Does Hot Chocolate Expire or Go Bad? All You Need to Know

by Charlie

As much as every hot chocolate aficionado would love to believe that their favorite drink of choice will withstand the ravages of time, sadly, that is not the case.

Does hot chocolate expire or go bad? Yes, hot chocolate can expire, go bad or spoil if it is not used within its expiry date or even if it is not handled properly while you are storing it.

How Long Does Hot Chocolate Last?

The average lifespan of your run of the mill hot chocolate powder is anywhere between 1-2 years, depending on the date of expiry.

But anyone who knows their hot chocolate can tell you that there’s more than one way to get your hot-chocolate fix. You have hot chocolate powder, cocoa powder, instant hot chocolate powder mixes, hot chocolate bombs, and the good old fashioned way of melting chocolate pellets into literal hot cocoa.

So how long does each of these last?

If pure cocoa is stored properly then it doesn’t go bad, not really. But, the flavor and quality of the cocoa can and will decrease over time. Unopened, cocoa powder can last for over two years. Once opened, however, it must be used within its use-by date, usually 6 months from when the seal is broken.

Hot chocolate powder, on the other hand, will not last nearly as long as pure cocoa. Why? Well, hot chocolate powder and instant mixes usually contain powdered milk or some kind of dairy product in them. These will definitely go bad within a year or so, as per the expiry or best-by date.

Hot chocolate bombs are all in the rage now, and you can find them almost everywhere. While these cocoa bombs are, well, the bomb, they do not last long, only up to two weeks at the most. These cocoa bombs need to be stored with great care. They usually contain fillings like chocolate ganache, marshmallows and other ingredients that require proper handling, lest the go bad.

The same applies to hot chocolate made from melting chocolate chips, pellets or bars.

How to Tell if Hot Chocolate Has Gone Bad

A good indicator of when it is time to dump your hot chocolate powder or mix is to check the best by or expiry date. But apart from that, the smell, flavor and color of the hot chocolate can also be a tip off.

However, you can’t really tell that your hot chocolate has gone bad because, as a pantry item, it will still ‘look good.’ It won’t grow things on it, unlike fresh produce.

However, here are some ways to know if it is time to dump your hot cocoa :

  1. The overall taste of the hot chocolate will definitely reduce in flavor, the longer you go without using it. This can go two ways: you’ll either find that the flavor and potency has diminished significantly, or you will notice an overbearing bitterness. Either way, your hot chocolate has gone bad.
  2. As is the case with the taste of your hot cocoa, the smell, too will change. Good quality cocoa or instant chocolate powder will be fragrant, with a malty and buttery smell. If the powder is going bad, then the smell of the cocoa will reduce, and the powder will instead smell bland, or even a little savory.
  3. If you don’t store the hot chocolate properly in a dry and cool place, then there is a good possibility that moisture will get into the container and your hot chocolate powder will turn lumpy. Where there is water, there is a good chance of a bacterial attack and that is a  definite indicator that your cocoa has gone bad.
  4. Discoloration is another indicator that your hot chocolate has gone off. The rich brown color of cocoa will fade and will take on a grey-white tinge as time goes.
  5. In the case of chocolate chips, pellets, bars and bombs, you will find a white-grey discoloration along the surface which indicates that the chocolate is old and stale.

What Happens if You Drink Hot Chocolate that Has Expired or Gone Bad?

Cocoa powder doesn’t spoil, so you won’t get sick from consuming it. However, any food product that has gone bad is definitely unsafe for consumption.

But surely, chocolate, ambrosia of the Gods, can never do any harm…can it?

Old chocolate powder or cocoa can sometimes show white spots called ‘bloom’ which is essentially the sugar that has crystallized. It is still ‘safe’ to eat, but it will not taste anywhere near as good. The same applies to chocolate chips and pellets. Chocolate bombs, however, contain fillings that, depending on what it is, might make your sick.

However, if your cocoa powder is lumpy and damp, then that is an indication of moisture. This means that there is a good chance that there is some bacterial presence, which, if ingested, will definitely make you sick.

How to Store Hot Chocolate Properly

Fluctuation in temperature, moisture levels and even the kind of container you store your hot chocolate in will go a long way to preserve and store it to get the maximum use out of it.

  1. Ideally, store your cocoa powder in a cool place, between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity of less than 55%.  Make sure that the temperature is stable, and that once you store it in one place, you don’t move it to another and change the temperature.
  2. Keep it away from direct sunlight or any artificial light.
  3. If you damage the container that it originally came in, then reseal the container, or better yet, find an alternative one with a tight lid and transfer the hot chocolate into it.
  4. Always use a dry utensil to spoon out the hot chocolate.
  5. Storing it in the refrigerator is not the most ideal option. But, especially during the summer months, it might be wise to wrap the container tightly, with an airtight seal, and put it in the fridge to make it last longer. If you don’t wrap it up before you pop it into the refrigerator or freezer, then the high humidity in there could cause your powder to clump. Keep in mind, however, that storing hot chocolate in the refrigerator will inevitably diminish the flavor.
  6. Chocolate bombs are best stored at room temperature to preserve the fillings inside in the best possible way. Chocolate ganache, chips and marshmallow fillings will become rock-hard when frozen and your bomb will fizzle and fall flat if you refrigerate it before using it.

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