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Home Brew Sake

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For the most part the Forum is still to be implemented. Until we have the real thing in place we can used the comments here in lieu of an actual forum.

234
  • Louise
    6:13 pm on November 21st, 2015 1

    Hello!
    I am attempting to make my first batch of sake here in Ireland. All has been going well. The problem is I went away for a few days and left the care of the sake to someone else, I had moved the fermentation bucket into the shed because the central heating was turned on in the house. When I was away the weather changed abruptly and the sake would have sat at about three degrees for five days of so. By the time I got back fermentation had slowed to a crawl and only tiny bubbles could be heard after stirring the sake. I brought it back inside a week ago where the temperature is averaging probably fourteen degrees, and the fermentation is snail slow. The hydrometer is reading 1.000. I’m way over time compared with your method, and I’m worried that the action of the fungus/yeast may stop and the sake be ruined, but there is still loads of rice in it which has not been ‘digested’. When the sake settles it is about half liquid on the bottom and half rice mash on the top before stirring. Should I get the liquid off the rice now and into airlocked demijohns, or should I not worry about the sake spoiling and let more of the rice be used up?

    Many thanks! I have really enjoyed making this, and am looking forward to enjoying drinking it, if it all works out.

  • Will
    2:29 pm on November 22nd, 2015 2

    Louise, Hi,

    I would let it go a bit more. If we can get the hydrometer reading down a bit more that would be good. Keep an eye on it to see if it moves over the week. At these temperatures it should continue to be pretty slow unless the yeast starts to replicate again. I wouldn’t expect this but it is possible. If you don’t see any movement in the hydrometer reading for a week then I would rack it off. If the koji has continued to work while the yeast has slowed down then the sake will be pretty sweet but may otherwise be fine. Let me know how it turns out.

    Will

  • Louise
    4:04 pm on November 22nd, 2015 3

    Thanks so much for that Will, I’ve more confidence with letting it have a bit more time now – and I think that this evening it is perhaps starting to go again a bit more! I’ll let you know how it goes. I really appreciate your advice

    Louise

  • Con
    5:34 am on November 29th, 2015 4

    Hello Will,
    My first sake brew, also from Ireland (hello Louise)homemade kome koji made from kin and I closely followed the instructions, fermented at the lower temperature range.
    Currently at day 28, nearly ready to rack to 3 jugs. Fermenting at 7C (45F) but in the last few days a crust has formed like a beer Krausen, here is a picture:
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9AxZnz38HAMTVp1TFhRWlFBYm8/view?usp=sharing
    I am stirring twice a day but the foams/crust reforms the following day. Could it be a wild yeast infection (maybe brett)?

    Regards,
    Con.

  • Will
    8:31 pm on November 29th, 2015 5

    Con, Hi,

    That looks pretty normal to me. The only part that doesn’t seem normal is that it has not been there from the beginning. Normally, the foam starts right away. The foam goes through a number of stages during Moromi. Some of this is covered in: https://homebrewsake.com/2011/03/06/to-foam-or-not-to-foam-that-is-a-question-of-the-yeast/. See what you think.

    Have you tasted the sake?

    Thanks,
    Will

  • Kristina
    5:54 am on January 24th, 2016 6

    Hi Will,

    I’m trying my first batch of sake: made my own koji using vision-brewing’s spores and following your very helpful video instructions. Because this is not only my first sake brewing experience, but my first ever brewing experience, I opted for a shorter method that does not include multiple rice additions (it is a beginners recipe noted on the koji packet). My question: how do I know when it’s done? The instructions say “two weeks” but I’m brewing at a colder temperature than they suggest. I’m currently sitting at day 11, my sake has been around 60F for the entire process. Since about day 3 to now I have had a foam that is much like the one Con included a picture of above.

  • Will
    9:07 pm on January 24th, 2016 7

    Krishtina,

    With sake it can take longer than with wine / beer because the koji slowly transforms the rice starch into sugar which is then converted by the yeast to alcohol. Without any measurements, I would let it ferment for 3 weeks, maybe 4. If you have a hydrometer, then you can take readings over a few days to see if the specific gravity is still dropping. If not, you are done. One other approach is just to taste it and when it is where you like it, then it is ready.

