Cacao (also known as cocoa) is a bean whose seeds contain about 50 percent fat, 35 percent protein and 15 percent carbohydrates.
When fermented, this seed becomes cocoa nibs.
The remainder of the cacao bean goes into making cocoa powder.
How long does cocoa powder last?
Cocoa powder is one of the most popular ingredients used in baking and cooking.
It’s also commonly added to ice cream, sauces, milkshakes, and hot drinks.
Because it has such a high fat content, cocoa powder can be stored at room temperature for up to two years without losing any flavor or quality.
However, if you keep your cocoa powder in the refrigerator, it will stay fresh for three months.
If you store it in an airtight container, it should remain good for six months.
As with all food products, the longer you can keep it, the better.
This is because the chemical reaction that causes food to spoil happens more slowly over time.
The science behind how long cocoa powder lasts
Cocoa powder contains both fat and sugar.
These are what make it so delicious.
However, the sugar in cocoa powder doesn’t contribute much to its shelf life.
In fact, when raw cocoa powder is exposed to oxygen, it turns brown.
The color change isn’t harmful, but it does indicate that the cocoa powder is no longer edible.
When cocoa powder is exposed to air, it starts to lose moisture.
This is why it is important to store it in an airtight container.
The loss of water means that the cocoa powder loses some of its fat, which is also essential for its taste and texture.
Without enough fat, the cocoa powder becomes dry and brittle, which makes it difficult to use.
This is why cocoa powder must be kept in an airtight container.
If the container isn’t sealed properly, the cocoa powder will turn rancid within just a few days.
Once it’s gone rancid, it’s not safe to eat.
Does cocoa powder go bad?
Cocoa powder is a great way to add rich flavor to your food.
However, it’s not perfect.
While it lasts for months when stored properly, cocoa powder can also turn rancid over time.
So what exactly happens?
Does cocoa powder go bad?
And how do you know if your cocoa powder has gone bad?
Let’s take a look at how long you can expect to keep your cocoa powder fresh before it starts smelling up your kitchen.
How can you tell if cocoa powder is bad?
The problem with cocoa powder isn’t its flavor or appearance.
In fact, it’s quite delicious when used properly.
The problem is that it doesn’t last long.
If you buy a box of cocoa powder, chances are good that by the time you open it up to use it, you won’t have enough left for another batch.
This is because cocoa powder doesn’t keep very well.
That said, there are some things you can do to make sure your cocoa powder lasts longer than just a few days.
Here are a few tips.
What are the signs that cocoa powder has gone bad?
If you open a container of cocoa powder and smell it, chances are good that it smells sweet and nutty.
If you pour some on your tongue, you’ll probably taste a bit like chocolate.
And if you take a small amount in your hand and rub it between your fingers, you’ll feel something resembling chocolate melt on your skin.
But cocoa powder doesn’t have to be spoiled just because it tastes good.
There are several reasons why it could become rancid or moldy.
Here are some of the most common ones:
- It’s old.
- It’s not stored properly.
- It’s exposed to heat or light.
- It’s been sitting around for too long.
- It’s been opened.
- It’s been exposed to moisture.
- It’s been exposed to oxygen.
- It’s been exposed to sunlight.
- It’s been exposed to humidity.
- It’s been exposed to air.
- It’s been contaminated by other products.
Can you still use cocoa powder after it has gone bad?
The short answer to the question “Can you still use cocoa powder after it has gone bad?” is “yes.”
However, there are some caveats to consider when using old, expired or rancid cocoa powder.
When should you throw out your cocoa powder?
If you buy cocoa powder in bulk, chances are it will be stored in an airtight container for a long time before being used up.
If you want to make sure you don’t have any spoiled cocoa powder on hand, look at the expiration date on the package.
Make sure you have enough to get you through until then.
Even if the expiration date is months away, you can still use the cocoa powder, but it may not taste as good as new, so test it first.
