The Buildup – San-Dan-Jikomi – Transition from Moto to Moromi

A look at the process of building up a sake batch from the moto (yeast mash) to moromi (main ferment).

After the moto has completed, four days are taken to buildup the brew from moto to moromi. The four days are made up of three additions and a day of rest:

  • Hatsuzoe – the first addition, day 1
  • Odori – The dancing ferment, day 2, day of rest
  • Nakazoe – the second addition, day 3
  • Tomezoe – the third and final addition, day 4

I have also seen hatsuzoe called soe, nakazoe called naka and tomezoe called tome. However, my lack of Japanese limits my understanding of how these might correspond. Naka means inside or middle, as in the middle addition. Tome means stop or remaining, as in the last or final addition. Continue reading “The Buildup – San-Dan-Jikomi – Transition from Moto to Moromi”

How Sake is Brewed

Brief introduction to how sake is brewed.

Sake is brewed in a strung out process that can take quite a long time but none of the steps are particularly difficult. In the traditional method, brewing sake starts with the rice and its milling. The objective is to remove the outer layers of the rice which cause sake to be less stable and to have harsher flavors. These layers contain the bran and the highest concentrations of oils, fatty acids, proteins and minerals like magnesium and iron. Table rice (white rice) is generally milled to around 93% of its original size. Sakemai (Sake Rice) is usually milled somewhere between this for futsu-shu (table sake) and 35% for the most refined Daiginjo. Removing these components leads to a more stable and refined sake.

Once the rice has been milled to the proper level we need to steam the rice. We used steamed rice both for making koji and to directly add to the brew. In order to steam the rice properly we need to first wash the milled rice to remove the outer layer of rice flower, talc or whatever may be on the rice. After a good washing the rice is soaked to absorb the needed amount of water for proper steaming. This amounts to about 30% by weight. The higher the milling rate the faster the rice will absorb the desired amount of water. Kurabito (brewery people) working with the most highly polished (Milled) rice often use a stopwatch to time the soaking period so the rice does not take on too much moisture. Here the goal to get enough moisture into the rice so that the steaming process gelatinizes the rice by heating the water already there. If the rice has too much moisture it will become soggy / mushy during the steaming process and will not form a nice home for koji. Continue reading “How Sake is Brewed”

Shirozake (白酒) – White Sake – not Seishu

Shirozake is described in this article

Shirozake is a case in point where a drink is call sake while it is not Nihonshu or Seishu. That is it is not the refined sake we think of as sake in the US.

Shirozake was created sometime around 1600 to 1650 when the founder of Toshimaya, a sake merchant and food company, had a dream in which a paper doll told him how to make shirozake. He carried out the instructions producing the first shirozake.

Shirozake was very popular through the 1800s. For example in 1880 270,000 liters of shirozake were sold. Shirozake became tied to the Hina Matsuri (雛祭り) or Doll festival (March 3rd) where it is mostly drunk by women. In order to meet these high demands, Toshimaya would focus exclusively on shirozake sales from around the end of February each year.

Shirozake is a sweet white sake like drink made by combining rice, koji and shochu to form a liquor. To make shirozake the rice is steamed and mixed with koji and shochu and then left to age for a month. Once aged the mixture is puréed into a consistently smooth drink about 45% rice extracts and having 8-9% alcohol.

Toshimaya Shuzo in Tokyo still sells shirozake after 400 years though there are other producers now.

Sake Brewing in the 19th Century

A quick look at the differences between the sake brewing process of the 19th century and today.

I have been reading a little about brewing in the 19th century and find it to be quite similar to current brewing methods. The current brewing method consists of the following steps:

  • Rice milling
  • Koji production
  • Moto – yeast mash (Any of kimoto, yamahai moto or sokujo moto)
  • Hatsuzoe – first addition
  • Nakazoe – second addition
  • Tomezoe – third addition
  • Moromi – main mash
  • Yodon – stabilization
  • Joso – pressing
  • Hi-ire – pasteurization & bottling Continue reading “Sake Brewing in the 19th Century”

Some Koji History

A little history on Koji

Koji has been used in the orient for two to three thousand years. Its use on a substrate of rice, soybean and wheat bran seems to have originated in China. Use of koji migrated to Japan in the Yayoi period around the change in the western calendar from BC to AD. Somewhere in the Heian and Muromachi period between the thirteenth and the fifteenth centuries AD koji became commercially available.

This was, in part, possible because of the use of hardwood leaf ash. These leaves where burned in an environment with limited oxygen to produce an ash/charcoal that was protective for the koji-kin. Koji-ken base packed, layered, in boxes with a layer of koji-ken then ash and repeated. The use of ash in packing to preserve the koji-kin led to the discovery that adding the ash directly to steamed rice produced more consistent koji production. We now know the alkaline environment from the ash prevents other micro-organisms from getting a foothold and that the minerals in the ash help mold growth.

Moyashi or fermentation starter suppliers, two of them, were established in the Muromachi period about 1400AD. The Koji-za did not license more than these two prior to 1700AD. Currently, there seems to be about five such producers.