This article talks about how to adjust you sake brewing water for better sake.
The question I will address this week is one related to water and how to convert the water we have to the water we want. Let’s assume we want to brew our sake with water that is equivalent to Miyamizu, the heavenly water from Nada. For this example the water we will start with is from the Bull Run Reservoir.
Water is the main ingredient in all sake but it usually gets the least attention. Despite getting the least attention, water is important and does play a huge role in the quality of sake. The story that is told to demonstrate this fact is told so often that it has become like a legend.
The legend (no, the real story): Back near the end of the Edo period, 1840, Yamamura Tazaemon owned two breweries. One in Nishinomiya and the other in Uozaki. Tazaemon-san noticed that the sake made at Nishinomiya was always better than that made at Uosaki.
His two breweries were part of the Nada Go-go region or the five sake-brewing towns of Nada. The five districts lie in a line on the coast running west to east: Mishi, Mikage and Uozaki lie in Kobe while Nishinomiya and Imazu lie in Nishinomiya.1 The Nada Go-go region made its fame shipping sake to Edo (Tokyo) by ship, a 20 day voyage. The five districts of Nada produced a little more than 25% of Japan’s sake in 2003. But I digress.
Sake has four basic ingredients: rice, koji, yeast and water. Each play an important part in producing the taste, aroma and appearance. Each are discussed and how they come together to form the sake we love.
Sake is made with four ingredients: rice, koji, yeast and water. All, except the koji, are familiar to most people. Koji is a mold culture grown on rice in the case of Sake. The mold is Aspergillus oryzae. It forms a white fluffy coating over the rice and excretes alpha-amylase which converts the rice starch into sugar. This is the primary function of koji in brewing sake; to provide enough alpha-amylase to convert most of the starch provided by the rice to sugar. Other compounds produced by the koji contribute to the final taste.
Once the koji converts the starches from the rice to sugar, yeast converts the sugars to alcohol. Beyond this major contribution the yeast also produces other compounds that contribute to the final taste and aroma of the sake. These two processes, conversion of starch to sugar and conversion of sugar to alcohol, proceed at the same time which allows the yeast to produce higher levels of alcohol than is the case in beer and wine. This is not to say that beers and wines can not ferment to the high levels that sake does but that special processes, outside the norm are needed to obtain the same high level normally reached with sake. Continue reading “Sake basic ingredients”