Admin, I’m a homebrewer with an interest in sake. One thing that helped me when I was getting into beer was lots of information to read up on. It doesn’t seem like there is much brewing info on sake, though. Thus, some books would be nice. Also, from what I’ve read it seems like you might need more than just rice, yeast and what not to make a good drink. What about those molds and canvas bags I’ve read about? These things would make me more confident in brewing some sake.
I agree completely. Fred Eckhardt’s process and recipe walks you through the entire process and is matched with the ingredient in our kits. The Taylor-MadeAK site also walks you through the process. The only book I know that takes you through the brewing process is SAKE USA by Fred Eckhardt but this is out of print now. You can sometimes find it used. Do you think more general books on Sake would be helpful?
Yes there is more than just Rice and Yeast. Sake could not be made without koji, a rice cultured with Aspergillus Oryzae, and a strict method. The methods out lined in the two documents listed above and the ingredients available here are just what is needed to make Junmai Ginjo Sake (Pure High Quality).
If you read through either of these please let me know what you think.
I agree with trippeld. It would be nice to have a real press of some sort with filter. I think you are on to something with this site! Gonna be making some sake pretty soon. Will have your site on my favs.
I’ll look into presses. As far as equipment goes I have been mainly looking for a good source of steamers to start. For the most part my priority is to provide the things that are hardest for you to find first and fill out the selection next. Eventually to provide a complete one stop shopping experience.
I have pictures of my process, even pictures of my own tane-koji if you’re interested. I am about to buy a cheese press from thecheesemaker.com I think these will work great to press out the sake from the ori. Vision brewing has seeds, and I think have distributor rates? I’ve used Bob Taylor’s guide to make excellent Sake. Bob and I were working on making koji around the same time and he worked on making koji go to spore. I’ve made several batches of koji vs a few batches of Sake. I think I’ve figured out a sure way to make koji go to spore, just requires a good humidty/temp controlled environment. Spores take about a week to fully mature, vs 2 days to make Koji.
Hi, Yes I am interested in the pictures. How many batches of koji have you made? All with the vision brewing koji-kin? Are you planning to write up your process for making tane-koji?
I was looking at those same presses. I bought a Brie kit from them about a year ago. I agree, the presses do look like they will do well. If you buy the press I will be interested in hearing how well it works.
You can order the milled rice starting on the “store” page, did you need more information?
I’ve been waiting for this site for a long time! Thanks!! I would like to see a comprehensive store of sake brewing ingredients and tools… one stop shopping for sake making. Getting some koji-kin and offering brewer’s rice in bulk (50lbs) would be good. I would like to scale up the batch size and see what happens, perhaps using adjustable volume stainless fermentation tanks. I have hated messing around with small batches since my early all grain beer brewing days… Go big or stay away I say! Any chance you could find and stock some of the hemp cloth traditionally used to press the lees?
It is my goal to make this a complete one stop shopping site but it is harder and takes more time to make the needed arrangements. As for the bulk purchases, hmm, I have not thought about that. I wonder if this would be popular. What size batches are you thinking of brewing? What size all grain batches do you brew? I will add the hemp cloth to my watch list of items to look for.
Hi Mr. Admin… thanks for the response! I was thinking of using a 100 liter stainless adjustable volume wine fermenter and scaling up the batch x5, to make 10 gal per run. I live in So. Cal. so winter is the only time to do fermentations without too much fiddling about with temp control. My all grain brewery is a 15 gallon setup, two Bud keg vessels (mash tun and hot liquor back) and a 25 gallon boil kettle.
OK, the 100 liter fermenter should be big enough. I was worried that you may get foam overs during fermentation but this should work just fine. I also worry about temperature. The closer you can get to 45-50F the better.
If you have not yet looked at the recipe it would be a good idea to do so.
So, what would it take to do a 5x batch? Well, 5x the Rice, Koji, Yeast and of course the ingredients. As a brewer, you may be thinking that you could build up the yeast mash starter (moto). I’m sure this is possible but a good procedure needs to be worked out. Until then using 5x the yeast is probably your best bet.
The other issue you will need to address is finding a way to steam much more rice than is usual for most steamers on the market. Or simply accept that you will need to steam multiple rice batches. I have done this and it is not that bad but the time commitment for the steaming session goes up and needs to be taken into account.
If you want to do this with the rice, koji and yeast I carry, you could use:
1x the Full Ingredient Sake Kit
4x the Sake Ingredient Kit
This would provide all the ingredients needed for you 5x batch.
Thanks Will, you answered my next question about building the Moto. I have fantasies about building a cedar lined Koji room but that’s probably a bit far fetched for the near term! Yeast culture is no big deal, but I wonder if I build a yeast culture large enough on unhopped malt wort if it will negatively affect the taste of the sake.
I’ll be ordering as soon as I can find a suitable fermenting vessel. I have built an insulated box for fermenters that I can chill to 50 F reliably, but not sure if I can get much colder. Is 50 OK, or will I pick up fusels and other unpleasant things?
Still working on larger scale steaming plans, I’ll post again when I’ve found a solution.
If you use the method for creating a yeast starter where you grow the amount you want (5x) then cool the starter and let the yeast drop out so you can pour off the beer to use only the yeast cake then there should not be enough beer flavor to negatively impact the sake. Once you have the correct amount of yeast you can make a 5x moto.
Yes, 50F is very good. You can go down to 45F or so but getting to 50F is much more important than going below that. You will not have any fusel alcohol at these temperatures.
Hey Will I don’t have any photos of the box and I’m away from home until mid February, but it’s pretty unexciting anyway. It’s a (roughly) 6.5 x 6.5 foot interior volume wood framed box I framed with 2×6 on 16″ centers. It sits on a concrete pad in a metal shed, the floor is not raised or insulated. The walls and top are insulated with R19 6″ fiberglass batting. Outside is sheathed with 1/2″ plywood and the interior is finished with drywall. One end comes off entirely for access with a couple of cam lock latches which is a bit of a pain, I need to work out a better door. In the other end is an LG 7000BTU window air conditioner that has been modified with a CoolBot which replaces the thermostat (http://www.storeitcold.com). The folks that make the CoolBot advertise that you can get a chamber down to near freezing, but I think I need a bigger AC unit for that, maybe 12K-18K BTU. Mine is happiest around 50F most of the year. I don’t use it for fermenting July-Sept because it works too hard, but I still use it on occasion to cool down produce picked from the garden in the hot months. You can get it from ambient (around 85 or 90 in summer) down into the 50s in quite a hurry. I can fit (4) 6.5 gallons carboys and a few cornelius kegs in no problem, I could get more in but it would feel crowded. I picked up the LG AC unit on craigslist cheap, used mostly left over lumber and insulation from other projects. I bought the CoolBot new which was about $300… kinda pricey but it does work to keep a fermentation chamber at temp without worry. If you were to build this with all new stuff it would probably cost around $750. I’m going to bump the AC unit up in power as soon as I can find a good deal, that way I’ll be able to get it cooler and make some proper lager beers. I’m only using ale yeasts now.
Of course I could pour off the malt wort when I’m ready to pitch the yeast into the Moto… why didn’t I think of that?!! I can buy enough Koji from you for my purposes, no need to build the cedar room. When I get this together, my plan is to make only 1 or 2 large batches a year, so it doesn’t seem to make sense to worry about culturing Koji. I grow yeast cultures for beer brewing successfully so that’s no big deal.
I’m still researching a way to steam larger quantities of rice. I think I’m going to wind up using an older stainless brewpot with a couple of stacked steamer baskets in it…. at least that’s the plan for now. Do you know if it’s a problem to line the steamer baskets with cloth? I seem to recall seeing some video years ago from a Japanese sake brewery where the rice came out of the steamer wrapped in what I assume to be hemp cloth, but I’m not really sure. I’ll post again if I get a better idea.
Hi everyone! I do not know where to begin but hope this site will be useful for me.
In first steps it’s really nice if somebody supports you, so hope to meet friendly and helpful people here. Let me know if I can help you.
Thanks and good luck everyone!
You know what would be really cool? If we could have some video of sake homebrewing from start to finish. I’m not too smart, and they say a picture speaks a thousand words. Done a few batches myself, and they have been OK, but nothing special, so I won’t be the one posting the vids!
Temp. control was my main issue. Had a hard time just staying at 60. I have since started brewing lagers and have a dedicated fridge with a Johnson temp controller (another reason that I want to try this again).
Glad to see a site to find brewing products. I’m interested in brewing osme nigori down the road, but I will probably try whats available now. It’s hard to find much information on brewing the different types of sake. You should really get something like a phpbb forum up and going as it will allow people to share tips and discuss issues and what not that arise.
You can make nigori with the kit here but the details are not the clear and doing it in a way to get just the character of nigori you are looking for is a little tricky. I will try to post something like this soon.
