Clearing your sake – racking, fining and filtering

Clearing your sake – racking, fining and filtering

Once your sake has been pressed and it is sitting in a secondary container in most cases you will want to increase its clarity prior to pasteurization and bottling. This can be done with different methods and to various degrees. The simplest method and least effective is to simply rack the sake off the lees several times keeping only the clearest of sake. This relies on the yeast and other matter suspended in the sake to naturally settle to the bottom. Given time, however, this method works well and leaves the sake with its natural color, taste and aroma. Sake made this way is Muroka (無濾過), unfiltered sake.

To take it to the next level, finings can be added. Finings are substances that are added to capture organic compounds in the sake. Finings can drag the organic compounds down to the bottom or hold on to them while being filtered from the sake. Two of these fining substances are powdered activated charcoal and bentonite.

Continue reading “Clearing your sake – racking, fining and filtering”

Measuring your Sake – Part Three: San-do (酸度)

Measuring your Sake – Part Three: San-do (酸度)

In part one I talked about how to measure the Nihonshu-do or Sake Meter Value (SMV) or your sake. In part two I covered how to measure the Arukoru bun (アルコール度数) or Alcohol percent by volume (%ABV). In this part, part three I will discuss how to measure the san-do or acidity of sake.

To measure the san-do (acidity) of sake at home, there are two very closely related methods available. The easier and less expensive of the two methods is to use a wine acidity test kit. This kit contains almost every think you need to measure the acidity on sake. However, there is a difference getting from the physical test to the interpreted value, but I am getting a little ahead of myself. The second method differs from the first in that a pH meter is used rather than Phenolphtalein to determine the point of neutrality. Often the second method employs more sophisticated equipment for each of the components but this is not strictly necessary.

So, what do wine acid test kits come with? Well, they come with a small beaker to mix the sample and chemicals in, a syringe to measure with, a solution of Sodium Hydroxide, usually at a concentration of 0.1 Molarity (M) and Phenolphtalein. The idea behind the test is that we have some unknown amount of acid in our sample that we want to measure. To do this we add a known amount of base to neutralize the sample pH. When we have neutralized the sample pH with a known amount of base we can then work out the original amount of acid. Clear as mud? Perhaps an example will help.

Continue reading “Measuring your Sake – Part Three: San-do (酸度)”

Measuring your Sake – Part Two: Percent Alcohol by Volume

Measuring your Sake – Part Two: Percent Alcohol by Volume

In Part One we talked about measuring the SMV (Nihonshu-do) of your sake. In this part we will discuss two ways to measure the percent alcohol by volume for your sake. Because Heikou Fukuhakkou (並行複醗酵) or multiple parallel fermentation is used to make sake, we cannot employ the same simple method for determining the percent alcohol as is used for other fermented beverages. In particular, the simplest methods used for both beer and wine depend on knowing the initial specific gravity prior to fermentation. For sake, there is no point prior to fermentation when all the sugar is available for such a measurement. Rather, koji enzymes work side by side with yeast in the fermenting mash. Enzymes create sugar and yeast creates alcohol using the sugar; this is multiple parallel fermentation.

The first way to measure the alcohol level we will discuss uses what is known as the boiling method. It is a modified version of the distillation method that can be done at home with relative ease. The basic idea behind this method is that the alcohol in sake has a known specific gravity and a known effect on the specific gravities of substances it is in. Given this we can measure the specific gravity of our sake to get an initial state, replace the alcohol with distilled water and then take a new specific gravity reading. The difference between these two specific gravities can then be used to determine the percentage of alcohol by volume.

Continue reading “Measuring your Sake – Part Two: Percent Alcohol by Volume”

Measuring your Sake – Part One: the Hydrometer and SMV

Measuring your Sake – Part One: the Hydrometer and SMV

In this series on Measuring your Sake I will cover how to measure all the key characteristics of sake. These include:

–          Nihonshudo a.k.a. Sake Meter Value (SMV) and specific gravity
–          Alcohol percentage by volume
–          Sando or Acidity
–          Amino Sando or Amino acid levels

For Nihonshudo or SMV all that is needed is a hydrometer. The most commonly available hydrometers are for specific gravity though you can find other metrics. To simplify this discussion I will stick to specific gravity and SMV. A discussion of these other metrics is in the article: Nihonshu-do (日本酒度) or Sake Meter Value (SMV).

So, what are we talking about when we talk about specific gravity? Well, specific gravity is a measure of the density of a liquid compared to the density of distilled water at 60F. But what does that mean?

Continue reading “Measuring your Sake – Part One: the Hydrometer and SMV”

Amazake – it ain’t sake

Amazake – it ain’t sake

I have meant to post a little something about anazake for some time but I keep putting it off. Now that I have gotten a question about how to make it I can see that it is overdue and I should get my act together. Amazake is a rice and koji mixture that is most thought of as a drink but has other uses as well.

OK, so to make amazake you need koji and rice. You can make koji with the method discussed in the earlier post, “Making Koji for Sake.” In this case you will need to start with koji-kin. If you prefer you can skip making your own and just buy the koji. I have both koji and koji-kin in the store.

