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Can Coffee Creamer Be Unrefrigerated? (Will It Go Bad?)

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The right coffee creamer can turn an average cup of coffee into a real coffee shop masterpiece. Remembering whether or not you need to put the coffee creamer in the refrigerator afterward can be a problem, especially when you are in a hurry.

Can coffee creamer be unrefrigerated?

Certain kinds of coffee creamer can be unrefrigerated, although there are other types that have to be refrigerated. All coffee creamer can be left out of the refrigerator for a short time, however, if it is one that requires refrigeration, it can go bad if left out too long.

opened creamer

Losing a whole bottle of coffee creamer because you left it out when it should have been refrigerated can be very upsetting. Knowing how to determine which coffee creamer can be unrefrigerated is vital if you want to save your creamer, tastebuds, and money.

How to Know if Your Coffee Creamer Needs to Be Refrigerated

The easiest way to know if your coffee creamer needs to be refrigerated is to read the label on the product. If ordering online, zoom in on the product label or read the product description which should specify whether or not that product requires refrigeration.

Another indication would be where in the grocery store you initially picked up the product.

If you picked it out of the cold, refrigerated section, then it will need to be refrigerated.

If you picked the coffee creamer up on a regular, non-refrigerated aisle, then it more than likely does not require refrigeration. These coffee creamers are usually designed specifically to stay fresh without refrigeration.

What Kind of Coffee Creamer Does Not Need to Be Refrigerated?

Coffee creamers that do not have dairy or lactose in them sometimes do not need to be refrigerated, if they were designed with non-refrigeration in mind. This is because they contain non-dairy ingredients that do not spoil when left out at room temperature and their special lid design prevents bacteria growth.

Coffee Mate offers a lactose-free liquid creamer that comes with a single-serve pump and is specifically created to be unrefrigerated.  These are ideal for company kitchens where a coffee creamer will be used repeatedly throughout the day by multiple people.

The unique self-serve container limits open air contamination and the creamer itself is non-dairy, so it naturally does not spoil like milk. This type of creamer is found on regular, non-refrigerated aisles in the grocery store; you will not find them in the cold section.

The product label and product description on this type of creamer will specify if that specific product needs refrigeration or not.

pouring creamer

Why Do Certain Coffee Creamers Have to Be Refrigerated?

Coffee creamers that contain dairy and milk-based products need to be refrigerated because they will spoil. If left out at room temperature or warmer for too long, these dairy-based products will go bad just like milk will.

Dairy-based coffee creamers will specifically state on the bottle that they contain dairy and must be put in the refrigerator.

Many non-dairy and lactose-free coffee creamers are manufactured to be refrigerated because they have open pour lids. These have more potential to be contaminated by the open air, so refrigeration can prevent any possible bacterial contamination or growth.

International Delight and Coffee Mate offer several different coffee creamers that require refrigeration to keep the product safe for consumers.

These coffee creamers will be found in the cold section of the grocery store and the labels will say they must be refrigerated.

How Long Can Coffee Creamer Be Unrefrigerated?

Coffee creamers that need to be refrigerated can be left out for a short period of time while you prepare your coffee. Dairy-based coffee creamers can be usually be left unrefrigerated, at room temperature, for up to two hours without causing any issues.  

Non-dairy coffee creamers that require refrigeration can also be left out for up to two hours in room temperature, but it is recommended to put it up as soon as possible.

It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to creamers and always follow the manufacturer’s advice.

Non-dairy creamers that are single serve, like single serve cups or those with self-serve pumps, are usually meant to be left out at room temperature all the time. If the label says, “Do Not Refrigerate” or something similar, it should be unrefrigerated all the time.

Do Coffee Creamer Singles Need to Be Refrigerated?

Coffee creamer singles do not need to be refrigerated because they are not dairy-based and are single-use servings. They usually contain a milk derivative and are intended to be used in full once opened, so refrigeration is not necessary.

International Delight and Coffee Mate both make a variety of coffee creamer singles that do not need to be refrigerated. The box that the product comes in should confirm that these do not need refrigeration and have a long shelf life.

Can Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer That Needs Refrigeration Go Bad If Left Out?

Non-dairy coffee creamers that need refrigeration will not necessarily spoil like milk if they are left out, but they can go bad. If they are left out for more than two hours, it is possible that bacteria can grow in these creamers.

The problem is that bacteria can enter any coffee creamer that has an open pour lid that is opened and closed often. Keeping coffee creamers that need to stay cold refrigerated will prevent them from going bad before reaching their normal expiration date.

man getting a bottle of creamer from the fridge

How to Tell If Coffee Creamer Has Gone Bad

Knowing how to tell if your coffee creamer has gone bad is important, especially since non-dairy coffee creamers do not follow the same rules as dairy-based ones.

  1. It smells like spoiled, soured milk.
    If it is a dairy-based coffee creamer, it will spoil similar to how milk will spoil and it will have a distinct ‘bad’ smell.
  2. It has an odd texture.
    Coffee creamer that has gone bad, dairy-based and non-dairy based can develop a clumpy texture when it goes bad.
  3. It has an odd color.
    If the coffee creamer develops a darker or different color than normal, that is a key indication that it is bad and need to be thrown out.
  4. It has passed its expiration date.
    All coffee creamers should have an expiration date. The bottle will also indicate how long they will stay good after opening them. If they have passed this timeframe or the expiration date, they are probably bad or going bad.
  5. It just does not smell or taste like it did before.
    Non-dairy creamers may not smell exactly like spoiled milk when they go bad, but they will smell and taste ‘off’.

Final Thoughts

Coffee creamers can vary greatly as to whether or not they need refrigeration, however, now you know how to tell the difference.

It is also much clearer now as to why the creamer in the office and in the little cups does not need refrigeration.

Certain coffee creamers require refrigeration while others do not, the best way to tell is by looking at the bottle or the box the creamer comes in.


Researching information about coffee creamers and which ones need refrigeration was a real learning experience. These are the sources used to craft this article.