There are dozens of drinks that use Kahlua, from the popular white Russian to the more exotic espresso martini. No matter how much you love the stuff, there always seems to be a little leftover in the bottle. By now, you're probably wondering, "Does Kahlua go bad?"
The short answer is that Kahlua lasts four years, after which time it should be discarded and replaced with a new bottle. But does that mean it will make you sick if you drink it? Or does the flavor simply dull over time?
To learn more about how time affects your bottle of original Kahlua, take a look at our complete guide below.
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Does Kahlua Go Bad?
While we stand by our guideline of throwing out four-year-old Kahlua, the truth is a little more complicated. Since Kahlua has a high alcohol content, its ingredients will keep much longer than they otherwise would. You can drink it for years past its original expiration date without any adverse health effects.
However, there may be other reasons why drinking old Kahlua isn't such a good idea. More on that below.
Expired Doesn't Always Mean Bad
If you look closely at your bottle, you might even be able to find an expiration date. This usually marks the four-year shelf life mentioned above. But if you don't get sick from drinking Kahlua past its expiration date, then why is it even there?
Drinking Kahlua past its expiration may be safe, though it probably won't be as enjoyable as a fresh bottle. Much of its distinctive character comes from the coffee flavoring in it, which will degrade as time passes. While the alcohol can preserve it up to a point, much of the flavor will have dulled after four years.
Still, it's always safest to take caution. Even alcoholic drinks can harbor mold or bacteria, so it's a good idea to take a close look at the bottle if you're unsure.
Tips for Storing Your Bottle of Kahlua
To make sure your coffee liqueur tastes as good as a fresh bottle, you should pay close attention to how you store it. Follow all of these storage tips for the best results.
Choose the Right Environment
The best way to maintain the flavor and smell of Kahlua or any alcohol is to find a cool, dry place out of the way of any direct sunlight. You can use the fridge if you like, though it doesn't need to be cold to stay good. An out-of-the-way shelf in your basement is probably your best bet.
Don't Freeze it
While it might be tempting to set your bottle in the freezer and forget about it, this will actually speed up the degradation of your beverage. Most home freezers aren't powerful enough to freeze alcohol fully, so ice crystals can still form in the drink. This can ruin the coffee in your liquor, degrading the flavor more quickly.
That being said, putting yours in the freezer for a few days to keep it chilled is just fine. Just don't use it as long-term storage.
Keep It Sealed
This one seems obvious, but it's so important that we didn't want to leave it off our list. When you're done using your bottle of Kahlua, make sure the cap is tightly sealed. This is the best way to preserve its flavor.
Shake Gently Before Serving
Especially if your bottle is a little old, you may notice the coffee solids begin to sink to the bottom of the bottle. This isn't a problem, as long as you remember to get them reincorporated before pouring. No need to shake vigorously, just give the bottle a gentle turn so everything is evenly distributed.
How Can I Tell If My Kahlua Liquor Has Gone Bad?
In most cases, you won't see any visible mold or bacteria growth in a bottle of alcohol, so you'll have to give it a good sniff to tell whether it's off. A fresh bottle should smell like alcohol and coffee, so if yours has any other odors, toss it out.
If it seems safe to drink, take a small sip of it. This should give you a good idea of how much the flavor has dissipated during storage. If you don't taste much coffee, try grabbing a new bottle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Since Kahlua contains coffee, it does have some caffeine in it. On average, you can expect to find about 25% as much as the same volume of coffee.
When using Kahlua to make a mixed drink, you can substitute it for any coffee liquor, like Tia Maria or crème de cacao, which has the same flavor. If you're using it in baking, feel free to substitute it for a shot of espresso or iced coffee.
You can also try any of these coffee liqueur substitutes.
Kahlua is about $20 per bottle. Since it will likely last you for years, we think it's a worthwhile investment.
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