Do you fancy coffee but you don’t really enjoy it black? Don’t worry, there are a wide array of products available to boost up the taste of your coffee, from milk (dairy and plant-based), cream, coconut cream, half-and-half, and coffee creamer.
Trying a new flavor of coffee cream sounds a great idea. But coffee creamer comes in so many different flavors that you find it difficult to decide and end up buying several bottles at once.
By the end of the week, you have some open coffee creamer and start wondering: how long will coffee creamer last? Will it go bad quickly? How to tell if a coffee creamer is bad? Should I buy the powder instead of the liquid one?
Don’t worry, in this article, you will find the most useful pieces of information you want to find out about coffee creamer: shelf life, storage, and ultimately how to tell if coffee creamer goes bad.
A little note before we move on to the next part, this article will only cover the shelf life of coffee creamer. Similar products such as half-and-half (or half cream), plant-based milk (coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, etc.), cream, will be covered in other articles.
What is Coffee Creamer?
Coffee creamers might be a staple product in many households. Despite being named as “coffee” creamer, it is enjoyed as much as with tea, hot chocolate, even for making a decadent dessert.
Coffee creamer generally refers to non-dairy creamers made from a combination of vegetable oil, water, and sugar. It is added into hot beverages to enhance the taste and add some sweetness. Although cited as non-dairy, some brands may be lactose-free but still contain milk derivatives (casein).
Depending on which country you are, types and flavors of coffee creamer may vary. Generally, it comes in powder and liquid.
1. Powdered coffee creamer (or “whitener”)
These are typically non-dairy creamers, original flavor, white (hence its name), packed in single-serving and multiple servings.
2. Liquid coffee creamer
It can be both dairy and non-dairy. It comes in a diverse variety of flavors. The dairy version contains milk, cream, sugar and some flavoring agents (not to be confused with half-and-half). It is packed in a mini cup (single serving), bottle, or tetra-pack box.
How to Store Coffee Creamer
Powdered coffee creamer is a shelf-stable product and relatively simple to handle. It can be kept in a cool, dry area, away from sources of heat and direct sunlight, such as your kitchen pantry or cupboard.
After opening, don’t forget to tightly close the lid. Coffee creamers usually contain sugar and may attract ants and other insects. Moisture is also something to avoid when storing powdered creamer as it tends to clump when exposed to air and humidity.
If you think necessary, you can also consider transferring the creamer into an airtight container. This is suggested if you buy it in a refill or plastic packaging that is not easily resealable. Always use a clean utensil to take the product to prevent cross-contamination.
Liquid coffee creamers can be either dairy and non-dairy. If you pick them from an unrefrigerated shelf at the store, it should be safe to do the same way in your house. Store it in the pantry until you need to use it. Generally, the manufacturer suggests to keep it refrigerated after opening. Don’t forget to always close it tightly.
If you pick up a liquid creamer from a refrigerated shelf, keep it in the fridge as soon as you’re home. This type of creamer usually contains milk and cream and will spoil if left unrefrigerated.
Mini cup liquid creamer (single serving) is made as a shelf-stable, portable product that doesn’t need refrigeration. You can find this creamer served at a restaurant, hotel, office, or pantry. This product is also suitable to bring for traveling.
How Long Does Coffee Creamer Last?
Each coffee creamer product, whether it is powder, liquid, refrigerated, or shelf-stable, will go bad eventually. The producer provides a “best before date” or “use by date” as a guidance for your consumption.
The date indicates an estimate from the producers that the products should remain in its best quality with proper storage. It is always recommended to consume products before the date to enjoy the best product quality.
It is also possible that coffee creamer goes bad before the date if not stored properly or if the container is damaged.
Powdered coffee creamers may last longest than the other types. If you only use it occasionally, this product is your best pick. It may still last for up to 3 – 6 months passing the date. After opening, it is advised to finish the product within 2 – 3 months to enjoy its peak quality. It is not necessary to refrigerate this product.
Mini cup liquid creamer is shelf-stable but doesn’t last as long as a powdered creamer. It lasts for 6 – 9 months after production date (may vary on different producers). Consult the label for the date.
Liquid coffee creamer is less durable, either both dairy and non-dairy. Try to stick with the date on the label. After opening, consume it within 1 – 2 weeks (may differ for each brand, always check the label). After passing the date, it may still be good, but this product tends to go bad faster. Check signs of spoilages before pouring into your coffee.
How to Tell if Coffee Creamer is Bad
It is not very difficult to tell if your coffee creamer has gone bad or spoiled. You can always do the simple way: use your senses to check the look, smell, and taste.
For powdered creamer, if it smells off, changes in color, sign of molds, gets infested with contaminants (ants, insects), you may consider discarding it. If you’re not sure, add a small amount into the coffee. If the taste is still fine, you can continue with your next cup of coffee.
After a while, the powder may start getting clumpy due to exposure to air and moisture. As long as it doesn’t smell off, it should be fine to consume.
For liquid creamers, especially dairy-based, the obvious sign is a sour smell like that of bad milk. If you also observe a noticeable change in texture (clumpy, curdled), it is also time to discard the creamer. Dairy-containing products tend to go bad more quickly. If any spoilage sign is found, better to stay on the safe side.
If the liquid seems fine but you are still unsure (for example it has passed the date), taste a small amount to decide if you’re still going to keep it or move on.
Yes, it is possible, but expect a change in flavor and taste. Especially for dairy liquid creamers, don’t consume too long after the use-by date for safety reasons.
If you are not sure, try to do a quick safety test to tell if the coffee creamer has gone bad or not. If no spoilage signs are observed, try to taste a bit to decide.
Powdered coffee creamers are shelf-stable and do not need refrigeration. On the other hand, liquid dairy creamer should always be refrigerated (unless it is ultra-pasteurized). The rule of thumb to preserve perishable food is to not leave it outside for more than 2 hours.
This phenomenon is called “beverage feathering”(*). It might be undesirable but is totally harmless. It results from chemical reactions when creamer is added into hot coffee.
Coffee creamer is made of both dairy and non-dairy and sold in powder and liquid. Make sure to check the ingredients if you have concerns regarding dairy products.
Whether it is dairy or non-dairy, coffee creamer can go bad after a while. Powdered coffee cream and the mini cup liquid creamer are shelf-stable products that don’t need refrigeration. Liquid creamer can be kept at room temperature or in the fridge before opening. After opening, always keep it refrigerated.
If you’re doubtful if your coffee creamer is still good and safe to consume, check if there are any signs of spoilage. If still doubting, better to discard it. Practice proper storage and enjoy your coffee creamer before it loses its quality!
*Photo by PantherMediaSeller/depositphotos