Alcohol can expire. The shelf life can vary greatly depending on various factors, including the amount of ethanol the beverage contains.
Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is a compound present in alcoholic beverages. Producers make ethanol by using yeast to ferment the sugars in fruits, vegetables, or grains. Common examples include using grapes to make wine or potatoes to make vodka.
While liquors may last the longest, their shelf lives can change with the addition of ingredients, such as dairy cream.
This article explains whether alcohol expires, discussing wine, beer, and liquors.
Different types of alcoholic drinks differ in ingredients, amounts of alcohol, storage conditions, and manufacturing processes. Whether a particular alcoholic beverage can go bad — and how quickly — will depend on these factors.
For instance, people may consider wine to get better with age and expect beer to go off sooner. However, liquor has a higher alcohol content, so people may expect it to last longer.
Alcohol is a recognized preservative. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency lists ethyl alcohol as a Generally Recognized As Safe antimicrobial agent and preservative for use in certain foods.
Therefore, it is worth noting that beer tends to contain between
People commonly believe that wine gets better with age. Below are studies that may support this theory.
The researchers of a
They said that storing wine in bottles causes complex chemical changes relating to oxygen limitation. This reduces the wine’s astringency and bitterness, improves its aroma, and lightens and stabilizes its color.
Regarding white wine in particular, one
Dark storage and cork type
Another study from 2021 found that temperature and light exposure in retail outlets can
Wine producers add antioxidants, such as sulfur oxide, to prevent excessive oxidation and the resulting deterioration of the wine. The bottles also need to be closed with suitable stoppers and stored in stable conditions to prevent the development of unwanted coloration, aroma, or flavor.
The shelf life of beer depends on the type of beer. For instance, a
A 2023 study also discussed the issue of diminishing beer quality over time. This is due to the buildup of certain compounds resulting from oxidation and leading to stale beer.
Making beer last longer
During a traditional practice known as refermentation, producers add Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells to beer before bottling, also known as “brewer’s yeast” or “baker’s yeast.” This reduces the buildup of aldehydes that make the beer stale.
Even so, the yeasts commonly added to beer only have a limited lifespan. However, the researchers of this study claimed to have found a way to breed novel bacteria that act as natural and sustainable antioxidant preservatives for foods and drinks, such as beer.
The umbrella term “liquor” tends to cover strong, sweet, alcoholic beverages, usually distilled spirits such as brandy, whiskey, or rum. Producers make these drinks by combining spirits with sugar and flavorings.
Of all the types of alcohol, liquor tends to have the
Even cream liqueurs that contain dairy cream, which has a limited shelf life, have enough alcohol to prevent bacteria from growing. High quality cream liqueurs can last as long as 2 years if stored in ambient conditions, and refrigeration can extend their shelf life even further.
Wine that has gone bad turns into vinegar. The high acid content
The impaired flavor may be the greatest issue specific to alcohol that has expired, but these drinks still carry the same risks to health as all alcoholic drinks, whether expired or not.
Alcohol and health
A 2020 review of the evidence on alcohol and human health found that the health effects of alcohol depend on how much a person drinks.
The researchers found that consuming up to 14 grams (g) of alcohol a day for females and up to 28 g a day for males may be linked to decreased risk of death, especially from cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Experts define this as light or moderate alcohol consumption.
However, long-term heavy alcohol consumption or alcohol misuse resulted in alcohol use disorder, according to their findings. This can lead to physical and mental disorders, including:
The alcohol in alcoholic drinks is ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Different alcoholic beverages contain varying amounts of this type of alcohol.
The ethyl alcohol content can affect the shelf life of these drinks, along with other factors, including their individual ingredients and how they are manufactured and stored. Liquor tends to contain the highest proportion of alcohol, followed by wine and then beer.
The health risks associated with drinking expired alcohol tend to be the same as those associated with drinking alcohol within its shelf life.