Difference between sokujo moto and previous methods

Difference between sokujo moto and previous methods.

As I am thinking about some experiments to do with sake I began thinking about the difference between various moto methods. Not so much the procedures but what makes the sake different. Most homebrew sake is made with either the sokujo or yamahai methods. The yamahai method, much like the kimoto method is known for producing a deeper and richer, even earthier sake.

In the sokujo method lactic acid is added at the start of the moto while in the yamahai method various bugs are rallied to provide the lactic acid. It is this early stage of the moto that makes the difference in outcome. Once the bugs have done there thing and there is enough lactic acid built up the moto is protected from any further trouble and the yeast are free to thrive and grow. Continue reading “Difference between sokujo moto and previous methods”

A Pictorial Look at the TwinBird Rice Mill

A Pictorial Look at the TwinBird Rice Mill

Back in August I posted an article about milling rice with the TwinBird Rice Mill. However, I was not able to include any pictures that could prove useful to those of a mind to construct their own mill. I committed to doing so and I now have the needed pictures.

As we shall see this arrangement seems like it can point the way to a very workable small rice mill that would handle, say, 20 lbs. of rice. Anyway, let’s take a close look at this baby. The TwinBrid mill is designed to run in the kitchens of Japan, handles 4 go (180ml) of rice at a time and runs on 100 Volts, 150Watts at 50-60 cycles. This makes it a good fit for US kitchens as well. The picture below shows the mill and its control panel. The left side is used to indicate the starting state of the rice to be milled, from white rice at the top to brown rice at the bottom. The right side is used to indicate the level of milling desired. Given this, I believe the setting shown gives the longest mill time setting.

TwinBird Mill
TwinBird Mill

Continue reading “A Pictorial Look at the TwinBird Rice Mill”

So you like the Honjozo (本醸造)

This article discusses how to make Honjozo sake.

There is a lot to be said for Honjozo. It tends to be light and fragrant and can be exceedingly smooth. I was ecstatic with the first honjozo I tried. It was the Murai Family Tokubetsu Honjozo, light and smooth, fragrant but disappeared like a ghost. Very nice. Since then I have had other honjozos but this one remains one of my favorites.

Honjozo is a Special Designation Sake just as Junmai, Junmai Ginjo and Junmai Daiginjo. In fact Ginjo and Daiginjo without the Junmai designation are both honjozo. You can think about these special designation sakes as having three grades of Junmai (pure) and three parallel grades of Honjozo (brewer’s alcohol added). The top rung, Daiginjo, is one where the rice used has been milled to 50% or less with one pure and the other with added alcohol. The next rung, Ginjo, is with the rice milled to 60% or less with one pure and the other with added alcohol. Finally the entry rung to the special designation sake is Junmai (pure) and Honjozo (brewer’s alcohol added). When this system was put in place, to make this entry rung, the rice used had to have been milled to 70% or less. While this is still true for Honjozo, the milling requirement has been remove for Junmai. Continue reading “So you like the Honjozo (本醸造)”

Quick Start Sake Brewing

Quick Start Sake Brewing

This quick start procedure is meant to help you get started as quickly as possible. It’s a procedure you can use to make very good sake, now, without waiting to learn more. My hope is that, as you make your sake you will be pulled more and more into this unique drink and all its aspects, making the learning about the whys and what fors more exciting and magical.

This outline is specifically for use with rice milled to 60% of original (60% seimaibuai) and pre-made koji.

The big picture: The first task is to create the moto which is a yeast mash to grow up a strong population of yeast for the ferment. The moto lasts for one week in this procedure. Next comes the buildup from the moto to the moromi or the yeast mash to the main ferment. This buildup comes in a three stage addition process over four days. Following the buildup is the main ferment that lasts about 20 days. This is followed by pressing to separate the sake from the lees and a series of rackings. The rackings transfer clear sake from containers with sediment to containers without sediment. This allows the sake to become more and more clear and more sediment free with each racking. Finally, is the pasteurization and bottling to complete the process.  The total time from start to end is 88 days and is closely tied to temperature during the process.

There is a tremendous amount of repetition of the process. For example the same process used to create the moto is used for each of the three additions of the buildup. Racking is repeated several times and pasteurization is done twice. So while the following outline is long most of the work becomes comfortable and routine before you are done.

Day 1 – estimated task time 10 minutes:

The first thing we must do is prepare a few things; sake water, yeast and koji. This is often done, as suggested in the recipe, the night before the first rice steaming. Continue reading “Quick Start Sake Brewing”

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”

Sake Amino Acid – Amino Sando (アミノ酸度 )

Describes amino acid or amino sando’s importance and impact on sake.

As with acidity, the amino acid level of a sake or its amino sando levels are a measure of how much amino acid is in the sake. Amino sando along with the sugar levels largely determine the viscosity and chewiness of a sake.

