Does Moonshine Go Bad? What You Should Know
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So you’ve found a bottle of moonshine from yesteryear. Is it still fit to drink? This is a question I’ve asked myself recently. I heard different things coming from different sources, so I decided to do a little research on my own, and here's the answer.
So, does moonshine go bad? In short, moonshine, like other plain spirits, does not really go bad. This means moonshine has an indefinite shelf life, unless you are dealing with a flavored option (which can spoil as a result of its high sugar density).
Coming up, I’ll go over everything you need to know about moonshine and its shelf life so you can get the most out of your spirits. Keep reading to find out if your moonshine is still good (or whether you should just chuck it!).
How Long Does Moonshine Stay Good For?
Nine times out of ten, you don’t have to worry if your moonshine is still good. That’s because most moonshines have an indefinite shelf-life, meaning they will never really go bad so long as they’re not opened.
It’s actually pretty simple. Unlike most other alcohols, moonshine is heavily distilled.
Moonshines that have finished the distillation process contain zero sugars, and thus cannot spoil.
Essentially, this type of pure moonshine can be kept as long as necessary (making the drink well worth the investment, legal issues aside).
Still, you’ll want to keep this important fact in mind: not all moonshines are created equal.
Commercial moonshines, in particular, tend to be flavored with added sugars, which cuts back on their shelf life. Though these moonshines can also last for several years, they will eventually go bad, so the quicker you drink them, the better.
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How Do You Know When Moonshine Goes Bad?
Not sure if your moonshine has gone bad? There are some common warning signs you can look out for.
Let’s take a look at them:
If your container of moonshine is stored and sealed, it won’t hurt you to take a sip and test the flavor (assuming it was distilled correctly, that is). Moonshine that “goes bad” will have a foul taste, even if it’s not technically harmful.
If the moonshine you’ve opened tastes worse than you expected, this is a sign that it’s been sitting for a while.
Read Also: How to Make Moonshine Step by Step
You should have reservations about drinking any opened container of moonshine or other spirits. Even though moonshine doesn’t suffer from oxidation the way ageable alcohols do, the process can still affect the taste of the moonshine.
REMEMBER: Generally speaking, moonshine that’s been overexposed to oxygen will be less pleasant to drink (though technically not harmful to drink in moderation).
What Happens If You Drink Bad Moonshine?
While moonshine doesn’t age, it’s still possible that you can drink a bad (or even fatal) batch.
Improperly made moonshine can be dangerous from the time it’s made until the time it’s disposed of, even if it’s years down the road. Generally, this is because of the high methanol content that’s found in improperly distilled shine.
If you’re new to the terms and moonshine in general, it’s important to know the difference between the two main chemicals in the alcohol:
With only one carbon atom, methanol is a dangerous alcoholic substance that can cause extreme sickness and even death. If you’ve ever heard of moonshiners going blind, you already know some of what methanol can do.
Even worse, however, the substance can kill, even in small doses, so drinking bad moonshine that’s full of methanol can really cause trouble.
Ethanol is the good alcohol that results from the distillation process. Containing two carbon atoms, this liquid can be harmful if consumed too quickly (anyone who’s ever had a pumped stomach can tell you that) but is generally okay in moderation.
It’s the ethanol that makes up the high proof of moonshine and gives it its low freezing point.
To recap, the presence of methanol in a bad batch of moonshine can lead to two distinct consequences:
Methanol damages the optic nerve, causing permanent blindness when consumed (and even sometimes during the distillation process).
Methanol has no distinct flavor, so it can be easy to consume a fatal batch of moonshine without realizing it.
VERY IMPORTANT: Because improperly made moonshine is so dangerous, you want to make sure you’re getting your shine from a respected dealer in order to ensure it hasn’t gone bad at any stage of existence.
Does Moonshine Have to be Refrigerated?
While storing your moonshine in the refrigerator won’t hurt it, these strong spirits don’t have to be refrigerated. There are benefits to refrigeration, of course, including the absence of light and heat, but it’s better to save your fridge space for more necessary items (this is true whether you’re using a traditional fridge or a wine fridge).
Of course, this only applies to pure moonshines.
If you have purchased a flavored option, storing it in the refrigerator can help extend its shelf-life, particularly if you’ve opened the bottle.
That’s because the cool dark of the refrigerator will help slow down the oxidation process and keep the sugars from spoiling too quickly.
Remember that unopened flavored moonshines can still last years, even when not put in the fridge, so this is really only necessary for drinks that have already been opened.
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Does Moonshine Go Bad in the Heat?
When properly proofed, stored, and sealed, pure moonshine doesn’t go “bad” in the heat—at least not in the traditional sense. Without the necessary ingredients necessary for bacterial growth, these strong distilled spirits never actually spoil—but they can change over time, especially when exposed to light and warmth.
Simply put, this means that, while moonshine won’t ruin in the heat, it can change flavor.
That’s because the chemicals that make up the moonshine will loosen and separate and eventually recombine in a different configuration. This may not matter much if you’re not going for a particular flavor, as the alcohol content won’t be diluted.
If you’d like to maintain a specific taste, you’ll want to make sure you store your moonshine in a cool, dark place that doesn’t get too hot. A wine cellar is an ideal location, but if you don’t have one, consider a cool pantry, cabinet space, or basement area where you can keep your shine safe from unwanted environmental influence.
Does Moonshine Freeze?
It’s one thing to make sure your moonshine doesn’t get too hot. It’s another to ensure it doesn’t freeze. Fortunately, the latter is much easier, given the high alcohol content (ABV) in moonshine.
While moonshine can certainly freeze, you’ll have a hard time doing it anywhere in your home—even if you live in Siberia. Traditional moonshine starts at about 40% alcohol (or 80 proof), which means it will take temperatures of -113 degrees Celsius (-235 degrees Fahrenheit) to actually freeze your shine.
Good luck trying!
If anything, the water in your moonshine will freeze long before the alcohol does, meaning you’ll be left with an even higher proof moonshine.
Does Moonshine with Fruit Go Bad?
While pure moonshines won’t go bad—ever—if made and stored properly, moonshines with fruit flavors are a different story altogether. Unlike the purer spirits, which are distilled to the point of 0% sugar concentration, moonshine that contains fruit have comparatively high sugar volumes. This means that they will definitely spoil at some point or other, particularly if stored improperly.
Let’s take a look at why moonshine would go bad if mixed with fruit:
If a container has been opened and restored, air exposure will cause the alcohol to evaporate slowly over time. This is a gradual process that may not be noticeable in the short term but that can become very obvious over a period of years.
This process can be expedited if the alcohol is stored in a hot place with a lot of light. With a lower alcohol content, the spirit will taste weaker and won’t be as potent overall, but that should be the least of your worries when it comes to flavored moonshines and aging.
The more pressing concern is oxidation. Oxidation refers to the chemical reaction facilitated by air exposure that changes the atomic makeup of the alcohol. It’s oxidation that causes flavored drinks like fruit-infused moonshine to sour and lose their good taste.
If stored improperly, this fruit moonshine will be undrinkable, foul-tasting, and less potent as alcohol.
Whether you’ve found an old bottle or are looking to store some new flasks of moonshine long term, you’ll want to know how long this infamous spirit can last.
The good news is this: if you’re storing a pure, properly distilled shine, you’ll be able to keep it indefinitely, especially under the proper conditions. This means that your ROI on moonshine is generally unquantifiable. You’ll need to take more care with flavored options, but even these can last for years when you follow the proper storage guidelines.
In this guide, I covered everything you need to know about the shelf life and storage of moonshine.
Using the information in this blog, you’ll be able to keep your spirits around for years to come!
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