Milling your own rice with the TwinBird Mill

This article discusses how homebrewers might use the TwinBird Mill to polish / mill their own rice for homebrew sake.

Rice milling is arguably the first step in sake brewing. For some, it may be the rice harvest or even the entire process of growing the rice. Then for others, most home brewers, milling is not much more than the story we hear about how the pros do it.  However, under the current situation this is hardly acceptable. As home brewers, we have, to my knowledge, only two options for milling levels; standard white rice (approximately 91-93%) and a rice milled for Ginjo grade sake (60%). For those who would like the chance of brewing other classes of sake other options are needed.

TwinBird MRD570
TwinBird MRD570

Recently, I got a rice mill from Japan; the TwinBird Mill. It’s not meant for sake but for home use with table rice. I was not sure that it would be able to mill the rice down as much as I wanted. That is that it would be able to mill rice to level far past those used for table rice. I wanted to be able to have rice ever where from table rice levels (about 90%) to daigingo levels (less than or equal to 50%). Maybe even lower levels. Could the TwinBird do the trick? The short answer is yes, but… Continue reading “Milling your own rice with the TwinBird Mill”

Preparing Your Rice for Sake Brewing

This article discusses the process of preparing rice for brewing sake or making koji.

An important step performed several times during the sake brewing process is the preparation of the rice. We prepare rice for the moto, then again for each step of the san-dan-jikomi, the three step addition of rice, koji and water to build up to the moromi or the main fermentation. Another addition is sometimes done new the end of moromi called yodan. The preparation of the rice is the same for each of these additions.

Rice preparation consists of washing, rinsing, soaking, draining, packing, steaming, cooling and finally adding it to the brew. Rice for koji also goes through the same process except rather than adding it to the brew it is inoculated and then incubated. But this will be covered in another article. Let’s cover each of these steps separately. Continue reading “Preparing Your Rice for Sake Brewing”

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”

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?”

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!”

Sake basic ingredients

Sake has four basic ingredients: rice, koji, yeast and water. Each play an important part in producing the taste, aroma and appearance. Each are discussed and how they come together to form the sake we love.

Sake is made with four ingredients: rice, koji, yeast and water. All, except the koji, are familiar to most people. Koji is a mold culture grown on rice in the case of Sake. The mold is Aspergillus oryzae. It forms a white fluffy coating over the rice and excretes alpha-amylase which converts the rice starch into sugar. This is the primary function of koji in brewing sake; to provide enough alpha-amylase to convert most of the starch provided by the rice to sugar. Other compounds produced by the koji contribute to the final taste.

Once the koji converts the starches from the rice to sugar, yeast converts the sugars to alcohol. Beyond this major contribution the yeast also produces other compounds that contribute to the final taste and aroma of the sake. These two processes, conversion of starch to sugar and conversion of sugar to alcohol, proceed at the same time which allows the yeast to produce higher levels of alcohol than is the case in beer and wine. This is not to say that beers and wines can not ferment to the high levels that sake does but that special processes, outside the norm are needed to obtain the same high level normally reached with sake. Continue reading “Sake basic ingredients”