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What Is The Shelf Life Of Flavoring Extracts

Many people don’t know the shelf life of flavoring extracts.  A lot of  these people end up throwing away flavorings that are good and could be used  for a long time to come.  We would like to clarify that not all flavoring extracts have the same shelf life and, as such, you need to know how old your extract is before attempting to use it in any recipe.  To learn how old your extract is, look to its manufacturer.  According to the package, you should be able to find the following:

1.  Color Code Name

2.  Years of Manufacture

3.  The flavorings origin and final note

Sometimes you will see a color code list or a batch number. These are examples of forms that manufacturers provide to help companies keep track of their product’s shelf life until they are sold out and then disposed of by the manufacturers because they don’t want people using their product that is not fresh anymore and causing problems for them in the future. The most common types of color codes include:

A. Blue Code or Batch Number

Manufacturers will use batch codes or blue codes to help track the age of the flavoring extract.  Here is an example of a Blue Code from LorAnn Oils:

This type of color code label contains different information that will vary depending on manufacturer.  Some look like this:

Age in Years – Manufacture Date – Batch Code/Color Code

A. Brown/Tan Label This type of color code label is not as common as the blue label but can also be found on many flavoring extracts. It doesn’t contain the batch code information but simply states that the flavorings are safe to use and has been manufactured on this date.

2.  Years of Manufacture

The next thing you should look at is the years of manufacture listed on the package.  This is extremely important to use your extract within a certain number of years of manufacturing or it can become a health hazard.  Don’t wait until it’s expired, throw it in the trash!  For example, if you purchased a 1-ounce bottle of New York Super Natural Flavor Oil made in 2006, then that means that you have up to 5 more years before it expires.  As you can see by their example below, most flavorings have a shelf life of one to three years.

A lot of people are not aware that some flavoring extracts will expire and they will throw them a way while they think they are good to use.   Several companies, such as LorAnn Oils, have made it known on the bottles and have even posted information on their website regarding the shelf life of several of their products. Below is an example from LorAnn Oils:

These numbers represent the age of your flavoring extracts based on its manufacture date.  If your extract is from a company that does not state an expiration date and you are wondering how long it’s shelf life is, then you will have to do some research on the company.  This will require you to look for an email address for customer service or call them and ask questions about the shelf life of their extracts. 

You can also inquire about the flavorings origin and final note (in this example, they state they are all natural & contain no water therefore they are made with FDA approved food dyes).  Once you get a hold of someone, don’t be afraid to ask them questions while you need help ordering or even if you just want clarification on how long their extracts should be kept.

3.  The Flavorings Origin & Final Note

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The last thing you will want to check is the flavorings origin and final note.  Here is an example of a flavorings’ description from LorAnn Oils:

This quote from LorAnn Oils explains that the extraction process of their extract leaves a scent in the extract, giving it a “citrus” smell and it can also be used for other things (scenting candles). 

If you do not find information about how old your flavoring extracts are in its packaging, then I would assume that your extract is one year or less from its manufacture date.  I would still be weary about using the extract because you don’t know how long it’s sat on a shelf at the store. So, instead of taking your chances, just throw it out and buy another one.

Like we stated above, age is not the only thing that determines if your flavoring extract is still good to use or not.  You also have to consider how well you store them (temperature and light exposure are very important!) and then test a small amount before using a large portion since some extracts can expire or lose its flavor after being exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time or if they were not stored properly in the first place.

Some common examples of food-safe flavoring extracts include vanilla extract (which typically lasts indefinitely), peppermint extract (which lasts around one year), and almond extract (which last indefinitely). However, different types of flavorings will have different shelf lives – for instance, imitation butter flavorings last about two years.

There are some flavoring extracts that are not food-safe and are primarily used for craft or personal blends. Some examples of these include tobacco extract, alcohol (such as vanilla), and woodsy flavors. Some of these will have a longer shelf life than others, but because they are used in small volumes in small recipes, they rarely go bad. For instance, if you use a half teaspoon of tobacco extract in a recipe every day when you cook, it will last at least one year before losing its potency and shelf life.

Flavoring extracts come in small bottles and have foil lids; they also come in large glass bottles. The three main types of flavoring extracts are essential oils, extract oil, and synthetic essential oils.

Essential oil are oils from plants that are extracted by steam distillation, a process that uses hot water to speed up the extraction process. Some examples of essential oils include lavender, citrus (such as orange), rosemary, oregano, vanilla bean, and chamomile.

Extract oil has less than 80 percent of the taste and aroma of natural oils such as any of the above mentioned extracts (typically they fall somewhere between 60 to 80 percent). Examples of extract oils include imitation butter flavor, which taste like butter, cocoa, and many other food-safe flavors.

Synthetic essential oils contain no natural ingredients and are instead made of chemicals that are used to replicate the smell or taste of real extracts. Examples of synthetic flavors include vanilla, chocolate, maple (also known as maple essence), menthol (which is cool and minty), strawberry (sometimes called strawberry essence), black cherry, rum and chocolate. These types of flavoring extracts often have a longer shelf life than essential oils because they do not break down as easily.

Flavoring extracts are versatile additions to any kitchen arsenal. Learn about the shelf life of flavoring extracts and use them to your advantage – because you can always make more when you run out!

