No liquor collection is complete without a bottle of Kahlua. This delicious coffee liqueur finds itself at home in White Russians, and can make a fun addition to some “grown up" hot chocolate! Of course, you may find yourself with a bottle of Kahlua that’s been sitting in the liquor cabinet for quite some time. Can Kahlua go bad? How can you tell if Kahlua is still safe to drink? Read on to find out!
Can Kahlua Go Bad?
Like many liqueurs, Kahlua does go bad. While your bottle of Kahlua may not spoil in the traditional sense of growing mold, or going rancid, over time it will begin to decline in quality. The manufacturer recommends that Kahlua be consumed within four years of the production date. This shelf life recommendation is the same, whether or not the bottle has been opened, and does not depend on the storage method.
While the product may be still be safe to consume after four years, the quality will have likely degraded, and your mixed drinks might taste a little flat!
Image used under Creative Commons from alyssalaurel
How to Tell If Kahlua Has Gone Bad
The main flavor in Kahlua is coffee, and over time, the aromatic compounds in the brew begin to break down. This will make the liqueur less flavorful, and at the same time, will diminish the smell. So, the first way to test if that bottle of Kahlua is still good is to smell it. If the odor of coffee is strong, then the Kahlua is probably still good. A weaker smell, or no smell at all indicates that the taste will likely be off, and won’t taste as good.
While it’s unlikely, Kahlua that has been contaminated could potentially harbor unwanted bacterial or mold growth. If you smell any sour or other off odors, the Kahlua has likely gone bad and should not be consumed. Similarly, if there are any visual signs of mold growth, though highly unlikely (if not almost impossible), the Kahlua should be discarded.
Kahlua will settle after a while, and though this doesn’t indicate spoilage, it does mean that the flavor has likely changed a bit. You can mix the drink back together by gently tipping the bottle upside down a few times before serving – just be sure it’s tightly sealed! Sugar crystals forming on the edge of the bottle are another sign that the Kahlua may have seen better days, though it’s still likely safe to drink.
How to Store Kahlua
Kahlua should be stored in a cool, dark place, away from exposure to heat or direct sunlight. If you’d prefer, you can store Kahlua in the refrigerator, though this will not increase the shelf life by any substantial measure. Many people prefer to store Kahlua in the refrigerator for taste reasons, as this liqueur is best served chilled.
The most important thing to remember when storing Kahlua, is that the bottle should remain tightly sealed. The flavor compounds are sensitive to air exposure, so tightly closing the bottle is the best way to retain the strong coffee flavor. This will also prevent the alcohol from oxidizing and reduce the evaporation, which tends to happen with alcohol-based beverages.
Storing Kahlua in the freezer is not recommended. While there is a good deal of alcohol, which will prevent the Kahlua from freezing solid in most home freezers, the beverage will become thick and possibly chunky when frozen. This will make pouring Kahlua quite difficult, and give your mixed drinks an unpleasant texture. You can, of course, chill a bottle of Kahlua in the freezer for a half hour or so to get the liqueur to a better temperature for drinking, so as to avoid using too much ice.