How Long Can Coffee Creamer Sit Out Before Going Bad?

Nicole Austin

Our coffee fanatic weighs in on best practices for your coffee creamer.

It happened to me just last week. I brewed a pot of coffee and poured myself a mug in peace, just moments before flying through a typical morning routine — letting the dogs out, waking my youngest child for school, the rush for finding the boots and other last-minute items.

Before I knew it, an hour had flown by when suddenly I remembered… I left the coffee creamer out.

How Long Can Coffee Creamer Sit Out Photo

As an avid “THAT NEEDS TO BE REFRIGERATED” enthusiast (ask my co-workers, this is something I’m quite well known for in the office), I wanted to make sure that my creamer was still safe to consume.

After all, I was going to do this again tomorrow. And a trip to the hectic grocery store in the cold weather just for one container of creamer sounded traumatizing.

Like me, you may be wondering how long coffee creamer can sit out, and now you’ll have all the answers!

How Long Can Coffee Creamer Be Out of the Fridge?

The answer to this question depends largely on the kind of creamer you’re dealing with.

Dairy-based creamers, or any that are labeled to refrigerate after opening, should not sit out for more than two hours. However, this number isn’t set in stone.

The true concern is that the creamer will reach room temperature, which will then make it a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. However, any temperature between 40°F and 140°F allows for bacteria to grow.

Therefore, the timeframe largely depends on how large the creamer container is, how warm the house is, etc. But the best rule of thumb is: as soon as possible and no longer than two hours.

Creamer can warm up faster than you might think, especially in warmer months or in those cozy indoor winter temps.

How Long Can Coffee Creamer Sit Out Picture

If you’re not sure whether or not your creamer is still safe to consume, consider the temperature of the container when you handle it again, the smell of the product, an altered texture, or just the sense that something isn’t quite right.

Kind of a go-with-your-gut thing, but in this case, your gut’s pretty much looking out for itself.

If the container is still quite chilled, it’s been less than two hours, and everything smells and tastes fine, you’re probably all set!

But use your discretion and be prepared to toss it if necessary. It's generally a good idea to err on the side of caution, especially if you see even minor signs of spoilage (like even a mildly unpleasant odor), you're past the use-by date, haven't been following proper storage advice, or your open container has been exposed to warm temperatures (especially for a long time).

Tip: You can also make coffee with butter instead of creamer. Learn about bulletproof coffee.

What Is Bulletproof Coffee? Photo

Why Does Some Creamer Not Need to Be Refrigerated?

There are two main types of creamers.

Refrigerated creamers

As the name suggests, these creamers are found in the cooler or fridge at stores. They are sometimes referred to as half and half or heavy cream. They can be plain or have added sweeteners and flavors.

Non-refrigerated creamers

These are considered shelf stable. They can be non-dairy or dairy creamers. The USDA defines shelf stable as a food that can be stored safely at room temperature.

This type of creamer often contains preservatives and other ingredients that prevent bacterial growth. Because of the way they are processed and packaged, they can last several months or even years unopened and stored at room temperature, making them great for pantries.

Once opened, these products need to be refrigerated and consumed within 7-14 days. Refer to the packaging or the manufacturer’s guidelines for the safest practices for each individual product.

When in doubt, err on the lower side of recommendations to ensure safety and full enjoyment of all products. Also, check the expiration date before making your morning coffee, just to be sure you stay out of the danger zone with your shelf-stable creamers.

These products will always need refrigeration once opened due to the exposure to bacteria, which would continue to grow in temperatures at or above 40°F.

FAQ: Can you put milk in a coffee maker?

Can You Put Milk in a Coffee Maker Photo

Is Shelf Stable Milk Still Real Milk?

You may wonder why you have always known the importance of storing real milk in a refrigerator, and yet now you’re looking at a product that boasts that it is made of real milk yet sits on a shelf. Milk (yes, real milk) can be made shelf stable by pasteurizing it at a higher temperature.

This is called UHT, or ultra-high temperature pasteurization.

Mass produced store-bought milk is pasteurized by heating it up to at least 161 degrees for 15 seconds to kill any bacteria present in the milk. UHT pasteurization involves heating the milk to 280 to 300°F for two to six seconds.

Both of these processes make milk safe to drink by killing any existing bacteria, so you may be wondering why it is that only one of them is safe to store without refrigeration.

It's worth noting that this is different than white coffee, which is something else entirely. Same goes for blonde espresso.

Milk that is shelf stable is packaged in sterile packaging in a sterile environment. All bottles are produced on site and then sterilized, so the entire process is monitored and controlled. The use of a sterile environment for packaging eliminates any further risk of contamination, ensuring that the milk can last up to six months on the shelf without refrigeration.

This milk remains high-quality and fresh, despite the difference in packaging.

Per the FDA, pasteurization does not damage the integrity or the overall nutritional profile of milk. The only loss is the minute amount of vitamin C that unpasteurized milk contains, which does not survive the pasteurization process. Shelf stable milk is also created in smaller servings than traditional gallons of milk, so there is generally less waste.

FAQ: Does a Chemex really make better coffee?

How to Brew Coffee with a Chemex Picture

What Are the Types of Creamers and How Long Do They Last?

Here's a quick rundown:

Liquid dairy creamers

This is the most straightforward type of creamer. It's typically labeled as heavy cream, or half and half, though some branding exists with flavors or sweeteners added.

These should never be left out for longer than two hours under any circumstances, and that is the maximum amount of time it should be considered remotely safe.

