Alcohol can expire, but the shelf life of different alcoholic beverages can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors, including the amount of ethanol they contain.
Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is a compound found in alcoholic beverages. Producers make ethanol by using yeast to ferment the sugars in fruits, vegetables or grains. The most common examples are the use of grapes to make wine or potatoes to make vodka. While liqueurs have the longest shelf life, their shelf life may change with the addition of ingredients, such as dairy cream. This article discusses whether alcohol expires, addressing the issue of wine, beer, and liquors.
Does alcohol expire?
Different types of alcoholic beverages differ in terms of ingredients, amounts of alcohol, storage conditions, and manufacturing process. Whether and how quickly a given alcoholic beverage can expire depends on these factors.
For example, we can consider that wine improves with age and that beer deteriorates more quickly. On the other hand, since liquor has a higher alcohol content, it can be expected to last longer. Alcohol is a recognized preservative. For example, ethyl alcohol is an antimicrobial agent and preservative generally recognized as safe for use in certain foods.
It should therefore be noted that beer usually contains between 4% and 8% alcohol. Wine typically contains around 13.5% alcohol, while unmixed liqueurs tend to contain around 40% alcohol.
People generally believe that wine gets better with age. Below are some studies that might support this theory.
Reduction of bitterness
Researchers in a 2021 review reported that wine reaches its optimum quality after some time in the bottle. According to them, the storage of bottled wine leads to complex chemical changes linked to the limitation of oxygen. This reduces the astringency and bitterness of the wine, improves its aroma, brightens and stabilizes its color.
Regarding white wine specifically, a 2019 study found that oxygen transfer where the cork meets the bottle neck could be a significant factor in wine oxidation during aging in wine. bottle. This oxidation can significantly modify the chemical structure of the wine.
Storage in the dark and type of cap
Another study in 2021 showed that temperature and light exposure at retail outlets can significantly reduce the quality of bottled white wine. This also reduces its shelf life. Wine stored in the dark at 12°C retained similar properties to wine before bottling. In addition, the type of cork, in particular the high quality natural cork or the microgranulated cork helped to better preserve the sensory profile of the wine.
Wine producers add antioxidants, such as sulfur oxide, to prevent excessive oxidation and the resulting deterioration of wine. Bottles should also be closed with appropriate caps and stored under stable conditions to prevent the development of undesirable color, aroma or flavor.
The shelf life of beer depends on the type of beer. For example, a 2020 study reports that craft beers generally remain unfiltered and unpasteurized. This makes them high in health-promoting compounds, but shortens their shelf life. A 2022 study describes the difficulties faced by the beer industry in maintaining beer quality despite extensive studies by researchers on this topic. The study authors found that the entire production process, from field to consumer, must be controlled to maintain the quality and stability of a beer over its shelf life. A 2023 study also addressed the issue of beer quality decreasing over time. This phenomenon is due to the accumulation of certain compounds resulting from oxidation and leading to stale beer.
Make beer last longer
During a traditional practice known as refermentation, producers add Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells to beer before bottling, also known as ‘brewer’s yeast’ or ‘baker’s yeast’. This helps reduce the buildup of aldehydes that give beer a musty taste. However, the yeasts commonly added to beer only have a limited shelf life. However, the researchers in this study claim to have found a way to breed new bacteria that act as natural, long-lasting antioxidant preservatives for foods and beverages, such as beer.
The generic term “liqueur” tends to cover strong, sweet alcoholic beverages, usually distilled spirits such as whiskey or rum. Producers make these drinks by combining spirits with sugar and flavorings. Of all the types of alcohol, liqueurs tend to have the highest percentage of alcohol by volume. Since alcohol is a preservative, these drinks should theoretically keep the longest before degrading.
Even cream liqueurs that contain dairy cream, which have a limited shelf life, contain enough alcohol to inhibit the growth of bacteria. High-quality cream liqueurs can last up to two years if stored under ambient conditions, and refrigeration can further extend their shelf life.
Risks associated with the consumption of expired alcohol
Stale wine turns into vinegar. The high acid content inhibits the growth of bacteria that could make you sick if you drink the stale wine. Altered flavor is perhaps the biggest problem specific to expired alcohol, but these drinks pose the same health risks as all alcoholic beverages, whether expired or not.
Alcohol and health
A 2020 review of the evidence on alcohol and human health found that the health effects of alcohol depend on how much alcohol a person drinks.
Researchers have found that drinking 14 grams (g) of alcohol per day for women and 28 g per day for men may be linked to a decreased risk of death, particularly from cardiovascular disease and type 1 diabetes. 2. Experts consider this to be light or moderate alcohol consumption.
However, according to the study findings, long-term heavy drinking or misuse of alcohol leads to alcohol use disorder. This disorder can lead to physical and mental disorders, including
several types of cancer
Also, there is no known amount of alcohol that is safe for someone to drink during pregnancy or when trying to conceive.
The alcohol in alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Different alcoholic beverages contain varying amounts of this type of alcohol. The ethyl alcohol content can affect the shelf life of these beverages, as can other factors, including their individual ingredients and how they are made and stored. Liqueurs tend to contain the highest proportion of alcohol, followed by wine and beer. The health risks associated with consuming expired alcohol are generally the same as those associated with consuming alcohol within its shelf life.