How to Heat Sake

So you got yourself a bottle of sake and you just found out that you need to heat it. We will show you four different ways of warming your brew to perfection and even show you how to keep it warm.

How to heat sake

About warm sake

Premium sake, most of which are preferably served cold or at room temperature, has only been around for less than 50 years. For 2,000 years before that, it was common for all sake to be consumed warm. So what changed 50 years ago?

New brewing technology and methods were discovered that allowed the full, rich flavors and aromas of sake to be released without the need for heating it. Brewers, however, understood that warm sake is favored by many people, especially in the cold winter months. For this reason, a lot of brewers make hot sake of a decent and premium grade.

This is important to know because many people believe that warm sake is of an inferior grade and that simply isn’t true. Yes, most premium types are best served cold or at room temperature while non-premium brands are generally best served warm, but there are many exceptions to this rule.

Sometimes warm sake can give a bad experience simply because it was overheated or maybe it was a low-quality type, to begin with. Regardless, there are many premium varieties that are ideally served warm.


Sake heating chart

Every bottle of sake has its ideal temperature clearly stated on the label. It would be best to follow the stated guideline but if you are feeling particularly bold and adventurous then feel free to do your own experimenting. Just keep in mind that overheating will destroy the flavors and aroma and what you will be left with is a warm, dry tasting sake that is not enjoyable to drink.

There are 9 temperature categories ranging from snow cold (32 ℉) to piping hot (131 ℉).

TemperatureJapanese TermEnglish Term
32 – 41 ℉Yuki-hieSnow cold
41 – 50 ℉Hana-hieFlower cold
50 – 59 ℉Suzu-hieCool / refreshing
86 – 95 ℉Hinata-kanSunlight warmed
95 – 104 ℉Hitohada-kanSkin temperature
104 – 113 ℉Nuru-kanLuke warm
113 – 122 ℉Jyoh-kanHigh heat
112 – 131 ℉Atsu-kanHot
131+ ℉Tobikiri-kanVery hot

Different ways to heat sake

When it comes to heating sake at home, you will have a number of methods to choose from, including the stove, kettle and the microwave. Here we will explain the necessary steps for each.

Before continuing, it would be wise for you to have a liquid thermometer beforehand so that you can match the temperature with that stated on the bottle label.

It doesn’t need to be fancy, and most cost under $20. Some thermometers that are perfectly capable of doing the job can be found here and here.

As previously mentioned, do not overheat your sake. Doing so could ruin the flavors and aroma.


Stove method

Fill the decanter 90% of the way with sake and put plastic shrink wrap over the opening to prevent the aroma from escaping during the heating process. Put a pot onto the stove and place the decanter inside of the pot. Put just enough water in the pot for the decanter to be 50% emerged.

Remove the decanter, put the stove on and wait for the water to boil. Once the water is boiling turn the stove off and place the decanter back into the pot. Keep the decanter in for 2 to 3 minutes at a time while checking the temperature with a thermometer until it reaches the right temperature.


Microwave method

Warming sake via the microwave method is not recommended by serious sake enthusiasts. Firstly, many believe that the rapid heating from microwaves will cause some of the more subtle flavors and aroma to be lost. Secondly, it’s very easy to overheat the sake so you will have to stop the microwave frequently to do a temperature check.

To heat sake with a microwave put the brew into a decanter and place shrink wrap over the mouth to help preserve the aroma. Set the microwave on high and start. As a general guideline, for skin temperature (95 – 104 ℉) stop after 30 seconds and for high heat (113 – 122 ℉) stop after 1 minute.

Also, you may want to swirl the decanter around before taking the temperature because the heat at the top will be different from the bottom.


Kettle method

Warming sake with a kettle is risky but doable. The hottest sakes rarely exceed 131 ℉ while a kettle boils at 212 ℉ – so in other words, if you hear the kettle boil then it’s already too late, your sake is ruined.

The trick is to monitor the temperature constantly or at least very frequently while the kettle is on so that you can switch it off at the right time.


Electric sake warmer

What if I told you that there is a foolproof way of heating sake? What if I told you that the Japanese invented a device specifically for this very task? Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the Twinbird Portable Japanese Electric Sake Warmer.

The Twinbird portable Japanese electric sake warmer is made in Japan and simplifies the process of heating sake at home. To use it, simply plug it in, pour sake into the kettle and turn it on. Temperature settings can be changed by moving the kettle clockwise on its base. The more you move it to the right, the hotter it gets.

Temperature markings are in Japanese and so are all of the instructions included with the product, but it’s fairly easy to figure out yourself. The best part about this sake warmer is that once you reach your desired temperature you keep the kettle in position and the temperature will remain constant.

Product dimensions are 17.5 x 14 x 22 cm and weight 3.32 pounds.

Check out the latest price on amazon.com.


How to keep your sake warm

Heating sake to the perfect temperature is only half the battle. The other half is keeping the temperature consistent without having to go through all the effort of re-heating.

Luckily, there are ways of doing this.

Borosilicate glass sake set with a decanter for keeping liquid warm or cold

This sake set is made from high-quality heat resistant borosilicate glass which makes it ideal for warm sake.

What is borosilicate?

Borosilicate is a type of glass that can easily withstand extreme cold and hot temperatures. It’s also much stronger and more durable than regular glass.

How to use it?

Remove the decanter from the base pot, then pour boiling hot water into the pot and sake into the decanter. Place the decanter back into the base pot.

The decanter, when sitting inside of the pot, seals off any openings and thus prevents the heat from escaping. This in conjunction with the borosilicate material ensures that the boiling hot water inside the pot will remain at a consistent temperature for a long time.

What is included?

Included in the sake set is 1 borosilicate glass pot (2.42 x 7.80 inches), 1 borosilicate glass decanter (4.02 x 11 inches), 2 glass sake cups (40ml), 1 sandstone coaster (3.90 x 0.43 inches) and 1 cotton cloth (12.48 x 6.63 inches).

Get the latest price from amazon.com and be sure to check out our list of recommended sake sets here.


Conclusion

Heating sake at home can be a little tricky if you are new to it but the more you do it the easier it becomes. Just be careful not to overheat it.


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