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Light and Temperature: Keys to Storing Sake

Tom Inoue

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If you thought that storing sake is similar to storing wine, then think again.

Storing your premium sake to last for months while keeping its quality high is one of the most common issues. Well, there’s a way to overcome this — you just need to focus on two points (yes, just two).

We’ve prepared some basic handling tips to keep your sake as best as possible.

Two Key Points for Quality Maintenance

Unlike wine, sake does not contain preservatives so it is perishable. Both light and temperature make sake degrade (or age) quickly.

Keep Sake out of Direct Light

Light, especially ultra violet (UV) decomposes both organic and minor components of sake. In fact, sake discolors within a few hours of exposure to sunlight.

Sake deterioration

Wrapping the bottle with a newspaper or aluminum foil is recommended to avoid exposure to light. Bottles stored in the refrigerator should also be wrapped.

The color of the sake bottle also matters. While brown or green-colored bottles effectively block UV, blue or transparent bottles rarely do so. Pay good attention to these bottles.

Wrapping sake by newspaper

To make sure you’re wrapping your bottles well, follow these steps:

wrapping sake by newspaper in 10 steps

Keep Sake in a Cool Place

Because high or warm temperatures produce unfavorable bacterial activities and interaction with other sake ingredients, the overall aroma and taste of sake also decline. To avoid this, keep sake in a cool place, like a refrigerator or wine cellar. Some types of sake need special storage conditions as listed below:

Ginjo-shu: This is made at a lower temperature than other sake types, so it is very vulnerable at warm temperatures. Better keep this in a refrigerator, NOT in a cellar; it is delicate and its pleasant aroma and taste are likely to disappear outside of the fridge.

Namazake: This is unpasteurized sake, so to avoid spoilage, refrigerate it below 5°C. Drink it soon if you don’t want to lose its balanced taste.

storing sake at refrigerator

Photo Credit: http://yoshiyukita.blog32.fc2.com/

If you don’t have enough space in the refrigerator, store it in a cool and dark place (maintained at 20°C or lower) with a little bit of ventilation. This will slow down the degradation.

Handling Opened Sake

If the sake bottle has been opened, drink its content within a week, at most. Other than light and temperature, exposure to air degrades sake quality similarly to wine.

To limit air exposure, here’s what you can do:

  1. Prepare a small, airtight bottle to store the sake. You can use a glass or plastic bottle.
  2. Clean the bottle well.
  3. Close the cap tightly.
  4. Store in a refrigerator.

Drinking Sake at Its Best

Once you know how to keep sake properly, the next question would be “until when is it good to drink?”. In fact, this is one of the most common questions coming to sake breweroes.

The answer is: sake is best consumed as soon as possible, but how long it lasts depends on the type of sake. In general, the shelf lives of unopened, refrigerated types of sake are as follows:

Shelf life of sake

Though some sake fans prefer ‘aging’ sake for years to enjoy its richness, it is not recommended for beginners. So DO consume within the suggested period. The sooner you consume it, the better its flavor will be. Flavor deteriorates when stored for a long time even in the refrigerator.

Now that you have all the tips on hand, sake storage is now less complicated. As long as you follow the steps above, you will surely get a fabulous sake experience!

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