While storing chocolate may seem a silly proposition—how long does good chocolate last in your home anyway?—there’s a slim chance you may want to save a special bar or two for a rainy day. The good news is chocolate has a relatively long shelf life, but its look, taste, texture, and enjoyment factor can be greatly impacted if stored improperly.
Here are some FAQs and valuable tips on how to best store chocolate:
How Long Can I Store Chocolate?
Most chocolate bars include a “Best Before” date. Solid dark chocolate can keep for two years (probably even longer), while solid milk chocolate can typically be stored for over a year. Chocolates with inclusions (like truffles) may have a shorter shelf life, sometimes just a few weeks or months, depending on the ingredients and whether or not preservatives have been added. Bars that contain nuts, for example, may experience some oxidation from the oil in the nuts and are best consumed within six months.
Fun fact: Dark chocolate has such a long, impressive shelf life partly due to its high antioxidant content, which helps protect it against the decay caused by oxidation. On the other hand, white chocolate, which lacks cacao’s many potent and health-boosting properties, will go rancid much quicker.
What Is the Best Way To Store Chocolate?
When storing chocolate, keep in mind four important factors: temperature, light, odors, and air:
- Store your chocolate in a cool, dry place. Chocolate keeps best in an environment between 65°F and 70°F (about 18 - 21°C) and protected from moisture.
- Make sure that place is dark. Direct light (both natural and artificial) makes chocolate more vulnerable to heat and oxidation.
- Keep your chocolate away from all odorous items. Chocolate easily absorbs any odors around it—pleasant and otherwise. (It’s why aging chocolate in just the right type of vessel can bring out some incredible flavors.) Keep your chocolate protected from potent foods like onions, spices, cheeses, seafood, etc.
Is It OK To Refrigerate Chocolate?
Ideally? No. As noted above, chocolate prefers a temperature between 65°F and 72°F (18 - 22°C), and your fridge will likely be set at 40°F (4°C) or below. Refrigerators are also quite humid places. This cold, moist environment can lead to a few undesirable fates for your chocolate:
- Sugar bloom. You’ve likely seen this phenomenon before, and it’s not very pretty. When storing your chocolate in a damp place (like a fridge), moisture draws out the sugar and pushes it to the surface of your chocolate. When that condensation evaporates, you end up with discolored chocolate that’s spotted with dry, gritty, white sugar crystals. When bloom happens it can’t be fixed. Beyond it being aesthetically unappealing, sugar bloom won’t affect the taste or quality of your chocolate, though the consistency may be slightly chalkier.
- Flavor and odor absorption. Now, this will affect the taste of your chocolate. Because of its rich fats (the cocoa butter), chocolate easily absorbs the odors of whatever’s around it in the fridge. Imagine a half-cut onion, a chunk of stinky cheese, a fresh fish fillet, or some leftover takeout—trust us, those flavors won’t fuse well with your cherished chocolate. This is also important to remember when storing chocolate at room temperature—keep it away from odorous pantry items like spices.
Ok, So How Do I Keep Chocolate From Melting?
Ideally, your chocolate should be safe from all elements, especially extreme temperature shifts. But if you live in a hot, humid environment or are wondering how to store chocolate in the summer, your fridge may be your best option. While a too-cold environment can cause sugar bloom, a too-warm place can create a phenomenon known as fat bloom.
Fat bloom happens when the cocoa butter starts to melt and then re-solidifies, altering the texture and leaving grayish streaks on the surface of your chocolate. (This is a constant concern for chocolate makers at the tempering part of the production process.) Even relatively small shifts in temperature (say, from 70°F to 75°F or 21°C to 23°C) can cause this restructuring of fats. Fat bloom feels soft and slick versus the gritty dryness of sugar bloom.
To keep chocolate from melting, your fridge is ultimately the best option. When storing in the fridge, make sure your chocolate is tightly wrapped and sealed in an airtight container to protect it against condensation and odors.
You can also adjust the temperature setting in your refrigerator so that it's not on the coldest setting. This only takes a few seconds to do. In general, it’s usually not necessary to keep your refrigerator on the coldest setting anyway.
When you’re ready to enjoy, only take out what you plan to eat at that moment. Consider wrapping the still-wrapped chocolate in a linen towel to help absorb any moisture and minimize condensation as you slowly let the chocolate reach room temperature.
Can I Store Chocolate in the Freezer?
A resounding no way, absolutely not. In our experience—and after many informal experiments—we’ve found that freezing chocolate permanently alters its flavor profile. We strongly recommend you keep your finest chocolates far away from the freezer, and only use a fridge when necessary.
What About Storing Cacao Powder?
Your cacao powder should be treated with just as much love and care as your chocolate bars. Avoid storing it in the fridge—that extra humidity may affect the taste and promote spoilage.
Instead, tightly seal your cacao powder and store it in a dry, dark, and cool place (again, aim for around 65 to 72°F or 18 to 22°C). Cacao powder’s intense flavor will naturally diminish over time. If properly stored, it should be good for at least one year after opening.
Note from co-founder Jerry Toth: "In the Jama-Coaque Reserve, which has a tropical climate and no refrigeration or air conditioning, my personal supply of T.cacao powder maintains its freshness and aroma for a period of months, even when stored in a ziplock bag that I open up every morning. It's shockingly stable."
Chocolate Storage Tips
Storing your chocolate in a cupboard is most ideal. If your home gets hot, a refrigerator can work for short periods. Never use a freezer. Remember that chocolate is most susceptible to temperature fluctuations. Try to limit your chocolate’s exposure to extreme chill or heat. Wrap (and even double wrap) it tightly and keep it in an airtight container away from strong light, odors, and humidity.
If you’re a true chocolate lover with a lot of chocolate at your disposal, you may want to consider investing in a small wine fridge where you can keep the temperature around 65°F (18°C). Otherwise, if you need to store chocolate in the fridge, let it thaw as slowly as possible to room temperature before you take that first bite. Cold chocolate just doesn’t allow for maximum flavor dispersal or offer the same luxurious melt-in-mouth experience you deserve.