Sake Yeasts

Discusses yeast, sake yeast and what yeast need to do a good job fermenting.

Yeast: a single cell fungus whose activities have been known to man for far longer than we have known about yeast itself. We have evidence of yeast being used as far back as four thousand years ago in Egypt. They used yeast for both baking and brewing. Wine was also present in this period.

In 1857 Louis Pasteur proved that fermentation was the results of living yeast rather than a chemical reaction. In this work, Pasteur showed that as oxygen is added the growth of the cell count increases and fermentation slows. Not only did this show the significant of yeast but also its two distinct modes of operation: the aerobic and the anaerobic. In the aerobic mode, yeast reproduce by budding, a process of a child cell being created and split off from the parent cell. The anaerobic mode proceeds with little to no growth in the number of cells but with increased alcohol and CO2 production. Alcohol and CO2 are produced in equal amounts based on the following formula:

C6H12O6 -> 2 C2H5OH + 2 CO2 Continue reading “Sake Yeasts”

Brewing salts for your sake brewing water

This article talks about how to adjust you sake brewing water for better sake.

The question I will address this week is one related to water and how to convert the water we have to the water we want. Let’s assume we want to brew our sake with water that is equivalent to Miyamizu, the heavenly water from Nada. For this example the water we will start with is from the Bull Run Reservoir.

You may recall from “Miyamizu – Heavenly Water – The Gold Standard?” that the mineral content of the miyamizu water is:

Miyamizu (ppm)
Potassium 20
Phosphoric acid 5.2
Magnesium 5.6
Calcium 37
Chlorine 32
Sodium 32

Continue reading “Brewing salts for your sake brewing water”

Miyamizu – Heavenly Water – The Gold Standard?

This post describes the Heavenly water, Miyamizu.

Water is the main ingredient in all sake but it usually gets the least attention. Despite getting the least attention, water is important and does play a huge role in the quality of sake. The story that is told to demonstrate this fact is told so often that it has become like a legend.

The legend (no, the real story): Back near the end of the Edo period, 1840, Yamamura Tazaemon owned two breweries. One in Nishinomiya and the other in Uozaki. Tazaemon-san noticed that the sake made at Nishinomiya was always better than that made at Uosaki.

His two breweries were part of the Nada Go-go region or the five sake-brewing towns of Nada. The five districts lie in a line on the coast running west to east: Mishi, Mikage and Uozaki lie in Kobe while Nishinomiya and Imazu lie in Nishinomiya.1 The Nada Go-go region made its fame shipping sake to Edo (Tokyo) by ship, a 20 day voyage. The five districts of Nada produced a little more than 25% of Japan’s sake in 2003. But I digress.

The Nada go-go, i.e., the five sake-brewing districts of Nada
The five brewing districts of Nada, i.e., the Nada Go-go.

Continue reading “Miyamizu – Heavenly Water – The Gold Standard?”

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20120211075120/http://www.phontron.com/en/nada/about.php Nada map

Sakamai – Rice for making sake

This article catalogs Japanese and US rice that can be used to make / brew sake.

In this article I will catalog the rice used for making sake by both commercial kura (sake brewery) and home brewers. I am sure I will not include all the rice that should be included so I am planning to update this particular post in place as new rice or information comes to my attention. In fact, since I am compiling this information but have only limited experience with most of these, I beg you to correct my errors and mistakes and to add whatever information you can.

While the sakamai used by commercial Japanese brewers are specific strains of Japonica (short grained) that are known for their shinpaku (soft white center). It is not generally true that the rice used by sake brewers outside of Japan have much shinpaku. For example, in the US, Tropical Japonica (a.k.a. Javanica, medium grained) rice is typically used for sake brewing. This includes Calrose, the most popular medium rice cultivar grown in California. Continue reading “Sakamai – Rice for making sake”

Rice kernel make up

Last week we looked at a sketchy version of the history of rice leading to the rice we use for making sake at home. This week, we’ll look into the rice kernel itself. Brewing refined sake requires that we remove many layers of the rice, but why? Well before we get to that, let’s look at what these layers are.

Rice De-constructed
Rice De-constructed

Illustration by Namazu-tron 1

(1): Chaff (2): Bran (3): Bran residue (4): Cereal germ (5): Endosperm Continue reading “Rice kernel make up”

  1. All Illustrations / pictures in this post are taken from www.wikipedia.org.

Intro to rice, sake rice – where do we start?

This article gives a brief history of the rice that is important to sake brewers from the beginning to present (10,000BC to now).

