Sake is a traditional Japanese liquor made from fermented rice. Similar to wine in Western countries, sake is considered a delicacy in Japan and comes in a variety of types, flavors, and colors. What kind of a shelf life does sake have? Does it spoil easily?
Just like any other alcoholic beverage, sake will spoil if exposed to atmospheric elements. Sake will stay fresh up to 2 years if kept outside and is pasteurized. In contrast, unpasteurized sake only lasts 2-4 hours if kept out and must be refrigerated. In the fridge, pasteurized sake lasts up to 10 years. When unpasteurized, it will last 6 months. The fermentation process prevents undesirable bacteria from growing and thus allows sake to remain safe to drink indefinitely.
While sake does have a very long shelf life, you should still consider proper storage practices to ensure the best quality of your sake.
Does Sake Go Bad? How Long Does Sake Last?
Sakes come in many flavors and shelf lives may vary. The main distinction comes from whether or not the sakes are pasteurized before bottling.
How Long Does Sake Last Outside?
Pasteurized, unopened: A bottle of sake will have the best quality for 2 years if kept outside but will remain safe to drink indefinitely. Regular sake is pasteurized unless stated otherwise. A bottle of sake will have the best quality for 2 years if kept outside but will remain safe to drink indefinitely.
Pasteurized, opened: Opened sake can last anywhere between 2-3 weeks after opening and should be consumed quickly.
Unpasteurized: Unpasteurized sake will last about 6-7 months, a little less than regular sake. It must stay in cold storage. Once opened, however, sake starts to deteriorate much faster, lasting only about 2-4 hours before it spoils.
How Long Does Sake Last In The Fridge?
Pasteurized, unopened: An unopened bottle of sake can last up to 10 years. It does not need to be refrigerated and can be kept in a dark, cool pantry.
Pasteurized, opened: Open bottles will taste best up to 1 month after opened and refrigerated but can be kept in the fridge for much longer.
Unpasteurized: An unopened bottle of sake will keep for upwards of 6 months. After it’s been opened, it will only last for 1 to 2 weeks.
How Long Does Sake Last In The Freezer?
It is not recommended to place sake in the freezer. Sake has an average alcohol content of 14-18 proof, slightly higher than wine. This means that sake will freeze after about 2 hours. The harsh temperature change will damage the delicate flavors sake is known for. While it may still be safe to drink, it will harm the quality of sake. Since sake is already fermented, it does need to be frozen to preserve the taste.
Due to the fermentation process, sake will keep its flavor for a long time without the need to refrigerate. Unpasteurized sake, however, must be refrigerated as soon as it’s opened.
How Do I Tell If Sake Has Gone Bad?
Sake is a delicacy that provides a unique experience, as its aroma, taste, and color are the reason for its fame in Japan. While sake does not technically go bad, its flavor does deteriorate with time. It’s safe to check for the following to make sure your sake has not spoiled.
Color: Sake is bottled and sold as a creamy white or clear liquid. If you notice a yellow tint, it means that oxidation has taken place and may affect the taste.
Pungent smell: One of the most defining characteristics of good sake is its aroma. Brewing sake is a science and its aroma is carefully crafted to be enjoyed. Therefore, a pungent or rancid odor is a sign that the sake was improperly stored and oxygen has caused it to go bad. At this point, it’s best to throw it out.
Presence of articles: If particles are floating to the top or resting on the bottom, it means that the sake has begun to deteriorate. While it may be safe to drink, it will not have the same desired taste.
Taste: This is the clincher. If the taste of sake tastes funny, or unlike regular sake, the sake can no longer be consumed and should be discarded.
How Should I Store Sake?
Unopened, pasteurized or unpasteurized: New sake should be stored somewhere dry, cool, and dark. Light and heat are the enemies of sake. Anywhere with UV exposure will cause the yeast inside the sake to die and allow other bacteria to invade and ruin the sake.
Opened: All opened sake should be refrigerated, but it’s especially important for unpasteurized sake. If left opened and out, unpasteurized sake will begin to break down in 2 hours. Sake is incredibly sensitive to temperature, so keep it away from any source of heat. The perfect temperature range for sake is between 41 degrees 43 degrees. If this is not feasible, store it in a cool place under 60 degrees. Also, always keep the cap on tight. Oxidation will quicken the breakdown of sake.
Should You Freeze Sake?
No, you should not freeze sake. Sake has a proof of 14-18, meaning that the freezer can freeze the sake and alter the chemical composition of sake once thawed. While it may still be safe to drink, the harsh temperature will affect the delicate aromas and flavors of sake. There is no need to freeze sake due to the presence of yeast in sake. The yeast will prevent other bacteria from invading, thus giving sake a longer shelf life.
FAQs About Sake’s Shelf Life
It looks like my sake is spoiled. Does spoiled sake have any uses? Yes, old sake has several uses, so don’t throw it out yet. Old Sake can be used for cooking, boiling soup, and even as a meat tenderizer. It can be mixed with dark chocolate and also on dried-out cheese to remoisten it.
Why does sake have a long shelf life? Sake is made by fermenting rice with yeast. It also goes through a process of pasteurizing, which blasts the fermented rice through boiling water before boiling. The final submergence into boiling water kills off any harmful bacteria present, while the presence of yeast prevents any other bacteria from growing.
Now that you know how long sake can last, you can shop comfortably knowing you can store your sake for a long time without spoiling. Whether you’ll be buying some for a good time with friends or to spruce up your cooking, sake is a delectable experience for every occasion.