Sake is …

“Sake” is Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. Sake is often called “Rice Wine”. It is, however, similar to beer rather than wine because of the ingredients. Sake is made from rice, grain, as same as beer made from malt, not wine made from grapes, fruit. In addition, Japan has plenty of Sake breweries in every single prefectures like craft beer breweries. It contains 15 to 16 percent of alcohol as average, can be classified as 7 types by ingredients, and how much be polished the rice is before making Sake, like Daiginjo, and Junmai-Daiginjo. In Japanese, the word ‘sake’ means alcohol drink in general.

The origin is still being discussed. For one of stories, around 716AD, some people made a dried rice unexpectedly. They used the dried rice for making Sake as current Koji: a rice malt.

Hope it would help to understand about Sake and to get more excited to drink it for you!

Who Makes Sake

Sake breweries are called Kuramoto in Japanese. They have two classes for workers. Toji are Sake makers or brewers, and only one Toji position per Kuramoto is available as a leader of the Kuramoto like a chef de cave for Champagne. Other workers are called Kurabito, they make Sake as well under Toji.

The Steps for Making Sake

How to make Sake

Let’s talk about a little bit professional story about brewing Sake. For the process of making Sake as non-carbonated alcoholic drink, it takes about 60 days by using “multiple parallel fermentation,” is usually parted to 5 steps. It is tough and complicated to do perfectly. Here is the five steps.

There are a couple types of Sake that depends on how much you remove rice bran to polish the rice for making Sake. So we are going to tell you about polishing rice.

1. Polish a rice

The eating rice is already polished to about 90%. For a normal Sake, it is going to be around 70% of the rice as the result after polishing. Ginjo-shu is going to be about 60% to 50%, and Daiginjo is going to be around 50% compared to the beginning. Even when making the most premium Sake, it is going to be around 10%, in other words, you need to polish 90% of the whole rice. Since rice bran has something we don’t need for making Sake such as fat, protein, or ash, the more rice is polished, the more tastes clear and smells great. However, polishing rice is the hardest process of making Sake because there shouldn’t be any rice bran at all and each rice have to be almost same size for some processes for making a great balance of taste such as for taking the same long time to soak in water to the rice or to steam it. It takes a day to four days, and they have to continue to care about the size and the detail in the short period.

2. Wash and soak the rice

For the second step, they need to wash and soak the rice in water. It is required high skills for making an amazing Sake because the tiny polished rice should be a perfect hardness, not too soft and not too hard, to do another process after soaking such as steaming and fermenting. The time takes for soaking depends on how much being polished it is. Since the rice is polished to about 50 to 60% from the beginning for Ginjo-shu, it takes about 40 seconds for washing, and 5 minutes for soaking. Toji has a stopwatch for counting down the time because it makes huge influences for Sake’s taste even only 1 second difference.

3. Steam rice and make kouji

For the third step, this rice is going to be steamed in a traditional steamer for making Kouji which is a special species of mold on rice, and is used to make Sake. It takes about 40 to 60 minutes to make an appropriate texture for making high-quality Kouji. The rice should have two textures, outside is dry and hard, and inside has moisture and is soft, “Hineri-mochi” is the best texture which is sticky and stretches like Mochi, rice cake. It must not be too hot because steaming is for promotion to produce Kouji, so spread it out in Kouji-making room to get to be cold with a thermometer for keeping the property temperature around 30℃ after steaming. After it gets property temperature, they spread Kouji mold over the rice, mix and age it to make Kouji.

4.Make Shubo and Moromi

For the fourth step, they have to make Shubo and Moromi. For making Shubo, put Kouji and yeast, and the steamed rice into water, and keep the property temperature for breeding yeast by using a thermometer. Through this process, the starch in the rice convert to sugar, and the sugar is broken down to alcohol and carbonic acid gas at the same time. This is the characteristic of brewing Sake, totally different from other alcohol, called “multiple parallel fermentation.” It takes around 12 to 13 days to ferment completely.

