Sake Pressing: what method to use?

Sake Pressing: what method to use?

Recently one of the youtube channels I follow, SakaguraKaetsu’s channel, has had a few short videos on pressing. Specifically, they have a couple on filling a fune (P1020493.MOV, P1020548.MOV) and a couple showing the Fukurozuri – 袋吊り- drip process (P1020495.MOV, P1020553.MOV). Watching the great care taken to fill the bags with moromi is really impressive. They leave no wrinkles at all in the bags as they lay down one bag at a time; again, very impressive and labor intensive.

As an aside, SakaguraKaetsu’s channel has hundreds of short videos on just about every aspect of the brewing process. Some are very good while others are not, but all in all, their willingness to take these videos and make them available is a huge service to the community.  Back to the topic at hand…

When it comes to pressing, if you want to get the absolute best sake out of a batch you should use the fukurozuri method to produce Shizukazake – 雫酒 – or Shizuku – 雫 – for short. This method is very simple, just fill a bag with the fermenting moromi, tie it up so that it hangs above a collector for the dripping sake and let it drip. The resultant sake, slightly greenish yellow is by no means clear. Time will clear much of this as suspended matter precipitates out of solution. Sake, separated from the kasu (lees) in this manor is the best it can be!

The use of the fune – 槽 – is more common than the use of the fukurozuri method. It was once the main method used for pressing the moromi, shibori – 搾り- but has now been mostly replaced by the Assaku-ki. Fune pressed sake is second to shizuku in quality. It is close though and extracts much more of the sake than can be collected using the drip method. The first extracts of the fune, shown at the end of the second video, is very similar in color and clarity to what is produced in the fukurozuri method. However, what we are looking at in this case is sake only under the weight of other bags of moromi. Eventually a lid will be placed on the fune with a tremendous force used to press down on the lid and squeeze the sake from the kasu.

Joso -上槽 – the more formal name for shibori, is now most commonly done using an assaku-ki -圧搾 機 – press. The most well-known producer of assaku-ki is Yabuta. This method is far more efficient in pressing the sake from the kasu than these other two methods but still maintains a reasonably high degree of quality. There is almost nothing to see when a Yabuta is in use but I did find one video of an active Yabuta and one with the kasu being removed (Yabuta in action, P1000134.MOV). The reason there is nothing to see is because of the way the Yabuta works. It uses air pressure to squeeze the kasu, forcing the sake out through the mesh. The loud noise is the air compressor. Yabuta’s chart on the functioning of their machine is quite informative. For the most part, a pocket between two filters is filled with moromi and a bladder is then filled with air to force the sake from the lees. With the sake removed, the kasu is scraped off the filter and the process is repeated until all the moromi has been processed.

Homebrewers are unlikely to have an assaku-ki available for their use but the other two methods, modified for scale are well within reach. The fact that these methods tend to produce better sake does not hurt either. The only down side is the lower efficiency but in small batch production quality over efficiency is usually a good trade-off.

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16 thoughts on “Sake Pressing: what method to use?”

  1. Has anyone tried a vertical bladder press? I’ve got a 450L press, seems like it would work, but wondered if anyone has tried it before I go filling it up and disaster strikes

  2. Hi

    Just read our article with great interest. Thank you for sharing.
    I do small batches of 30-100l Sake and use a very handmade press technic. Does anyone know if there is a machine for small batches?


  3. Does anyone know how many tons of pressure is put on the Sakabukuro bags in the press? I am building a press from a shop press and I want to weld on an electric hydrolic and trying to size it up.

    1. Jay, Hi,
      I don’t know the answer to this. I think it varies quite a bit in that I’ve seen large trees used for the lever in some and much smaller items in others.

      Just one example is in the middle picture on the bottom of the Den Sake home page: It has, what looks to me to be, a 4×10″ by maybe 15 feet lever with a barrel as a weight to compress the bags. Using a bit of physics and some estimates from this picture you may be able to get one estimate of what is being done. This is smaller than some I have seen and larger than others.

      Let us know what you end up doing.

  4. Thanks Will! One last thing: I’ve been trying to contact you with a question related to a recent order from your store, but emails to “will@…” and “store@…” have been bouncing back. Could you please contact me at uri(at) portablechefnyc dot com (no spaces) at your convenience?

  5. It is common to add it to soups and stews. I have seen a cheesecake recipe using it. It is sold in Japan for cooking. Beyond these, let your imagination guide you. 🙂


  6. Thanks Will!

    Is there anything to be done with the stuff that gets strained? I know the lees from secondary fermentation have a lot of great uses, but anything from the moromi in the bags after pressing?

  7. Hi Will and Erik!

    Will, thank you so much for this great website. I’m on my first batch now and can’t wait!

    Erik: good question! I was wondering a step further – Will or Erik, is there a specific bag that worked well for the fukurozuri method? I was thinking about nut milk bags like these:

    Would those work? Or is there a better option?


  8. Hi, Just checking back in and letting you know what i’m up too. I was looking for a good way to ‘press’ out the lees. What I think I did wrong the first batch was I tried to ring out the nylon bag (gently) But this caused a lot of the rice to squeeze through the bag. After watching a few videos of Japanese breweries that hang their fine sake in bags and let gravity do the work I tried something different. The second batch I transferred to the coarse nylon bag but instead of squeezing it I made a second lid for my 6.5 gallon bucket with a 1 inch hole in it. Tied the bag off with a piece of butchers twine and put the unused top of the bag through the hole. I then used a bamboo spatula and wound the top of the bag around the handle suspending the entire ferment above the bottom of the bucket. A couple of days later a have very nice gently cloudy sake that I then can decant and further refine. I use a chest freezer for my ferment so I can keep the whole process under control. We’ll see how it works out on the next batch.

    1. Very nice Erik. The drip method you have chosen is said to make the very best sake. Thinking about it makes my mouth water :-).

  9. Does anyone know what the pressing bags are made of? The nylon ones used in home wine making seem much too coarse even for the fine ones.(I have a lot of fine lees that is not falling out) I was looking for a good alternative. Was thinking of muslin.

  10. I referred to this page just now to explain how the shibori works, even though the shibori is working right now about 40 meters behind me, I find you have a gift in making many things about sake so easil
    y understood. Kanpai!

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