Can you drink unopened expired apple cider?

Apple cider is a popular fall beverage made from apples that are pressed to extract the juice. The juice is then often pasteurized to kill bacteria before being bottled. Apple cider has a shelf life of typically 6-12 months if unopened. Here are some quick answers on whether it’s safe to drink unopened expired apple cider:

Quick Answers

  • Unopened pasteurized apple cider can be safe to drink for up to 1 year past the printed expiration date if stored properly in a cool, dark place.
  • The quality and taste of apple cider can start to degrade after the expiration date due to oxidation and flavor compound breakdown.
  • There is a very small risk of foodborne illness from unopened expired pasteurized cider if pathogens are present.
  • Sniff and inspect expired cider first – if it smells or looks off, don’t drink it.
  • To be extra safe, heat cider to 165°F for 15 seconds before drinking to kill potential pathogens.

Does unopened apple cider expire?

Yes, unopened apple cider does expire and has a limited shelf life. The expiration date printed on the bottle indicates the last date the manufacturer recommends consuming the cider while it is at peak quality and safety.

Like many fruit juices, apple cider has an optimum shelf life in the 6-12 month range. This shelf life is based on factors like:

  • Pasteurization process used
  • Preservatives added
  • Acid content
  • Bottling method (oxygen exposure)
  • Storage temperature

Over time, apple cider can start to lose quality in terms of taste, texture, and nutrition. Exposure to oxygen and light causes oxidation reactions and breakdown of flavor compounds. Enzymes also slowly begin to break down aspects like pectin, changing the viscosity.

Is it safe to drink expired unopened apple cider?

Drinking expired but unopened pasteurized apple cider can be safe, but there are some risks to consider. Here is a closer look at the safety issues:

  • Pathogen risk – Pasteurization kills most pathogens, but it’s possible for some bacteria like mold to gain access into bottles. These could slowly grow over time.
  • Toxin risk – Pathogens could produce toxins not destroyed by pasteurization. Toxins don’t necessarily change the taste/smell.
  • Oxidation – Excess oxidation can degrade nutrients like Vitamin C and polyphenols that have health benefits.
  • Immune response – Our immune function can become more sensitive to foods as they age and change chemically.

Despite these small risks, drinking expired pasteurized cider stored properly is unlikely to make you sick. Companies provide a wide safety margin with expiration dates. Yet, there is no guarantee the cider will be 100% safe, so inspect first.

How long past expiration is apple cider still good?

General guidelines for consuming unopened pasteurized apple cider past the expiration date are:

  • 1-3 months – Cider is likely still safe if stored in cool, dark pantry.
  • 4-6 months – Cider is probably still safe but quality/taste may start declining.
  • 7-12 months – Use caution – inspect and sniff before drinking.
  • Over 1 year – Higher risk of safety issues – heat cider before consuming.

However, these timeframes are just estimates and depend on storage conditions. Again, companies build in very conservative expiration dates, so unopened cider lasting over 1 year past expiration in the fridge may still be safe in many cases.

Does unopened apple cider need to be refrigerated?

Refrigeration can extend the shelf life of unopened apple cider, but is not required. Here are some cider storage considerations:

  • Room temperature – Store unopened cider in a cool, dark pantry to maximize shelf life.
  • Refrigerator – Storing cider in the fridge can prolong freshness from 6-12+ months.
  • Freezer – Frozen cider can stay good for years, but may change texture.
  • Counter/sunlight – Heat and light accelerate cider oxidation and quality loss.

For optimal freshness and shelf life, keep unopened cider stored in relatively cool, dark conditions. Refrigeration can further slow vitamin and flavor degradation. But avoid freezing opened cider, which damages texture.

How to tell if unopened expired apple cider is bad?

With unopened cider that is past the expiration date, the best way to check safety and quality is to inspect the bottle and give it a sniff test before drinking. Look for these signs of spoiled cider:

  • Bulging or leaking bottle – Indicates gas production from microbial growth.
  • Cloudiness – Potential mold/yeast growth making cider appear hazy.
  • Off odors – Smell for unpleasant aromas like rotting or sourness.
  • Fizziness – Cider may re-ferment and become carbonated past expiration.
  • Taste – Small sip should taste fresh, not funky flavors.

