Here’s What You Do with Your Leftover Cold Coffee

You make some coffee, you drink some coffee, and you find yourself with some undrunk coffee left over. Ideally, it shouldn’t happen – but sometimes it does anyway. Maybe you were entertaining a guest and brewed some coffee, but as it happened, you made too much (which is better than too little). Or, it could be that you were simply trying out a new method for brewing and you ended up making a little more coffee than you want, simply because the end result was richer than you had expected.

Regardless of how it happened, good coffee should never – ever – go to waste. Rather than forcing it down your gullet when it’s all cold and unpleasant towards the end of the afternoon (setting yourself up for a very long night), consider a much better alternative: take your coffee, put it in the fridge, and get ready to play around a little bit and experiment.

Leftover coffee can be used for a large variety of purposes. While it isn’t exactly a useful cleaning tool or deodorant like some coffee grounds can be (after all, ideally, your coffee shouldn’t be abrasive or so acidic as to scrub off talc), it can still be used in gardening – and of course, leftover coffee has a wide variety of different uses in the kitchen. Here are a number of things you can do with leftover coffee.

Make Drinks

Coffee is a beverage, so leftover coffee obviously lends itself well to other beverages. The obvious choice is to blend your leftover coffee with some ice, sugar syrup, and a splash of milk. You can mix in a handful of spices if you want to get fancy – cinnamon in a classic, and almost always works well, as does powdered or freshly-grated ginger.

The second option is just as delicious. The next time you’re making a cup of hot chocolate, spice it up with some leftover coffee. Just take your coffee out of the fridge and let it take on room temperature before mixing it into your chocolate – since hot chocolate shouldn’t be made with boiling water either, the warm and soft heat of the hot chocolate should be enough to reheat and unlock the aromas of the coffee oils in your coffee, and mix well with your chocolate to produce a delicious cup of mocha.

Coffee lends itself well to alcoholic beverages, of course. With some cream, leftover coffee, syrup and a hard sugar or sweet grain-based liquor like rum or whiskey, you can emulate a bottle of Irish cream with very little fuss or muss.

Even better, consider making your own coffee liqueur. Like limoncello, this is something you can whip up at home with a strong spirit, some homemade coffee, and a syrup. Combine water and sugar and bring to a boil to make your syrup, then add the cooled syrup to a jar with rum, leftover coffee, and vanilla aroma. If you’re looking for an even better recipe, simply cold brew your coffee grounds in rum, water, and syrup for 3 days. This results in a better coffee flavor. But if you need a quick liqueur right now, this is the next best thing.

Mix the resulting liqueur with some vodka for a Black Russian, add cream for a White Russian, or enjoy as is in other cocktails, baking recipes, or as is with some friends.

Get Cooking

Coffee lends itself perfectly for cooking, in more than just a handful of recipes. While ground coffee makes for an excellent addition to a dry rub, leftover coffee will typically be found in marinades for pork, lamb, steaks, and chicken, as well as sweeter dishes such as a morning oatmeal (made with coffee and oatmeal rather than water and oatmeal, for a caffeine-infused breakfast dish), and a variety of baked goods.

An all-around good marinade to try out is coffee, pepper, minced garlic, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Alternatively, replace the balsamic vinegar with sugar and soy sauce, or seasoned rice vinegar and soy sauce. Mustard and Worcestershire sauce also work well with the coffee.

Gently massage the marinade into your meat of choice, leave for at least 2-3 hours or overnight, and then grill, sear, or bake your dish. It’ll be undoubtedly delicious.

If you’re more the type to refrain from eating meat or indulging in animal products, then coffee will be an excellent addition to your vegetarian chili recipes. Another tip, if you’re not one for coffee in your chili: try cacao powder. It’ll also give it that bitter note, but it’s markedly different from coffee in terms of taste and aroma.

Try Your Hand at Desserts

Coffee is great in meats and vinaigrettes, adding a touch of acidity and giving that full-bodied, warm aroma that both coffee and chocolate are known for. However, coffee is best utilized in the realm of desserts. There’s a multitude of things you can do with coffee as a dessert aside from simply sprucing up a cup of hot or cold chocolate or making some other type of fancy drink.

With a cup of heavy cream, some butter, a cup and a quarter of sugar and a cup of leftover coffee, you can make a delicious coffee caramel sauce for general use in any and all dishes. Spruce it up with some rum or coffee liqueur for a touch of alcoholic aroma (without the alcohol itself), and don’t forget the sea salt for sprinkling. Caramel lends itself perfectly on fruit, cakes, cookies, or ice cream.  

Alternatively, mix leftover coffee with about half as much yogurt and as much honey as yogurt, and pour the mixture into a popsicle mold for some coffee popsicles. You can replace honey with homemade syrup, mixing it into the coffee before whisking the coffee with the yogurt.

The classic coffee dessert is tiramisu, made with ladyfinger biscuits briefly dipped in strong, cooled coffee. Espresso and a strong rum are used for this dish, typically, but you can whip up a quick version with leftover coffee. To start, whisk six egg yolks with a quarter cup of sugar until pale and thick, then add the mascarpone gradually and continue to whisk. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites and another quarter cup of sugar with some vanilla extract. Layer the coffee biscuits and cream until you’ve run out of both, and finish with some cacao. Store the finished product in the fridge and let it settle overnight and enjoy an amazing dessert the next day.

Other uses include coffee-soaked sponge cakes, muffins and cupcakes baked with coffee, and more.

How Long Is Too Long?

If you’ve got leftover coffee, refrigerate it immediately. While it wouldn’t look like it, coffee can go bad. Leaving it uncovered and out in the open for more than 24 hours after brewing might cause it to begin to accumulate mold. If left in a jar, it can hold much longer (provided the jar is airtight). Coffee isn’t necessarily anywhere near as bacteria-friendly as say, dairy, but it does cultivate mold. If your coffee is beginning to develop a fuzzy film on top, throw it out immediately. It’s usually not safe to drink coffee older than a few days but use your best judgment to decide if it’s been contaminated or not.

In a refrigerator, it stays safe for consumption for at least a week, if not longer. Beware that regularly brewed coffee does get stale fast. If you’re in the habit of making too much coffee quite often, consider switching to a cold brew method so the taste of your coffee is maintained for longer periods of time.

All this is assuming that you’ve made black coffee and haven’t added sugar or dairy to the mix. These can substantially speed up the process for coffee going bad.

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