So you just got your hands on hard cider, and you heard that its taste would get better as time goes by?
Does that mean you should store it for years?
Or does hard cider go bad too?
In-cider Scoop: Hard cider can go bad, but not in the way you think.
So how does it go bad?
Read this article to find out!
- What is Hard Cider?
- Does Hard Cider Go Bad?
- How Long Does Hard Cider Last?
- How to Tell if Hard Cider Has Gone Bad?
- How to Store Hard Cider Properly?
- What’s the Best Way to Serve Hard Cider?
- The Bottom Line
When you do, you’ll also discover the answers to:
- What is hard cider? (Is it a beer or not?)
- Does hard cider go bad?
- How long does hard cider last?
- How to tell if hard cider has gone bad?
- How to store hard cider properly?
- How to serve hard cider?
So do you want to know the in-cider scoop about cider? Let’s dive right in!
What is Hard Cider?
Hard cider is an alcoholic beverage made through the fermentation of fruit juices. The most common fruit juice used in creating hard cider is apple juice. (*)
Hard cider is the adult version of the fermented apple juice called apple cider. To create this alcoholic version, yeast is added to the fermented apple juice. These added ingredients convert the sugar in the drink to alcohol.
Fun Fact: Despite being an alcoholic drink, hard cider is not considered a form of beer because the former is made from fruits while the latter is barley-based.
Does Hard Cider Go Bad?
Yes, hard cider can go bad.
The process is commonly referred to as hard cider aging. Like wine, cider is undergoing fermentation even if the alcohol sits in its bottle because it is never quite finished conditioning. Because of this, you can expect its taste and quality to get better with time.
But since commercial hard ciders are pasteurized or sterile-conditioned, commercial hard ciders will undergo the fermentation process and will yield cider vinegar instead of aging.
So despite having alcohol content, it can still go bad to the point that the cider may not taste as enjoyable anymore.
In short, the alcohol technically doesn’t expire, but its flavor and quality will go bad over time.
How Long Does Hard Cider Last?
Let’s recap: Hard cider has a shelf life limit due to the pasteurization process. However, thanks to its alcohol content, it has a relatively long shelf life.
So how long does hard cider last? The shelf life of unopened commercial hard cider is up to two years, but a few brands have a shelf life of one year. Each brand has its shelf life recommendation, so you should check the expiration date to determine when you can enjoy drinking it.
Pro Tip: The printed date in the bottle is not an expiration date but more of a best before date as it indicates until when you can expect the hard cider to retain its quality and maximum refreshment.
Once opened, hard cider will go bad faster. The shelf life of opened hard cider is seven to ten days after opening.
On the other hand, homemade hard cider can last for two to three weeks.
Warning: Please keep in mind that the provided shelf life guidelines are just estimates.
How to Tell if Hard Cider Has Gone Bad?
If the hard cider is improperly stored, it will go bad faster than the said guidelines. Because of this, it’s a must that you don’t just check the expiry dates of the bottles but also take the time to examine the beverage for any signs of spoilage.
What signs should you look for? These are as follows:
1. Slimy Pulp
Over time, the quality of apple cider depends on the type of apple you use. For example, if you use true cider apples that haven’t been stored for a long time, it’s less likely that you’ll experience slimy pulp.
This sign is most common with apple ciders made of dessert apples because there’s a high chance that pectin will reach out and be broken down by the fruit enzymes found in such an apple.
Pro Tip: If you can’t afford to use pure cider apples, the best you can do is use a mix of different apples to address such an issue.
2. Milky Haze
Once the cider exhibits a milky haze, it has something known as cider sickness caused by a specific bacteria. What this bacteria does is it ferments sugars the same way yeasts do. But at the same time, it also produces acetaldehydes which can make the milky haze when it comes in contact with tannins.
This sign is most familiar with sweet apple cider or hard ciders with residual sugars.
3. Sour Smell
As mentioned, commercial hard ciders will be converted into cider vinegar when stored for long periods. Therefore, if the apple cider develops a strong vinegar-like or sour smell, it’s no longer enjoyable to drink.
How to Store Hard Cider Properly?
Hard cider is considered hardy, which can tolerate extreme temperature and light changes. Because of this, it’s pretty easy to store.
However, there’s one thing you need to understand. Since hard cider is fermented, there’s no need for you to place it in the refrigerator. But storing it at room temperature may alter its flavor profile, causing it to taste sourer-like vinegar a lot faster.
The key here is to consider the climate in your area. If you live in a place with colder weather, you can store it at room temperature, but make sure to finish it off before its shelf life limit.
On the other hand, we recommend refrigerating hard cider if you live in places with a warmer climate.
Can you freeze hard cider? Yes, you can, but please don’t. This is because freezing hard cider will kill the yeast and change the flavor of the cider.
What’s the Best Way to Serve Hard Cider?
To fully enjoy the flavor of the hard cider, you should learn how to serve it properly. Here’s how you do it:
1. Serve it at the right temperature.
Hard cider is best served at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s served even colder, you might no longer be able to distinguish its different flavors.
2. Use proper glasses when serving cider.
Like Angry Orchard, most popular cider brands have designed their cider glassware. But you can use whatever glass you want as long as:
a.) its bowl is big enough to allow for aeration and spinning
b.) it comes with a stem so the cider won’t get too warm in the hands of the drinker.
3. Serve it with its perfect match.
To find the perfect pairing for alcoholic cider, all you need to do is to think of the dishes that go best with apples. Our recommendations are salads, butternut squash, chicken, and pork dishes.
The Bottom Line
Does hard cider go bad? No, it won’t go bad in the sense that it will become unsafe for consumption. But, yes, it can go bad in a way that it will become too sour. The worst that can happen is it’s converted into apple cider vinegar.
So yes, drinking expired hard cider is safe, but you may not be able to enjoy its strong vinegar taste.
So what can you do? Well, the best and easiest solution to this is to finish up your cider within its given shelf life. The good thing is there’s a high chance that the cider won’t last for long because of its addictive flavor. Don’t you agree?