Amino sando levels tend to vary between about 0.7 and 1.4. The lower the amino sando value the thinner the sake tends to be; this opens up the sake. Higher levels of amino sando are accompanied by higher viscosity and rounder flavors.

Umami, an important flavor component tied to the amino acid glutamate. As amino sando rises and falls, glutamate also tends to rise and fall, so reaching an ideal umami level is achieved by adjusting the amino sando levels. Researchers from Akita Prefectural University found that of the 20 or more amino acids in sake four are most important.

They found four amino acids that are strongly related to sake taste components and that the total concentrations are less important for taste than is the balance of these four. They demonstrated that through the manipulation of the choice of rice, milling levels, koji production and both yeast aerobic and anaerobic processes the balance could be controlled to create high quality sake.

As a side note related to amino acids: The reason the existence of iron in water to be use for sake is such a problem is that it, the iron, attaches to the center of a compound attached to an amino acid from koji. In this position it darkens the sake and changes the taste and aroma for the worse. In addition, iron speeds up a reaction between residual sugars and amino acids that changes the taste and aroma of the sake over time.

Sake Acidity – Sando ( 酸度 )

Article discusses sake acidity (sando).

The acidity of a sake or its sando is a measure of how much base liquid is needed to neutralize 10ml of sake. Acidity in sake balances its sweetness. The sweeter the sake the higher its acidity can be without being sour or annoying. In general the higher acidity the thinner the sake will seem. However, as with all the characteristic parameters of sake, we cannot say that a sake with a high acidity level will seem thin, only thinner than if it had lower acidity.

Acidity levels tend to range from 0.8 to 1.7. As we saw previously, the nihonshudo values (SMV) tend to be between -5 and +10. Using these two metrics together is more useful than individually. Recall that the more negative the nihonshudo value the sweeter it is and the more positive the dryer it is. So producing a sake with SMV -4 and acidity of 1.7 (two extremes) could create a heavy dry sake; that’s right, dry. This is because the acidity balances out all of the sweetness. We must keep in mind that these are only trends and not absolutes. In the same way, if we produce a sake with high SMV of +7 and a acidity of 0.8 may be sweet and thin or watery. Continue reading “Sake Acidity – Sando ( 酸度 )”

Nihonshu-do (日本酒度) or Sake Meter Value (SMV)

This article discusses Nihonshu-do (SMV), Buame, Plato and specific gravity for sake Brewing.

Nihonshu-do also known as SMV is the way we measure the sweetness to dryness level of a sake. The word nihonshu-do itself can be broken down into three words Nihon Shu Do with the English counter parts being Japan Alcohol Degree (as in position on a scale). So Japanese Alcohol is Sake and Degree or Meter Value taken together represent the main metric used to characterize sake. At first glance this measure is relatively simple and this is as it should be for sake aficionados. A -4 SMV value for a sake implies it is quite sweet while a value of +10 would be very dry. Its use in brewing reflects its more complicated nature.

SMV was originally based on the Heavy Baume scale created by a Frenchman in the late 1700s. However, the heavy baume scale is only valid for liquids that are equal or heavier than water and this is not the case for sake. For this reason nihonshu-do has the same slope as the heavy baume scale but is not the same. When nihonshu-do and heavy baume are used to evaluate the degree of sugar in water they directly represent the amount of sugar by weight in the solution. While the baume scale is pretty much obsolete today, similar scales like the Balling, Brix and Plato scales are all attempts to measure the amount of dissolved solids in solution with more accuracy, i.e. the grams of solids in 100 grams of water. However, where Baume was working with a sodium chloride solution Balling, Brix and Plato specifically worked with sucrose solutions. Continue reading “Nihonshu-do (日本酒度) or Sake Meter Value (SMV)”

Final Steps in Sake Brewing

The final steps in the sake brewing process is discussed.

After moromi is complete we have only a few more steps to go in our process. These are: secondary ferment, racking, fining, pasteurization, amelioration and bottling. Conditioning and maturation are also terms for the secondary ferment. For the most part the secondary ferment begins after the sake has been pressed out of the lees. At this stage the sake can be anywhere from milky white to relatively clear. However, in all but unusual cases, more, finer lees will settle to the bottom as the sake completes its ferment and rests.

As the ferment completes, alcohol production ceases but the yeast are still active. During the early stages acetylaldehyde, diacetyl and esters are produced and cleaned up, however the clean up follows production by a good amount of time so when there is no more alcohol to produce there is still a sizable amount of these compounds remaining. At this stage the yeast complete their work and clean up remaining levels. It is also at this time that the sake flavors start to come together for a more integrated taste. Continue reading “Final Steps in Sake Brewing”

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”