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I've soaked some beans in room temperature water overnight, since 6pm (white navy beans).

How long can I keep them in water before I must use them?

Will they last a day or so at room temperature and in water, or should I drain and store in the fridge, or must I cook with them immediately?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

It rather depends on the temperature of the room. Where I live, in the summer it gets hot and humid, and they shouldn't be out on the counter during the day, or they ferment. In winter (like spring in the northern US, 45-70 farenheit) they can be out for two days with no problem.

My recommendation would be to soak overnight for morning use, or to soak during the day for evening use. It also helps to change the water every few hours, though this isn't critical. If you refrigerate them with the water, you get an extra half-day. Refrigerating drained gets another day or so.

Either way, they should always be shaded, never in direct sunlight.

If they do spoil, you'll know, as they'll have a sour/yeasty smell to them.

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Thanks! I knew it was best to soak overnight and use the next day, I was wondering about how long they would still be viable in a worst case scenario. So, the best way to store beans soaked overnight is to drain them and keep them in the fridge? That way they can last an additional day? –  SarahVV Mar 22 '11 at 16:30
    
+1 this matches my experience as well. –  Sobachatina Mar 22 '11 at 16:53
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