Chocolate Shelf Life

You’ll never guess how long some chocolate will last.

But first, we’re often asked a question about storing chocolate: can you put chocolate in the refrigerator?

My first response when someone asks me that questions is, why would you want to do that?

My second response is to tell them that at Kakao, we’re much more about timely consumption than about storage.

It is a reasonable question, though. You might not want to eat the chocolate right away, and storing it in the fridge will make it last longer. If that’s what you want.

As you might know, we don’t use any artificial preservatives (or flavors, or colors) in our chocolates. Which means that our truffles and caramels — which are made with heavy cream — won’t last forever. We recommend that you eat them within three weeks of when we make them. (They’ll last a few weeks longer than that, but they really do taste better when they’re more fresh.)

As an industry standard, you double the shelf life of a confection for every 18 degrees you lower the temperature. Which basically means that three-week truffle will last two to three months in your fridge. (Reminder: Timely consumption!)

If you do put chocolate in the fridge, please don’t eat it right away — it will taste better if you let it come to room temperature first.

Of course, solid chocolate — like our barks and bars — are a different matter altogether. Chocolate all by itself can last for quite a long time, although it will start to bloom as the cocoa butter separates from the rest of the ingredients, becoming a dusty powder on the surface. It’s a bit more crunchy but still edible — and not as tasty, at least until you let it melt in your mouth. (Best thing to do with it at this point is chop it up and bake it in cookies or brownies.) We give our solid chocolates a shelf life of up to three months.

Back to the original thought, about how long chocolate can really last. (Prepare to be disgusted.) I stopped at a convenience store and glanced at the Christmas aisle, where I found a stack of traditional “sampler” boxes familiar to all of us. The expiration date on the package: September 2011.

But it gets worse. Those chocolates weren’t made yesterday — they were probably made this spring, in anticipation of Christmas. Which means that they put something in those chocolates to make them last about 18 months.

We’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that’s a good idea.

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