    Enjoy and Kampai,
    Will

  • Chris
    2:21 pm on March 8th, 2016 8

    Hey Will, you seem to be the right person to answer this question. I have a bag of Mitoku brown rice koji and I would like to use it to ferment mushrooms. Do you have any experience with something like this? I’m wondering if the brown rice koji should be ground up and added directly to the ferment or incorporated in some other way. I know this isn’t a sake specific question, but I know you’re a wealth of knowledge with regards to koji.

  • Will
    6:16 pm on March 8th, 2016 9

    Hey Chris, I can only guess about how to go about using koji in a ferment for mushrooms. When making miso you mash the soy beans in to the consistency of well a mash; some might say a paste, and then add the koji and salt. When mixed together, the soy and the koji have as much surface area in contact as possible. If you want to keep the shape and texture of the mushrooms then you couldn’t mash them but you can grind the koji and thoroughly mix it with the mushrooms. You could give that a try and see how they come out.

    Let us know what you do and how it all turns out,
    Will

  • Michael Smith
    11:31 am on April 4th, 2016 10

    Hi Will (or anyone else),

    I will be traveling to Tokyo in a couple of weeks and that will be sooner than I will be back in the USA. Do you know of any stores in Tokyo that sell sake brewing supplies, most importantly koji-kin.

    Thanks for any help.

    Mike

  • Will
    9:44 pm on April 4th, 2016 11

    I don’t know of any places in Tokyo. Akita Konno (http://www.akita-konno.co.jp/en/seihin/01.html) may have an outlet in Tokyo and they carry Tane-koji (koji-kin).

    Good luck!
    Will

  • chris N
    5:42 am on May 14th, 2016 12

    hey will.
    i’m interested in buying polished rice for sake, but the postage listed for posting abroad is far above my threshold for spending, is it possible to avoid some cost by sending the rice in smaller amounts? I’ve been told packages from the us to uk are cheaper to send if below 4lb.

    thanks.

  • Will
    1:25 pm on May 16th, 2016 13

    Sorry Chris, I can’t break up the package for smaller shipments. I do understand and agree that the cost of shipment is pretty high and international shipping is outrageous.

    Thanks,
    Will

  • Phil
    7:38 pm on May 14th, 2016 14

    Hi Will,

    I brewed my first batch of Sake following the instructions in your book. I was lucky enough to get my hands on some 50% polished rice and some fresh koji rice from a local micro sake brewery here in Toronto Canada and everything has gone very well so far. I got through the main ferment, the pressing, the initial settling in carboy, and secondary settling with bentonite. I now have 2.5 gallons of 18.5% ABV +19SMV clear sake with a yellowish hue. I am now getting ready to do some ameliorations, bottle, and pasteurize. I was interested in using charcoal to remove some of the “rough edges” from my sake, and remove the color as well, but I don’t want to have to filter it. I was thinking of running the sake through a Brita filter to achieve the same thing since it is basically activated charcoal in a plastic cartridge.

    Have you ever used a Brita filter on your sake, or know someone who has? Would you recommend it, or should I just live with the yellow color?

    Thanks in advance,

    Phil

  • Will
    1:31 pm on May 16th, 2016 15

    Phil, hi,

    I have not used a Brita filter. Nor do I think there is any need to remove the color, however, that is all about personal taste. To see if it makes the sake better, you can pass through just a glass worth of sake. Give that a try and see what you think. I do know people who have used these filters for home made vodka and like the results.

    Thanks,
    Will

  • hank hong
    12:30 am on June 25th, 2016 16

    dear will

    Could I know each pack of Wyeast 4134 Sake Yeast # 9 is How much ml.
    If I want to brewing more than two gallons of capacity, how to calculate
    The amount of yeast the yeast mash or shubo that will need to add is how many ml/ L,
    and the concentration(CFU) and activity of the yeast.