Hi all, and admin. I just stumbled upon this website looking for sake brewing products and infromation. Gotta say I really love this website. It can supply me with everything I need to brew sake. (Note the name) I have never brewed sake, I currently have none of the neceserry equitment or ingrediants, and I have no experience. I’m here to observe and learn, and I believe that becoming apart of this organization is the best way to go about it. I can’t buy what I need to start my first batch yet but I will be starting my first batch in a month or two. And when I do I’ll buy the complete ingrediant kit! It’s the absolute best deal online. Peroid. And as far as suggestions go, I can give my two-sense if you’re interested. I thought that bulk supplies were a great idea, to make larger batches. Equipment like steam cookers and koji seeds is a good idea. Another idea I liked was step-by-step videos of how to brew. I would make some because I have the video-making experience, but no sake brewing experience. As for my own ideas, one thing I havn’t been able to find online is a dacanter. I’m aware it’s just a luxury item to make the sake clear, but it’s still something I would buy when getting into sake brewing. After I get a few years of experience I may even consider brewing sake comercially. (Distant future, realistic chance of success: 0.1%) So yeah, hi all, love the site, and can’t wait to see what you cook up in the future!
Oh ok, now that I read the ingrediants more closely I see that the yeast nutrient you supply makes the sake clear. That’s extremely helpful, thanks! Sorry for the mistake. And thanks Will for the encouragment! I do fantasize one day selling real bottled sake, but it will take many years to get to that point. Also, I very luckily found a source where I can buy Fred’s book “Sake U.S.A.” for a very reasonable price considering it’s been out of print for so many years. I’ve decided it might be smart shell out the money for the book before I buy the ingrediants (although there’s no question that I’m getting them.) Amazon.com currently has 9 copies right now. Here’s the link:
I don’t know how to make it clickable, so you can highlight it and copy & paste it into your address bar. The books are going for $40 all the way up to $160. Also what are some pointers to ensure the sake will have a good strong alcahol content? And what volume does good homebrew sake usually have? Thanks!
I think Fred’s book is good but it seems like too much to pay more than $30 for it. The recipe here: http://homebrewsake.com/recipe/ is Fred’s latest work, more up to date and specifically for the ingredients sold on this site.
If you follow the recipe just referenced, the alcohol by volume (ABV) will be from 18%-22% for somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 gallons (roughly 9 liters). I don’t use a press and get about 2 gallons of sake with 1 – 2 pints of Nigori (cloudy or quite cloudy) and the rest very nicely clear sake.
Ok, thanks, I wasn’t aware they were the same recipe. That enables me to put the purchase of the book on the back burner so I can get equipment and ingrediants. Thanks for the tip on alcahol content. Just so you know I have no former beer brewing or wine making experience. I am pretty much as new as you can get. I noticed that homemade sake is stronger than most bottled sakes I found online.
One thing I’m concerned about is air. Do I air seal my sake, or do I vent it? How much empty space do I allow in my aging buckets?
If out of 9 liters of sake you only had 2 pints that were cloudy then that’s really good. One thing though, what is a press? Is it something I will need? One huge disadvantage I have in this situation is that I live in a state in the US where there are no homebrew or wine making stores anywhere. None. The internet is my only means of getting what I need. So what is in your opinion the first and foremost thing I get?
OFF TOPIC: What is the difference between sake and saki?
The two are not the same recipe. The one in the book is for table rice (milled to 90% or plain white rice). The one here is for rice milled to 60% which is the minimum milling for Ginjo grade sake. I have tried to speak to those with no other brewing experience on this site. If you find places where you need to have some experience in brewing or wine making, let me know because I want to ensure everyone can make sake, especially those with no experience.
While it depends on how you make it, and the instructions are in the recipe, you get the alcohol levels I mentioned (Genshu) or you can add some water which brings it down to the level you find most commercial sake (15-16%, normal sake). If you make this adjustment you get more sake too .
You don’t need to seal your sake as it is fermenting (Moromi). Just cover it so nothing drops into it.
Some people press the moromi (sake with rice lees) to get as much of the sake away from the lees as possible. They will use small fruit or cheese presses to do this. I just do a squeeze and drip (put the moromi in a bag or cloth and squeeze). I don’t get it all but close enough.
Look the the following article for equipment need and references:
Hi again. I had a few questions about some things mentioned throught the brewing instructins. It mostly has to do with the final straining process. First, what is the proper way to ‘rack’ the sake? Do you use a strainer, or filter it through cheese cloth or something of the like? Also what are ‘lees?’ And I had a question about the ‘yeast preperation’ process explained in the Quick Strart guide; it’s the first I’ve seen that, does it somehow make the sake stronger?
By the way, great new guide. It makes everything so much easier to see it laid out in a step-by-step process like that.
>First, what is the proper way to ‘rack’ the sake?
Racking is the process of transferring sake from one container to another. The main purpose of racking is to move the sake off its components that have settled to the bottom. Some of this may literally be on the bottom while other portions are only concentrating in the lower level of the sake. The top most portion of the sake will have the lowest count of particulate matter that can make sake cloudy. By moving this top portion over to a clean and sanitized container we preserve its clarity. By repeating this process the sake can be made ever more clear. Use of clearing agents, like bentonite, can make this process go quicker.
Now, to answer your direct question. The proper way is the way that works for you. Two common ways to rack sake are decanting and siphoning. Decanting is simply poring the clear sake into the new container being careful not to mix it while doing so or including the less clear sake. Siphoning is the most common method and allows you to suck the clear sake off the top without disturbing the container or the sake within.
>Do you use a strainer, or filter it through cheese cloth or something of the like?
Yes, this has not gotten much coverage. I had been using a linen cloth, but after hearing for some time about using paint strainer bags I tried it for my last batch. It worked pretty well. A fine cheesecloth or muslin can also work well. In any case, whatever the cloth and whether it’s a bag or not you can take a small pan or bowl and place the cloth in the bowl and fill the cloth by scooping the moromi into the cloth. Pull up the corners if needed and lift it out of the container and start to squeeze it, letting the sake drip into the container. Repeat this until you have squeezed all the moromi and taken the resulting sake into the secondary container. This process is “pressing.”
Be sure to clean the cloth even if it is already clean. I did not do this with the strainer bag I used and it left an aroma of paper on my sake. Paper aroma is a pretty bad flaw.
>Also what are ‘lees?’
The lees are the substance that is left in the cloth after pressing. It is made up of spent rice and koji as well as yeast.
>And I had a question about the ‘yeast preperation’ process explained in the Quick Strart guide; it’s the first I’ve seen that, does it somehow make the sake stronger?
Yeast has certain metabolic needs to function properly. Milled rice does not provide any of the nutrients needed. Neither does koji add much in this area other than the sugars. So we add some key items to the water that help with yeast health. Some water is better suited for making sake than other water. In large part this is because of the minerals that support the yeast and the lack of contents that heart sake, like iron.
I’m brewing 1 Sake with Hitomebore “Love at First Sight” rice, 1 Huang Jiu with mostly sweet rice (short glutinous rice), and 1 Lotus Huang Jiu.
I’d appreciate it if you checked it out and gave me some advice or whatever!
Keep in mind that the recipe I posted below changed, so there is a lot to criticize. I’ll be posting what I actually did very soon
The rice weight calculations are correct by the way. (as in they fit in the brew bucket without spilling [so far])
Just wanted to leave a note and say I’m really glad this website exists and can not wait to start the brewing process myself. It’s nice to get large rather inexpensive quantities of Ozeki, but brewing at home seems more reqarding and more inexpensive!
Hello, Will! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I need to ask a question about amisake. I have two gallons of trial-run sake brewing right now. My method was store-bought 100% dinner rice, washed, steeped, drained, and steamed for an hour each. The recipe consisted of a basic combination of dissolved dry yeast, nutrient, energizer, and acid blend, fermented in a cleaned empty milk carton for awhile, then strained.* I made amisake with the rice by mushing it, and mixing it with sugar and dissolved sugar and pasturizing it. I babble all this info because I am wondering if with this process is the amisake edible or is there a good chance it is contaminated with alchol poisoning. I have not eaten it yet as I request your professional opionion. Thanks!
*As for the sake itself this was a trial run with virtually none of the right equitment and ingrediants so I do not expect it come out good. Just want to know of my amisake is edible.
I babble all this info because I am wondering if with this process is the amisake edible or is there a good chance it is contaminated with alchol poisoning.
No worries. There is nothing in what you have done that would do that.
There are two very different things that you may be thinking of when you say “alcohol poisoning:” the first is simply consuming too much alcohol and the other is being poisoned by higher alcohols. I’m thinking it is the later that you are concerned about. While these higher alcohols can be created in regular fermentations they occur at levels too low to do much more than give you a bad hang over. You’d get the former kind of alcohol poisoning first. Higher alcohols become dangerous when the distillation process concentrates then at the head and tail of the process. If enough of either of these, that is the heads or the tails, are consumed you can have serious problems. However, your not distilling anything. You’ll be safe trying your concoction.
As a side note amazake does not have yeast added. It is not alcoholic. I believe what you are describing is more of a doburoku which could begin with amazake but would not need sugar.
Hey again. I’m very exited because today I have my very first bottle of finished sake! (I started with a gallon but ended up with one bottle) It smells and tastes similiar to the Fu-Ki my nearby liquor store sells. It came about as good as I could have hoped. However, it is slightly cloudy and there is some sediment at the bottom of the bottle. It’s still okay to drink right?
Thanks so much! It smelled and tasted like real sake! Despite being cloudy (I think it’s nigori) I could not have been happier with my first batch! Does kasu have alcahol content? If so, how strong would it be?
Thanks. I hand-pressed my kasu so I believe a good bit of sake was left in it. Besides, the kasu smells like very strong sake. But I wanted to ask you another question about warmed sake. I just noticed on your FAQ that you warn that Namazake must be kept refrigerated. Does this mean it must be served chilled or can it be warmed upon serving?
