Cold Brew Safety – What You Need to Know

By Dr. Mark Corey, NCA Director of Science & Policy

Over the past few years, cold brew has exploded in popularity. According to the Spring 2022 National Coffee Data Trends survey, the number of people drinking cold brew has doubled since 2016. While cold brew isn’t a new preparation method by any means, its newfound ubiquity calls for a clear voice on cold brew safety and preparation. That’s why the National Coffee Association has created the Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers, the newest addition to our Cold Brew Toolkit. 

First, we should be very clear: Cold brew is perfectly safe when prepared, stored, and served properly. However, food safety and complying with myriad local, state, and federal health regulations is not an area suited to guesswork. Understanding the risks associated with mishandled food and the steps necessary to mitigate those risks is the responsibility of any food service establishment. The potential for foodborne illness that can result in sick customers, product recalls, and a damaged reputation makes our safety guide an absolute necessity for retailers that serve cold brew.

Foodborne illness and cold brew: What are the risks? 

The main concern that health inspectors have regarding cold brew is the potential growth of bacteria. Health inspectors may be looking for a range of pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli), Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria), Salmonella spp. (Salmonella), Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), and Bacillus cereus. However, while limited microbial challenge study data in cold brew also exists for these organisms, the researchers at Oregon State University also showed that cold brew significantly inhibited the growth of these pathogens. (Plus, NCA is commissioning our own microbial challenge study to be provided free of charge to NCA members.  There’s never been a better time to join NCA.

The primary source of danger in mishandled cold brew is theoretically the bacteria Clostridium botulinum (C. bot.) which causes botulism to grow and produce toxin. Botulism is a potentially deadly disease that can occur when the bacteria Clostridium botulinum (C. bot.) and its toxin are consumed in a contaminated food. It can grow under the conditions of low-acid pH and high-water activity in an airtight container with low oxygen. Canned, bottled, or kegged cold brew could theoretically present the right conditions for botulism to occur.


You can get a free preview of the guide here. NCA Members can download the full Guide, along with all of our cold brew resources, via the NCA Cold Brew Toolkit.

Again, cold brew is safe when proper protocols are followed. The aim of the Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers is, ultimately, to help cold brew retailers be knowledgeable, prepared, and confident regarding food safety and compliance requirements for their dispensed cold brew products. This can help protect the health and safety of consumers and assist retailers in their next health inspection from state and local authorities.

The NCA Cold Brew Safety Guide for retailers was made possible with support from BUNN.

Keeping cold hot: 3 things every cold brewer should know about food safety

By William “Bill” Murray, President & CEO, National Coffee Association USA


While not a new format by any means, cold brew has shot up in popularity in recent years and is expected to keep growing. About 16% of coffee drinkers reported having had cold brew in the past week, according to the NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends report – up from only 8% in 2016.  What hasn’t kept pace, however, are clear food safety best practices, guidance, and regulations to help keep this massively popular product – and the customers who demand it – safe. It is crucial to stress that cold brew coffee, like traditionally prepared coffee, is generally safe – but changing times and evolving brew methods call for food safety vigilance – despite coffee’s long, safe track record.

That’s why, with help from our team of scientists on the NCA Science Leadership Council (and support from our cold brew partner BUNN), NCA has created the all-new Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers along with several other new resources to help coffee retailers safely brew, store, and serve cold brew – one of the hottest drinks in coffee today.

Here are three key things every cold brew retailer should know to help keep their cold brew coffee food-safe:

1. The “danger zone” for cold brew where bacteria can grow is 41-140˚F. 

Brew, store, and serve your cold brew at a temperature of 40˚ F or below to minimize the risk of pathogens like botulism that could cause foodborne illness. Above 140˚F, most toxin-producing bacteria are killed. However, while cold brew doesn’t technically have to be served cold, it may lose some of the smooth taste and flavor your customers have come to expect from cold brew if heated above this temperature. 

2. Retail dispensed cold brew (i.e., made on-premises in a coffee shop) and RTD cold brew are not created equal – and each requires special safety considerations.

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RTD packaged cold brew is cold brew that is manufactured and bottled under aseptic conditions in a manufacturing facility following FDA’s low-acid food regulations (21 CFR Part 113), whereas dispensed cold brew is often prepared and served on-site at a retail location and is regulated by a local health inspector following FDA’s Food Code

Dispensed cold brew is generally prepared at 40-70˚F overnight at a retail location using roasted coffee and filtered water and can be infused with nitrogen to make nitro cold brew. The cold brew can be stored in airtight or covered (non-airtight) containers.