5. Press and squeeze

For the last step for making Shinshu, means new Sake in Japanese, they need to press and squeeze the Moromi to separate to Sake and the rest solid part, Sake-kasu, could be used to cooking like pickled fish and vegetable, or making other alcohol “Shochu” which is also popular Japan and is getting popular in non-Japanese countries as well. In a traditional way, they put moromi into a traditional bag for Sake and press it. The Shinshu which is squeezed just now is filtrated and heated before bottling. The name of Sake depends on whether it is heated or not, if it’s not heated at all called “Nama-zake,” if it’s bottled with non-heating and retailed after heating called “Nama-chozoshu.”

When Shinshu comes out, they put Sugidama which means a ball of Japanese cedar(a kind of tree) on the entrance of the brewery as a sign to people to know the time is coming.

How to drink a delicious Sake

How delicious Sake that you can drink depends on what type of Sake you are drinking.

Each Sake has a different and appropriate way to drink, especially the temperature is the most important point. You will enjoy Sake with some temperature such as cold (around 40 to 60℉), room temperature (around 60 to 70℉), and hot (around 95 to 130℉), like wine. You want to drink Sake tasty as much as it’s possible!? We are telling you about the best temperature for each Sake on this website. Go to Sake Selection under Our Selection, and get the information!

Famous Sake Place in Japan

 

How important the water is

About 1600 Sake breweries spread all over Japan for getting the best rice and best water to make the only one best Sake. Water, in particular, is the most important ingredients to choose their location for brewery. The location which near natural water springs is the only place that they can make a wonderful Sake by using a large amount of pure mineral water. That is because it takes 8 times water of Sake as the result to make it, and it cannot be delivered with keeping quality of the water and in inexpensive cost.

Sake in Four Seasons

Spring

Hatsushibori, Shiboritate: It means the first squeezed one, and the one just be squeezed in Japanese, could be drunk from November to April. It is made from fresh rice since the last autumn, and is not heated. It tastes fresh, light also still a little bit palatable, and has sweet aroma. You would be better off storing it in a cool place and drinking all as soon as possible after you open the bottle.

Summer

Seishu: It means raw Sake in Japanese. It is made from the last winter to spring, and could be drunk from April to September. For the taste, the palatable taste is getting to be mellowed, but the freshness is still keeping because it is matured by low temperature, not be heated at all. It is better off storing it in a cool place and drinking in cold temperature as soon as possible too

Autumn

Hiyaoroshi: It means wholesaling when it is getting chilly in Japanese. It was HatsushibIori in the last spring, and be sold after heating from September to December. In autumn, it is matured, therefore, tastes very rich and mild.

Winter

Kanoroshi: It means wholesaling when weather is cold in Japanese. It was Hiyaoroshi in the autumn, and be sold after get to be more matured from November. Enjoy the pretty mellowed and rich taste as the last chapter of Sake.

The Degree of Polishing Rice

What is

The degree which shows how much percentage of the whole rice it has after it is polished. The more lower the degree is, the more higher the quality of Sake is. In general, the amount of starch in rice increase toward the center of it, and the amount of fat and protein in rice increase toward the outside of it. In addition, Sakamai has “Shinpaku” which means the core of the rice in Japanese, and that has more space than other kinds of rice. The space is good for Kouji to be growing up and to convert starch into sugar, so that Sakamai is the best for making Sake.

Example

Here is the idea of the degree. The number will be about, not precisely, because it depends on many things like Sake, people’s preference, and so on.

90% – Eating rice

70% – Making light, dry, fresh, and crispy

60% – Making fruity, aroma, smells good. For Junmai-ginjo, Ginjo-shu.

50% – Making smooth, full-flavored, rich, matured, and mellow. For Junmai-daiginjo, Daiginjo-shu.

The Indicators of Sake

The Degree of Sake

The indicator of the taste of Sake, shows the taste is sweet or clear. The standard is ±0. The more greater than 0, it tastes more clear, the more less than 0, it tastes more sweet.

Sourness

The indicator of the texture of Sake, shows the texture is smooth or dry. The standard is 1.5. The number is more higher, it tastes more smooth, full-flavored, rich, matured, and mellow. The number is more lower, it tastes more dry, fresh, crispy and bright.

How to classify Sake

The degree of
polishing rice
Do not
add alc.
Add alc.,
Long-term
fermentation
with low temp.
Add alc.,
Normal
fermentation
Under 100%Junmai-shu
Under 70%Honjo-shu
Under 60%Junmai-ginjoGinjo-shu
Under 50%Junmai-daiginjoDaiginjo-shu