Does lemon juice go bad?
In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question “Does lemon juice go bad?” In addition, we will go over the shelf life of lemon juice as well as the best ways of storing it.
Does lemon juice go bad?
Yes, lemon juice goes bad after a few days of being squeezed or even more quickly if improperly stored. Both freshly squeezed and bottled (acquired in supermarkets) lemon juice can spoil.
The main type of microorganisms spoiling lemon juice are molds and yeasts. Bacteria are less likely to multiply in lemon juice because they usually prefer less acidic environments, as the pH of lemon juice is about 3-4 .
Aneja and colleagues  analyzed the microbiological quality of freshly prepared sweet lime juice and found that fungi predominated, concluding that yeasts and molds were the main cause of the spoilage of the juice.
Indeed, the authors pointed out the low pH (about 4-5) as one of the key factors that explain fungi predominance.
During storage, lemon juice also undergoes deteriorative chemical reactions, such as the development of off-flavors, aroma loss, and reduction in vitamin C levels, as already highlighted in previous studies [2,3].
What is the shelf life of lemon juice?
Fresh Lemon Juice
Freshly extracted lime juice that is not being used right away should be kept in the refrigerator, where it lasts for 2 to 3 days. Freezing is also possible, where the juice will keep for about 3 months after being frozen.
Bottled Lemon Juice
The shelf life of bottled lemon juice will depend on whether it is shelf-stable or not.
Shelf-stable refers to products that while unopened can be stored at room temperature for a certain period of time.
This is possible because the product undergoes sterilization to make the product commercially sterile, and aseptic packaging in cartons to protect it from light, oxygen, and recontamination.
Preserved like this, lemon juice can last from 6 to 12 months unopened, and 5-7 days after opening.
Non-shelf-stable lemon juice is usually kept refrigerated in the market (4-8°C). This type of lemon juice lasts much less than the shelf-stable one, around 30 days provided it is maintained refrigerated.
After being opened, the juice should be consumed within 5 days. The reason these juices last less is that they undergo pasteurization rather than sterilization.
Pasteurization is a milder preservation technique compared to sterilization because of the lower used temperatures (60 to 100 °C vs 100 up to 150°C).
Pasteurization efficiently eliminates harmful and spoilage microorganisms but does not bring the product to commercial sterilization.
How to identify that lemon juice has gone bad?
Lemon juice spoils after some days of being squeezed, in the case of fresh juices, or after being opened (bottled juices), even if kept under refrigeration.
Despite the high acidity of lemon juice inhibits most bacteria, it contains a huge amount of water and nutrients in its composition that favor the multiplication majorly of yeasts and molds.
See below for signs of spoilage.
– Take a look at the appearance. If your juice is cloudy or presents precipitate in the bottom, it is a sign of mold spoilage. Do not try it, discard it because it likely tastes bad.
– If the appearance is ok, but when you sip the juice you feel any strange tastes apart from the usual lemon flavor, it is best to toss the juice out right away.
For instance, alterations caused by yeasts may produce a fermented taste, accompanied by gas production.
– Take a whiff of the liquid. If you notice any odors other than that of freshly squeezed lemon, toss it.
Damaged juice also may lose its natural flavor, so if the juice seems to be oddly flavorless, it is most likely beyond its best-before date.
Li and others  studied the changes in the aroma compounds of freshly-squeezed orange juice, also citrus fruit, during storage at 4°C.
The authors observed that after 15 days of storage, a reduction of some key aroma compounds in orange juice, such as terpenes, occurred.
Off-flavor-related aroma compounds, namely α-terpinol and p-vinylguaiacol also developed.
Tips for Keeping Lemon Juice Fresh
Our easy tips will teach you how to preserve your juice so that it stays fresher for extended periods, including:
Freeze the juice
Freezing lemon juice is the most effective method of preserving it, particularly if the juice is freshly squeezed. For this, what you require is an ice cube box into which you can pour the juice and then freeze it.
Frozen, deteriorative chemical reactions and microbial growth are practically paralyzed .
Store in the refrigerator for short periods
Previous studies showed that higher storage temperatures of lemon juice or orange juice (also a citrus fruit) favor the loss of aroma compounds and microbial growth, as well as the degradation of vitamin C [2,3].
Thus, keeping lemon juice in the refrigerator helps keep its quality for longer. Transfer freshly squeezed juice into a clean container to get the best effects, and make sure that the vessel has a tight-fitting cover or top.
Containers of lemon juice that have been opened should also be kept in the refrigerator. After opening, contact with air increases the chance of microbe development and boosts undesirable chemical reactions.
The Dangers Of Drinking Lemon Juice That Has Been Expired
Fruit juices have pH in the acidic range (<4.5) serving as an important barrier to microbial growth.
However, pathogenic bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella survive in the acidic environment of fruit juices due to acid stress response [1, 5].
Although they are rare, outbreaks related to acidic fruit juices have been registered [1, 5], and most of them were linked to freshly squeezed juices .
Thus, I do not recommend drinking lemon juice that has expired, or that has stayed in the refrigerator for a long period (more than 5 days, fresh or bottled), even if it looks fine.
One other factor is that lemon juice can be prepared with different percentages of lemon in water. The lesser the lemon juice concentration (more water), the higher the pH, which means an increased risk of the pathogen’s survival or development.
In this short article, we provided an answer to the question “Does lemon juice go bad?” In addition, we also discussed the shelf life of lemon juice as well as the best ways of storing it.
1. Aneja KR, Dhiman R, Aggarwal NK, Kumar V, Kaur M. Microbes Associated with Freshly Prepared Juices of Citrus and Carrots. Int J Food Sci. 2014;2014:408085.
2. Li X, Ren JN, Fan G, Pan SY. Changes of aroma compounds and qualities of freshly-squeezed orange juice during storage. J Food Sci Technol. 2018; 55(11):4530-4543.
3. Robertson, G.l. and Samaniego-Esguerra, C.M. Effect of soluble solids and temperature on ascorbic acid degradation in lemon juice stored in glass bottles. Journal of Food Quality. 1990;13: 361-374.
4. Fellows PJ. Food Processing Technology Principles and Practice. Fourth ed, 2017.
5. Shankar V, Mahboob S, Al-Ghanim KA, Ahmed Z, Al-Mulhm N, Govindarajan M. A review on microbial degradation of drinks and infectious diseases: A perspective of human well-being and capabilities. Journal of King Saud University – Science. 2021;33(2):101293.