How to Homebrew Sake
by Mutsuo Hoshido, Mutsuo.Hoshido@jp.sony.com
Homebrew Sake is very easy to brew using simple cooking tools and then you can
enjoy the taste of Sake.
Homebrew Sake, called 'doburoku', rather than hazy Sake', is part of the cu
of Japan. Even under the previously strict control of Liquor Tax law, some
Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines were brewing their own 'doburoku' to
serve at their festivals or ceremonies.
Following is one of the simple Sake brewing procedures for Homebrew Sake:
- 1500g (3.3 lb) rice
- 400g (0.9 lb) Kome-koji
- 5g (0.18 oz) citric acid
- 5g (0.18 oz) dry bread yeast. Or equivalent amount of Beer Ale yeast,
Wine yeast or Wyeast Sake depending on your taste.
You will be able to get Kome-koji made from Koji or Koji-kin, a kind of white
fungi, together with steam cooked rice at your grocery stores or homebrew
stores. If you only can get Koji or Koji-kin, you can easily make your fresh
Kome-koji together with steam cooked rice by yourself using your picnic ice
box. Later I will show you how to make Kome-koji. If necessary, I can send
you some Koji or Koji-kin by air mail, because Kome-koji is too heavy and
too easily goes bad to send over the ocean.
- Electric rice cooker (steam cooker is better)
- Basket to drain water
- 10 liters (2.6 gal) enamel or stainless steel deep cooking pot with lid
(Equivalent plastic or glass container can be used)
- Big spoon (stainless is better)
1. Wash and soak the 1500g (3.3 lb) rice for about 5 hours and then put the
rice in a basket for at least 20 minutes to drain the water.
Improved Kome-koji process for homebrew Sake
2. Cook the rice with 1800ml (0.48 gal) water using the rice cooker.
Steam cooking is recommended for better taste. I used a pressure cooker
to steam cook rice using a stainless steel basket suspended in it.
3. After cooking, cool down the rice to 30 degC(86degF).
4. Mix the citric acid with 2.4 liter (0.5 gal) water in the enamel cooking
pot. Citric acid will prevent contamination by bacteria and add a
slightly sour taste to your Sake. Depending upon your taste, you can
reduce the citric acid. Also you can use lactic acid or a lemon or lime
5. Add 400g koji and mix well by agitating with the big spoon.
6. In 30 minutes, add the cooled cooked rice and mix well by agitating
with the big spoon.
7. Add the yeast, place the lid on the pot and keep it at room temperature.
Lower temperatures will cause slower and longer fermentation and will
result in a better taste.
8. Stir it at least once a day. In two or three days you can enjoy a very
nice Sake aroma. Be careful about bacterial contamination. I used 70%
ethyl alcohol spray around the pot and on myself every time.
9. In two weeks fermentation will seem to end.
10. Filter the sludge using a sterilized basket or cheese cloth.
11. Enjoy the filtered Sake. Do not drink too much. Alcohol content is two
to three times more than beer. Cooling the filtered Sake is the best
way to taste it. If you want crystal clear Sake, separate the remaining
sludge by decanting. This will greatly reduce the Sake yield.
12. The remaining sludge can be used to make pickled vegetables in a
refrigerator. A cucumber is the most suitable vegetable. Before
pickling, sprinkle lightly with salt (about 2% weight of the cucumber)
and place the cucumber in a dry container under two times it's weight
for at least 2 days to squeeze out any excess moisture. Then immerse
in the sludge and in two or three months, you will have sake tasting
pickles. You can also put in white fish meat and then grill it. If you put
soy bean cake (tofu) wrapped with cheese clothe into the sludge, in a
week you will get a cheese like sake tasting food.
The longer fermentation, the better the sake-cheese like taste.
I had a sake brewing job experience at an old-fashioned and traditional
sake brewery,Matsuya sake brewery,on Feb.7.
Thanks to the President Mr.Matsubara's openminded explanation about
sake brewing and Kome-koji process,I was saccessful to make my own
Kome-koji at home,the same appearance and the same taste as that of
the sake brewery.
Key point is to steam cook rice as dry as possible by very short time
of washing and soaking together.
Equipment and materials I used:
1.Normal eating rice 2kg ( I used "Hitomebore"rice which is one of the
tastiest rice kinds in Japan.) The sake brewery used so called 60%
polished special sake rice kind. (40% reduced from original rice.
Material cost increased 40% plus polishing expence. )
2.Stainless steel bowl and basket to wash and soak rice.
4.Cotton cloth, a loose open weave.(Traditional Sake brewery uses hemp
5.Thin wooden container or Sushi cooked rice container.
6.48L picnic cooler box.
7.A 60W tungsten lamp together with a small fan which is controlled
by a Robertshow type temperature controller.
8.Dry Koji-kin or Koji-fungi. I got a pack thanks to the Sake brewery
9.Ethylalcohol spray to sanitize hands.
Improved Kome-koji from dry Koji-kin or Koji-fungi
1. Wash and soak the 2 kg rice for about 30min. in a Stainless
steel basket together with a bowl and them remove the bowl.