Also; if it does need pasturized to be served warm, can it be put in a double boiler without a glass jug?
While Nama needs to be stored chilled so that enzymes, bacteria … don’t continue working and quickly spoil the sake. However, when you are ready to drink it, you can have it chilled, room temperature or warm. If you don’t drink it all you should put it back in the cooler for storage.
See if you can get a copy of the “Feb-brrrrrr-uary” news letter from True Sake . In this letter they talk about an interesting tasting they did with warmed sake. One of the favorites was a nama!
If you can’t get them to send you one I can forward a copy
Thanks for that tip. I checked out the newsletter archives for February and found a lot of interesting things. It is facinating to see all those rave reviews on namazake and how it so verstile by serving it at different temperatures. I was suprised it how common namas actually were.
One thing, I didn’t find an article specifically titled “Feb-brrrrr-uary” so it’s possible I read a different article. If it’s not can you please forward that copy? I use my regular email address for this site so you should have it on record. I just don’t want to give it out. Thanks!
Hi, Will! I just finished a batch of sake, but I gotta say, it didn’t come out that good. In fact after I bottled and tasted it I contemplated dumping it. It sorta tasted like sake, but very sweetened and watered down sake. Plus it had almost no alcahol. It’s ironic because my first batch came out quite good.
Anyway, as I look over my process I realize I didn’t press the rice. I just seperated the liquid from it. Would this have made a big difference in the flavor? For both batches I used pure white dinner rice, unmilled. It was regular size. Also, the recipe itself was very basic. Nothing like here, it just called for rice, basic winemaking chemicals and yeast. It said to “coarse crush” the rice but I honestly don’t know that precedure, or even if it comes before or after steaming.
Can you shed some light on this? I have another batch (almost ready for pressing) going right and I don’t want to turn out this way, but it already smells like the bad sake I have.
It sounds like you are making a doburoku recipe rather than sake (seishu). However, you don’t mention koji, is that an oversight?
With a single addition of the ingredients, everything added at the beginning, the yeast will be overwhelmed by the high sugar content and hence produce no more than around 7% alcohol. As time marches on though, the koji continue to convert starch to sugar which causes the batch to get sweeter and sweeter. A counter acting force is lactic acid bacteria that should also be growing. So whether the batch is sweet or sour or more balanced is a bit tricky. I have a friend in Seattle that makes this regularly. She even teaches a class on it from time to time.
Are you getting more than, say, 4% or 5% alcohol?
You might just bite the bullet and follow the recipe here or the one at:
Actually, the koji was sort of an oversight as you say. The recipe called only for sugar. Koji was not a part of this recipe because it’s designed to be a wine that you can “supposedly” make with only basic grocery store ingredients. I realize that the absence of koji has a huge effect of sake, but I was hoping this recipe was a good substitute.
I had no idea that too much sugar could have a negative effect on the sake! Thanks for telling me, as it does make a lot of sense to why the batch tastes the way it does. I would say the sake was about 2-5% ABV. It had no bite whatsoever, no fiz or tingle, and when shaken it only produced a few slight bubbles.
The sake I have going now was done with this same recipe, and as I said it’s starting to smell the same as the bad batch. What can I do to save my sake? Or should I just dump it?
Your recipe makes no sense to me. You have rice but no way to convert the starch in the rice to something usable. Personally, I would dump it and start with a better recipe.
Just to be clear about the sugar. Sugar by itself is not a problem, it is the concentration of sugar in the solution that can be the problem. Distillers often make a ferment from sugar, water and some nutrients. This works fine as long as the concentration of sugars in the ferment are not too high.
I was thinking of starting, but am not interested in getting 10# of rice shipped to the east coast. Do you have a “starter kit” without the rice? Also, for my first batch, I am thinking of using some table rice from my local Asian market. If things go well and I get the basics down, I will look into your polished rice. So, I’d like two things… The kit minus the rice and your recommendation on what rice to buy locally and what recipe to follow. I realize that the quality will be affected by not using highly polished rice, but cannot make sense of shipping 10# of rice from the west coast to the east coast until after my first batch. Do you do a deal “package price” on those kits w/o the rice? Also, how much is shipping on this kind of stuff. I am in NC.
A kit minus the 60% milled rice would be priced at the kit price minus the rice price; today that is $39.15 – $16 = $23.15. Shipping cost of $15.95 drops to $12.35. So the total with shipping would be $36.25.
The rice you want is short or medium grain rice. Koshihikari and Hitomebore are two short grain rice that would do well. Calrose or Kokuho roce are medium grain rice that would do well.
For a while now I’ve been methodically reading through all the Sake articles and wonderfully insightful home-brewing information you’ve so graciously created here to the benefit of all the rest of us. I’m nowhere near finished yet for there’s a lot to take in!
I would like not only to congratulate you, but also express my deep appreciation for your effort and willingness to share your knowledge and understanding of Sake so generously and freely with those you’ll likely never meet in person. I have (and am still) benefiting greatly as a direct result. Thank you!
I personally decided to take a stab at home-brewing Sake just last month. As a newcomer to the entire arena of home-brewing, it was plainly evident that I needed to learn as much as possible prior to beginning my first attempt. And while gradually acquiring the necessary equipment & ingredients together, I determined it best to maintain patience so as to NOT allow myself to get in a hurry. The intention thereby is to help minimize the inevitable mistakes which always seem to occur in most everyone’s first attempts.
Currently, I’m at the point of considering what might be involved in the idea of further milling certain prospective rice selections (easily available locally)so as to achieve a much better seimai-buai necessary for a superior Sake-brew end result. I’ve already managed to discover your excellent articles on rice-milling experiments with the TwinBird mill you have, but the more recent update closes with the suggestion that we home-brewers might find it perfectly feasible to design/fabricate our own purpose-built rice mill. I would like to ask for your further thoughts and/or advice relating to this idea.. and whether you have managed to accomplish such a goal yourself or what you may have possibly learned from someone who has in fact done so.
Thanks Again so much – for all your helpful contributions to the benefit of us all.
I have not done any more with building a rice mill. I intended to but got distracted. What I was thinking about doing was to mimic the twinbird by using a similar pulled steel to form an outer barrel cage with a propeller that can move much more rice. So plywood on the top and bottom with the pulled steel around the sides to form the container and the propeller shaft coming through the bottom. It needs to easily hold close to 20lbs of rice. Oh, and you should have an outer ring of plastic or sheet metal that forms a barrel a little larger than the one made with the pulled steel. This is to catch the nuka. All in all a simple design.
I believe this would work for milling down to 40 to 50% but beyond that I am not sure it would do a good job. If you try to build this I would be very interested in knowing how you do.
One additional thing to think about. Knowing what you are doing is good but experience is best. And the best way to get experience is by doing. You, I and everyone learn more from our mistakes so don’t be afraid of them.
Please let me, us know how your first sake turns out!
I appreciate your response. And I appreciate your thoughts on the idea of designing a rice-mill.
I’m studying (to the extent of available clues) the technical aspects of current-day modern rice mills and the practical strategies employed therein (insofar as they appear to be engineered & typically designed in the modern day). I’m not convinced, however, that the challenge is much more than one of finding a suitable implementation of savvy mechanical techniques which subject the rice-kernel to (what amounts to) little more than a controlled abrasion process. Grinding off the outermost surface (as it were).
I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble across archived dialogue between you & Bob Taylor with regard (indirectly) to the subject. FWIW.. It was Bob’s ‘Taylor-MadeAK Sake Brewing Guide’ that originally inspired me to consider brewing Sake in the first place.
I’ll let you know what strategies I develop as the research effort continues to unfold; along with any significant insights gleaned toward the task of fabricating a practical home-made rice mill.
Also, Thanks for the encouragement for ignoring the ‘projected’ torpedoes and going for unarguably the best teacher available anywhere ~’Experience’.
I have considered it but I have not done any research of how to do it. I saw some barley koji at Uwajimaya, a large Northwest Japanese Grocery Store. So I know that it is available for cooking purposes. For shochu, the usually use white koji or black koji rather than the yellow koji we use for sake. However, they do, sometimes use yellow koji. If you try this, please let us know how it goes!
It appears that to make barley koji you need to start with pearled barley. Hulled or raw barley is not what you want to use because pearled barley is processed similar to polishing rice for use in sake brewing. Also, as for koji-kin selection, I have to go with what I can readily get, so yellow koji-kin is what is available. However, I’ll check out Gemcultures to see if they have something similar to white koji-kin.
Hi Mr Will you are doing a very nice job I am glad to see things do it the way you and your people do, I am from latinamerica so excuse me if you dont understand everything… I want to start making my first sakebrew (I am buying the ingredients right now), how you can see I have to wait untill somebody goes to the states so I can get more ingredients…..I have a question Can I keep kome-koji in the frezzer for long time (how long and how cold)
There have been several people form Latin America that have contacted me recently. There seems to be lots of interest in sake brewing. Very exciting.
You can keep koji in the freezer for a year maybe longer.
