Does Soda Expire? Can You Drink Expired Soda?

Found a can of Coke, Pepsi, or Dr Pepper that has been expired for a year or two, and not sure if it’s safe to drink? Is expired soda safe to drink?

Or maybe you’ve just opened a big bottle, and you’re wondering how long soft drinks stay safe after opening.

Sounds familiar?

If so, this article is for you. Read on.

Bunch of soda cans
Image used under Creative Commons from poolie

Does Soda Expire?

According to the USDA, sodas are not perishable, and you can safely drink them past the printed date. The USDA suggests diet sodas retain best quality for about 3 months past the best-by date, while regular sodas for up to 9 months.

Those are rough estimates, of course, and chances are your two years expired carbonated soft drink will still be okay to drink and quite tasty, too. Just open it up to find out.

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules here. You might open a can of Coca-Cola that’s been “expired” for three years, and it might still be good. Or stumble upon a bottle of Pepsi that’s only a couple of months expired that has already lost most of its fizz.

(I cover signs of spoilage later in the article, so make sure you learn about those before drinking that soda.)

Soft drinks are (pretty much) carbonated water with some sort of flavoring and a sweetener if it’s not a diet soda. Plus, some preservatives if needed.

All of that is tightly closed in an aluminum can or plastic bottle. Not much can happen to such a mix as it’s well protected from the outside world.

(That’s especially true for aluminum cans that don’t let any light in.)

Of course, if you’ve stored your soda in a hot place for an extended period (say, it sat in the trunk for the whole summer), its flavor might not be the best, but it should still be perfectly safe to drink.

A can of Coca Cola
(credit: Mae Mu)

How Long Does Soda Last After Opening?

An open bottle or can of soda will retain its carbonation for about 3 to 4 days if sealed and refrigerated. After that period, it’ll lose most of its fizz, and you probably won’t enjoy it nearly as much.

Once you open the drink, it’s best to finish it in one sitting, as is the case for Gatorade or coconut water.

If that’s not an option, most soft drinks retain the flavor and most of the carbonation for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. That’s when they still taste pretty good.

But after a few more days, most of their fizz is lost, the same way champagne loses its bubbles.

Past that point, most soft drinks taste so-so at best and terrible at worst. So you can easily take a few more days to finish up the bottle, but the flavor probably won’t hit the spot.

A can of Pepsi Max on a table
(credit: Olena Sergienko)

How To Store Soda

You can store an unopened can in the pantry, kitchen, or fridge. Just make sure it’s a place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate. The pantry is probably the best choice because storing it there means the drinks don’t clutter the kitchen or the refrigerator.

And if the soda comes in a plastic bottle, make sure it’s in a dark place, not on the countertop.

Next, chill the drink in the fridge for an hour or two before serving, as soft drinks are best served chilled.

Once you open the bottle or tin, you can leave it at room temperature or refrigerate it. But since sodas lose their carbonation much faster at room temperature, refrigeration is the better option of the two.

If it’s a bottle, seal it tightly before you chuck it in the fridge. If it’s an aluminum tin, it’s best to either pour the drink into a plastic bottle or at least cover the top with aluminum foil and a rubber band. That is, of course, if you want some of those bubbles to stay in the drink.

These practices work for all sorts of soft drinks, as all of them are very similar in terms of ingredients. Thus when it comes to storage, it doesn’t matter much if it’s 7 Up, Mountain Dew, Mirinda, or any other soda, diet or not.

Bunch of soda cans
(credit: Jonny Caspari)

How to Tell If Soda is Bad?

Let’s start with unopened soft drinks. If the bottle is damaged or leaky, discard the drink. Same thing if the can is bulging or severely dented. Or if it started rusting.

If everything about the can or bottle seems to be okay, the liquid inside should be fine too.

Once you open the drink that’s months past the date on the label, look for typical signs of spoilage, like an off odor or changed color. Chances of that happening are slim, but hey, it’s always better to check.

If everything with the soft drink seems to be okay, give it a taste to find out if it’s good enough to drink. If it’s flat or just doesn’t taste that great, it’s probably best to pour it down the drain.

Last but not least, if it’s already been opened for more than a week, just cut your losses and toss it out. It makes no sense to drink a flat and tasteless soda.

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