Once you have the ingredients, koji and rice, cook 3 cups of rice just as you would to eat the rice.  When cooked, thoroughly mix 1 cup koji with the now 3 cups of cooked rice. Leave this in a warm area (75F-85F is good but could be as high as 140F) for between 6 hours and 12 hours. You should stir this every couple of hours; each time tasting it. It should get sweeter and sweeter until it stabilizes. When it stops getting sweeter it is done. At this point it should be quite mush like. Put it in a sauce pan and boil it for 5 minutes but be careful not to scorch it. This denatures the enzymes and stops the transformation. Continue reading “Amazake – it ain’t sake”

Rice protein impacts on Sake

Rice protein impacts on Sake

I am looking at a paper, which in part, discusses the impact of rice proteins on sake aroma and flavor. And admittedly, I may be stepping over the boundary between sake brewer and geek with this discussion, but I think you may find it interesting to see some of the underlining interactions that make sake what it is.

In this paper1 the authors brewed five sake variants, four of which include rice enriched with rice derived proteins. They then assessed the relative impact of these proteins on flavor and aroma.

The protein in the rice consists of roughly of 20% prolamin and 70% glutelin with several other proteins filling out the mix. The four tested in this study were prolamin, glutelin, globulin (2% each of total rice mass enhancement) and albumin (1% total rice mass enhancement). Continue reading “Rice protein impacts on Sake”

  1. Influence of Rice Proteins on Eating Quality of Cocked Rice and on Aroma and Flavor of Sake by Sachiko Furukawa, et al. 2006

Time for shibori ( 搾り)

Description of the sake pressing process (shibori).

After the moromi (main ferment) has come to the stage where the ferment has run its course or it is time to stop it from going any farther, it is time for shibori; that is the pressing or squeezing of the moromi to separate the lees from the sake. This is mainly done in three different ways in kura (breweries) today and probably more ways than Sunday by homebrewers.

The most common way to press is to use a machine called Assaku-ki often referred to as a Yabuta; the name of the main supplier of assaku-ki machines. The moromi is pumped into these machines where it is squeezed by an air bladder to force the sake through a fine mesh that holds back most of the lees. As the lees build up on the mesh more and more of the lees are held back because the lees themselves become a part of the filter. In the most common configuration, the filtering action is so good that it filters out the yeast as well as the lees and hence stops all further fermentation. Continue reading “Time for shibori ( 搾り)”

Making Koji for Sake

Making Koji for Sake

In order to make koji for brewing sake we need to go through the same steps that we do to prepare rice for brewing sake. In fact, it is often the case that a portion of the rice goes directly into the brewing sake while another portion is used for koji. So, as always we begin by washing the rice. This is to remove all contaminates, including the powder (Nuka) that remains after milling and any material added by the miller, like iron. Removing the nuka lowers the stickiness we will have after steaming. And, as mentioned elsewhere, iron is very bad for sake as it darkens the sake and speeds a reaction of residual sugars with amino acids that harms the flavors and aromas.

Washing the rice is followed by steeping the rice until we reach the desired water uptake level, usually between 25% and 35%. If the uptake of water is too little the rice will not steam properly leaving a hard uncooked center that the koji mold will not penetrate. On the other hand having too much water uptake will cause the rice to be too mushy and sticky after steaming. This results in a base that is too easy for the koji mold to penetrate and this prevents or lowers the production of transformative enzymes we want. Most rice used for hombrew sake will need to steep between 30 minutes and two hours. As homebrewers we are more often than not more guilty of soaking too much than too little. Continue reading “Making Koji for Sake”

Video Instructions for your Homebrew Sake

Video Instructions for your Homebrew Sake

Well, I have just finished pulling everything together for a Video Series to intertwine with the step by step outline I posted back on September 12th. It was a lot more work than I expected. In the end I finally just said this is good enough and getting it out is more important than making it better.

The video series consists of 22 videos that run from creating the moto to bottling the Sake. Every step is documented so you can see that there is no magic here; anyone can do it. You can do it!

It is now clearly sake brewing season as we enter November and the nights are becoming colder and colder. There is no better time to try your hand, just take a breath, and do it.

Kanpai!

Protecting your HomeBrew Sake from light

Protecting your HomeBrew Sake from light

Sake, as with other beers, is sensitive to light and in particular ultraviolet light. Sunlight is the greatest offender having a much higher degree of ultraviolet light than most other sources. This is not to say that other sources are harmless, they can have a negative impact as well. Given that sake can be harmed by this light and light is all around us, what can we do to keep our sake safe from this harm?

We can choose to use bottles that have the best properties for filtering the light and specifically the ultraviolet light. Fortunately for us, Bradley E. Sturgeon, PhD1 recently did a study that examined which colors of glass bottles provide the best light filtering. Continue reading “Protecting your HomeBrew Sake from light”

  1. Bradley E. Sturgeon Supplemental paper to Basic Brewing Episode Airing April 10th 2008 is here