Temperature, hmm, regular freezer temperatures. I know that is not an answer. However the temperature that standard freezers keep is fine. Be careful with “frost free” freezers; they cycle the temperature to melt any accumulation of ice. This does not keep the contents at a constant and cold enough temperature. If this is all you have and there is space to put the koji in a cooler within the frost free freezer this will help to stabilize the temperature for the koji.
hi again will
the rice we got down here (normal table rice 1% broken corn) between 22-25 alfa amilase, grain width 2 mm (0.08 in.) grain length 7 mm (0.28 in) and I think 90 % polisched. Do you think can I began with this, how many grams from your koji do I need for 1 Kg (2.2 lb) kome-koji rice
A short grain or medium grain rice works best. Most long grain rice will not work as well. If all you can get is long grain rice, you can give it a try and see if you like it. I can’t tell from the measurements you have but you may have long grain here.
The GEM koji-kin that I carry has enough spores for 5 lbs of rice. Use half of this for a normal batch size of 2.5 lbs or 1kg
How much sake does a pound of rice make? answers this question for a pound of brown rice and sake made with a the rice milled down to 60%. A standard batch uses 10 lbs rice with 2.5 lbs koji or roughly 12.5 lbs or just under 7kg. This makes about 2.3 gallons or 8.7 liters of sake.
A question for you. A friend told me that I should modify this site by making the “articles” page or “posts” the main page and put something more “standoutish” on the side bar for the store. What do you think? Would this have made it easier for you to find the koji-kin?
I am not sure what you mean by “crumpled away” but 30 hours may be too soon to know. I would give it more time. While most koji runs on a 48 hour schedule it can take longer so be patient.
Here is my reply from your other comment on the video page:
“Hey Tony, I am not sure of the condition of the koji. If it is a “sticky mess” then it is possible that the rice was over cooked or steams and so was too soggy. At 30 hours I would keep it warm so that it will continue to grow and give it a good stir / mixing every couple of hours. Remove any source of humidity and give it some more time. “
As my name suggests, I am a lover of green tea (pur-eh the best!) and have taken a break from drinking anything with alcohol for many years. I have decided to open that door just to sake, the drinking of which – just as with green tea – is like imbibing the essence of life infused with transcendent flavor! I have been thinking about brewing sake and the discovery of this fabulous site has become the beginning of the journey – I just ordered Will’s book from Amazon! So, Just wanted to say ” hello” and thank you all for providing this marvelous resource. I look forward to contributing as well as receiving.
Has anyone attempted to polish their own rice? I haven’t had any luck finding any information on how the polishers work exactly. I think they use some kind of rotating drum but I am not sure if an abrasive is used or if the rice just grinding against itself is sufficient.
Instead of pasturizing my sake, can I utilize potassium sorbate to kill the yeast, as is done in wine making. Or,if I must pasturize, is the use of potassium sorbate an acceptable practice. Thanks. David
I have not used potassium sorbate for this. If you are careful to keep your sake refrigerated and do not plan to store it for a long time (more than a year) you can do without pasteurization. Sake like this is call nama or namazake.
Just received your book and greatly enjoying reading it.
At the moment I am brewing my first batch of sake and I’m running into some serious problems here.
The name of the problem being: “koji-flavour-smell”.
Now I’ve come to understand that a subtle hint of Koji is normal in a homebrew-sake,or even off-the -shelf sake, but the sort of odour I’m dealing with here is of the “impossible-to-bear” kind. Frankly, it makes drinking the stuff impossible.
I guess my question would be: how do I get rid of this pugnant Koji smell in my sake?
Yesterday I decided to press half a gallon or so of nigorizake.
I had some friends coming over, the wife’s making sushi and here I am: going to present a first offering of some homemade Sake: i.c. nigorizake.
By this time Moromi is in it’s eighteenth day of fermenting.
Fermenting has been enormous. There is still foam going on.
SG is 1004.
Moromi has been performed on a stable 50 degrees F (10 Celcius).
Cut a long story short:
I press 1,5 gallons out of a 10 gallon batch fermenting.
Put it in 2 bottles.
Some nice pasteurisation going on at 68 degrees C.
Next cool down.
But the smell of Koji is overwhelming.
Couldn’t get my friends to drink the stuff.
And I don’t blame them for it.
Will, do you think filtering will be of any help here?
Should I raise fermentation-temperatures to low-sixties?
Should I press the lot, or keep fermentation till SG=1000?
Hmm, I’ve not run into this type of issue before. I have never had the koji aroma be overwhelming, even for Sake made with 100% koji.
Fermenting at 50F should produce some nice aroma contributed by the yeast. What yeast are you using? I wonder if you are getting an aroma from something other than the koji.
Filtering and or fining my help some. Stripping small particles in the same usually also strips some of the aroma. Charcoal filtering, which I have not used, seems to be the most extreme case here. Basically some fine charcoal is added to the sake, turning it black and is then filtered out leaving it clear again.
Pasteurization also tends to remove the subtle aromas, but you are doing that already.
I would like to know if you continue to have this problem once it has completed fermentation or if it goes away.
Will, thanks for your swift and clear reply.
It helped me answer a few questions.
The yeast I use is the WYeast #9 (Aktivator).
The reason I have a strong feeling it is “Koji” – smell and no other is that it is exactly the same smell that I experienced at making Koji from spores. Also it is nothing like any of the off-smells I have experienced during beer-making (and I’ve had my share of infections …).
I just took a look at the website you link to in your book; the one on the stages of moromi with photo’s and all. I take it from these photo’s that I’m in the “Tama-Awa” stage. There still is a layer of “ball-foam” approximately 1 inch thick covering the moromi. So I guess I should wait a bit for it to drop. Also SG has not reached 1000 yet (it is 1004).
Will, I will let you know how this batch turns out, thanks again, GREAT book!
Hmmm, what are you trying to create? Do you want something like a plum wine or more of an infused sake? Are you brewing the sake or just infusing sake?
If you are brewing your sake then the beer community is the best resource. They have been experimenting with adding fruit for some time and have done it many different ways. Some times the fruit is added to the primary fermentation. This is equivalent to adding the fruit right after the last addition (Tomezoe) in sake brewing. One or two lbs. of mashed fruit should do the trick. Other times the fruit is added in the secondary. This is a time of conditioning and in sake brewing matches the time after the first 18-30 days of primary fermentation. Of these two, I believe I have heard better things about using the secondary but it is close to a tie. The fruit should remain in contact with the sake for at least two weeks maybe longer for low temperatures like 50F. At this low temperature three weeks, maybe four would be better.
If you don’t want to brew sake but just buy some and infuse with fruit then I would get the sake with the sweetness you like and add mashed fruit. I would do that rather than adding sugar. Anyway you could experiment with it to see what SMV (sweet to dry) you like best for this and how much fruit to sake at a given temperature works best.
First of all thank you so much for putting this site together and sharing your knowledge. And thanks to your daughter for filming the videos! I’m definitely going to try a batch, but first have to figure out a cooling system. So you will be getting an order from me as soon as I have the remaining logistics done. Question: why pasteurize? One doesn’t do that with beer or with miso. So why with sake, especially with the high alcohol content?
Thanks again for being passionate about brewing sake and sharing!
Traditionally, sake was not stored cold and hiochi bacteria given time will infect your sake when it is warm. This type of bacteria is not slowed by alcohol as many of the other lactic bacterias are. I don’t really know why this bacteria is not a problem for beer or wine.
If you keep the sake stored cold you don’t have to pasteurize it. Non-pasteurized sake is called nama or namezake. It is a little more vibrant than pasteurized.
Hey I want to thank you for the awesome website. I am the product of a self made Toji myself (sort of). When I lived in Minneapolis I worked for a microbrewery Sake bar called Moto I. Ever since then I have loved sake. I had the privilege of helping out our owner numerous times in brewing sake on a large scale level. Finally after a couple of years I decided to take on the process on my own. Thanks to your help I expect to finish my first batch of junmai genshu nama by next week.
A few of your videos do not seem to run on my iPad….not a big concern for me as I saw the ones I wanted to, but thought you might like to know. Something about the format….maybe it is my iPad. I made good progress today on getting geared up, but not quite there yet….
It is just so terrific that you have put this site together! THANKS!
Really enjoy your website. Lots of usable info. My wife and I are opening a micro winery here in California. Our permitting and licensing will allow us to brew sake for tasting and sale. We have yet to attempt to make sake, but have been gathering information. Your book should prove to be a great resource, (already ordered from Amazon). I’m certain that I will be frequenting this forum often.
Have you ever tried making Nara-zuke pickles from the sake lees?
Also, for making koji….I’ve made koji for miso using gem cultures starter. How would that rice koji work for sake? I’m still going to buy your complete ingredients kit for my first batch for the greatest chance of success, so just curious. Just waiting for my lagering fridge to free up.
The koji-kin I carry is GEM Cultures. I was carrying a koji-kin specifically for Ginjo style sake but it was more expensive and did not have enough demand so I have recently stop carrying it. I liked it much better for sake but GEM works fine. Here are a couple of posts I have done on making koji for sake that I think you will find helpful: Making Koji for Sake Koji production – what are we trying to do?
Sorry I forgot that point. No, I have never made Nara zuke pickles. In fact the only things I have done to date with koji is sake, amazake, and shio-koji. Posts on my experience with these later two are at: Amazake – it ain’t sake Shio-koji?
I’m currently working on my second sake batch, added the moto to the first batch of koji and steamed rice yesterday. The first batch was a simple throw it all in together with a champagne yeast and let it sit for ten days but I decided to go for the full recipe this time. Since I don’t want to just run it on the time table but do some measuring as well I was wondering what you do to measure the specific gravity, do you take some of the batch and press it, then take the SG of that? Or just drop the hydrometer in the sludge so to speak?
