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Does Simple Syrup Need to Be Refrigerated? | It Depends

I’ve made a ridiculous amount of simple syrup in my life for recipes and a number of other uses. Usually, I immediately use it up, but occasionally some will be left over. Since it’s full of sugar, a preservative, does it need to be kept cold?

You need to refrigerate homemade simple syrup, but not store-bought brands. This is because homemade syrups do not include the preservatives that store-bought ones do. Of course, storing store-bought simple syrup in a refrigerator will increase the shelf life.

Figuring out how to store simple syrup can be a complicated proposition. There are numerous factors to consider, such as how it was made and what ingredients it contains. This article will answer your questions on storing simple syrup, so you know how to best use this liquid sweetener.

Do You Have To Refrigerate Syrup After You Open It?

Man questioningly looks at simple syrup in a fridge

You do not have to refrigerate store-bought syrup after you open it. However, you need to refrigerate homemade simple syrup in most situations, including after you open it.

Homemade simple syrups are made using two main ingredients – sugar and water. While sugar is a preservative, when combined in equal parts with water (a 1:1 simple syrup), it can spoil. Hence the need to store it in the refrigerator if you don’t plan to use all of it immediately.

However, a “rich” simple syrup, made using a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio, is generally shelf-stable and does not need to be refrigerated. This is because sugar is a preservative and helps stave off mold and bacterial growth. That said, refrigeration will increase the syrup’s shelf life, so it is always recommended.

Store-bought simple syrups, on the other hand, generally include more ingredients. Even the most basic recipe, without additional flavorings, usually includes a few preservatives. 

Preservatives are needed to ensure the bottles sport the shelf-life necessary to make them a profitable commercial product. After all, if mass-produced bottles of simple syrup would go bad within a few weeks, stores would likely incur significant losses due to spoiled products. 

A positive aspect of these preservatives is that you can store a store-bought bottle of simple syrup outside the refrigerator without worries. This applies even if you’ve opened the syrup.

Thus, if you’ve only used a small amount of syrup from your store-bought simple bottle, refrigeration is not needed. Instead, store it in a cool, shaded place away from direct sunlight and make sure the cap is securely tightened. However, if you’ve used a significant amount of the syrup, it would be best if you refrigerate it (though it is not required that you do so).

Shelf-stable simple syrups, such as a 2:1 homemade syrup or a store-bought syrup, may not go bad if stored properly at room temperature. However, they can lose flavor over time, which is why refrigeration is recommended.

How Long Does Simple Syrup Stay Good?

Simple syrup can stay good for anywhere between one month to 1.5 years, depending on how it was made and the amount of sugar in it. Properly stored, refrigerated simple syrups have a longer shelf life than improperly stored, non-refrigerated ones.

As you may have guessed, the homemade simple syrup has a shorter shelf life than store-bought versions. But how different is this shelf-life? Let’s take a look.

What Is Store-Bought Simple Syrup’s Shelf Life (Versus Homemade)?

Store-bought simple syrup has a shelf life of anywhere between 6-18 months, depending on how it is stored. Homemade simple syrups, on the other hand, have a shelf life of one to six months, depending on storage and the sugar-to-water ratio.

As mentioned above, store-bought simple syrups can be stored outside the refrigerator, as long as they are stored in a cool, dark space, away from direct sunlight. The syrup should also be stored in an airtight container.

However, though refrigeration is not required, it undoubtedly increases the syrup’s shelf-life. If you hope to get the most out of a store-bought simple syrup, keep it refrigerated.

Additionally, your bottle of simple syrup will have a lower shelf life after you open it. Opened bottles of simple syrup have a shelf-life of one to six months. This depends on the sugar-to-water ratio (the more sugar, the longer the shelf-life), whether or not they are refrigerated, and whether they are stored in an airtight container.

Homemade simple syrup, on the other hand, has a shorter shelf-life. When stored correctly, it will last you six months, at the most. And because it does not contain preservatives, it must be refrigerated at all times.

Method of Preparation

Another factor that impacts the shelf-life of homemade simple syrup is the preparation method. There are two preparation methods – hot-processed and cold-processed.

Hot-processed simple syrup involves stirring sugar into boiling water. Cold-processed simple syrup, on the other hand,  takes a bit longer to make but doesn’t require using the stove. All you need to do is stir sugar into the water at room temperature until it dissolves. This should take about 10-20 minutes.

Hot-processed syrup has a longer shelf life. If stored properly in the refrigerator, it will last up to 6 months. Conversely, cold-processed syrups spoil faster and should be consumed within 3 months.

Sugar-to-Water Ratio

Yet another factor that impacts the shelf-life of homemade simple syrup is the sugar-to-water ratio. As mentioned above, most syrups are made using either a 1:1 or 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio. 2:1 syrups last significantly longer – a 1:1 hot-processed syrup will only last about one month in the refrigerator, while a 2:1 syrup will last the entire 6 months.

How To Store Homemade Simple Syrup?

Homemade sugar simple syrup in a bottle

To store homemade simple syrup, keep it in an airtight container. You should ensure the container has been cleaned and sterilized thoroughly before pouring in the simple syrup. Then, place it in the refrigerator.

Most people prefer to use a glass container to store simple syrup. This is because the syrup easily absorbs flavors from other surfaces, and glass is a relatively inert substance that won’t leach anything into your sweetener. This sets it apart from other container materials like metal, which often affect the taste of the substances stored within them. 

Airtight glass containers (such as mason jars) are also readily available, making storing simple syrup properly super easy.

How To Tell If Your Simple Syrup Is Bad

If your simple syrup has spoiled, it will look cloudy. Simple syrup still within its shelf-life should appear completely clear. Additionally, if there is a bad odor – if the syrup smells sour, moldy, or bitter – it has spoiled and should be thrown away immediately.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is small spots in the syrup. If you notice these, it is a sign that there is likely mold in the syrup. Similarly, if there are spots on the lid, the sweetener has gone bad and should be discarded. 

Can You Freeze Simple Syrup?

You can freeze simple syrup. The process is relatively easy – all you need to do is pour it into an ice cube tray and pop it into the freezer. If you need to use the tray before you finish the frozen syrup, put the frozen cubes in an airtight, freezer-safe bag, and pop them back into the freezer.

To thaw frozen syrup:

  1. Transfer the syrup cubes from the freezer bag or ice cube tray to a glass container. 
  2. Let it sit at room temperature in a cool, dark place overnight. 
  3. If you need the syrup to thaw quickly, place the cubes in a waterproof bag and run it under warm water.

You don’t have to thaw the syrup cubes when it is time to use your simple syrup. Instead, add them to your drink to provide the necessary sweetness while cooling it. You can also use them directly in recipes – the cooking process will melt the cubes, saving the time you would spend thawing them first.

Final Thoughts

How you should store your simple syrup depends on whether it is homemade or store-bought and the syrup’s sugar-to-water ratio. 

Store-bought simple syrup does not need to be refrigerated, while you should almost always store homemade syrup in the refrigerator.

That said, it’s always best to refrigerate your simple syrup, if possible, as it increases its shelf-life. You can also freeze the syrup if needed. Not only does this help with shelf life, it also makes incorporating the syrup into drinks and recipes easier – you can use the cubes directly instead of measuring out your liquid syrup.

For more, don’t miss 10 Best Sweet Alcoholic Drinks For Taste Bud Bliss.