How Long Does Fresh Orange Juice Last

Orange juice sits in the pantry and the refrigerator of every household. It’s a breakfast staple, a nutritious refreshment after a run, and the perfect drink for a guest. Most of the time, we are used to drinking all the orange juice almost as an alternative to water. As a result, we don’t really worry about its expiry date at all. But, does orange juice go bad, and how long does fresh orange juice last? 

Orange juice, especially freshly squeezed juice, can go bad if left out for a long time. The citrus flavor will turn rancid. Eventually, it can get contaminated and may cause food poisoning. Store-bought orange juice comes with a date printed on the package. That’s the “best before” date, i.e., the date after which it loses freshness. But, as a thumb rule, remember that fresh orange juice can only last for a few days.

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How Long Does Fresh Orange Juice Last?

Freshly squeezed orange juice remains fresh for 2-3 days, and you must remember to refrigerate it. Since it is an acidic juice, it does not allow bacteria to form easily in it. However, after a few days, the juice becomes rancid as you’d expect from any naturally extracted juice. 

The higher the amount of natural content in your orange juice, the higher will be its chances of getting spoilt. That is because the natural sugars and nutrients in it will attract bacteria to feed on them and cause fermentation. So, 100% fruit juice that you’ve extracted from fruits will last only a few days.

Shelf Life of Orange Juice

How long can you expect orange juice to last? There’s no single answer to this question. The answer depends on the kind of orange juice you choose, its source and ingredients, storage, and more. Fresh orange juice can last anything from 2-3 days to a few months. But, store-bought orange juice comes with the “best before” date printed on the package. 

The “best before” date indicates that the fruit juice is in its best condition before this date. Once the date passes, some of the qualities of the juice may be compromised. However, this does not mean that the juice becomes unfit or unsafe for consumption after the date. So, packaged juice may last for several months after the “best before” date on the label.

How long the juice will last depends on a couple of factors that include:

  • Source of juice
  • Best before/Use by date
  • Storage process
  • Packaging
  • Date of opening the package
  • Pasteurization 
  • Additives and other contents in the juice

Juices that have a higher quantity of natural fruit are likely to spoil faster than those with higher levels of added sugar and preservatives. While the natural sugar in the fruit juices will cause early fermentation, additives will increase the shelf life of the orange juice. That means pure and fresh orange juice that has no preservatives will spoil faster than packaged juice. 

What Date Should You Follow?

Since orange is an acidic fruit, its juice will last longer than other fruit or vegetable juices. That’s because the acid will prevent the bacteria from forming. It’s obviously not possible to get an expiration date or a “best before” date for fresh and pure orange juice. But you must know that it goes bad after 2-3 days. 

As for store-bought orange juice, it is safe to say that it’s safe for consumption even past the “best before” date mentioned on the packages. Within the “best before” date, orange juice purchased from the store is in perfect condition. But some of its properties, like the taste, color, or smell, might change after this date. Due to artificial sugars and preservatives, the juice will still be safe for several more months.

How Long Different Types of Orange Juices Last

The shelf lives of fresh orange juice and packaged orange juice are different. Here’s a quick look at how long you can expect different types of orange juices to last:

  • Freshly squeezed orange juice: 2-3 days
  • Unopened can/bottle of orange juice, sold unrefrigerated: 3-6 months after “best before” date 
  • Unrefrigerated can/bottle of orange juice, after opening: 7-10 days
  • Unopened orange juice, sold refrigerated: 3-5 days after “best before” date
  • Refrigerated orange juice after opening: 7 days

Remember that your orange juice needs to be stored in the refrigerator to last as long as mentioned above. If you choose to freeze the juice at 0 degrees or less, then the juice can last for several more months.

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What Happens When Orange Juice Goes Bad:

So you have understood that freshly squeezed orange juice gets spoilt within the shortest time compared to store-bought orange juice, both unrefrigerated and refrigerated varieties. But the question is – what exactly happens when the orange juice starts to go bad? 

Once orange juice starts to go bad, its properties change. Its color becomes unnatural, and the smell develops a vinegar-like pungency. Molds can begin to form in the juice or the container, making the juice absolutely dangerous for consumption.   

With more time, the orange juice starts to ferment because of yeast that converts the natural sugars in the juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide. That is what makes a juice box look puffy when the juice inside has gone bad. The microorganism in the juice will also start to give off an odorous gas.

If the juice is pasteurized juice, it will remain in a drinkable condition for much longer than unpasteurized juice. That’s because the process of pasteurization uses heat to kill the bacteria in the juice. Unpasteurized juice can become the source of harmful bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli. Such bacteria multiply in the juice even if it’s refrigerated, and can cause food poisoning.

How To Tell If The Orange Juice Has Gone Bad

To know if the orange juice has gone bad, you can try a few tests to check if there are changes in the physical properties.