    Thanks a lot

  • Will
    12:37 pm on June 25th, 2016 17

    Hank, Hi,
    The packs contain 125 mls of liquid yeast with 70 Billion yeast cells. This is much more than is needed for the recipe(s) discussed on this site. The yeast is added to a moto where it is multiplied (much like a yeast starter for beer). You could easily brew a batch 3x the size with this same amount of yeast. Keep the ratios all the same, except for the yeast, as you increase the size of your batch. You could increase the amount of yeast every 3x or experiment with a higher multiplier.
    Thanks,
    Will

  • Ken
    11:42 pm on June 30th, 2016 18

    Thanks guys, you are very kind!

    Let me take these questions one at a time, inline below:

    Really excited about the new emphasis on both your book – we just got it and will start promoting it heavily @culturesgroup (IG, Twitter, culturesgroup.net, FB at kenfornataro or japanferments or culturesgroups, etc.) – and these new kits and sake brewing aides. Wow! Just wow, Will! Thanks! If you have any social media accounts let us know so we can direct people to you in our posts. Or we’ll just direct them to homebrewsake.com

    We have five questions to start.

    1. What exactly is the amelioration step you discuss in your book?

    [will] Amelioration as described is simply adding some sugar so the sake isn’t as dry. The process we use gives the yeast the full strength needed to dry the sake out (eat up almost all the sugar) so amelioration adds some sugar back to get to the level desired. Some brewers will consider this cheating. You, of course can make up your own mind. If you don’t like this method and you don’t want your sake to be as dry there are other methods that can be used to stop fermentation early.

    2. We just purchased our first White Labs Sake WLP705 yeast so we assume we don’t need to use yeast nutrient, etc. right? You include the Wyeth yeast which we used to make our last 5 gallon batch and didn’t add anything to the shubo since it seemed so incredibly active. The temperature, however, was never below 72 degrees F until we started the moromi, though. Do you think that if we get the temperature lower that yeast nutrients, etc. should always be used? Rice used throughout for koji/moromi was 92% semibuai (good sushi rice)

    [will] I use the yeast nutrient because I believe this improves the batch but there is lots of yeast (volume wise) so it will work without the nutrient.

    3. Have any plans to mill some Omachi rice anytime soon?

    [will] I don’t do any milling myself (except experimentally). For a variety of rice milled for sake check out mnrice.com

    4. Several tojis and sake/shochu brewers we’ve spoken with insist that during the process of letting the kasu settle out after dripping – yeah, we’re that crazy – that we not touch the stuff for ten days and keep it at close to 34F as we can. They obviously have more refrigeration capacity and space than your average home brewer especially us but do you think the coolers you suggest would do the trick (and apologies if you have already answered this question but we have a thousand posts and your book to read, thank you again!) or should we try to cadge some refrigeration space from a local restaurant?

    [will] I bet you could rig something up to work in a small space but you’ll have to be creative. Even with larger temperature controlled freezers it would be difficult. Maybe a standing freezer would be the best for this type of thing.

    5. Bentonite. Pro or Con?

    [will] I mostly let time do the work but bentonite does a good job. The choice is whatever you like.

    Thanks,
    Will

    Thanks!

    Ken, Ellis, Leco, Ann and Denis

  • Ken
    10:17 pm on July 8th, 2016 19

    Thanks Will!

    We received the Koji and rice today!

    We’ve bee researching water since you recommend Epsom salts and Morton salt substitute. Recommending that we use distilled or any water without iron or even chloramines is for the same reasons that Kikkoman cites we think: “An even more important ingredient in the brewing of sake is the water. Brewing water generally contains very little iron and manganese, and is categorized as moderately hard water according to the American measurement scale that determines the degree of mineral concentrations in water. Ideally, brewing water has a higher mineral content than the average drinking water in Japan, and includes potassium, magnesium and calcium, making it well-suited to the cultivation of koji fungus and yeast. As a result, many brewers even relocate in search of superior water. Probably the best-known water for brewing purposes is Miya mizu (Miya water), found in a particular area of Kobe.” So, many companies cell pure mixtures of magnesium, calcium and potassium for supplementation. Why shouldn’t we just use one of those pills? We have some on hand! Or Potassium Citrate (100%) instead of the Morton Salt substitute because we also have that on hand. With the quantities involved per recipe a combo of the three might be somethhng you might want to have for sale?