Drain the water at least 60 minutes.
2. Wrap the rice with a cotton cloth and steam cook it for 60min
with weak gas flame.
Steam cooked rice looks slightly transparent and well separable,
not white and not sticky,because of less content of water.
3. Spread and separate the each rice on the other cotton cloth in a
wooden container by hands to cool down the cooked rice to
30dgC (86degF) which I don't feel warm temperature anymore.
4. Wrap about a few gram of dry Koji-kin or Koji-fungi with a gauze.
And sprinkle the Koji-kin or Koji-fungi on the cool rice and
well mix it by hands. (Dispose remaining rice of dry Koji-kin or
Koji-fungi in the gauze after spinkling)
5. Wrap the rice with the cotton cloth in the wooden container and
slightly moisten the cotton cloth with water spray.
Put the rice together with the wooden container in a picnic cooler
box with the temperature controller set at 30 deg C (86degF) .
6. At 06:00 on Feb.12.
The rice started to stick together. Well separate the rice with hands.
After wraping the rice with the cotton cloth. Moisten the cloth.
7. At 21:00 on Feb.12.
Kome-koji alreasy started to smell out side of the picnic cooler box.
8. At 06:00 on Feb.13.
The Kome-koji stuck together. Well separate the Kome-koji with hands.
After wraping the rice with the cotton cloth. Moisten the cloth.
9. At 17:00 on Feb.13.
Remove the already prepared Kome-koji from the picnic cooler box
and cooled down to the room temperature by spreading the Kome-koji
on the other cotton cloth on a clean table or plate.
The uniform well separated beautifully white Kome-koji is made.
Slightly sweet taste the same as that of Sake brewery.
10.Put the Kome-koji in a Ziploc and keep it in a refrigerator for
homebrew sake or miso making.
If real "Amasake" is available (sake sludge mixed with sugar is not real
amasake), directly add dry yeast in a bottle. You can brew Sake.
In Japan, at present, fermenting more than 1% alcohol without a license
is illegal. Before World War I, I heard that every family enjoyed homebrewed
Sake. It was the Japanese culture. But the war destroyed the culture too.
At present, members of "Homebrew News Letter" is only around 300. It is
estimated that about ten thousand homebrewers exist in Japan. We do not
only homebrew Sake but also homebrew beer.
In 1992, the minimum amount of licenced beer production was reduced
from 2000kl/year to 60kl/year by the pressure from the USA. It was the
dawn of local micro beer brewers. We, most of Japanese homebrewers, are
wanting more pressure from the USA for free homebrew and for free trade
to get cheeper homebrew ingredients.
Commercial Sake brewers use very expensive materials such as 50%
polished special kinds of rice, which looks like very small crystal beads
because of the excessive polishing process. The special rice kinds grown
only for Sake are called Yamadanishiki, Miyamanishiki, Reihou, Gyokuei and
so on. We never eat such a rice, we usually eat slightly polished normal
kinds of rice grown only for eating. When I visited a Sake brewer near my
house, the manager told me that he tried to eat sake rice but that it was
Homebrew Sake is very simple to make and satisfactorily tasty if you do
not compare it with commercial high class pure rice Sake. I heard that U.S.
Sake brewers must produce only pure rice Sake because of U.S. tax laws.
Pure Rice Sake means Sake only from rice. In Japan, tax law allows mixture
of so called industrial ethyl alcohol into Sake within a certain percentage.
Pure rice sake (Junmaishu) is very expensive.
I hope you enjoy Homebrew Sake.
Following is a copy of Mr. T. Takeshima's Home Page,just for your reference.
What is Koji?
Koji is a kind of mold that has an enzyme to convert starch to sugar.
Koji is used for making Sake (Japanese rice wine), Miso (soy-bean paste),
Shoyu (soy-sauce), etc.
As a mashing step is necessary to convert starch to sugar in brewing,
the action of Koji is indispensable to make sake. In the case of brewing,
fermentation takes place after starch conversion has finished. In making
sake, on the other hand, starch conversion by Koji and fermentation by
Sake yeast proceed in the same fermenter at the same time. In Sake
making, Koji not only works as a starch converter, but also produces
complexity in flavor of Sake.
Where to find Koji in US
There are at least a few (probably more) Koji makers in the US. Most of
you can get Koji rice at your local homebrew suppliers. Here is a Koji
maker of whom I have the address and phone number:
Miyako Oriental Foods, Inc.
4287 Puente Av., Baldwin Park, CA 91716
Another way to get Koji is mail order. Here is the information for a mail
30301 Sherwood Rd., Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Kushi Institute Store
Toll-Free: 1-800-64-KUSHI (1-800-645-8744)
These companies make rice Koji fundamentally for making miso (soy-bean
paste),soy-source and/or ama-zake. I usually use about a 1 kg (2 lb) pack
of dried rice Koji made by Miyako Oriental Foods when I homebrew my sake.
According to the mail order catalog of
G.E.M. Cultures, they seem also to provide Koji starter which enables you
to make Koji by yourself at home.
I hope you are succesful.
Kampai with your Sake!
Last update: 15 April 1999