But what happens if you open your cocoa powder and find it rancid?
There is no hard and fast rule for how much rancidity cocoa powder can take before becoming unusable.
Some people report eating rancid cocoa powder and finding that it doesn’t affect them negatively.
Others say they can detect a slight off flavor, but can’t pinpoint exactly what the problem is, only that something is wrong with the cocoa powder.
Still others say their cocoa powder tastes fine, but just isn’t as rich and flavorful as fresh cocoa powder would be.
It’s important to note that the amount of rancidity present in a given batch of cocoa powder is different than the amount of rancidity present in another batch.
So, if you try to use a small sample of the rancid cocoa powder, you might be able to tell that it has gone bad, while a larger portion of the same batch won’t show any obvious signs.
How to check out your cocoa powder
The best way to determine whether or not you have rancid cocoa powder on hand is to smell it.
If you smell anything like burnt rubber or plastic, it’s probably rancid.
If you smell nothing unusual, but you do notice a slightly sour or vinegary odor, it could also be rancid.
You can also taste it by mixing a little bit of the rancid cocoa powder with water and see if it turns bitter.
If it does, then you know the cocoa powder is rancid.
How long does cocoa powder last once opened?
Cocoa powder can be stored for up to 12 months if kept in an airtight container in a cool place.
Once opened, however, it should be used within 2 weeks or refrigerated until needed.
If stored properly, cocoa powder will remain fresh for quite some time.
However, there are several factors that can affect its shelf life.
- Moisture content
- Light exposure
- Airborne bacteria
The moisture content
As with any food, the longer the cocoa powder remains on the shelf, the more likely it is to deteriorate.
This is due to the fact that moisture evaporates over time, leaving behind only dry cocoa solids.
In order to prevent this from happening, keep your cocoa powder tightly sealed in an airtight container.
Another factor that affects the shelf life of cocoa powder is temperature.
If the storage area is too hot, the cocoa powder will begin to break down.
Ideally, the storage area should be between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit (7 and 13 degrees Celsius).
The light exposure
When exposed to light, cocoa powder may become rancid.
This is because when exposed to light, certain compounds called polyphenols oxidize, causing them to turn brown and smell like rotten eggs.
To avoid this, keep your cocoa powder away from windows and other sources of bright light.
Also, don’t let your cocoa powder sit out for extended periods of time.
Instead, stir it often so that it doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the jar.
If your cocoa powder sits around for too long, it’s possible that it could become contaminated by airborne bacteria.
To help prevent this from happening, make sure your cocoa powder is stored in a clean, dry environment.
And never leave your cocoa powder open in direct sunlight.
What is the best way to store cocoa powder?
Cocoa powder is an excellent source of antioxidants and nutrients that may help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
If stored properly, it will keep for years.
However, if it’s not kept properly, it could go rancid or lose its nutritional value.
The best way to store cocoa powder is by keeping it in a cool dry place away from sunlight.
This will help prevent the development of mold on the surface of the cocoa powder.
The best way to ensure that the cocoa powder remains fresh and doesn’t develop mold is to keep it in a tightly sealed container.
If you purchase cocoa powder, it should be sealed in airtight containers to help preserve the product.
You can also buy cocoa powder in bulk and store it in large plastic bags or even glass jars.
Just make sure to keep the cocoa powder in a cool, dark place.
One thing to note, however, is that some people believe that storing cocoa powder at room temperature can actually increase the shelf life of the product.
While this is true for some types of cocoa powder, it’s not recommended for all types of cocoa powder.
For example, cocoa powder that has been roasted is much less likely to go bad when stored at room temperature than cocoa powder that hasn’t been roasted.
But, regardless of how long you have it stored, you can still enjoy delicious cocoa whenever you want.
How can you extend the shelf life of cocoa powder?
To preserve freshness and prolong use, it’s important to keep your cocoa powder dry.
This means storing it away from moisture or humidity.