  • Will
    11:09 am on July 11th, 2016 20

    You can use other ingredients to reach the same goal. I have not used these other options so I don’t have much to say about them but there is nothing sacred about the ingredients I use. Where do you get the tablets? What are they exactly?

    Thanks,
    Will

  • hank hong
    11:13 pm on July 15th, 2016 21

    Dear Will

    I use MICHIBA RC23 rice polisher to mill rice, I used 3 go in 50%, but there are a lot of broken rice after milling, is there any way to improve this problem.

    Thanks a lot

    Hank

  • Will
    9:59 am on July 18th, 2016 22

    Hank, I’m sorry to say I don’t have any answers for you; I don’t have any experience here. Maybe someone else will be able to reply with a better answer. If you have some control over the speed of milling, slowing things down may help. Changing the batch size (larger or smaller) may also have an effect that could help. If you experiment with various parameters, let us know the outcomes.

    Thanks,
    Will

  • Paolo
    3:46 am on August 18th, 2016 23

    Is this shop still active?

  • Will
    8:58 am on August 18th, 2016 24

    Yes it is Paolo.

    Will

  • Russell
    2:26 pm on August 18th, 2016 25

    I’m about to kick off my first brew. Any suggestions on solutions for chilling the fermenter? I don’t have enough room for a fridge/freezer solution, so I was thinking about going with the Brew Jacket (http://www.brewjacket.com/) – any other solutions to suggest?

    Thanks! (also, btw, bought your book and found it incredibly helpful – the newly translated Sake textbook from the Sake Society of Japan is also a great read!)
    Russ

  • Will
    3:37 pm on August 18th, 2016 26

    Hey Russ,
    Mostly people wait until the cooler months and then put it somewhere cooler. James of Basic Brewing Radio discusses a method where the bucket is placed in a water bath that is cooled using ice and a temperature controlled pump; I think lots of people use this method. I’d never seen the brewjacket. If you go that route, let us know how well it works for you.
    Thanks,
    Will

  • Russell Kohn
    10:23 am on August 19th, 2016 27

    Thanks, Will. Unfortunately I’m in a Manhattan apartment, so I don’t have easy access to cooler spaces, even in winter. I had considered some of the cooler/pump setups (using a wort-chiller or similar) but the brewjacket seems like the best solution for my purposes – I’ll let you know how it comes out!

  • Russell Kohn
    10:25 am on August 19th, 2016 28

    Any thoughts on what happens if you do the entire brew at room temperature? Does it produce lots of funky favors, or do the warmer temps allow too many unwanted bacteria to grow?

  • Will
    10:43 am on August 19th, 2016 29

    Russ, Less clean. Yamahai and kimoto methods will produce more funky flavors. Here again you can give it a try and if you like it well enough then you don’t have to go to the expense of extra equipment. At least not until you know that you want to stick with sake brewing for a long time.

    Will

  • Russell Kohn
    11:08 am on August 22nd, 2016 30

    Are yanahai and kimoto done at room temp? I thought they just involved natural yeast inoculation (like a lambic), rather than pitching lacto yeast (or sake yeast, respectively). Definitely want to try that, but not on the first brew…

    Current plan is to give be brewjacket a shot and see how it goes – I’ll let you know.

  • Will
    11:23 am on August 22nd, 2016 31

    Yamahai and Kimoto are different from the most common method, Sokujo, in the way the moto is treated. They can all use specific yeast strains or natural inoculation but Yamahai and Kimoto don’t use an addition of lactic acid. For them the lactic acid comes from a natural inoculation (or from the environment without any real help) of various bugs like lactobacillus that produce the lactic acid.

    Thanks,
    Will

  • Russell Kohn
    1:44 pm on September 3rd, 2016 32

    Ever tried brewing with Cold Mountain Koji (http://www.coldmountainmiso.com/coldmount.html)? Any thoughts on how well it would work vs. koji specifically intended for sale brewing?

