As the weather gets warmer, many of us look forward to sipping on a refreshing glass of lemonade. This citrusy drink has been a summer staple for decades, quenching our thirst on hot days. But how long does an opened pitcher of lemonade remain safe and delicious to drink? Here’s what you need to know about how long lemonade can sit out before it goes bad.
What is Lemonade?
Lemonade is a sweetened lemon-flavored beverage typically made by mixing lemon juice, water and sugar or honey. It can be served still, carbonated or frozen. There are two main types of lemonade:
- Store-bought or commercially made lemonade
- Freshly squeezed homemade lemonade
While bottled lemonade has preservatives to increase its shelf life, homemade lemonade made with freshly squeezed lemon juice has a much shorter lifespan.
How Long Does Store-Bought Lemonade Last?
Commercially made bottled lemonade products are pasteurized and sealed to remain safe at room temperature. An unopened bottle or carton of store-bought lemonade will typically last until the expiration date printed on the package.
Once opened, the lemonade must be refrigerated and consumed within 7 to 10 days. Keep the bottle or carton properly sealed in the fridge to help prevent contamination.
If you’ve made lemonade using a powdered store-bought mix like Country Time or Wyler’s, transfer the prepared drink to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for 5 to 7 days.
How Long Can Store-Bought Lemonade Sit Out?
While unopened commercially packaged lemonade can be safely stored at room temperature, opened bottled lemonade or lemonade made from a powdered mix should not be left out unrefrigerated. It can go bad within 12 hours if left out on the kitchen counter overnight.
The lemon juice concentrate, preservatives and water create an environment conducive to bacterial growth if left at room temperature after opening. So store opened lemonade in the fridge and avoid leaving it out too long.
How Long Does Homemade Lemonade Last?
Fresh homemade lemonade only keeps for 2 to 4 hours at room temperature before it starts going bad. The fresh squeezed lemon juice provides the ideal conditions for the rapid growth of mold, yeast and bacteria.
To maximize the shelf life, homemade lemonade made with freshly squeezed lemons should be served right away with plenty of ice to keep it chilled. Any leftovers should be transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated.
How Long Can Homemade Lemonade Sit Out?
Homemade lemonade has a significantly shorter shelf life compared to commercially made bottled lemonade. There are a few reasons for this:
- No preservatives – Unlike store-bought lemonade that contains preservatives, homemade lemonade made with fresh ingredients has no added preservatives.
- Higher water content – The high water content and water activity allow microbes to thrive.
- Exposure to bacteria – Fresh lemons and improper handling during squeezing can introduce bacteria.
For optimal safety and quality, homemade lemonade with freshly squeezed lemon juice should be consumed within 2 hours of being prepared.
How Long Does Lemonade Last in the Fridge?
Proper refrigeration helps extend the shelf life of both store-bought and homemade lemonade. Here’s how long lemonade lasts in the fridge:
- Unopened store-bought lemonade – Until expiration date on package
- Opened store-bought lemonade – 5 to 7 days
- Homemade lemonade – 2 to 3 days
Make sure to store opened lemonade bottles and homemade lemonade pitchers towards the back of the refrigerator, where temperatures are colder.
Can Lemonade Be Left in a Car?
We’ve all left drinks in the car accidentally on hot summer days. But can bottled or homemade lemonade be left in a car safely?
Unopened commercially packaged lemonade like bottles, juice boxes or pouches can be kept in the car without refrigeration. However, it’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight by placing them in the glove compartment or covered in the back seat.
Once opened, bottled lemonade and homemade lemonade in cups or pitchers shouldn’t be left in the car for more than 1 to 2 hours. The hot interior of a car can quickly cause lemonade to spoil and become unsafe to drink.
Signs Lemonade Has Gone Bad
How can you tell if that pitcher of lemonade has overstayed its welcome? Here are some signs that indicate lemonade has gone bad and should be discarded:
- Unusual smell – Foul, rotten or sour odor
- Mold growth – White or green fuzzy spots
- Fizzing or bubbling – Due to fermentation
- Change in appearance – Cloudy, separated liquid
- Change in taste – Sour, bitter flavor
If your lemonade exhibits any of these characteristics, err on the side of caution and throw it away. Consuming spoiled lemonade can cause foodborne illness.
How to Store Lemonade Safely
Follow these tips to safely store lemonade and prevent it from going bad too quickly:
- Refrigerate opened lemonade bottles and freshly squeezed lemonade.
- Use clean utensils and containers when making homemade lemonade.
- Transfer lemonade to an airtight container before refrigerating.
- Keep lemonade containers towards the back of the fridge, not on the door.
- Don’t leave lemonade out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Does Lemonade Need to be Refrigerated?
Refrigeration extends the shelf life of lemonade by slowing down microbial growth. Here are some guidelines:
- Unopened store-bought lemonade – Can be kept at room temp until expiration date
- Opened store-bought lemonade – Requires refrigeration
- Homemade lemonade – Always needs refrigeration
While unopened bottled lemonade can handle being stored in the pantry, homemade lemonade and opened bottles need to be refrigerated. Keep both types of lemonade chilled at 40°F or below.
What if the Power Goes Out?
During summer power outages, people often wonder if refrigerated items like lemonade remain safe to consume. Here are a few general guidelines for store-bought and homemade lemonade:
- Unopened store-bought lemonade stays good at room temp.
- An unopened fridge will keep foods cold for 4-6 hours.
- Discard opened lemonade bottles or pitchers after 4-6 hours without power.
- Add ice to homemade lemonade to help keep it cold during a power outage.
If the power is out for more than 4-6 hours, be safe and throw away any opened lemonade products stored in the warm fridge.
What Temperature Should Lemonade Be?
Proper storage temperatures are important for safety and quality. Here are the ideal temperatures for lemonade:
- Room temperature – Unopened store-bought up to 70°F
- Refrigerator – Opened lemonade 35°F to 40°F
- Drinking temperature – Cold lemonade with ice 40°F or less
Homemade lemonade and opened store-bought lemonade should always be refrigerated and served chilled with lots of ice. For hot summer picnics or BBQs, pack lemonade in a cooler to prevent it from getting warm.
Key Takeaways on How Long Lemonade Can Sit Out
To quickly recap everything on the shelf life of lemonade:
- Unopened store-bought lemonade lasts until the expiration date.
- Opened bottled lemonade stays good for 1 week in the fridge.
- Homemade lemonade only lasts for 2 hours at room temperature.
- Refrigeration extends the shelf life of all types of lemonade.
- Discard lemonade left out more than 2 hours or after loss of refrigeration.
Follow the storage guide for the specific type of lemonade you have on hand. And remember to enjoy this refreshing beverage safely this summer!
Hi, I’m Ben Holland. I love cooking, traveling, and spending time with my family! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes, travel tips, and stories about my adventures with my wife and kids.