I don’t measure the gravity as it goes along because it is not the linear process as with beer and wine where you start with a high gravity and them it drops from there. With sake enzymes are converting starch to sugar and yeast is converting sugar to alcohol. As these run at there own pace there are no correct levels for most of the time.
While that is not what you want to smell I would ignore it for now. Watch it and if it produces a white fussy coat then taste a kernel. It should taste slightly sweet. If the koji tastes bad it is time to start over. If you get growth of any other color, remove them from the batch.
I miss understood. If there is no molds that don’t match the rest of the tub then I think you will be OK. If you re-hydrate some of the koji and taste it you may or may not be able to taste a slight sweetness.
I am using an old mini fridge for my temperature controlled environment. My intent is to use a light bulb as my heat source for the koji making portion of the process. Is koji light sensitive? (Do I need to use a different method to heat the enclosure?) I also have a small Lasko space heater, but it seems to warm up the fridge too quickly, and I am concerned with the space getting too hot by the time the temperature probes submerged in the koji reach the desired temperature. I have heard of several people using heating pads as their heat source. Is there any heating option that is more stable and reliable than another?
I have not seen any issues with light but a strong, close source may not be good. The fridge is just a small space that is well insulated so you may be able to use an old style Christmas light bulb. Yes, a heating pad is often used but the newer ones may have their own temperature control that may not do what you want so watch that. You will want to keep a thermometer in the fridge space so that you can monitor its temperature. It should not be too hot; certainly not much more than 90F. I would not use an electric heat source of any kind unless it is tied to a control unit. If you don’t have a control unit, you can use hot water in a bottle and change it out as needed. I hope that helps,
I have made a temperature controller using an stc-1000. I also have a remote indoor/outdoor thermometer I am using for independent temperature monitoring, and to calibrate the stc-1000. Taylor’s website recommends (for making koji-kin) ~35.5C (96F but the stc-1000 only reads out in Celsius). It sounds like any newer heating pad will be more of a pain than it is worth.
I have been testing with a 60W bulb for several days now. The firstbulbs I tried were normal incandescent, but three bulbs blew within the first 16 hours. I changed to a 50W ‘grow’ light bulb and so far have not had any issues. I believe the bulbs were blowing from the repeated switching of the solid state relay in the stc-1000. Contributing to the issue may be that I have my temperature band set to 0.3C (more cycling). How tight should my temperature band be? (I have seen 6F mentioned)
So far, the light bulb seems to be the most stable heat source. For now, I am going to get a double light socket adapter, and use a second grow bulb in hopes that if one bulb does pop a filament, the other will maintain temperature until I can replace it. (Let’s assume my luck isn’t bad enough for them both to pop at once..)
For other readers, the total cost for the light bulb heat source, including the light bulbs, socket, power cord, and splitter (once I convert to a dual bulb setup) will be around $13 at Lowe’s. If a single bulb is used the cost drops to under $10.
I bought a candle warmer to see if this would supply enough heat, since there is no filament to be concerned with. Another idea was to use a cheap curling iron or hair straightener as the heat source. These seem to be a potentially good, but also higher risk alternative. Any thoughts?
Since I am using a different heat source, will placing a cup of water inside the mini fridge still be sufficient for maintaining the proper himidity? (during applicable portions of the process)
Typical volume for a mini fridge is somewhere around 4.4 cubic feet.. conveniently, a 5gal bucket with a 1/2″ board underneath will fit inside with the shelves, drawer, and bracket on the door removed. My intent is to use the mini fridge’s cooling capability to maintain temperatures for the 50F phase of the process.. though I may see if I can tweak the control knob to get it as close as possible to minimize the cycling of the compressor.
Luke, just a few thoughts. A 2-3F range should be reasonably close. Even 6F should be OK but I think less slop would be better. No need to go to less than 1F. The lower the light bulb wattage the slower the heating so the cycling rate should also go down and you should have a more even temperature. That is as long as you have enough wattage to do the needed heating. The glass of water should be fine. You want it humid the first day but not too humid.
I have been to follow Taylor’s instructions for making koji. I soaked, steamed, and inoculated the rice last night. Mixed well, and then placed it inside the mini fridge.
I steamed the rice for 45 minutes.. it was clear(ish) as described.. and sticky.. it clung to the cheese cloth just like his pictures show. I ate some, and it was chewy. The rice stuck together until it was cooled, but even then I had a bit of trouble freeing each grain from the others. After mixing the koji powder into the rice, the majority of the rice is not sticky at all.
This morning I mixed the rice with my clean hands as directed. The rice still feels dry, even with a pan of water inside the mini fridge. The water is definitely evaporating, I can see condensation around the seal where the wires are ran and some heat is escaping. I am concerned that the rice may not be moist enough for the process to work correctly. Do i need to spray (like with a spray bottle) the rice to moisten it, or just let the humidity take care of it? Is it supposed to feel fairly dry to the touch?
I didn’t mix the koji spores with flour. I started with 1 only cup of dry rice, and used half the packet from vision.. the intent is to allow it to go green so that I don’t have to buy more koji powder in the future (described on page 3 of Taylor’s koji instructions).
Since I was concerned about the dryness of the rice this morning, I placed the candle warmer I mentioned in my last post with a small pyrex dish filled with water on top inside the fridge to help elevate the humidity.
Have I made some mistake, or are things progressing as they should?
Well, I just finished mixing the rice again. It is progressing exactly as it is supposed to. The feint smell of cheese, the look and feel of the rice is as described in Taylor’s guides, and the humidity level is much better. The rice still feels dry, but the koji spores are spreading correctly (so far, for the 24 hour mark). I will update as I continue the process.
Thanks again for all the advice.. It seems another anomaly has come up.
After two days since I removed the water pan, I still see barely any of the yellowish spore growth described in Taylor’s instrucions. The rice is very, very dry, so dry it is actually crunchy. It seems to me that there may not be enough moisture for the spores to begin replicating. The only thing that makes me think this, is the fact that the only locations the yellowish growths are occuring are where multiple grains of rice are still clumped together.
Any thoughts on this?
It does sound like it has dried out too much. The question then seems to be whether it can be salvaged. I don’t know. You could put it in a very humid environment (pretty warm too) for some time so it absorbs a significant amount of moisture. Sense you are trying to make more koji-kin rather than the koji itself this should not be detrimental. You can leave it like this for as long as is needed to get it to start growing again and to produce the spores.
If you don’t like this, then I think it is just start over.
Hi Will, I have a problem with my kome koji process. my first went very well, though a few grains had a grey mould growing over the white koji, which i picked out and went on to produce very nice sake. However my next batch, after being infused with confidence, i made 4x the quantity 1600grams. This time the grey mould was much more prolific and too much to pinch out, i went on to make the sake which turned out sour and being binned. I have just finished my 3rd batch of the same 1600grms being careful with cleanliness, and at 33hrs it looked and smelled great, then at 37hrs i take off the cloth and again i’m looking at extensive grey hairy mould through and over the rice. The taste and texture is fine, but being unsure of the cause of spoilage of my last sake brew i have frozen this batch.
I will try a small batch of sake with some of this kome koji, but after my initial success i seem to be stumbling…..
Your koji seems to be maturing faster than most but this is only a problem in that it is unexpected. At 33 hours is it fully covered with the white fussy mold? If so, it seems that you should treat it as done and cool it down and ready it for use. If you let it go too far you can let it go a little more to be a dark green and then dry it. This dried green koji can be used for starting new batches. Just put into some type of shaker and shake over newly steamed rice to shake off the green spores onto the rice.
Greetings from south Louisiana where the summers are very hot and humid. Growing koji is easy here since the ambient temperatures and humidity are ideal for molds. Fermenting however is a different story. Of the four batches of sake I have brewed in the last year – two have turned out very sour and I have no clear idea why.
Does anyone have any clues as to what causes sake fermentation to have such sour flavors? I am following the Bob Taylor guide and have a dedicated refridgerator with a temperature controller. Receiving yeast via parcel post during the hot part of the year has been a challenge. The last packet of yeast received (and used) was in the 85 degree Farenheit range when I opened the package.
hello! quick question. i started a sake awhile back, used a sake yeast from Nothern Brewer. it showed up a bit to hot for my liking, but all the brew shops were out, so i used it. was a smack pack, it gave some swelling to the pack so i figured it was fine. all the other steps i used were from the TaylorMadeAK site. i followed it to a Tee. Koji was munching on rice fine, could hear it working through the fermenter. problem is i didnt get ANY bubble action in my airlock. was stuck with what to do next, so i got another smack pack. was at proper temp and made a 1.5l stater with corn sugar and let it build up for 24 hrs. pitched it in 3 days ago. still no action. am i screwed?
OK, so it sounds like the first yeast was good. Are you putting an air lock on the moto? It should not have a air lock on it because you need the lacto bugs to infect it and create the needed lactic acid. The lactic acid keeps other unwanted bugs out and helps lower the pH to make it more comfortable for the yeast.
If you made it through the moto OK and are in the additions or the moromi proper then you can have an air lock but you certainly don’t need on. This is not beer . During the addition you should have had lots of fermentation, foam and such… Did you get this?