  • Will
    9:51 am on September 4th, 2016 33

    Sure. In fact this is one of the more common ways to brew sake. Some say they like it better than the koji I carry because it produces less bitter sake. I prefer fresher koji but it is reasonable to use Cold Mountain.

    Thanks,
    Will

  • Russell
    11:58 am on September 4th, 2016 34

    Cool – thanks. I’ve got a store locally that carries Cold Mountain, so I might give that a shot for simplicity.

  • Julius
    9:32 am on October 23rd, 2016 35

    I posted this in the Koji section but I don’t know if that’s viewed very often. While reviewing your directions for making Kome-Koji I noticed that you were using two temperature probes. One for the controller and one to simply monitor the rice ball temp. Why not insert the probe from the controller directly into the Koji rice ball and control ambient temperature from there. Seems like you would have a lower risk of overheating the Koji during the thermal phase. If the Koji produces too much heat it would simply turn off the heat generation and allow the system to cool back down. You can then set the temperature differential to 1 degree since the rice ball mass would offer some hysteresis. When I brew beer I use a thermo-well with my controller probe in the center of the fermentation vessel. Seems like that would be the same as inserting it into the rice ball.

  • Will
    11:27 am on October 24th, 2016 36

    Julius, Hi,
    There are a couple of issues here that make it different from your case:
    1. You want to keep your temperature below a set level and you are controlling a cooling device.
    – I am controlling a heating device and want it to be warm enough but not too hot (there is no cooling device)
    – Turning off the heating device will not prevent it from over heating. In fact the heating device will likely already be off when the koji is climbing to high temperatures.
    2. Employing both heating and cooling devices could come closer to what you are suggesting but the outer koji will have to cool down more than I’d want in order to cool the center of the koji enough. This would stifle koji growth.

    Thanks,
    Will

  • Julius
    9:48 am on October 23rd, 2016 37

    While reading your vary excellent instructions on making Kome-Koji and Sake I noticed the emphasis on not using water with iron in it. I understand why, but now have a question. During the build up phases of Sake production and during the initial production of the Koji I see that the rice must be washed well and soaked. The problem I have is that my water at the house is well water and I don’t know the iron content. I was intending on using distilled water for the soaking/fermenting processes but washing the rice could take a large amount of distilled water. Any suggestions? How critical is it that the washing process be conducted with iron free water?

  • Will
    11:30 am on October 24th, 2016 38

    Julius,

    I’m not sure about this. My guess would be that you can wash with your water and then rinse and soak with iron free water.

    Thanks,
    Will

  • Julius
    12:54 pm on October 24th, 2016 39

    I understand your concern about maintaining an inner and outer rice mass temp. I do have provisions to both cool and warm the mass in my incubation chamber but your points are well taken.

    Seems to me that, rather then balling up the koji rice in the incubator, it would be better to spread the rice out into a thinner form in order to maintain a more consistent temperature through out the mass. I’ve seen where many kura implement a furrow system when making koji then covering the furrowed koji layer with cloth. They probe the deeper area of the furrow with a temp probe and chart the temperature from there for data collection. Any method of maintaining a large ball mass seems to be more problematic since the outer and inner temps would differ by quite a margin. Furrowing might cut down on the thermal runaway issues and allow more resting time between mixings.

    Sorry if I’m over thinking this but it’s my nature. I was a design engineer by trade and like to create automation projects as a hobby now. I’ve automated my brewery, my stir plate and my wife’s cheese press. Seems like Sake making opens me up to so many uncharted areas to continue my passion.;)

  • Will
    1:33 pm on October 24th, 2016 40

    Julius,

    If you have the time and inclination to experiment a bit, there is nothing to loose, go for it. In all commercial cases that I know of koji making takes place first as a wrapped component and later more spread out. If you experiment with this, we’d love to hear what you find. And if you are so inclined as to want to write an article on your experience, I’ll post it in the articles section.

    Thanks,
    Will

  • Julius
    2:11 pm on October 24th, 2016 41

    I see that you’re right. The first 24 hours it’s balled and then the ball is broken up and spread out. Looks like a little experimentation is in order. I’ll let you know what I come up with. Thanks for your help.

