Does Kahlua Go Bad?

There’s a bottle of Kahlua sitting in the pantry for a few years already. You got it as a gift, stored it away, and forgot about it. Recently you stumbled upon it while organizing the shelves and it got you thinking: does Kahlua go bad?

Or maybe you’ve bought it to enjoy drinks with your friends. After the party, you threw the half-open bottle back into the cupboard, where it sits for a few months already.

Now that there’s another gathering coming and you’re the host, you’re planning things out. Those Espresso Martinis and White Russians you prepared last time around were great. Your guests were impressed, and you’re happy to make them once again. The only question that remains is: is the half-open Kahlua still usable?

KahlĂșa is a rum-based coffee-flavored liqueur commonly used in drinks. Since it’s a liqueur, many people assume that it can go bad quite quickly. Or at least lose its flavor, since there’s coffee involved. Fortunately for every fan of Kahlua, that’s not the case. If you would like to learn about storage, shelf life, and going bad of Kahlua, read on.

A bottle of Kahlua
(credit: hfreesartography)

How To Store Kahlua

While there are three types of KahlĂșa available on the market, namely the Original, Flavored, and Ready-to-drink mixes, the storage rules are pretty much the same.

Let’s start with an unopened bottle of the liqueur. Similarly to its base, namely rum, you should store unopened Kahlua in a dark and cool place. The pantry or the cellar is usually the best place, but a cabinet in the kitchen works too.

Of course, if you prefer to refrigerate it, that’s perfectly fine too. Move it into the fridge a few hours before opening, as Kahlua is best served chilled.

Once you open the bottle, make sure you always seal it using the original cap. Technically, opened Kahlua still doesn’t require refrigeration. However, if you use it fairly frequently, like a drink or two every weekend, it’s probably best to keep it in the fridge. This way you don’t need to remember to chill it before serving each time.

Line of Kahlua bottles
(credit: alyssalaurel)

How Long Does Kahlua Last

The shelf life of Kahlua isn’t as long as the shelf life of base spirits like vodka or whiskey. However, it’s not that short either.

Before we go to specific periods, let’s first learn how to figure out the production date. On the bottom edge of the label on the back of the bottle, there should be a lot number. Something that looks like this: L5260FJ1033. We’re interested in the first four digits, that is 5260. The first digit represents the last digit of the production year, so 5 means 2015. The last three digits indicate the day in the year, so 260 means 17th September. If you’d like to read more about deciphering the lot number, visit this page.

Now that we have the production date, we can talk about shelf life. According to the producer, the shelf life of the Original is 4 years, the Flavored variety 2 years, and one year for Ready-to-drink mixes. Of course, the liqueur won’t go bad after the mentioned period, but its quality will start to degrade and flavor fade away. So a 6-year-old Kahlua won’t be as good as a brand new one.

Please note that the shorter the recommended shelf life, the quicker the alcohol will deteriorate past that date. So the Original will likely be still quite good after 8 or even 10 years, but the Ready-to-drink mix will most likely taste pretty bad after 3 to 4 years.

One thing you should be aware of it that once you open Kahlua, the degradation process accelerates a bit. That means that 3-year-old Kahlua that’s opened for two weeks will likely taste better than a 3-year-old Kahlua opened for 6 months already.

 Pantry
Kahla Original4 years
Kahla Flavors2 years
Kahlua Ready-to-drink1 year

Please note that the periods above are for best quality.

How To Tell If Kahlua Is Bad

Like other liqueurs, such as Amaretto, Kahlua is unlikely to go bad in a way it’s unsafe to drink.

However, if you’re storing it for an extended period, it’s always good to check for the usual signs of spoilage before use. Those include any signs of mold, change of color, odd smell, or bad taste. If any of these occur, discard the liqueur.

If everything seems to be okay with the Kahlua, which will almost always be the case, give it a taste. Fresh and flavorful Kahlua means you’re free to enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s up to you what do you do with it.

Tip

If Kahlua tastes bland, it’s probably best to discard it. But if the taste is only somewhat suboptimal, it should still work quite well in drinks. Prepare yourself a tiny White or Black Russian and see how it tastes.