Well, I’m not sure what is wrong but next time don’t use the airlock on the moto. At the end of the two weeks it should be a little sour or tangy. What temperature do you keep the moto? What I am looking for is what might have shut down the yeast. It might be good to check the koji, mix little koji and freshly steam rice in a 1:1 ratio and let it sit somewhere where it will stay warm for several hours. Then check it to see if it tastes pretty sweet. If the starch is not getting converted to sugar there will be nothing for the yeast to work with.
How does it smell? Like rice, a bit yeasty or something bad?
for the first couple days it was at 70* then i dropped it to 55 when i added the yeast. it dosnt smell bad or sour. at first it had hints of paint thinner, but that went away. the koji i used was Cold Mountain Koji.
so i strained and moved to gallon jugs with airlocks. just to see how things would turn out. they are sitting at 10 celsius. everthing started to settle out, but the color is almost yellow. should it be yellowish? any ideas?
Follow the same steps as you would for fully clear sake without using Bentonite, however, stop a little sooner than you normally would. So what am I really talking about. Well after the fermentation is complete we would press as normal and put the sake into a jug to settle. The lees that are still suspended in the sake will begin to fall out and settle on the bottom. For each time we rack to a new jug and let it settle the more clear the sake will be. I usually do this two or three times. For Nigori I would drop one or two of the racking steps.
Maybe shoot for about 1.5 inches of lees on the bottom of a 3/4 full jug that has pretty clear sake. Shake it up before drinking and enjoy.
I am unsure if you have heard of a Sake called Perfect Snow. It is a Nigori-style sake with small grains of rice in the bottle. Do you know anything about that? Are these just some of the rice grains from the fermentation or are they new rice grains added later?
I just made my first batch of homebrew sake. It seems to me it is not strong enough though. I think I started to filter it a bit too early. I still have the rice, can I mix it back with the unpasteurized sake to continue the fermentation ?
I wouldn’t do that. There are lots of bugs that can get into your sake by recombining in this way. Your sake may be stronger than it seems. I would just move forward with the sake and enjoy it as it turns out and then adjust in your next batch as you like.
I’m so glad this site existst! I’m the kind of person who loves doing things himself! I’m currently growing tea plants to make my own teas, I make my own wooden furniture, and I’m looking forward to including brewing sake into this mix! I had never had sake until I got a bottle as a Christmas gift, and now it’s one of my favorites! But I’m not sure what kind of flavores to expect with my home brew! If I follow the recipe here strictly, what should I expect?
Thanks for the great site. It is just what I needed to finally push me over the edge get my first batch of sake going. One question if I may; all of the recipes I have come across utilize one gallon jugs for secondary fermentation/bright tanks. As a home brewer of beer, I have several five gallon glass carboys hanging about and wondered if there was a downside to using one of them instead of the three one gallon jugs as described in your recipe?
A carboy should work well to put the sake after pressing. However, for later rackings the head space is a problem. We don’t want to have that much contact with air. To counter this, if you have CO2, you can fill the head space with CO2 and this should be good. Using a single container makes the process simpler too. Three gallon carboys are available and are a bit better fit but have the same issues as the 5 gallon in terms of head space.
I just made my first sake using the directions and ingredients from here. It turned out good, but it does have a slight yeasty/moldy/funky taste. Is this normal? If it is not normal, what can I do to help prevent this in my next sake?
Letting the particles drop long enough is usually enough to remove the yeasty taste. If it is more moldy / funky that should not be there. Generally in sokujo (adding lactic acid) the bugs that cause this type of taste can’t get a hold and so do not cause a problem. With Yamahai (no addition of lactic acid) the bugs will get started and the final amount of flavor they add can be controlled by the temperature and length of time you let the moto go before starting the next stage. In yamahai these flavors can be a positive thing; adding complexity.
Making my first batch of Sake! Learned a ton so far and still having fun with this. I racked to a 3 gallon carboy for secondary ferment but will probably move to 1 gallon jugs for my next racking round since there is a pretty significant head in the carboy…although I do have to say having just one container made things pretty easy from that perspective.
The sake was very aromatic and sweet. Had almost a fruity smell (banana/coconut smell). Is that typical? Specific gravity of what I measured from the bottom of the bucket after pressing was 1.040. I tasted the lees, very nice flavor, definitely can taste the alcohol.
I’ve had some nice successes with homebrewing a few different batches of sake. I’m also an ardent beer brewer, and one thing I often practice with is re-pitching, or seeding a future batch with some unpasteurized wort from an older batch.
As an experiment, in my last batch of sake I saved the sake-kasu and used it where I would normally add koji rice and yeast on a freshly cooled batch of sake rice. The result was a pretty solid sake. How long can this sake re-pitching go on? Will the koji or yeast eventually die out? Or is this like kombucha and sourdough, where you can perpetuate a mother culture indefinitely?
The yellowish / greenish color is from the rice. This is normal. You are on your 6th batch and really should have seen this in each batch. The sake looks to have less color in the glass (smaller quantities) than it does in larger bottles. Commercial sake brewers use carbon filtering to remove the color and create a clear sake.
Hello! as a quick preamble… I haven’t posted on a forum in over 10 years! Here I go…
I made my first 40 ounce batch of koji recently, following your videos Will. Even though I accidentally slept through one of the 2-3 hour checks (somewhere in the 30 hour range), and my koji reached an internal temperature of 115F for at least a few hours, the mold continued to metabolize and reproduce and seems to have more of less penetrated many of the grains, perhaps not quite to halfway deep. Still, I am hesitant to use this koji, and at the very least plan to make another 40 ounce batch, and mix the two batches together, and follow your 2 gallon day by day brew, doubling the recipe. Any thoughts on this?
Sorry for the novel, but now to my real question. I have scoured the net looking for instructions on how to make koji-kin. I vaguely remember seeing instructions some years ago, I believe on this site, but now I can’t seem to find them. I am interested in this for the sake of taking control over the whole process and because I am interested in all aspects of cultivation. Knowledge is power! I would appreciate guidance to the right resources for doing this.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge, it is a beautiful thing.
I am glad it is working so well for you. If your koji is pretty much all white it is fine, 115F is hot but I have had koji do this as well. As for making koji-kin it is pretty easy once you master koji making. To make koji-kin let the koji go longer than you normally would. It will start to turn greenish yellow. As it moves through this to a little darker green you can stop the process. Spread the koji out so that it will dry. A fruit dryer can help with this. Once very dry you can put this over ripe koji into a shaker. Next batch of koji just sprinkle some on. Most of what comes out of the shaker will be the spores (koji-kin).
Kasu is sold in the supermarket in Japan for inclusion in recipes. I have seen it in cheese cake recipes where it might give the cheese cake a bit of a zing. You might check with some of the Asian cooking sites for more details on what is possible and common.
Sake Kasu is a really great by-product. It makes great pickles and is a super umami marinade for fish. Kasezuke Salmon is one of my childhood favorites. Recipes are easily found on the internet.
I’m a new brewer, but am working toward opening a Sakagura in Sonoma County, California. Yeah, smack dab in the heart of Wine Country. This is also the epicenter for a huge farm to table movement. There are several craft brewers, distillers, and cider makers within 20 miles of one another.
My great Grandmother, came to California from Japan in 1906 and started making Sake & Shochu from table rice. She continued this practice until WWII and her evacuation from the West Coast. I’m trying to revive this tradition and have developed a good tasting Ginjo, so far. My little rice polisher was working really hard to get table rice to 60%. I’m working on a full bodied sake from 80% table rice, for Namazake, Nigori and Junmai products. More to come . . .
Do you have information about where your great Grandmother was camped and whether she continued to make sake and shochu while there? I know of a researcher that is working on understanding what happened in one of the camps that I could connect you with if you are interested.
Just getting into sake brewing (collecting gear for my first batch as we speak, including your book), and I had a quick rice question. Do you know the polish ratio of tamanishiki or nozomi short grain rice? They are koshihikari and yumegokochi varieties, and are the only short grain I can find locally. I emailed the company and they said the polish ratio is proprietary. Also, what is the rice variety you’re selling at the store? Just curious.
I do not know their polish level. However, table rice is generally milled to 90-93%, you can use this as a rule of thumb.
The rice I carry is calrose a very common medium grain rice. SakeOne uses this rice for their sake and a portion of the rice they mill to 60% gets out to home brewers. This is where the rice I carry comes from.
Thank you Will for the speedy response. I was afraid that this “ultra premium” short grain rice was polished like all other table rice, but wanted to get your opinion.
One more question regarding water chemistry. What are the effects of bicarbonate and sulfate on sake, and should I expect chloride to have the same effect as it does in beer (accentuates fullness/sweetness)? I’m trying to build a water profile that closely mimics the miyamizu water profile you’ve posted, but as you acknowledge it is impossible without adding these other ions. I can add lactic acid to neutralize some of the bicarbonate but that leads to an ion imbalance, which is typically avoided in beer brewing. It is impossible for me to match the calcium and magnesium levels without increasing my sulfate, chloride, and bicarbonate levels. I’m very comfortable with water chemistry adjustment for beer but sake is new to me (obviously).
As a quick follow up, I found a great water chemistry resource. My questions about bicarbonate, chloride, and sulfate are not answered, but we do now have a more complete picture of the miyamizu water. The link here is to an analytical chemistry paper about the brewing water we’re trying to replicate. Table 1, the columns labeled “HA-N” and “HA-S” are two samples taken from the source used by many brewers. I’ll keep checking back in case you post something about my ion question.