  • Ken
    1:04 am on November 3rd, 2016 42

    Hey Will hope all is well. Studying Japanese several hours a day – the entire staff! – so we’ve been busy.Tye cooler weathern at least nextweek will allow us to startbv makiing sake.

    A few questions?
    What size cheese press and made of what material do you recommend? Because we also make cheese maybe a fancier stainless steel one? A used one?

    We have the rice and koji chillled that you sent a while back. Was that for 10 pounds rice? It’s gonna take a while to find receipts and the scaled. Sure looks like a lot more than 10 pounds rice though!

    Thanks
    Ken, Ann, Denis, Paco!
    culturesgroup@earthlink.net

  • Will
    12:13 pm on November 7th, 2016 43

    For pressing you can use any type of cheese press you like as long as you can collect the runnings; that’s the more important part. I just squeeze it in a nylon bag.

    The rice bags are at least 10lbs but some times they run heavy.

    Good luck!
    Will

  • Will
    12:18 pm on November 7th, 2016 44

    Oh, I forgot to mention. There is a book “Fluent Forever” that talks about learning languages; the auther has a web site (https://fluent-forever.com) with products (Anki decks) for learning languages including Japanese. It looks like it could be helpful. If you try it, please let us know if it is helpful.

    Thanks,
    Will

  • Ken
    8:57 pm on November 7th, 2016 45

    Thanks Will! I’ll let you know about (https://fluent-forever.com) how that turns out.

  • Julius
    1:26 pm on November 28th, 2016 46

    Will,

    You might want to update your home page. The product prices don’t match the ones in the store.

  • Will
    5:23 pm on November 28th, 2016 47

    Your the second person to point this out.
    Thanks,
    Will

  • Julius
    7:49 am on November 29th, 2016 48

    Ya, the first time I decided to purchase some supplies from you I noticed the price difference. At the time it felt a little deceiving. I still purchased but didn’t like the different prices. I’ve purchased from you again since. Some may not, so I’d change that as soon as you can. I have checked around and found your pricing to be quite fair. Keep up the good work.

    Julius

  • Julius
    7:57 am on November 29th, 2016 49

    I see that you just removed the prices from the home page. That’s a good solution since it consolidates all the pricing at the store page. Thanks.

  • Julius
    12:47 pm on December 13th, 2016 50

    Found this nice little Japanese web site from the Sake and Shochu Association that has a very nice flow chart and some small detail on the process of making Kome-Koji and Sake.

    https://www.japansake.or.jp/sake/english/pdf/no_2.pdf

    There’s also a nice little cultural and process video series (Sake School) of the sake process and culture:

    http://www.japansake.or.jp/sake/english/learn/index.html

    Just thought I’d share.

  • Will
    10:32 am on December 15th, 2016 51

    very nice, thanks for sharing.

  • Julius
    12:17 pm on December 16th, 2016 52

    Will,

    I used my new incubation system over the last couple days and it seemed to work well. Automatic temperature control and stirring incorporated into the design. A little tweaking is needed but it worked for the most part. I decided to allow the growth to continue until all the rice was covered in green. Took approximately 50 hours. Looks like I now have a huge crop of koji-kin. I started with about 4 cups(dry rice).

    Currently I have the green koji-kin rice evenly spread out in a large cookie pan . I covered it with dry paper towels and is now kept at room temp (~73 degrees F). Any recommendations on drying it for storage?

  • Will
    11:58 am on December 19th, 2016 53

    You’re doing the right things with the cookie sheet and paper towels. Leave it there for longer than you feel it needs. Once you can’t stand it any longer, place it in a container but monitor it to make sure that there isn’t excess moisture.

    Will

  • Julius
    2:41 pm on January 4th, 2017 54

    Will,

    What do you think about crushing the spore covered rice and powderizing the whole batch for future use. It might make it easier to sprinkle over the next batch of Kome koji.

  • Will
    12:25 pm on January 8th, 2017 55

    You could do that with no harm. I put mine in a large salt shaker (like used for popcorn at the movies) without any trouble. However if you like putting the spores in a spoon and using that to spread them like I do my purchased koji-kin then grinding would make that easier.
    Will

 

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