If the cider passes visual, smell, and taste inspections with no apparent issues, it is likely still safe to drink though quality loss is possible. If any odd characteristics arise, it is better to be safe and discard the cider.

Can you get food poisoning from expired apple cider?

It is highly unlikely to get food poisoning or become seriously ill from drinking expired apple cider as long as the bottle remains properly sealed. Reasons why cider is low risk include:

  • Pasteurization kills most pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
  • Preservatives limit microbial growth.
  • Acidity prevents many microbes from growing.
  • Low oxygen environment inside sealed bottles.
  • Warning signs like smell/taste/appearance typically present if spoiled.

However, foodborne illnesses like diarrhea or vomiting are still possible if the cider contains certain toxin-producing molds or bacterial spores that can survive pasteurization. This is quite rare with proper refrigerated storage.

Apple cider food poisoning symptoms

If apple cider does contain foodborne pathogens, typical symptoms of cider food poisoning may appear within 12-48 hours and include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea
  • Headache and fever
  • Fatigue and weakness

Seek medical treatment if these apple cider food poisoning symptoms are severe or prolonged. The biggest risk groups for cider foodborne illness include pregnant women, young children, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

How to make old apple cider safe to drink?

If you want to take extra safety precautions with expired apple cider, these methods can help destroy potential pathogens:

  • Boiling – Heat cider to a rolling boil for 1 minute kills most bacteria and viruses.
  • Pasteurization – Heat cider to 160°F for 10-30 minutes eliminates pathogens.
  • Simmer – Heat cider to at least 165°F for 15 seconds kills most microorganisms.
  • Microwave – Microwave in 15 second intervals until boiling to pasteurize.
  • Pressure canning – Canning cider at 240°F under pressure sterilizes it.

Any form of heating can reduce microbes to safe levels in expired cider. However, boiling may change the cider’s flavor. After heating, refrigerate cider to stop any remaining microbial growth.

Can you freeze expired apple cider?

Yes, you can safely freeze expired apple cider to pause any further deterioration in quality or safety. According to USDA guidelines:

  • Freeze unopened cider near or past expiration date.
  • Store frozen cider at 0°F or below.
  • Frozen unopened cider lasts for 1-2 years.
  • Thaw frozen cider in fridge before drinking.

Freezing stops the activity of any microbes and enzymes present to help extended the shelf life. However, freezing and thawing can change the cider’s taste and texture slightly. Only freeze unopened cider bottles.

Can you ferment expired apple cider?

Out of date unopened apple cider can potentially be used to make hard cider through fermentation. Here are some tips if fermenting expired cider:

  • Inspect and smell cider first to ensure safety and freshness.
  • Pour cider into sanitized fermenter, leaving headspace.
  • Add brewing yeast and ferment 1-2 weeks until done.
  • Monitor fermentation temp and progression.
  • Rack, mature, bottle cider once fermented.
  • Refrigerate and monitor flavor as cider ages.

The alcohol produced from fermentation can help inhibit microbial growth. However, fermenting can’t improve an already spoiled cider. Use common sense – if the cider smells or looks bad don’t try fermenting it.


Drinking expired but properly stored unopened apple cider poses only a small safety risk in most cases. While the flavor and nutrition may start to decline, cider that was pasteurized and refrigerated has a low risk of foodborne illness past the printed expiration date for up to 1 year or longer.

Inspect bottles and do a smell/taste check before consuming very old cider. Discard any that seem spoiled. If extra cautious, heating sealed cider to 165°F for 15 seconds should kill any potential pathogens. Freezing can also extend the shelf life for future use. While not advised, fermenting very old cider may be possible if it appears unspoiled.

So in conclusion, while drinking very expired apple cider is never completely without risk, the chances of getting sick from unopened pasteurized bottles stored properly remain extremely low. Use good judgement, and enjoy that leftover cider lingering in the back of your fridge before it goes to waste.

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