OK, so what about rice? Isn’t it all the same? Well, I guess there is brown rice and white rice. Isn’t this all there is to it? No, it’s not, there’s much more. While we are interested in sake rice, I will cover some basic background, history and such to build a foundation we can use to better understand rice, its differences, and what is important for making sake.

The scientific name for the species we call rice is Oryza sativa. Within this species are three subspecies: japonica (short grained rice), indica (long grained rice) and javanica (a medium grained rice). Javanica is now known as tropical japonica. While japonica seems to imply that it originates in Japan, this is not the case. In fact, it appears that its origin is China. Continue reading “Intro to rice, sake rice – where do we start?”

Want to brew sake? Where ya’ gonna get your koji?

This article discusses whether to use ready made koji or to make your own koji for Sake Brewing / Sake Making.

What is koji anyway? Well koji is rice with a white mold covering it. The mold is Aspergillus oryzae and it is the key to sake because of the enzymes it creates. These enzymes primarily break down the starches in the rice creating sugars needed for fermentation. So how do we get koji?

Koji is available in most good sized Asian markets. While this is not the best koji for sake, it is serviceable. Then there is sake brewer’s koji. The one I carry is here. You can also make your own. To make your own you need to start with the Aspergillus oryzae spores. Tane-koji (dried koji that was let go to spore) is one source of these spores. Another is koji-kin which is a processed tane-koji to separate out the spores. Technically speaking I believe tane-koji and koji-kin are the same thing but for the products I have seen it seems to separate out as whole rice vs. powder. In any case we can use these spores to inoculate steamed rice to culture up some fresh koji. Continue reading “Want to brew sake? Where ya’ gonna get your koji?”

Sake Yeast Mash – The Moto

This article looks at the three types of Sake yeast mashes, also known as moto and shubo. The differences between these three moto are examined.

Moto (元), Shubo (酒母), Yeast mash are all names for the Sake yeast starter. In this article I will only use the term “moto” but the three can be used interchangeably. Moto is where the number of yeast cells is increased to the needed level. The moto is used to inoculate the main sake fermentation, the Moromi (諸味). To build the moto we start with rice (米), koji (麹) and yeast (酵母). These three ingredients along with water were the only ones used for moto originally. The method to produce this original moto is known as Kimoto. It features a vigorous mixing, taking many hours, to produce a puree of the ingredients. It was thought this vigorous mixing, called Yama-Oroshi, was needed for the ingredients to properly work together.

In 1909 a modification to the Kimoto method was developed. The modification was to drop the vigorous mixing. As it turned out, the mixing was not really needed. The modified process was called Yama-Oroshi haishi moto or Yamahai moto for short. Continue reading “Sake Yeast Mash – The Moto”

Basic Brewing Radio goes to Sake One!

A two part video of SakeOne, the kura and sake.

Basic Brewing Radio, on a trip to Portland, stopped by SakeOne and filmed their tour at the local kura (Sake Brewery). The tour is presented in two parts:

Part One, Jenifer introduces us to the sake brewery. She discusses the water, milling the rice and making the koji.

Continue reading “Basic Brewing Radio goes to Sake One!”

Koji Comparison

Compared Cold Mountain, GEM Cultures, Home made and SakeOne koji for sweetness, texture and appearance.

I have been thinking about how different koji compare with each other. The most meaningful way would be to compare sake made from each. However, I can’t do this at this time so I decided to look at the koji itself. The koji I looked at are: Cold Mountain, GEM Cultures, home made koji from GEM Cultures’ Koji-kin and SakeOne koji.

Both the Cold Mountain and GEM Cultures koji are quite dry and hard. When bit they are a little softer than dry rice but not by much. The home made and SakeOne koji are “fresher” and somewhat soft and chewy.

Cold Mountain and GEM Cultures seem less sweet than SakeOne which much less sweet then the home make koji. Given the minimal fuzz covering of the home made koji, I was surprised it was by far the sweetest. This seems to indicate a healthy amount of enzyme despite the lack of fuzz. To check to see how much the dryness is effecting the sweetness, I soaked some koji from each sample.

After soaking for an hour the water for Cold Mountain and GEM Cultures were a little sweet. The water for the home made koji was almost like syrup. However, the water for SakeOne was the least sweet. As for the koji itself, Cold Mountain was now the sweetest. GEM Cultures koji was noticeably sweeter but has a strong brand taste. Neither the SakeOne nor the home made koji seemed sweet any longer.

Four Kojis: Cold Mountain, GEM Cultures, Home Made, SakeOne
Four Kojis: Cold Mountain, GEM Cultures, Home Made, SakeOne

Continue reading “Koji Comparison”