Moisture can cause mold to grow on the surface of the cocoa powder.
If that happens, you should discard it immediately.
Storing cocoa powder in airtight containers
The best method of keeping cocoa powder dry is by storing it in an airtight container.
You can buy glass jars specifically designed for cocoa powder storage at most grocery stores.
These jars come with lids to prevent any moisture from getting inside the jar.
Store them in a cool, dark place.
If you don’t have a dedicated cocoa powder storage jar, you can also wrap up each individual serving of the powder in plastic wrap.
To do so, put a small amount of cocoa powder into a small bowl or cup.
Then cover it with another small bowl or cup that has been wrapped in plastic.
Put the two bowls together and twist the plastic around the top one.
Make sure the plastic doesn’t touch the cocoa powder.
Store the closed package in a cool, dry place.
Use within three months after opening.
Storing cocoa powder in sealed bags
You can also keep cocoa powder fresh by storing it in a bag.
Just make sure the bag is tight-fitting and airtight.
A food-grade zipper-lock bag will work well for this purpose.
You can also use a freezer bag if you want to be extra careful about maintaining the integrity of the seal.
Keep the bag tightly sealed until you need to use it.
Once opened, you can refrigerate the cocoa powder for up to six weeks.
For longer storage times, you can freeze it.
Freeze the cocoa powder in its original bag, but make sure it’s not touching anything else when you do so.
Freezing preserves the flavor and nutrients of cocoa powder.
However, it may change the texture slightly.
So, once frozen, you might want to thaw the cocoa powder before using it in recipes.
Storing cocoa powder in the refrigerator
You can also store cocoa powder in the fridge.
Do this only if you plan to use it within a few days of purchase.
If you do this, just take out the amount you’ll need right before you start preparing a recipe.
After you open the container, let the cocoa powder sit out for several hours to allow it to return to room temperature.
This step is especially important if you’re going to use the cocoa powder in a hot drink such as coffee or tea.
Otherwise, you could end up with a very bitter beverage.
What are some tips for using cocoa powder?
There are two types of cocoa powders that you will find at your local grocery store or online retailer.
Natural cocoa powder comes from the roasted whole cocoa beans, while Dutch process cocoa powder has been treated to remove most of the natural cocoa butter.
Both are used interchangeably in recipes.
You’ll find that both types of cocoa powder have their own uses and advantages.
For example, natural cocoa powder is more flavorful than Dutch process cocoa powder, but it also tends to be less stable and prone to rancidity.
On the other hand, Dutch process cocoa powder has a higher cocoa content and is usually more expensive, but it is more stable and doesn’t tend to lose much flavor over time.
If you’re just starting out on your journey to becoming a better cook, you should start by learning how to use each type of cocoa powder correctly.
Here are some tips for using either type of cocoa powder.
Is there anything you can do with old cocoa powder?
If your cocoa powder has gone bad, it’s easy to tell by looking at the color.
Once the cocoa butter has melted or separated from the cocoa solids, the color will be brownish instead of yellow.
If you see white specks that look like flour on top of the cocoa powder, then it’s also been exposed to air too long.
In either case, the cocoa powder should not be used anymore.
The best way to use old cocoa powder is to make hot cocoa.
This involves melting the cocoa powder in water and stirring until smooth.
Then add milk, sugar, and other ingredients as desired.
You can also mix it into ice cream or yogurt if you want to avoid adding milk.
If you don’t have any other options, however, you can still enjoy hot cocoa.
Just add more water than usual, stir well, and drink immediately.
The heat will help melt the remaining cocoa solids so they dissolve completely.
You can also freeze leftover cocoa powder to make a quick dessert later on.
Simply place the cocoa powder in an ice cube tray and freeze it.
Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a plastic bag and store them in the freezer until needed.
Of course, you could always use powdered sugar or even cornstarch to thicken hot cocoa.
These thickening agents will work fine, but they may alter the flavor of the hot cocoa slightly.