Can Soda Go Bad?

Finding that rogue can of Coca-Cola or Pepsi in the pantry during spring cleaning isn’t anything unexpected. Especially if you and your family don’t fancy soft drinks that much. And as it turns out, that tin is a few months past the date on the label. So the question you’re asking yourself is: what should you do with it? Should you discard the fizzy drink regardless, or maybe it can still be okay? Can soda go bad?

Soft drinks are known for their long shelf life, so having one that’s past its date isn’t something that happens that often. Or is discussed in detail by the producers. So let’s talk about it, as it’s obviously something you’re interested in.

Closeup of Coca-cola tin
(credit: Ravi Sharma)

Can Soda Go Bad? How To Tell If Soft Drinks Are Bad?

If you’re wondering if your favorite soda, no matter if it’s Mountain Dew, Mirinda, Dr Pepper, or anything else really, can go bad, the answer is it sure can. But as long as the bottle or tin stays unopened, and stored in decent conditions, it will last quite a while, even after it’s “expiration” date.

So, how do you tell that your soda is off? The first symptom people often refer to is the lack of bubbles. If the soft drink has lost its fizz, it must’ve gone off, they say. Is that true? The best answer I can come up with is: loss of carbonation doesn’t always mean the soda has gone off, but it’s better to get rid of it if it happens. For example, if you’ve opened your can of 7 Up, and kept the leftovers in the fridge for a few days, the bubbles will be mostly gone.

But in most cases, the liquid will be perfectly safe to consume. It definitely won’t taste as good as it used to, but it’s not like you’re going to get stomach pain or anything else after drinking it. Nevertheless, discarding a soft drink that has lost its carbonation is a good rule of thumb. And if your unopened soda went flat, definitely throw it out.

Coca cola bottle in a pocket
(credit: Caitlyn Hastings )

The second way to spot soda that’s past its prime is to use your senses and trust what they’re telling you. So instead of opening that bottle and drinking from it straight up, pour that Coke in a glass and give it a few seconds to settle. Then give it a good whiff. Does it smell fresh and pretty much the same way it usually does? If it stinks or feels somehow stale, get rid of it. If the smell is okay, feel free to taste it, and decide based on its taste if it’s good enough to drink or not. And if that bottle has passed the date on the label, err on the side of caution, and discard it if you’re not sure it’s okay.

Speaking of dates, let’s talk about the shelf life of soft drinks.

How Long Does Soda Last?

That bottle of Gatorade definitely comes with a best-by date on the label. The “best-by” label means that the product should be at peak quality up to that date. That definitely doesn’t mean that it will spoil a few days or weeks past that date. And in case of soft drinks, the carbonated and flavored liquid will likely stay in good quality for at least a few months past that date. Provided it remains unopened, and the bottle or tin is intact, of course.

Once you open the soda, it’s best to finish it straight away if it’s in a tin. You can store opened bottles for a few days because they are easily sealable. In short, as long as you can seal the leftovers, they can last a couple of days without losing much of their quality and with some fizz.

Last but not least, it’s time to talk about storage.

Pepsi bottles in a cooler
(credit: ian dooley)

How To Store Soda?

This section won’t be a huge surprise, but it includes a few tips that you hopefully find helpful.

When it comes to unopened tins and bottles, you can keep them at room temperature. The pantry or a dark cabinet in the kitchen are both excellent choices. Just make sure they don’t sit near any heat sources, and that bottles don’t sit in the sunlight. When you plan on serving or drinking the soda later, feel free to refrigerate it if you prefer it chilled.

Once you open the drink, keep the leftovers refrigerated and sealed tightly. If you accidentally leave that opened (but sealed) bottle of Coke overnight, nothing bad should happen, but pay close attention to its quality and smell.

If it’s a tin, and you won’t finish it the same day, pour the leftovers to a bottle. This way you will avoid losing all of its fizz quickly and protect the liquid from any microbial contamination. Or, if that’s not an option, use plastic wrap and a rubber band as a makeshift solution. It’s not ideal, but it’s definitely better than keeping an open tin in the fridge.

In a Nutshell

  • discard soft drinks when they become flat or smell or taste off
  • oda can easily last in good quality for a few months past the date on the label
  • leftover soda should be refrigerated and sealed tightly; it should keep quality for a few days