Health inspectors examining a retail dispensed cold brew operation may require a HACCP Plan – see more on HACCP Plans below. 

NCA’s 2018 Cold Brew Toolkit for Industry dives into RTD cold brew safety considerations, while dispensed retail cold brew (and its potential food safety risks) are covered extensively in the just-released NCA Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers (2022). Both are available here

 3. You might need a HACCP Plan.

Every retail cold brew operation should determine whether a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan is necessary. This seven-step framework is critical in reducing hazards in food to acceptable levels, and consists of:

  • Hazard analysis.
  • Critical Control Point (CCP) identification.
  • Establishing critical limits.
  • Establishing monitoring procedures.
  • Setting corrective actions.
  • Setting verification procedures.
  • Establishing record-keeping and documentation.

A HACCP Plan is generally not required in retail locations unless the cold brew is brewed, held, and served above 41˚F, or if it is held in a container with an airtight lid for over 48 hours.  NCA offers a model HACCP Plan that our Members can refer to when developing food safety protocols for their own retail cold brew business.  

You can learn more about NCA’s Cold Brew safety resources in our NCA Cold Brew Toolkit, which includes our new Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers, our 2018 Toolkit for Industry, a model Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan, answers to frequently asked questions about cold brew and a compliance checklist to ensure you’re ready when the health inspector comes knocking. 

NCA: We serve coffee (and want the cold brew coffee YOU serve to continue its long record of food safety.)

More than a mood booster: Coffee’s role in supporting mental health


By William “Bill” Murray, NCA President & CEO


May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, an important time to recognize that nearly 20% of Americans are believed to experience mental illness. Offering care, empathy, and support to ourselves, and others – and openly discussing mental health issues – are all important for our wellbeing.

There’s no substitute for seeking help from professional healthcare providers and finding support from family and friends, but there are small steps we can take to support our mental health. For example, there is a growing body of literature that recognizes the positive effects exercise has on anxiety, stress, and depression. And yes, your daily cup of coffee can play a mood-boosting role in the short term.

The 66% of Americans who drink coffee each day probably already appreciate the mood boosting benefits of our favorite brew. In fact, evidence shows that coffee’s mental health benefits go beyond that warm and fuzzy first-cup feeling.

Studies have found that drinking coffee is associated with up to ⅓ lower risk of depression. An analysis of multiple third party, independent scientific studies conducted by former NCA Science Advisor and Harvard University neurologist Alan Leviton found that not only is drinking coffee associated with decreased depression risk, but that the greatest mental health benefits come from drinking at least two cups of coffee per day. 

Of almost 10,000 adults studied in the fifth Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, those who drank at least 2 cups of coffee per day experienced a 32% lower prevalence of self-reported depression than people who did not drink coffee.

In a study of 14,000 university students in Spain who continue to be followed, those who drank at least four cups of coffee per day were more than 20% less likely to be diagnosed with clinically-significant depression.

While further research is necessary to determine the exact relationship between mental health and the more than 1,000 natural compounds found in coffee, the positive impact it has on mental health may be related to certain anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and microbiome-promoting properties – properties that are also associated with coffee drinkers’ significantly reduced risk of developing certain cancers and chronic diseases.

Scientists think that some of coffee’s natural compounds called phenols and melanoidins may have “prebiotic” effects – that is, they may help healthy gut bacteria produce fatty acids and neurotransmitters that benefit mental health.

Whatever your moments of self-care look like, take time to check in on your own mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, please know you are not alone. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HELLO to 741741.

In the meantime, call a friend, connect with family, find some quiet time away from all the devices, and enjoy a simple cup of coffee – which, it turns out, is more “amazing” than “simple.” After all, while you care about coffee – coffee cares for you, too. What other beverage does that?

NCA: We Serve Coffee.

 Not sure if you’re an NCA Member? Check our Membership list. If you’re not a member but could benefit from access to this research or other key industry resources, explore your Membership options.

NCA Submits Comments to 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

Related: NCA Update from the 2020 US Dietary Guidelines Scientific Review

The following is an excerpt from the latest NCA Member Alert

Do you remember the Food Guide Pyramid or MyPlate?

Every 5 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines.  These are dietary recommendations for Americans to practice healthy eating habits. 

