Coconut water has gained a lot of popularity in recent years thanks to its natural hydrating properties and low sugar content. Thankfully, most types of coconut water have a great shelf life thanks to the process of pasteurization and the addition of preservatives like vitamin C (ascorbic acid) so you can enjoy it longer.
Once opened, coconut water will generally last 5-7 days in the refrigerator. If you don’t plan to refrigerate your open container of coconut water, it’s best to consume it the same day you open it.
What is the shelf life of common types of coconut water, and what might happen if you drink old coconut water? We’ll answer those questions and more next.
What is the shelf life of coconut water?
Coconut water that is shelf-stable (doesn’t need to be refrigerated until opening) is generally good for around ten months until it’s opened when stored at room temperature. If unopened shelf-stable coconut water is stored in the refrigerator, it’ll likely be good for around one year.
Once coconut water is opened, it will stay good for around 5-7 days in the refrigerator, possibly even longer if it’s been pasteurized. Many brands of coconut water are pasteurized and add vitamin C to act as a preservative and prevent bacterial growth.
If you purchase chilled coconut water, it likely needs to be stored in the refrigerator until you use it. If you buy coconut water in Tetra Pak containers, they can be stored at room temperature until their expiration date.
When in doubt, check the label to see how the manufacturer recommends you store the coconut water, along with its “best-by” or expiration date.
Comparison of coconut water shelf life
|Shelf life – room temperature||Shelf life – refrigerator, unopened||Shelf life – refrigerator, opened|
|Unpasteurized||n/a (needs to be refrigerated)||12 months or by “best by”/expiration date||5-7 days|
|Pasteurized||~10 months||~12 months||5-7 days|
Potential risks of drinking coconut water that has been open for a long time
If you drink coconut water that has been open for a long time, the main risk is that it won’t taste as good as when it’s fresher.
You’re not likely to get very sick from drinking old coconut water, but there is always some risk (even though it’s small) of foodborne illness in foods and drinks that have been stored outside the recommended timelines provided by the manufacturer.
According to a study, fresh (unpasteurized) coconut water stored in containers can be a host for bacteria such as E. coli. However, the risk of foodborne illness is significantly reduced when the coconut water has been pasteurized or has additives like vitamin C.
Pasteurized vs. unpasteurized coconut water – differences and storage
Many types of ready-to-drink coconut water are pasteurized, which means they’ve been heated to kill any potentially harmful bacteria. Pasteurization usually involves heating the coconut water to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds and then cooling it down quickly.
Some people prefer non-pasteurized products because they’re thought to contain more nutrients. One example of non-pasteurized coconut water is the Harmless Harvest brand, which doesn’t use pasteurization or the addition of vitamin C as a preservative. Though it isn’t pasteurized, Harmless Harvest brand uses a filtration process to help remove bacteria.
Because of the lack of pasteurization or the addition of preservatives like vitamin C, Harmless Harvest coconut water has a pink tint to it. Harmless Harvest coconut water has to be refrigerated at all times since it hasn’t been pasteurized.
Pasteurized coconut water can be stored at room temperature until it’s opened without the risk of spoiling, similar to sealed juice boxes.
The best way to extend the shelf life of unopened coconut water is to store it away from direct sunlight and out of extreme temperatures. You should also keep coconut water away from direct heat sources.
During manufacturing, the process of microfiltration and adding preservatives like vitamin C can help extend the shelf life.
Tender coconut water is the same thing as coconut water. Most types of coconut water are made from young coconuts which are more tender than mature coconuts, which is why coconut water is also called tender coconut water.
Tender coconut water and coconut water have similar shelf lives since they are the same product.
It’s likely safe to drink expired coconut water if it was pasteurized and has remained sealed. Many expiration dates are set conservatively, meaning they are probably fine to drink beyond the listed expiration date.
If you want to drink expired unpasteurized coconut water, the risks of getting sick are slightly higher. If the coconut water was sealed and refrigerated, it’s probably safe to drink a little past the expiration or best-by date even if it is unpasteurized.