How Long Homemade Iced Tea Really Lasts In The Fridge

Making iced tea is so easy that you might swear off of buying it from the store. By just simmering water with the tea bags of your choice, you can brew up a super refreshing beverage for a hot day, especially if you pick one of the best types of tea for hydration. The only confusing part is knowing what to do with leftovers, especially if you're trying to finish a large pitcher by yourself. 

There's lots of conflicting advice on how long this drink can last in the fridge, but most sources caution against keeping it for longer than a few days. According to a 1996 report, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control state that homemade iced tea should only be stored in the fridge for eight hours after brewing, if you want to be the safest. This short time frame ensures that no harmful bacteria, such as Enterobacter or even E. coli, have a chance to grow in the beverage or the container it sits in. 

On the other hand, most tea purveyors recommend drinking leftover iced tea within three days, so you're probably going to be fine if you've drank tea that's a day old or so. If you're willing to take a little bit more of a risk, you can indeed refrigerate the tea for a few days, but its flavors will gradually turn dull and it will eventually spoil.

Tips on storing and using homemade iced tea

To make sure that your iced tea doesn't spoil prematurely, transfer it to a clean, airtight container for storage. While an open glass pitcher is convenient for pouring, it won't stop any distracting odors or harmful pathogens in your fridge from infiltrating the tea. You do still want to use a glass vessel, though — this crucial iced tea tip prevents plastic containers from leaching residual flavors into your beverage over time. 

Don't hesitate to throw out your tea if you notice any foul odors, rancid flavors, or signs of stringy white residue or cloudy mold. Fresh tea should look nice and clear. Also, never leave garnishes like herbs or fruits in your tea before storing it, as these can spoil on their own and ruin the whole container. In fact, it's better to store the tea sans garnishes or mix-ins, and add them right before serving, instead. 

On the topic of finishing touches, flavorful add-ins can always make leftover tea more exciting. If you're looking for an effortless way to brighten up this beverage, a squeeze of lemon juice or a spoonful of muddled strawberries never hurts, or you can even add a sprinkle of baking soda to get rid of bitterness in the drink. To use up a lot of leftover tea, mix it into cocktails or blend it into smoothies to add some refreshing, herbal notes to your drinks.