New Page on Koji Making with Video

New Page on Koji Making with Video

OK, so I have finally pulled together a complete page on making koji for sake brewing along with the videos. As with the videos for brewing sake there is nothing amazing here but that may, in fact, be the amazing thing. When it comes to making koji, like brewing sake, it is all very doable.

I believe the text for the koji making page is very readable and stands on its own without the videos. However, the videos may help to solidify what is said in the text. All in all I hope you find the page useful and enlightening!

Oh, FYI, I have linked the koji making  page into the top of the Recipe page for convenience.

 

Rice Malt, Not for Sake but still interesting

Rice Malt, Not for Sake but still interesting

While researching rice and enzymes I came across an article on how steep time and temperature influence rice malt enzyme production. Malting is a major part of most beer brewing but while sake is, by some definitions, a beer, it does not use malt; not rice malt, not any kind of malt. Instead the rice used for sake is milled to remove the outer layers of the grain, which destroys all possibility of malting.

Malting is the process of transforming a grain from a seed to a malt that contains not only the starches and proteins that where present in the seed but also enzymes that can be used to convert the starches and proteins in the malt to sugars and amino acids.

To malt seed, the seed is steeped in water and allowed to dry a little in order to awaken the seed to begin to grow. The steeping and drying may be carried out several times to fully engage the embryo’s growth but ensure the seed does not drown. Once the embryo has begun to sprout roots and a shoot, a maltster will halt the embryo’s transformation by heating or kilning the grain. This prevents the enzymes from fully distributing throughout the endosperm and converting it before it is ready to be used.

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Honjozo – multiple beginnings

Honjozo – multiple beginnings

While most of us who have paid attention to honjozo have heard about how the rice shortage around World War II sparked the need to stretch rice farther. For sake, this need was addressed with the addition of alcohol to produce more sake for the given amount of rice used. The most common sake in Japan, Sanzoshu (三増酒) and to a lesser extent Futsushu (普通酒), retain their use of high addition levels of alcohol. San (三) means three so Sanzoshu is triple sake. It has this name because enough alcohol is added when making Sanzoshu to triple the resultant quantity of sake. When tripling the output in this way other factors are thrown out of balance. To correct this, acids (酸類) and sweeteners (糖類) are added to sanzoshu to make it taste more like sake that has not been diluted so much.

Futsu (普通), means ordinary or standard. Despite this name, futsushu actually has a lower yearly production level than sanzoshu. And, while futsushu is not allowed to add sweeteners nor as much alcohol as is allowed for sanzoshu it is not as restrictive as special designation sakes like honjozo (本醸造). In addition to higher levels of alcohol, futsushu, as with sanzoshu, is allowed to add acids to the sake that are not allowed in the special designated class.

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A moto before kimoto? – Bodaisen to Bodaimoto

A moto before kimoto? – Bodaisen to Bodaimoto

Before getting with this article I would like to urge you to consider donating to help Japan in this time of tragedy. Three outstanding organizations which will ensure your donations will be used well are:

https://www.sakesamurai.jp/donation.html

https://www.mercycorps.org/

https://www.redcross.org/

OK, back to the article:

We often here about the three types of moto or seed mash. There is the currently most used moto type, sokujo-moto, the next most common, Yamahai-moto and the moto which was king before that, kimoto. But, before these there was another type of moto, one that was used as late as 1925 under the name Mizumoto. This moto was bodai-moto and was developed by the monks at the Bodaisen Shoreki Ji Buddhist temple.

The monks studied the techniques used in both Japan and China. They developed their method some time in or before the 14th century. A brewing  diary, “Goshu no Nikki,” describes the two step method and later starting in 1478 as chronicled by the “Tamon-in Nikki” the three step method was developed and used.  Taken together these describe how the method for making Bodaisen had transformed from a single mash sake brewing to one that used a starter culture from previous good mashes to one with a purpose made starter mash, bodai-moto, added to the main ferment and the progressions from including two and then three additions to the moromi.

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Koji production – what are we trying to do?

Koji production – what are we trying to do?

OK, so what exactly are we trying to do when making koji? Well, to examine this we need to consider the role koji plays in Sake Brewing. In sake brewing we use koji to provide a wide variety of products. These include products that provide flavor and aroma elements as well as enzymes which degrade proteins and starches into smaller component parts. For example proteins are disassembled into peptides and amino acids while starches are converted into smaller starches, dextrins and sugars.

Rice starts out with 7% to 8% protein, but much of this is milled away, so we do not focus on koji’s production of enzymes to break down this protein. Rice starch is our main focus and needs to be broken down as effectively as possible into sugars. Koji produces alpha, beta and gama amylase. Depending on how we culture the koji, we can emphasize protein or starch degrading enzymes. High temperature cultivation, 98°F to 110°F, lead to the production of saccharification enzymes whereas lower temperature cultivation, from 98°F down to 68°F, emphasizes protein degrading enzymes. So to make good koji for sake brewing we must culture the koji at high temperatures.

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To foam or not to foam, that is a question of the yeast?

To foam or not to foam, that is a question of the yeast?