I don’t really have any answers here. I’ve read a little about brewing water chem. but have not done it myself. BTW http://basicbrewing.com/ has had several recent experiments around beer and brewing water chem. Anyway, I usually modify the water for my Sake and find it makes a positive difference.
Yeah, I ended up just trying to emulate the brewing water in that paper I linked (HA-N) by modifying my filtered municipal water that I typically use for brewing. Bring the Ca+2 level up was an issue, even when I resorted to using chalk and lactic acid (to neutralize some of the bicarbonate). The chalk mostly settled out and my balance was being unreliable so I have no idea what my final ion concentration is for this batch. I do know, however, my sulfate and bicarbonate levels are much higher than the miyamizu source. I think in the future I may try just yeast nutrient and KCl since my Mg levels aren’t much lower than the miyamizu water, and my calcium level is about 45ppm lower, making it impossible to bring up without adding a ton of undesirable ions. The moto is moto-ing right now (thanks for the speedy koji delivery), so I guess we’ll just wait and see.
I would like to know how to buy Koji kim so that I can make miso in my house.
I know that the only place I can find Koji kim is there in USA or Japan . I wonder what the price here in Brazil Pomerode SC .
Airton José Toral
There is also some koji-kin that is out of Australia; vision brewing’s sake kit. It’s not really a sake kit but a pack of koji-kin. This is the most common koji-kin available here in the US through home brew shops. If you check the home brew shops it may also be available there. If you can’t find it locally, you can order koji-kin from this site. Click on the “Store” section and scroll down to the koji-kin.
Im hoping someone will be able to lend some advice.
A group of guys and i made a very large batch of Sake, but unfortunately some of the rice scorched and wasn’t caught before it was set to ferment. The sake came out with a nice nose on it, but a very up front taste of scorch. It has now been aging for approximately 45 days. The wine no longer has a burnt taste at the front, but there is still an aftertaste of scorched rice. Are you area of anything that could be done to salvage this wine?
Our initial tests with charcoal filtering left us, ultimately, with something that tasted sterile, like medicine, and stripped out all of the aroma.
I don’t know what to tell you Ed. My first thought went to charcoal powder, like that the Japanese kura use to filter their sake. They mix in the powder and then filter it out. This does not remove the aroma and flavor for them.
If you don’t have any luck removing the bad character you could try an infusion that would cover or convert it into something nicer.
I am attempting to make my first batch of sake here in Ireland. All has been going well. The problem is I went away for a few days and left the care of the sake to someone else, I had moved the fermentation bucket into the shed because the central heating was turned on in the house. When I was away the weather changed abruptly and the sake would have sat at about three degrees for five days of so. By the time I got back fermentation had slowed to a crawl and only tiny bubbles could be heard after stirring the sake. I brought it back inside a week ago where the temperature is averaging probably fourteen degrees, and the fermentation is snail slow. The hydrometer is reading 1.000. I’m way over time compared with your method, and I’m worried that the action of the fungus/yeast may stop and the sake be ruined, but there is still loads of rice in it which has not been ‘digested’. When the sake settles it is about half liquid on the bottom and half rice mash on the top before stirring. Should I get the liquid off the rice now and into airlocked demijohns, or should I not worry about the sake spoiling and let more of the rice be used up?
Many thanks! I have really enjoyed making this, and am looking forward to enjoying drinking it, if it all works out.
I would let it go a bit more. If we can get the hydrometer reading down a bit more that would be good. Keep an eye on it to see if it moves over the week. At these temperatures it should continue to be pretty slow unless the yeast starts to replicate again. I wouldn’t expect this but it is possible. If you don’t see any movement in the hydrometer reading for a week then I would rack it off. If the koji has continued to work while the yeast has slowed down then the sake will be pretty sweet but may otherwise be fine. Let me know how it turns out.
Thanks so much for that Will, I’ve more confidence with letting it have a bit more time now – and I think that this evening it is perhaps starting to go again a bit more! I’ll let you know how it goes. I really appreciate your advice
My first sake brew, also from Ireland (hello Louise)homemade kome koji made from kin and I closely followed the instructions, fermented at the lower temperature range.
Currently at day 28, nearly ready to rack to 3 jugs. Fermenting at 7C (45F) but in the last few days a crust has formed like a beer Krausen, here is a picture: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9AxZnz38HAMTVp1TFhRWlFBYm8/view?usp=sharing
I am stirring twice a day but the foams/crust reforms the following day. Could it be a wild yeast infection (maybe brett)?
I’m trying my first batch of sake: made my own koji using vision-brewing’s spores and following your very helpful video instructions. Because this is not only my first sake brewing experience, but my first ever brewing experience, I opted for a shorter method that does not include multiple rice additions (it is a beginners recipe noted on the koji packet). My question: how do I know when it’s done? The instructions say “two weeks” but I’m brewing at a colder temperature than they suggest. I’m currently sitting at day 11, my sake has been around 60F for the entire process. Since about day 3 to now I have had a foam that is much like the one Con included a picture of above.
With sake it can take longer than with wine / beer because the koji slowly transforms the rice starch into sugar which is then converted by the yeast to alcohol. Without any measurements, I would let it ferment for 3 weeks, maybe 4. If you have a hydrometer, then you can take readings over a few days to see if the specific gravity is still dropping. If not, you are done. One other approach is just to taste it and when it is where you like it, then it is ready.
Hey Will, you seem to be the right person to answer this question. I have a bag of Mitoku brown rice koji and I would like to use it to ferment mushrooms. Do you have any experience with something like this? I’m wondering if the brown rice koji should be ground up and added directly to the ferment or incorporated in some other way. I know this isn’t a sake specific question, but I know you’re a wealth of knowledge with regards to koji.
Hey Chris, I can only guess about how to go about using koji in a ferment for mushrooms. When making miso you mash the soy beans in to the consistency of well a mash; some might say a paste, and then add the koji and salt. When mixed together, the soy and the koji have as much surface area in contact as possible. If you want to keep the shape and texture of the mushrooms then you couldn’t mash them but you can grind the koji and thoroughly mix it with the mushrooms. You could give that a try and see how they come out.
Let us know what you do and how it all turns out,
i’m interested in buying polished rice for sake, but the postage listed for posting abroad is far above my threshold for spending, is it possible to avoid some cost by sending the rice in smaller amounts? I’ve been told packages from the us to uk are cheaper to send if below 4lb.
I brewed my first batch of Sake following the instructions in your book. I was lucky enough to get my hands on some 50% polished rice and some fresh koji rice from a local micro sake brewery here in Toronto Canada and everything has gone very well so far. I got through the main ferment, the pressing, the initial settling in carboy, and secondary settling with bentonite. I now have 2.5 gallons of 18.5% ABV +19SMV clear sake with a yellowish hue. I am now getting ready to do some ameliorations, bottle, and pasteurize. I was interested in using charcoal to remove some of the “rough edges” from my sake, and remove the color as well, but I don’t want to have to filter it. I was thinking of running the sake through a Brita filter to achieve the same thing since it is basically activated charcoal in a plastic cartridge.
Have you ever used a Brita filter on your sake, or know someone who has? Would you recommend it, or should I just live with the yellow color?
I have not used a Brita filter. Nor do I think there is any need to remove the color, however, that is all about personal taste. To see if it makes the sake better, you can pass through just a glass worth of sake. Give that a try and see what you think. I do know people who have used these filters for home made vodka and like the results.
Could I know each pack of Wyeast 4134 Sake Yeast # 9 is How much ml.
If I want to brewing more than two gallons of capacity, how to calculate
The amount of yeast the yeast mash or shubo that will need to add is how many ml/ L,
and the concentration(CFU) and activity of the yeast.
The packs contain 125 mls of liquid yeast with 70 Billion yeast cells. This is much more than is needed for the recipe(s) discussed on this site. The yeast is added to a moto where it is multiplied (much like a yeast starter for beer). You could easily brew a batch 3x the size with this same amount of yeast. Keep the ratios all the same, except for the yeast, as you increase the size of your batch. You could increase the amount of yeast every 3x or experiment with a higher multiplier.
Let me take these questions one at a time, inline below:
Really excited about the new emphasis on both your book – we just got it and will start promoting it heavily @culturesgroup (IG, Twitter, culturesgroup.net, FB at kenfornataro or japanferments or culturesgroups, etc.) – and these new kits and sake brewing aides. Wow! Just wow, Will! Thanks! If you have any social media accounts let us know so we can direct people to you in our posts. Or we’ll just direct them to homebrewsake.com
We have five questions to start.
1. What exactly is the amelioration step you discuss in your book?
[will] Amelioration as described is simply adding some sugar so the sake isn’t as dry. The process we use gives the yeast the full strength needed to dry the sake out (eat up almost all the sugar) so amelioration adds some sugar back to get to the level desired. Some brewers will consider this cheating. You, of course can make up your own mind. If you don’t like this method and you don’t want your sake to be as dry there are other methods that can be used to stop fermentation early.
2. We just purchased our first White Labs Sake WLP705 yeast so we assume we don’t need to use yeast nutrient, etc. right? You include the Wyeth yeast which we used to make our last 5 gallon batch and didn’t add anything to the shubo since it seemed so incredibly active. The temperature, however, was never below 72 degrees F until we started the moromi, though. Do you think that if we get the temperature lower that yeast nutrients, etc. should always be used? Rice used throughout for koji/moromi was 92% semibuai (good sushi rice)
[will] I use the yeast nutrient because I believe this improves the batch but there is lots of yeast (volume wise) so it will work without the nutrient.