How long do flavoring extracts last in the cupboard? I have several bottles of extract (vanilla, rum, maple and lemon) that are quite old and I wonder if they are still usuable. The alcohol evaporated from the peppermint extract. Can I add more alcohol to the bottle and reconstitute the residue? (Guess who is frugal?) I did pitch the Mexican vanilla because of questionable origin.

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Most flavoring extracts are quite volatile and, as you discovered with the peppermint flavoring, can evaporate. We looked at the storage recommendations from several flavoring manufacturers and they say that extracts tend to have a shelf life of 6 months to 1 year. The exception to this is pure vanilla extract which, if stored in a cool dark place and tightly sealed, can last indefinitely and even improve with age.

Readers, what has your experience been with storing flavoring extracts? How long do you keep them? Do you think that Lona can reconstitute her peppermint flavoring?

How do you store vanilla extract after opening?

I have a recipe for brownies that calls for vanilla extract. I didn’t buy the extract and don’t want to use imitation vanilla, since it isn’t recommended for baking. How can I store the extract? I keep it in a glass bottle, which I have stored in my pantry.

It’s not recommended to store vanilla extract for more than 6 months in a glass bottle (although you could if you wanted to). Remember that when you open your bottle of flavoring, the alcohol will evaporate and some of the flavors will go with it. You would want to use another one within 6 months of opening.

I find that my store-bought vanilla is not as strong as when I use it in a recipe, so I would suggest buying a new bottle rather than the extract that you currently have. You can use the extract in your present recipe by reducing the amount of vanilla you are using.

How do you store Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo Blend hops?

I’ve read about dark beer aging and recommending hops for at least 3 years. This beer has been around for 13 years and tastes great. How is that possible? I need to age some Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA hops, keeping them in the bottle or in a brown paper sack in a cool dark place. Can they be stored this way for 3 years?

Thanks for the question, Steve! We looked around online and found some information on the storage of hops – they tend to lose their flavor when frozen or refrigerated and are best stored at room temperature (about 65 degrees). Because Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo IPA beer has fresh hops added every year, it’s possible that you will get a different (perhaps fresher) tasting hop aroma and flavor profile each time you drink it.

How can you tell if vanilla extract has gone bad?

When should one use fresh vanilla beans and when should one use the extract or imitation vanilla?

To tell if your vanilla extract is bad, you can still see it’s color (if it’s faded) and smell it. If the color is dark, then you have your answer. But smelling it is a better method to determine if the extract is good or not. Vanilla extract that has gone bad would have an off odor of alcohol or be moldy. If you are unsure whether your vanilla extract is bad, then I would discard it and replace it with a new bottle.

If you want to use vanilla beans in your recipe, then you will want to buy them and cut them open. Then place the beans into a container where they are not touching each other and where you can keep them in a cool dark place for about 6 months.

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If you don’t have time for that, then I would recommend using vanilla extract instead. Most people have had great results using imitation vanilla extract. It tastes like the real thing and is less expensive than buying real vanilla beans. The only downside is that if you are using imitation vanilla extract in large quantities, it may contribute some chemicals to your recipe – but small amounts probably won’t make a difference.

Does extract need to be refrigerated?

We use vanilla extract in everything from ice cream to watermelon jubilee. However, our fridge just keeps getting warmer and warmer (and we live in Florida). Is there a way we can help prevent the vanilla from going bad?

You are wise to keep the vanilla out at room temperature – it will last longer that way.

How long does your coffee last after opening the bottle? I’ve read that it lasts 2-3 weeks. We leave them in the original bags and keep them in the refrigerator, but they seem to lose flavor quickly (even though they’re still brewed fresh). I can’t afford to buy new coffee every week.

What we’ve heard is that most coffee beans lose their flavor after a few weeks. That’s why you keep the coffee in an airtight container in your refrigerator – it contains the freshness and you can have it for longer. As for other store-bought beans, we would recommend buying a new one every month or two.

How long do you store ground coffee? Do I just make as much as I need and keep in the fridge? We make enough that there is always left over, which we keep in the freezer (Dutch Oven).

Does imitation vanilla extract need to be refrigerated?

I have enough for about two batches of muffins but want to make sure I use it up before it grows moldy.

We would recommend that you store your unused ground coffee in the freezer and not in the refrigerator. Coffee tends to absorb a lot of moisture from the refrigerator because of its porous surface and will become stale quickly if you keep it there. You would then have to buy a new one every month or so. Keep your leftover ground coffee in the freezer where is stays fresh and you can have as much as you need.

Is there a trick to getting the last of the ground coffee to go into the filter? It seems like I only get about 2/3 cup, almost every time.

We have had that problem before too. If you’re sure you’ve brewed your coffee with fresh coffee grounds and then let it sit for an hour or so to make sure all the grounds are settled in (you can see them floating on top), then I would try not prying it out of the filter holder. If you do, then you might make more ground coffee than you should. Also, if you use a cloth filter, then make sure that is completely open; otherwise there will be too much friction and it won’t draw all the water through.

It is very important that you know how to store your recipe ingredients and why. Understanding this will help you use up the ingredients in your pantry before they go bad. You can even save money if you’re careful about how you store things because it will make them last longer. Keep in mind, always check the expiration dates on your recipe ingredients before buying them. Sometimes stores put the items out before their expiration date, so it’s important to check as soon as you purchase them. Also, feel free to adjust the method of storing for each ingredient based on what works best for your situation and what foods are most popular in your household.

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