Does Sake Need to be Refrigerated? (Your Sake Storage Questions Answered!)
Sake 101

Does Sake Need to be Refrigerated? (Your Sake Storage Questions Answered!)

So you’ve finally gotten your hands on a bottle of sake. How to store the remains once you’ve had your fill? Does sake need to be refrigerated or simply left on the counter? (Or maybe a bottle of sake should never be left half-empty OR half-full?)

As a rule, sake is not designed to age, and the makers believe that the sake should be drunk as soon as possible after bottling

The lack of preservatives in sake means that it is more susceptible to temperature fluctuation and light than other types of alcohol. 

Ever wondered why bottles of sake are usually dark green or brown?

That’s right! Dark colors will reduce exposure to light. The enemy of sake is exposure to the air and the changes to the sake brought on by exposure to oxygen. 

So how do we make sure that we store sake so that the freshness of a namazake or the subtle flavors of a daiginjo? Read on to find out!

Related post: How to Warm Sake Without Tokkuri (and Just What is a Tokkuri)

How to Store Unopened Sake

unopened sake bottles

You have two options for storing unopened sake: in a cool, dark place or in a refrigerator. 

If you do opt for the first option, it should be a stable environment without too many temperature ups and downs.

It is hard for many homes around the world to maintain this environment. So your only option may be, the refrigerator mainly because it is the most controllable environment for most people. 

As a rule of thumb, it is best to consume your bottle within a year or its bottling, but with ideal storage this can extend to 2 years or more.

So what does this mean for the average sake fan?

It means you should NOT stock up on sake! (Not unless you are in the sake selling business). 

If you can, it is good to have a specific occasion in mind to buy for and let the retailer take care of the storage as much as possible. If you visit any Japanese restaurant that prides itself on its ‘nihonshu’ you will see sake in a refrigerator. 

One point to note: if you are drinking unpasteurised sake, your time envelope shortens to something like 6 to 7 months. The number of living microorganisms left in the sake after production are the main reason for this.

Can I Store Unopened Sake at Room Temperature?

bottles of sake in open wooden sake barrel

Yes you can, but only if you meet the condition we outlined above. That is, if you live in an area without everyday temperature roller coasters.

Your unopened sake can safely live at room temperature up to a year

Naturally, room temperature varies considerably around the world, but the consensus seems to be 59 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 25 degrees Celsius).

Overall, the lower the better! If you’re having ANY doubts, refrigeration is likely the best option at 41 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 6 degrees Celsius).

But what happens if you don’t abide by the rules? 

Not the end of the world! Sake will not go bad as such. It will just gradually oxidize and its color will tend to move from a fresh clear transparency to one with a more yellow hue to it. 

If you can, it is better to have the bottles standing up. In a vertical setup, only the very top part of the sake is exposed to the air. If you lay the bottle down, that’s a much bigger surface area!

Also, if you buy a large bottle such as the 61 floz (1.8 liter) isshobin, then it might be advisable to store the sake in smaller, sealed bottles after purchase. Do that and you’ll extend the drinking life and give yourself more flexibility about when and how much you drink.

How Should Sake be Stored Once Opened?

pouring sake from bottle

The rules are clear on this: once you open the bottle, you MUST refrigerate sake. 

The moment you pop the bottle, the clock is ticking. You should aim to drink the sake within a few days or a week at most. 

Once you open the sake, you trigger faster oxidation and this tends to smother the aromas and tastes of particularly the more refined sakes. It is vital to remember to replace the stopper to minimize the level of exposure to oxygen. As we explained in this article, sake won’t go bad once opened. Still, you don’t want to give up on its many delights, do you?

Summary: The Best Way to Store Sake

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Do you refrigerate sake? Yes. To be safe, the best way to store unopened sake is to refrigerate it at 41 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit (5-6 degrees Celsius).
  • You can leave it at room temperature if it’s low and stable – no higher than 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).
  • Opened sake must be drunk quickly! In any case, make sure you replace the stopper and refrigerate it to preserve its flavours. 
  • The enemy of sake is the air – stand the bottle up when storing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does sake turn yellow?

Sake starts to turn yellow as a result of oxidation. If it happened with your precious sake, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has become undrinkable. It’s still worth trying it. You can warm it up, just to be 100% safe!

What is a sake chiller flask?

This flask is designed with a section where you keep the sake for serving. It is separated into two sections so you can store ice in the other section allowing you to chill the sake without diluting it. This is an ideal way to keep the sake in perfect drinking condition when it is on the table.

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