Hitting your SMV (Sake Meter Value) – To ameliorate or not

Hitting your SMV (Sake Meter Value) – To ameliorate or not

One question that comes up over and over in sake brewing is how to hit the SMV value desired. Puzzling over this question I asked one of the brewers from Yoshi-no-gawa when the opportunity presented itself. This was well over a year ago now, but what he told me was that they monitored the moromi (main ferment) and when it reached their desired SMV value, it was time for Shibori or Joso, that is time to press the lees from the sake. Using an assaku-ki machine (an accordion like press), often referred to as a yabuta, they are able to remove virtually all of the lees and even the yeast. Because this leaves only trace amounts of the yeast, fermentation is stopped and the SMV value is stabilized.

Very nice! However, if you have seen my videos of the pressing process you may be wondering if something is amiss. Well, yes, something is amiss. My pressing method leaves a large amount of the lees in my sake so there is no way I am removing the yeast. This is true for most homebrewers. There are filters used for brewing that may be able to do what is needed. I have one but have not used it yet. In any case to use it I will have to first press and let settle or fine before filtering because the amount of lees would hopelessly clog the filter if the sake isn’t pretty close to clear. So, for now, I can’t use their method.

Continue reading “Hitting your SMV (Sake Meter Value) – To ameliorate or not”

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; 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.

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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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”

The Main Ferment – Moromi

Discusses the main fermentation stage of the sake brewing process, moromi.

Once san-dan-jikomi is complete and the final addition has been made we enter into moromi. Moromi starts the day after the final addition, which is tomezoe. It lasts until fermentation is almost complete. This can take anywhere from 2 weeks to about a month.

The time needed for moromi is based on both temperature and koji characteristics. In particular the characteristic diastatic power the koji can muster at the moromi temperature.  The yeast work faster at the low temperatures of moromi than do the koji enzymes.

At the end of the moto the alcohol content was anywhere from about 5% to 10%. With the san-dan-jikomi additions the concentration of alcohol was also cut in the same way as the yeast and acid. However, as some yeast has been reproducing some have been producing alcohol. So by the start of moromi we have regained much of the alcohol concentration we had at the end of the moto. Continue reading “The Main Ferment – Moromi”

Sake Brewing in the 19th Century

A quick look at the differences between the sake brewing process of the 19th century and today.

I have been reading a little about brewing in the 19th century and find it to be quite similar to current brewing methods. The current brewing method consists of the following steps:

  • Rice milling
  • Koji production
  • Moto – yeast mash (Any of kimoto, yamahai moto or sokujo moto)
  • Hatsuzoe – first addition
  • Nakazoe – second addition
  • Tomezoe – third addition
  • Moromi – main mash
  • Yodon – stabilization
  • Joso – pressing
  • Hi-ire – pasteurization & bottling Continue reading “Sake Brewing in the 19th Century”