Sake brewers have long used the appearance of the foam to tell the stages of the moromi’s progress (fermentation progress). The named stages are as follows:

Foam StageEnglish TranslationAprox. Timing
suji-awa (筋泡)Muscle Foamday 2-3 of Moromi
mizu-awa (水泡)Water Foam
iwa-awa (岩泡)Rock Foam
taka-awa (高泡)High FoamDay ~10 of Moromi
ochi-awa (落泡)Falling Foam
tama-awa (玉泡)Ball Foam
ji (地)Land or Ground

Pictures for each of these stages as seen through the foam can be seen at the Daishichi’s site.

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Steeping to hit the numbers

Steeping to hit the numbers

Picture the toji presiding with a stopwatch over kurabito as they steep rice for a batch of daiginjo; 28.29.30.31 pull it out of the water. A 31 second steeping to reach the desired 29% uptake of water into the rice kernels. The precision required is just amazing, but why, why is this so time critical?

We need to back up a little and consider what we are trying to do. The goal is to have our steamed rice weigh 1.38x to 1.4x the pre-steeped rice.1 That is to have the rice take up slightly less than 40% of its weight in water by the time it has completed steaming. Steaming will add another 10% or so water uptake. Backing off to pre-steam levels gives us 1.28x to 1.3x for steeping. So how long will this take and why is it different for different grades of sake?

While there are differences between rice variety and milling rates, it turns out that one of the main contributors to the rate of water uptake during steeping relates to the moisture content the rice starts with. In fact it is this factor that is the main cause for highly polished rice to absorb water so quickly and hence the need for a stop watch.

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  1. These targets may vary a bit from place to place.

The chemistry behind the measurements – San-do and Amino San-do

The chemistry behind the measurements – San-do and Amino San-do

A friend1 helped me to understand the chemistry behind these characteristic sake parameters; san-do (acid level) and amino san-do (amino acid level). It is not that complicated once the basics are explain but without understanding the basics it is impossible to really know what is going on.

Foundational concept: the mole. A mole is a quantity of objects like a dozen. It allows us to map reactions between individual molecules and atoms and more manageable quantities like grams and liters. One mole of hydrogen is 1 gram. Hydrogen is the simplest and lightest atom with one proton and one electron. The electron weight is so small it is insignificant in comparison to the proton. So the proton as hydrogen itself has an atomic weight of 1. Each atom has an atomic weight, ignoring electrons, equal to the number of protons and neutrons it contains. The neutron weighs the same as the proton.

A carbon atom has 6 protons and 6 neutrons and thus has an atomic weight of 12. Because the carbon atom is 12 times that of hydrogen one mole of carbon would also be 12 times the weight of hydrogen or 12 grams.

Foundational concept: molarity or moles/Liter. To create a one molar solution (solution of one molarity) of carbon in water simply place 12 grams of carbon in a one liter container and add water until reaching the one liter level. When we talk about the concentration of elements based on chemical reaction equations we do so in molarity or moles per liter. Continue reading “The chemistry behind the measurements – San-do and Amino San-do”

  1. My fried is Jonathan Musther of New Zealand.

How much sake does a pound of rice make?

How much sake does a pound of rice make?

I recently saw a section in “The Niigata Sake Book” labeled “How Much Sake Is Made out of 1 kg (2.2 lb.) of Rice” and thought this would make a nice topic to cover. I may later do a more in depth look at this but for now we will just get a good idea of the basics.

OK, so if we start with rice, water and some microorganisms how much sake will we get?   Well, let’s start with brown rice as does “The Niigata Sake Book.”  To make sake starting with brown rice the first thing that needs to be done is to polish the rice to a level needed for the type of sake we wish to make. To get down to the edge of junmai ginjo type sake we need to polish the rice to 60% or less. So let’s say we will mill the rice down to 60% of the original brown rice. That is, if we start with 1 lb. of brown rice this will leave us with 0.6 lbs. of white rice.

Now, for this there is a key ratio that needs to be understood. While this ratio will change somewhat for individual sakes, we will simply choose a reasonable example ratio for this analysis. The ratio of water used to the weight of rice added is around 1.3x, so that is what we will use. This implies the water needed for the fermenting mash will be 0.78 lbs. = 0.6 lbs x 1.3. The fermenting mash (the Moromi) will then be 1.38 lbs. = 0.6 lbs. rice + 0.78 lbs. water.

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Good sake should be chilled – always?

Good sake should be chilled. Is this always true?

It seems like there are two mantras I here all the time about sake. The first is the average first encounter with sake; a hot fusel drink from a Japanese restaurant. The second is that good sake should be chilled slightly for drinking. While these two lead us to conclude that all good sake is best served chilled this is not strictly the case.

While most daiginjo and ginjo will lose their aromatics if heated to any extent other sakes will nicely take the heat and pass on the warm comfort with each sip. I, like many, had my first encounter with sake as a hot drink at a sushi bar. I was not impressed. Later, quite a bit later, when I was looking in to brewing sake, I experienced my first high quality sake a little chilled in a wine glass. Wow, what a difference. As I looked into sake more, I found more and more references stating, basically, the good stuff should be served chilled. And for the most part this is how I proceeded, never giving it much more thought. However, two people have set me straight.

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