you notice a dullness in color then this might indicate that the lemonade has started to go bad. You should also check the lemonade for any visible growths – this includes fuzzy or moldy growths on the surface or around the bottle.
Gently tilt the bottle to inspect its texture too. When you tilt the bottle or agitate the surface, you should not see any debris in the lemonade. We recommend pouring a bit of lemonade into a glass if the bottle isn’t transparent.
If you notice even a small visual change in the lemonade, then this will likely indicate that the beverage has gone bad. Please discard the entire bottle because it will likely already be highly contaminated with bacteria.
Flavor or Aromatic Changes
If the lemonade looks okay then you can move on to the next inspection step.
First, smell the lemonade and see if you can pick up on any foul odors. Food that goes bad can develop a light sulfuric smell. If you notice the lemonade has a sharp or even faint rotten smell, then it is safe to assume that it has been compromised.
If you can’t detect any aromatic changes then you can do a quick taste test.
Before gulping the sample, take a small sip and check for flavor changes. A properly stored bottle of lemonade may taste less fresh but it should never taste bad or sour.
Keep in mind that dips in flavor are normal, especially in the case of homemade lemonade which is prone to oxidization. But if you taste any foul notes, then you should assume that the beverage has gone bad.
Spit out the lemonade, rinse your mouth and discard the bottle!
Lemonade can go bad, especially if it isn’t stored properly. Always use the recommended best practices for storing any type of beverage to get the most out of its quality!
Now that you know how to store lemonade, here are some related questions:
Can you drink lemonade past its best-before date?
Most commercial lemonades will have either a best-before date or an expiration date. The best-before date is printed for beverages that can also be frozen.
If you have kept an unopened bottle of lemonade in the freezer then you should be able to drink the beverage sometime after the best-before date, but it will likely not taste great.
But in the case of the expiration date, we do not recommend that you consume any expired beverage, even if it looks okay.
Can lemon concentrate go bad?
Yes, lemon concentrate can also go bad. Even though lemon concentrate has a better shelf life and doesn’t contain sugar or enough moisture, it will still go bad if it is not stored properly.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice should be stored in the fridge and consumed within 2-3 days.