Did you happen to leave almond milk out for too long? Maybe even overnight? If you did in either case, you might be wondering if your almond milk is OK. After all, almond milk isn’t real milk. Nor is it dairy-based in any way. So, you might think it’s completely OK to use it still. Maybe not in coffee or on cereal, but you can still use it for baking or sauces or something involving heat, right?
No. If you’ve left your almond milk on the counter and not in the fridge and it’s been at room temperature for more than two hours, you should probably avoid using it. It may still be technically “OK” but once the two-hour threshold has been crossed, you have to factor in the possibility that bacteria may have started to grow. If it’s been out overnight, you should move on and pick up more the next time you’re at the store.
That all being said, let’s take a closer look at why almond milk left out for a long period of time, especially overnight, shouldn’t be used, the reasons why, and some indications your almond milk may be bad if you’re debating whether it’s OK or not.
What Almond Milk Is And Why It Needs Refrigeration
Before we get into why it’s important to refrigerate almond milk as well as why it’s important to avoid almond milk that’s been left out too long, first let’s refresh ourselves on what almond milk is. Almond milk, for lack of better words, is almond water. Or, more accurately, it’s a combination of pureed almonds and water which is strained into a liquid that resembles milk in color but not actual makeup.
In other words, almond milk doesn’t come from the mammary glands of a mammal as real milk does. It’s a plant-based product that is utilized as a dairy substitute.
Now you might be returning to the original question of why almond milk needs refrigeration if it’s not real milk, isn’t dairy-based, and so won’t curdle or spoil like real milk. The answer is that almond milk is still an organic food product that is prone to spoilage and bacterial contamination. It’s a nutrient-rich environment that bacteria are attracted to. The only way to slow or stop the advance of bacteria is to keep almond milk cold.
In short, if your almond milk has been left out for longer than two hours, you should assume, since it’s a plant-based organic product, that bacteria may have started to make itself at home. In other words, better to toss it than risk consuming it and getting sick.
The Danger Zone
Speaking of sickness, why is two hours the maximum time where something like almond milk can be left out without risking contamination but anything beyond those two hours is a red light?
Well, it has everything to do with what temperatures bacteria grow and multiply. Food products need to be stored so that their internal temperature remains below 40°F (4°C) to keep bacteria from popping up and growing. If the internal temperature happens to be between 40°F (4°C) to 140°F (60°C), then that’s considered a prime bacterial feeding ground. Within that temperature range, bacteria can double every twenty minutes. This feeding ground is also known as the food “danger zone”.
Now you may be asking, does that two-hour time limit apply to the internal temperature or the external temperature? In reality, either or both. If that’s confusing, stick with us for a moment.
If we assume that the average room temperature hovers somewhere around 75°F, then you already know that almond milk sitting at room temperature for two hours has had two hours for its internal temperature to rise above 40°F and sit there. Because most refrigerators are kept at a temperature of approximately 32°F to 40°F, you can pretty much guarantee the internal temperature of the almond milk rose above 40°F within the first 30 minutes of sitting out.
- Your almond milk has been sitting at room temperature for two hours.
- Your almond milk has been sitting at an internal temperature of more than 40°F for 1.5 hours.
That also means any bacteria present has possibly doubled four times in that window and maybe even six times.
This is the clearest example of why you shouldn’t consider almond milk left out for more than two hours OK to consume. If it’s been all night, definitely throw it out.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
What If The Almond Milk Is Kept In An Ice Bucket While Sitting Unrefrigerated?
Keeping your almond milk chilled in something like an ice bucket can alter the period for when it may enter the danger zone. The key is the ice bucket, or whatever cooling medium you’re using, keeps the internal temperature of the almond milk below 40°F. Unless you’re keeping a thermometer in the almond milk, you’re probably not going to know when the temperature will be breached.
That all being said, if you keep your ice bucket full of fresh ice, you’ll probably be fine. However, if you leave it out overnight in the ice bucket, it probably won’t be ice in the morning and the almond milk should probably still be tossed out.
What Temperature Will Kill Bacteria?
Food products should always be reheated to 165°F (74°C) to kill any bacteria present. However, if almond milk has been sitting out too long, spoilage won’t be reversed by reheating.
In addition, reheating almond milk will likely destroy any flavor, making it pretty undrinkable anyway.
Are There Other Ways To Tell if Almond Milk Is Bad?
Let’s say you didn’t leave the almond milk out all night or even out for two hours. Maybe it’s only been an hour, but it’s really hot outside and you’re afraid the ambient temperature has worked your almond milk over pretty well. Are there any signs to look for when it comes to possible spoilage?
Of course, and they’re the same that apply to any food product.
- Smell. If it smells off or bad, assume it’s no longer fit for consumption. It doesn’t have to stink, but if you know your almond milk and it doesn’t smell like it normally does after sitting out, toss it.
- Taste. It doesn’t have to make you spit it out to taste odd or bad. However, if it has what seems like a sour aftertaste or a strange bitterness that strikes you after a sip, it’s time to pour it down the drain.
- How it Looks. If you pour a glass of almond milk and you find yourself either staring at it or rotating the glass to see all the weird patterns and shapes inside, or how some light passes through parts easier than others, maybe don’t consume it.
- Texture. If you pour a cup of almond milk and chunks of something pour out of it, you know those chunks aren’t ice. Time to let the milk go.
Does Almond Milk Ever Go Bad If It’s Always Kept Cold?
Hey, everything has an expiration date. The same goes for almond milk. Always refer to the label on your purchased product.