Finding an old bottle of sake at the back of the pantry might invoke two different kinds of thoughts- one filled with old memories of you drinking it with your buddies. The other one might have hints of worry as you might wonder about its expiration.
The longevity of sake depends on the storage techniques, and it ranges from 6 months to 2 years. You shall require a proper guide to store Sake while retaining its quality and taste, and that is what we are here with.
Use the following article as a reference to learn the best storage techniques for Sake and how to identify any spoilage signs.
What is the Shelf Life of Sake?
Most sake bottles don’t have the best-before date printed on the label because it is not a requirement. However, you will only find a production date printed on the label, and it is the date when it was bottled.
Unlike wines and whiskies, sakes are not good for aging. So, it is necessary to consume freshly prepared or bottled sake. People must consume the sake within one or two years of bottling.
The actual shelf-life of sake is much longer, but it starts degrading with time. It means that the longer you store sake, the worse its quality will be. An unopened bottle of sake stored in the pantry remains safe for consumption for up to six years. But the quality may suffer from such a long storage.
After opening, things change. So, you must prefer consuming it within 24 hours of opening for the best taste and quality. If it is not possible, refrigerate it to maintain its taste and quality for up to a week.
Please note that the taste and flavor change over time, and you will experience a softer taste in your old sake. The pace of taste change depends on the quality of the sake. Some taste fresh for up to a week, while others may sustain their quality and taste for a month.
|Unopened Sake||Two Years||–|
|Opened Sake||–||Two to Four Weeks|
|Unopened Unpasteurized Sake||–||Six Months|
|Opened Unpasteurized Sake||–||One to Two Weeks|
These timeframes are the after production date and only tell how long it keeps its quality and taste.
What are the Spoilage Signs of Sake?
Sake is a favorite delicacy in Japan, owing to its unique color, taste, and aroma. Technically, sake won’t go rancid, but its taste and flavor change with time. So, before consuming the beverage, you must check for the spoilage signs to know if it is still good for consumption or has gone bad.
Sake is sold as a clear liquid or creamy white beverage in a bottle. However, the color changes with time, and it starts getting yellow tints once it goes off. The yellow tint indicates that the oxidative process has started and may cause a color change in the beverage.
Pungent and Unpleasant Smell
As mentioned, the unique characteristics of sake are its soothing aromas. There is science involved in brewing sake, and the unique aroma is achieved carefully. But, when your sake starts getting bad, it releases a rancid or pungent smell and indicates that the sake has gone bad.
The pungent or rancid smell starts developing when sake is stored inaptly, and oxidation has caused it to go off. It is best to discard the sake at this point.
Presence of Articles
If you see particles floating on the surface of the beverage or sitting at the bottom, it means the sake has gone bad, and it is time to discard it. However, it doesn’t mean that the beverage is not safe for consumption, but you won’t experience the unique aroma and taste you enjoyed when it was fresh.
When the taste of your sake starts getting funny and not like regular sake, the beverage is no longer suitable for consumption. You must discard the sake if you notice the unpleasant or funny taste.
What Happens If You Consume Bad Sake?
As mentioned, sake has no expiry date, and it keeps its quality for more than a year. Sake that was brewed a long time ago causes no harm if you drink it, provided that it is properly stored. However, the taste of the beverage will change with time.
If the smell is fine and the bottle is sealed correctly, you are unlikely to get sick after drinking the old sake. Even if your sake has a strange smell, discoloration, or quirky taste, it is safe to drink as no harmful bacteria enter the sake and make it unsafe.
If the cap leaks and the taste worsens, discard the beverage as it is no longer safe for consumption. So, always look for the spoilage signs before using the old bottle of sake.
Can You Freeze Sake? Refrigerated Vs. Shelf-Stable
Unlike other beverages, sake is not suitable for freezing. The beverage has a proof of 14-18, which means freezing the sake may cause a change in the chemical composition when thawed. The Sake remains safe and edible, but the extreme temperature of a freezer will affect the unique flavors and aromas of the beverage.