  • a) Check the smell of the juice to see if there is an acidic or pungent odor, like vinegar or alcohol. 
  • b) See if the color of the juice has changed and become unusual. Slight darkness is natural, though.
  • c) Pour it in a transparent glass and check if there are strange masses or if mold has grown in it.
  • d) If it’s in a juice box, check if the box looks bulgy or feels puffy. 
  • e) Taste a small amount of it and see if it has turned sharp or rancid. 

An easy sign of orange juice going bad is a combination of pungent smell and unusual color. Mold is another tell-tale sign. Puffiness of the container can also tell you if the juice is drinkable or not, but you can only check that if the juice is in a juice carton. It’s not applicable in case of freshly squeezed juice. The taste test is the last choice, and you should only try it in very small amounts.

What Happens When orange juice Isn’t Stored Properly

According to the Food and Drug Administration, i.e., FDA, perishable items like orange juice can develop bacteria when allowed to sit out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. This can be harmful to your health, as the chances of getting food-borne diseases increase with this. 

You already know that because of the natural content, freshly squeezed orange juice spoils easily. So, if it is not stored correctly, it will get fermented and develop bacteria and mold, which will cause ailments. The taste will also be extremely unpleasant.  

Store-bought orange juice, however, will not make you unwell easily, even if it is left out for a short time. Because it has a high pH level, the acidic environment is not quite suitable for bacterial growth.

Plus, store-bought juice is usually pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. But once opened, unrefrigerated orange juice will start to ferment, and the gas produced by microorganisms will give off a putrid smell.   

The worst affected is always fresh orange juice. It is not pasteurized, has less acidic content, and contains natural sugars. So, freshly squeezed orange juice, especially the cold-pressed version, will allow bacteria to thrive much faster. That can increase the chances of catching food-borne diseases.

If you ingest spoiled orange juice, you can experience various side effects that might be temporary or long-term. Immediate reactions include vomiting, nausea, and dizziness. Eventually, these reactions may intensify, along with other reactions like diarrhea and fever. These are similar to the symptoms of stomach flu. More serious effects may include high fever and difficulty in breathing. 

How to Store Fresh Orange Juice

To get the best out of freshly squeezed orange juice for the longest time, you need to store it properly in the refrigerator. Keep the juice in a clean bottle or jar and seal it tightly to prevent the entry of air or bacteria. This is the perfect way to keep the juice in good shape for 2-3 days. 

Another way of storing freshly squeezed orange juice is by freezing it. Transfer the juice to a tray of ice cubes and freeze it. Then, keep the cubes in a ziplock bag and keep the bag in the freezer. These juice cubes will last for 3-4 months. Defrost the juice cubes as and when you need, at room temperature. 

An essential part of storing fresh orange juice is the sanitization of the juicer and the storage container. If there’s any contaminant in the juicer or the container, it will compromise the shelf life of the fresh orange juice. So, clean and sanitize them properly to ensure that the juice does not go bad. 

Storing Store-Bought Orange Juice

You can keep store-bought orange juice in the refrigerator or a dark and cool part of the pantry. The storage of store-bought orange juice depends on whether or not you have opened the container. Understandably, store-bought orange juice can last for quite a while after the “best before” date when it’s unopened. Once it is opened, the “best before” date does not apply to it anymore. 

If you buy unrefrigerated, commercially bottled/canned juice, you can keep it in the refrigerator, pantry, or cabinet. Make sure that it’s not exposed to light, especially if the bottle is transparent. Fluctuations in temperature can affect the quality of the juice adversely. 

Once you open the pack, however, it must be refrigerated in a tightly sealed container. If you’ve purchased orange juice that’s sold refrigerated, you must continue to refrigerate this juice to keep it edible, whether opened or unopened. 

Another way to preserve orange juice is by freezing it. This is a tried and tested method that can keep the juice safe for consumption for several months. However, you need to remember that the quality of the juice will degrade considerably after it is thawed.

Tips For Storing And using Fresh Orange Juice

To sum it up, here are the tips to enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice at its best:

  • Keep it in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. 
  • Throw it away after 2-3 days. 
  • You can freeze the juice in the form of ice cubes at 0 degrees or less. 
  • It can remain in its best condition for 3-4 months in the freezer, but will still be consumable for some time after that. 
  • Once thawed, it will last for 2-3 more days in the refrigerator. 
  • If you have a batch of orange juice that you want to use immediately, you can try making cupcakes and cocktails with it. Or, you can use the juice in chicken recipes. 

Conclusion

Fresh orange juice needs careful storage, and even then, it won’t last for more than 2-3 days. If you want your orange juice to last for a long time, store-bought orange juices, especially the commercially packaged, pasteurized ones, are your best options. But they will only stay drinkable if unopened. However, remember that freshly squeezed orange juice, with no preservatives or added sugar, is much healthier. 

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