3. Have any plans to mill some Omachi rice anytime soon?
[will] I don’t do any milling myself (except experimentally). For a variety of rice milled for sake check out mnrice.com
4. Several tojis and sake/shochu brewers we’ve spoken with insist that during the process of letting the kasu settle out after dripping – yeah, we’re that crazy – that we not touch the stuff for ten days and keep it at close to 34F as we can. They obviously have more refrigeration capacity and space than your average home brewer especially us but do you think the coolers you suggest would do the trick (and apologies if you have already answered this question but we have a thousand posts and your book to read, thank you again!) or should we try to cadge some refrigeration space from a local restaurant?
[will] I bet you could rig something up to work in a small space but you’ll have to be creative. Even with larger temperature controlled freezers it would be difficult. Maybe a standing freezer would be the best for this type of thing.
5. Bentonite. Pro or Con?
[will] I mostly let time do the work but bentonite does a good job. The choice is whatever you like.
We’ve bee researching water since you recommend Epsom salts and Morton salt substitute. Recommending that we use distilled or any water without iron or even chloramines is for the same reasons that Kikkoman cites we think: “An even more important ingredient in the brewing of sake is the water. Brewing water generally contains very little iron and manganese, and is categorized as moderately hard water according to the American measurement scale that determines the degree of mineral concentrations in water. Ideally, brewing water has a higher mineral content than the average drinking water in Japan, and includes potassium, magnesium and calcium, making it well-suited to the cultivation of koji fungus and yeast. As a result, many brewers even relocate in search of superior water. Probably the best-known water for brewing purposes is Miya mizu (Miya water), found in a particular area of Kobe.” So, many companies cell pure mixtures of magnesium, calcium and potassium for supplementation. Why shouldn’t we just use one of those pills? We have some on hand! Or Potassium Citrate (100%) instead of the Morton Salt substitute because we also have that on hand. With the quantities involved per recipe a combo of the three might be somethhng you might want to have for sale?
You can use other ingredients to reach the same goal. I have not used these other options so I don’t have much to say about them but there is nothing sacred about the ingredients I use. Where do you get the tablets? What are they exactly?
Hank, I’m sorry to say I don’t have any answers for you; I don’t have any experience here. Maybe someone else will be able to reply with a better answer. If you have some control over the speed of milling, slowing things down may help. Changing the batch size (larger or smaller) may also have an effect that could help. If you experiment with various parameters, let us know the outcomes.
I’m about to kick off my first brew. Any suggestions on solutions for chilling the fermenter? I don’t have enough room for a fridge/freezer solution, so I was thinking about going with the Brew Jacket (http://www.brewjacket.com/) – any other solutions to suggest?
Thanks! (also, btw, bought your book and found it incredibly helpful – the newly translated Sake textbook from the Sake Society of Japan is also a great read!)
Mostly people wait until the cooler months and then put it somewhere cooler. James of Basic Brewing Radio discusses a method where the bucket is placed in a water bath that is cooled using ice and a temperature controlled pump; I think lots of people use this method. I’d never seen the brewjacket. If you go that route, let us know how well it works for you.
Thanks, Will. Unfortunately I’m in a Manhattan apartment, so I don’t have easy access to cooler spaces, even in winter. I had considered some of the cooler/pump setups (using a wort-chiller or similar) but the brewjacket seems like the best solution for my purposes – I’ll let you know how it comes out!
Russ, Less clean. Yamahai and kimoto methods will produce more funky flavors. Here again you can give it a try and if you like it well enough then you don’t have to go to the expense of extra equipment. At least not until you know that you want to stick with sake brewing for a long time.
Are yanahai and kimoto done at room temp? I thought they just involved natural yeast inoculation (like a lambic), rather than pitching lacto yeast (or sake yeast, respectively). Definitely want to try that, but not on the first brew…
Current plan is to give be brewjacket a shot and see how it goes – I’ll let you know.
Yamahai and Kimoto are different from the most common method, Sokujo, in the way the moto is treated. They can all use specific yeast strains or natural inoculation but Yamahai and Kimoto don’t use an addition of lactic acid. For them the lactic acid comes from a natural inoculation (or from the environment without any real help) of various bugs like lactobacillus that produce the lactic acid.
Sure. In fact this is one of the more common ways to brew sake. Some say they like it better than the koji I carry because it produces less bitter sake. I prefer fresher koji but it is reasonable to use Cold Mountain.
I posted this in the Koji section but I don’t know if that’s viewed very often. While reviewing your directions for making Kome-Koji I noticed that you were using two temperature probes. One for the controller and one to simply monitor the rice ball temp. Why not insert the probe from the controller directly into the Koji rice ball and control ambient temperature from there. Seems like you would have a lower risk of overheating the Koji during the thermal phase. If the Koji produces too much heat it would simply turn off the heat generation and allow the system to cool back down. You can then set the temperature differential to 1 degree since the rice ball mass would offer some hysteresis. When I brew beer I use a thermo-well with my controller probe in the center of the fermentation vessel. Seems like that would be the same as inserting it into the rice ball.
While reading your vary excellent instructions on making Kome-Koji and Sake I noticed the emphasis on not using water with iron in it. I understand why, but now have a question. During the build up phases of Sake production and during the initial production of the Koji I see that the rice must be washed well and soaked. The problem I have is that my water at the house is well water and I don’t know the iron content. I was intending on using distilled water for the soaking/fermenting processes but washing the rice could take a large amount of distilled water. Any suggestions? How critical is it that the washing process be conducted with iron free water?
There are a couple of issues here that make it different from your case:
1. You want to keep your temperature below a set level and you are controlling a cooling device.
- I am controlling a heating device and want it to be warm enough but not too hot (there is no cooling device)
- Turning off the heating device will not prevent it from over heating. In fact the heating device will likely already be off when the koji is climbing to high temperatures.
2. Employing both heating and cooling devices could come closer to what you are suggesting but the outer koji will have to cool down more than I’d want in order to cool the center of the koji enough. This would stifle koji growth.
I understand your concern about maintaining an inner and outer rice mass temp. I do have provisions to both cool and warm the mass in my incubation chamber but your points are well taken.
Seems to me that, rather then balling up the koji rice in the incubator, it would be better to spread the rice out into a thinner form in order to maintain a more consistent temperature through out the mass. I’ve seen where many kura implement a furrow system when making koji then covering the furrowed koji layer with cloth. They probe the deeper area of the furrow with a temp probe and chart the temperature from there for data collection. Any method of maintaining a large ball mass seems to be more problematic since the outer and inner temps would differ by quite a margin. Furrowing might cut down on the thermal runaway issues and allow more resting time between mixings.
Sorry if I’m over thinking this but it’s my nature. I was a design engineer by trade and like to create automation projects as a hobby now. I’ve automated my brewery, my stir plate and my wife’s cheese press. Seems like Sake making opens me up to so many uncharted areas to continue my passion.;)
If you have the time and inclination to experiment a bit, there is nothing to loose, go for it. In all commercial cases that I know of koji making takes place first as a wrapped component and later more spread out. If you experiment with this, we’d love to hear what you find. And if you are so inclined as to want to write an article on your experience, I’ll post it in the articles section.
I see that you’re right. The first 24 hours it’s balled and then the ball is broken up and spread out. Looks like a little experimentation is in order. I’ll let you know what I come up with. Thanks for your help.
Hey Will hope all is well. Studying Japanese several hours a day – the entire staff! – so we’ve been busy.Tye cooler weathern at least nextweek will allow us to startbv makiing sake.
A few questions?
What size cheese press and made of what material do you recommend? Because we also make cheese maybe a fancier stainless steel one? A used one?
We have the rice and koji chillled that you sent a while back. Was that for 10 pounds rice? It’s gonna take a while to find receipts and the scaled. Sure looks like a lot more than 10 pounds rice though!
Oh, I forgot to mention. There is a book “Fluent Forever” that talks about learning languages; the auther has a web site (https://fluent-forever.com) with products (Anki decks) for learning languages including Japanese. It looks like it could be helpful. If you try it, please let us know if it is helpful.
Ya, the first time I decided to purchase some supplies from you I noticed the price difference. At the time it felt a little deceiving. I still purchased but didn’t like the different prices. I’ve purchased from you again since. Some may not, so I’d change that as soon as you can. I have checked around and found your pricing to be quite fair. Keep up the good work.
I used my new incubation system over the last couple days and it seemed to work well. Automatic temperature control and stirring incorporated into the design. A little tweaking is needed but it worked for the most part. I decided to allow the growth to continue until all the rice was covered in green. Took approximately 50 hours. Looks like I now have a huge crop of koji-kin. I started with about 4 cups(dry rice).
Currently I have the green koji-kin rice evenly spread out in a large cookie pan . I covered it with dry paper towels and is now kept at room temp (~73 degrees F). Any recommendations on drying it for storage?
You’re doing the right things with the cookie sheet and paper towels. Leave it there for longer than you feel it needs. Once you can’t stand it any longer, place it in a container but monitor it to make sure that there isn’t excess moisture.
You could do that with no harm. I put mine in a large salt shaker (like used for popcorn at the movies) without any trouble. However if you like putting the spores in a spoon and using that to spread them like I do my purchased koji-kin then grinding would make that easier.