Since the beverage comprises yeast, there is no need to freeze the sake. The presence of yeast prevents the bacteria from invading the drink, giving the drink a longer lifespan. Sake is already fermented, and hence it needs no freezing to preserve its taste and flavor.
However, the unpasteurized sake would require refrigeration immediately after opening the bottle.
Depending upon the sake you have bought, the requirement to refrigerate varies. The unopened pasteurized bottle of sake can keep for up to ten years and needs no refrigeration. It can be stored in the pantry in a cool and dark spot.
The pasteurized opened bottle of Sake will keep its quality for up to one month, and it must be stored in a fridge to preserve it. The unpasteurized bottle of sake can keep up to six months, and after opening, it only lasts for one to two weeks in a fridge.
As mentioned earlier, sake is a fermented beverage, and hence it needs no refrigeration. The pasteurized unopened bottle of sake can keep its quality for up to two years, even when stored outside a refrigerator.
The regular sake is pasteurized unless stated on the label. The pasteurized opened bottle of Sake lasts only for two to three weeks, but it needs consistent refrigeration.
The unpasteurized bottle of sake is different from regular sake, and it lasts for six to seven months. But, it must be stored in cool and dark places in your pantry. Keeping it outside the fridge will accelerate the deteriorating process, and it starts spoiling within four hours.
What are the Best Practices to Store Sake?
Sake is made by fermenting rice, and it has derived some characteristics from wine. Therefore, the storage methods of sake are similar to wine. Below you will find some helpful tips on storing your leftover sake.
Store in Cool and Dark Places
The unopened bottle of Sake can keep its quality when stored at room temperature. But, the spot you choose for storage must be away from sunlight and other heat sources. A temperature below 20 degrees Fahrenheit is considered best for storing the unopened bottle of sake. Exposure to UV rays causes the yeast to spoil the Sake and enable the bacteria to ruin and invade the Sake.
Store Sake in Tightly Sealed Bottle
Whether stored in a fridge or the pantry, you must ensure that the bottle of Sake is tightly sealed. After opening, you must reseal the cap tightly to prevent air from leaking, which can trigger the oxidative process and spoil the taste and aroma of sake.
The airtight and well-sealed bottle is always safe for storing for your Sake. So, use the tightly sealed bottle to store your Sake. You can also use a high-quality stopper to seal the bottle after opening it.
Alternatives for Sake if it Goes Bad
If you were planning to use sake for cooking, but the bottle in your pantry is showing signs of spoilage, you can use the following substitutes:
- Dry Sherry
- Dry Vermouth
- White Wine
- Rice Wine Vinegar
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Sake Has Longer Shelf-Life?
Sake is made by fermenting rice, and it contains yeast. It undergoes pasteurization, where the fermented rice is blasted via boiling water. The process kills the harmful bacteria in the content. Since yeast prevents bacterial growth, the Sake’s shelf-life increases.
Is There Any Harm in Using Spoiled Sake?
There is no harm in using old sake, provided that it is properly stored and shows up no spoilage signs. But, it is better not to consume the old and spoiled Sake; instead, you may use the old Sake for other purposes. The old Sake can be used for boiling soups, cooking, and as a meat tenderizer. It can also be used to remoisten the dried-out cheese or mixed with dark chocolate.
Is Sake Supposed to be Brown?
Generally, sake is golden or amber in color. However, aging can cause it to change the color to brown. It is best to toss such a sake out to prevent any health consequences.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know about the shelf-life of Sake, you can shop your bottle of Sake comfortably, knowing that you can store it for years without spoiling.
However, there are certain spoilage signs to look for before using the old Sake. Though Sake has a long shelf-life and won’t go bad quickly, the taste and flavor change over time.
You must follow the best storage practices to prolong the shelf-life of your Sake.
Milburn Adler is a food enthusiast and connoisseur of wine. His area of expertise is food fusions and gourmet foods. He lives to experiment with new recipes every day and spends most of his day looking for fresh and exotic fruits and vegetables.