Once opened, it is generally best to plan to consume them within 7 to 10 days.

Always check dairy products for freshness before consuming, regardless of the date stamped on the package or the amount of time they have been opened. You can help prolong the freshness of liquid dairy creamers by placing them back in the fridge immediately after use, or between uses.

Using clean utensils when pouring will avoid additional contamination. A tight seal will also aid in preventing the introduction of bacteria.

For this same reason, we recommend you do not pour unused liquid back in. Do not use this cream if it has curdled or has an off or sour smell.

Liquid non-dairy creamers

These are dairy alternatives that may be made from alternative sources such as soy milk, oat milk, or almond milk.

While these are considered shelf stable until opened, all of the same rules and recommendations apply to this type of creamer as dairy creamers.

Both types of creamers are apt to carry bacteria if left in warmer conditions for any length of time, and are subject to contamination by outside sources if not stored or utilized properly.

Spiked Mocha Latte Image

Powdered coffee creamer

Powder creamers have an amazing shelf life. This makes them a perfect solution to have on hand for guests, for coffee drinkers that may not regularly indulge, and for group settings where coffee creamers may not always be properly stored or cared for.

These can be stored at room temperature for up to 24 months when stored in a cool, dry environment. Keep them where you would keep your flour or sugar.

A low moisture content keeps them safe from bacteria or mold.

When kept dry and sealed tightly, this is arguably the safest creamer solution when it comes to food safety.

Look for visible clues such as black spots, a darker overall shade, or clumps to see if the creamer has gone by, or take a whiff. It should smell and look the same as it did when first opened.

Flavored creamers

Available in a wide variety of flavors that only seems to expand every season of every year, these creamers come in classic varieties such as vanilla or hazelnut, all the way to sugar cookies, peppermint, pumpkin spice, and more.

Like all of the other liquid creamers, these are not to be left at room temperature for any longer than 2 hours. It is best to consume these within 7-10 days of opening.

The sugar content may decrease the freshness sooner than other creamers, so be aware when you pour your next cup. Look for a creamer that appears too thick or too thin to decide visually if this creamer is past its heyday.

Tip: Learn how to thicken coffee like a pro.

How to Thicken Coffee Photo

How Long Can Coffee with Creamer In It Sit Out?

Maybe you’re guilty of sipping on a cup for a little bit too long some days, like I am. I know I should probably go by that tell-tale ring around the inside of the mug, but sometimes there’s just no stopping me.

Coffee with liquid or refrigerated creamer should be consumed within… yep, you guessed it: two hours. Do you sense a theme here?

I’m telling you — once you know it, you know it.

As mentioned above, I’m even getting into the heads of some of my co-workers with this argument.

So, you’re probably thinking… does this also apply to non-dairy creamer? Well, yes, generally it does.

If the package tells you to refrigerate after opening, you have spoilage concerns on top of time constraints that will be an additional factor in determining how long your coffee will stay “good” when left out. But, it’s possible to safely enjoy coffee that contains shelf stable creamers for 3-4 hours without major issues.

So, if you’re guilty of being a slow sipper, you may be in the clear. If you truly know you will be spending a good chunk of the day with that same coffee in hand, consider powdered creamer.

A cup of coffee with powdered creamer is generally good for about 4-5 hours. So if you were one of the people who sat through the Oppenheimer and Barbie double feature, this coffee would likely have been a great companion.

If you're going longer than that time frame, make yourself a fresh coffee or stick to black coffee. Especially if you're in a humid environment.

How to Make Coffee in a Microwave Picture

Tip: Love coffee? Explore our ultimate coffee guide.

What Makes Coffee Creamer Go Bad?

Apart from the aforementioned bacteria that loves to multiply at high rates of speed when given the opportunity, there are other reasons why your coffee creamer can go bad.


It’s what’s inside that really counts. No, this isn’t guidance class. I’m still talking about your creamer. Some ingredients are more susceptible to spoilage or bacterial growth than others.

Creamers with preservatives tend to last longer in all conditions and hold up better over time.


While we’re all drawn to a nice looking product that satisfies our senses, the fact is that packaging is a major factor in how long a product lasts or how high the quality remains over time.

Air tight seals and sterilized packaging are two ways to extend the shelf life of your creamer, but another factor that plays into packaging is:

Exposure to light

Darker packages, such as those that are opaque (think of your regular gallon of milk) or completely free of light (such as a creamer’s box-like structure), reduce the risk of spoilage by light.

Well-sealed packaging with lids that close tightly help reduce the risk of exposure to extra bacteria.


The conditions your creamer exists in are going to be one of the biggest reasons it does or does not last. Environments with stable temperatures that reduce large fluctuations are best for storage of any refrigerated product.

Even powdered creamers should be stored in a cool, dry place to prevent spoilage. In the end, a lot of this comes down to common sense.

Store all dairy food in cool temperatures as long and as often as possible at all times. Refrigerate any food you don’t plan to use within two hours’ time to help reduce bacterial growth.

Checking labels, using your senses to see if anything seems off, and making wise decisions when you’re in doubt will help prevent illness or unhappiness surrounding your treasured coffee creamer.

By the way, did you know that you can make coffee in a microwave?

How to Make Coffee in a Microwave Photo

Nicole is a self-published author of fiction novels, and a lover of food and spending time in the kitchen with her six children. She lives in coastal Maine where she loves exploring new recipes especially those that can save time, money and wow a crowd.

Tags: , , ,