Tips About 4 Popular Beverages: Wine, Coffee, Water, and Soda

wineHere is some advice and even some good news about the beverages you may drink the most. 



Pairing wine with the right food--so that you don't destroy the taste of the wine--is a tricky business. I learned that from Bill St. John, a wine expert who writes regularly for the "Good Eating" section of the Chicago Tribune.  No doubt, his taste buds are more sensitive and judgmental than most people's. Still, his warnings and his simple solution to pairing problems may help you treat your guests to wine they'll really enjoy.


- Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and spinach can make wine taste metallic.


- Dairy products (such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs) coat the palate.


- Oily foods overpower the palate.


- Highly acidic foods (pickles, mustard, tomatoes, etc.) ruin low-acid wines.


- Artichokes contain an organic acid that makes some wines (for example, an American chardonnay) taste too sweet.


If selecting the right wine sounds impossible, don't despair. Believe it or not, St. John has found "one truly sure-fire wine for any food." And the even better news is that it's inexpensive.  The wine is Portuguese Vinho Verde, in the $9-$11 price range. We hope you love it.


To read about proper handling of an open bottle of wine, click here:




Evidently you can stop worrying about all the regular or decaf coffee you drink.  If caffeine makes you jumpy, keeps you wide-awake at 2 a.m., or aggravates your reflux, decaf can substitute for regular coffee; either type of coffee may give you an important benefit--a longer life. That's what's suggested by the results of an NIH study published in the May 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


The data came from the largest study of its kind--involving 400,000 people. Over a 13-year study period of following the survival rate of older adults (ages 50-71), coffee drinkers of either sex were found to be less likely to die than non-drinkers.   According to the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, "The more coffee people drank--up to six cups a day--the less likely they were to die during the study period. The association between coffee consumption and reduced mortality was modest--at most, 12% for men and 16% for women."


The researchers involved in the study caution that the results do not prove that drinking coffee extends one's life span.  But this study disproved the widespread belief that drinking coffee is a risky beverage choice.  The coffee drinkers in the study (90% of the participants) had, in general, less healthy habits--for example, they were more likely to be smokers and eaters of a lot of red meat, less likely to exercise and to consume what's considered a healthful amount of fruits and vegetables.   This evidence makes their outliving the non-coffee drinkers especially surprising.


Since the study results indicated that caffeine is not what causes a longevity boost, what does? Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Ph.D, director of Tufts' HNRCA Antioxidants Research Lab, says, "It's most likely the chlorogenic acids."  He points out that coffee is "a complex mix of biologically active compounds."  Neel Freedman, Ph.D., one of the researchers involved in the study, was more specific on this point:  "Coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that might potentially affect health."


To reach another Shelf Life Advice article on the benefits of coffee, click here:




What if you leave an opened (but capped) bottle of water in your car overnight?  If the weather is warm, will the water become contaminated?  It might if a speck of food (perhaps from a cracker or candy bar you ate just before taking that drink) fell into it, say two of the scientists on our site's Advisory Board. And it would not be unusual for a speck of food from your mouth to wind up in the water bottle.  Bacteria need both water and nourishment, but it doesn't take much food for bacteria to grow. 


Food scientist Dr. Catherine Cutter recommends not drinking directly out of the bottle but instead pouring the water you want to drink at a particular time into a cup.  Keep this tip in mind if you're picnicking or hiking on a warm day and hydrating yourself from the same bottle of water for many hours.


For more information about proper water storage and water contamination, click on these links:’s-best-way-store-bottled-water




The acidity in a bottle of soda makes it antimicrobial, but it can develop mold.  Also, says Dr. Cutter, "Once the carbonation is gone, anything can grow." 


Sealed bottles of artificially sweetened soda that have been sitting in a warehouse (or your house or office) for a long time may lose their sweet taste. 


All this suggests that it's best not to expect cans or bottles of pop, even if sealed, to last forever.

(My personal experience along these lines:  At a meeting, I was given a can of pop that tasted terrible. Examining the can, I discovered that its "use-by" date was 4 years earlier!  The whole package of cans had been sitting in a hot, stuffy office closet for nearly half a decade.)


If pop bottles have no "use-by" date on them, I write the date of purchase on them, and I don't keep them more than 4 months if artificially sweetened or 6-9 months if sweetened with sugar.  Also, if they're several months old, I don't serve them to guests without tasting them first.


For this site's shelf life information on soft drinks, click here:


Shelf Life Advice has a lot more information on wine, coffee, water, and soda.  To reach more links about these beverages, just type the name of the product into the search box on the site's home page. 




Catherine N. Cutter, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, Dept. of Food Science


Chicago Tribune, Good Eating section "How to Pair Wine--This Week: Tricky Food"  8/22/12


Chicago Tribune, Good Eating section "How to Pair Wine--This Week: Artichokes" 6/27/12


Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter "Coffee Drinkers Live Longer" August 2012 "NIH study finds that coffee drinkers have lower risk of death"



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