One of the first things you'll need to know is that compared to other popular fermented beverages like wine, sake can be a little temperamental.
Sake brewers take freshness seriously. Unlike in many other alcoholic beverages, you won't find nasty extras like preservatives or sulfites in sake.
This means that the shelf life of sake is noticeably shorter and must be handled with more care than your average drink.
So, how do you keep your new favorite drink as fresh as possible? Here's a complete guide on how to care for your sake & store it properly...
What is the shelf life of sake?
If you've ever asked yourself "Does sake go bad?", the answer is quite simple: Yes, it does!
The lack of preservatives means that sake can degrade relatively quick under certain conditions. That's why storing sake properly is of utmost importance.
On average, a bottle of unopened sake will last for up to one to two years when stored properly. Unpasteurized sake (namazake) should be stored for no more than 6 months before consumption.
Opened bottles of sake, however, have a much shorter shelf life.
You should aim to consume open sake within no more than 2 to 3 weeks (or 1 to 2 weeks for namazake).
How can I properly store sake?
Now that you've seen the limited shelf life of sake you're probably itching to know: How do I properly store sake?
There are three main enemies to keeping sake fresh:
- Sunlight & UV
When storing unopened bottles of sake, you'll need to pay attention to the first two. Opened bottles will require additional effort to protect from oxidation.
How to protect sake from heat damage
Heat and temperature fluctuations are two of the main culprits for spoiling sake.
The best place to store sake is in a refrigerator. You'll want to keep the temperature no warmer than 15ºC. A temperature below 5ºC is optimal.
If this isn't possible, a dark pantry cooler than room temperature (20ºC) is the next best option.
Both opened bottles of sake and unopened namazake should solely be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within their respective freshness periods.
In any case, it's best to store bottles of sake standing up vertically to keep the brew from contacting the metal cap, which can leave behind metallic flavors.
How to protect sake from light damage
Besides heat, exposing sake to sunlight is one of the quickest ways to spoil it. This is why you'll find that many of the top sake brands use bottles tinted in shades of green or brown.
At all costs, you should avoid storing sake out in the open such as in a wine rack or on a kitchen counter.
Even exposing sake frequently to your refrigerator light can quicken its demise.
If you don't have a dedicated bar fridge without a light, you may want to consider wrapping your sake in an opaque material.
How to protect sake from oxidation
Once you've opened a bottle of sake, you'll also need to protect it from oxidation.
Before storing an open bottle of sake, you'll need to ensure the cap is sealed tightly. Even better is to use a vacuum sealer to establish as tight a seal as possible.