Shaped by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), these guidelines have an enormous impact on US perceptions and behaviors regarding nutrition and health, which is why it’s critical to communicate the science on coffee and health.

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NCA Update: 2020 US Dietary Guidelines Scientific Review

Setting the stage for the next evolution in dietary guidance to Americans for 2020-2025

Editor’s note: The connection between lifestyle and health is increasingly being recognized by the medical and scientific communities. We know that diet, exercise habits, and smoking and alcohol consumption impact our health. And as the science continues to advance, it seems there are new discoveries weekly.

To help Americans make healthy food and beverage choices, the U.S. Government issues Dietary Guidelines, which in the past have been communicated by USDA guides such as the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate.

When the USDA last undertook this exercise, the NCA formally recommended that the healthy aspects of coffee be recognized – and they were.  The 2015-2020 Guidelines acknowledge that coffee can be part of a healthy diet.

And the process to update these guidelines is now well underway.


By Dr. Mark Corey, Director of Scientific & Government Affairs, National Coffee Association

Over the past two days, I attended the meeting of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) in Washington, DC, focused on creating the protocol and guidelines shaping US nutrition and guidance to Americans for the next 5 years.

Panels of experts are examining every aspect of the American diet, inside and out, and have outlined their process for evaluating the science-based evidence. Subcommittees are focused on a range of topics such as dietary patterns and looking across different age groups from birth to older adults.

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Prop 65: Coffee gets the all clear in California

California has moved to correct a confusing contradiction on coffee and health.
California has moved to correct a confusing contradiction on coffee and health.

By William (Bill) Murray, President & CEO, National Coffee Association

Editor’s note: Links to the source documents in this post have been updated to reflect OEHHA’s announcement on June 3


It’s a great moment for the coffee industry and the billions of people around the world who enjoy their cup of joe every day.

In serving up the perfect blend of science and regulation, the State of California has moved to formally recognize that coffee should not carry a “cancer warning.”

What might seem like a “duh” moment to most scientists and coffee drinkers alike was actually years in the making.

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Science Says That Coffee Is A Good Idea

Just the thought of coffee can help perk up your brain, science suggests

Just looking at something that reminds us of coffee may cause our minds to become more alert and attentive, according to a new study.

According to the NCA 2019 National Coffee Drinking Trends report, 57% of consumers say that they drink coffee because it helps them focus.

It seems that they’re on to something – and you may not even need to take a sip to get a similar psychological effect, according to new research from the University of Toronto.

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What the Science Says About Common Coffee and Health Myths

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Study after study has found that coffee has a host of potential health benefits. Yet there’s still a lot of confusion among consumers and in the media

Surprisingly, 69% of Americans report that they have not even heard of any studies related to coffee and disease prevention, according to recent NCA market research.

And despite the fact that people already have less than the 3-5 cups daily recommended for optimal physical benefit, limiting caffeine intake was cited as the leading reason to cut coffee consumption.

Here’s a quick glance at some of the most common misconceptions on coffee and health – and what the science really says.

To learn more about coffee, caffeine, and health, join the NCA Science Leadership Council for the Coffee Science Fair at the NCA Convention in Atlanta, March 7-9.

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What the Research Really Shows on Coffee & Cancer

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Coffee may lower the risk of several types of cancer, according to recent studies reviewed by researchers at the American Cancer Society.

The following excerpt was originally posted at the American Cancer Society

AICR has named February Cancer Month. Learn more

To learn more about science, coffee, and why the research matters, join the experts from the NCA Scientific Leadership Council for “The Coffee Science Fair: A Fun Look at a Serious Topic,” a special educational session at the NCA 2019 Convention in Atlanta, GA on March 8.


Scientists have been investigating the links between coffee and cancer for decades. And while our understanding of coffee’s potential health benefits has improved with advances in research, there’s still more to learn.

In 2016, an expert panel convened by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — the arm of the World Health Organization that is responsible for assessing whether certain substances cause cancer — could not conclude that drinking coffee is carcinogenic based on the current evidence available.

Yet the coffee-cancer connection has recently reappeared in the news, due to the ongoing Prop 65 legislation in California to put misleading “cancer warning labels” on coffee.

So, what do coffee drinkers need to know?

In following interview written by Elizabeth Mendes, American Cancer Society researchers Susan Gapstur, PhD, and Marjorie McCullough, ScD, explain what the studies really show when it comes to coffee and cancer, and discuss what other research is still needed.

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