This week just a bit of babble

This week just a bit of babble

I want to apologize for missing my last post and not having something more topical for this post. I have lots going on so I have not been able to live up to my schedule. I was trying to complete my book: Brewing Sake – Release the Toji Within by the end of 2011while at the same time changing jobs. I didn’t make any of this work as planned.

I did get the book to the proof stage and am working through the proofs now. It is so exciting to see the proof. They are just a very limited printing of the book itself. Seeing the cover I designed and that I worked on with my son on an actual book is just about hart stopping. It took me over a day of adding little post-it notes in the book for things that needed to be corrected before I could bring myself to actually just write in the book. It is meant to be a proof right? It is meant to be marked up. Anyway, it should not be long now before I have completed it and it is available for sale.

I have a few ideas for future topics but they are not ready yet. One of the topics is sake oxidation. Many beer brewers that begin to brew sake are very concerned about oxidation and how to avoid it. However, many of the practices for making sake seem to actually encourage oxidation. This juxtaposition of concern and flagrant abuse confuse many brewers and so, warrant some discussion.

Another topic is the use of charcoal filtering. I need to do lots of work on this one but I have heard that there are 6 to 9 different types of charcoal that can be used to get specific types of results.

I am working on more information on special types of koji for making very high grade sake; that is the daiginjo. I have written about this before but need to firm up some of the details. Writing this last statement reminds me that sake brewing is done very differently by different people. One will insist on the need to stir the koji to break it up and get air to the koji while another, just as good brewer, will leave the koji in a single undisturbed bundle until done; creating one big clump that has completely grown together.

Another topic that I have worked on, off and on, but have not cracked yet is the different ways that sake brewing changes with different types of water; that is soft vs. hard water. The old stories of about how water differs across japan and how regions went from having, at best, so-so sake to having really good sake all hangs on learning how to brew with soft water. As this knowledge spread so did the number of areas with good sake. Despite this, it has been very hard to get the specifics of the differences. Well, I am pushing on this area again and believe that I will make more progress this time.

What would you like to know more about? Is there something you would like me to cover? Are you interested in writing a guest article? A little while ago Elise Gee provided an outstanding article. What is on your mind?

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7 thoughts on “This week just a bit of babble”

  1. Will, my toji tells me that there are at least 20 different types of carbon that can be used for filtration, and depending on what the final taste profile the toji is aiming for or to account for how a sake tastes earlier in the process, the toji can then make choices on which of the 20 types of carbon to use as a way to adjust the final taste profile…mind. blown.

    1. Gordon, wow that is a lot of types of carbon. I wonder what the mapping from carbon types to taste/aroma effects is, how the types of carbon differ and why they pull different aspects from the sake. A very interesting area…


  2. Hey Will,

    Awesome! I did not know that you were in the progress of writing a book, but it is such a relief for me that soon there will be an up-to-date book for sale on the market. Where is the preorder button? 🙂

    This should also make the report I have to write by june on the sake project I am about to make so much easier as I can refer to your book on the more history based parts. I expect that you will include those as well?

    Do you have a table of contents as of yet? Will be nice to see what can be expected.

    I found this paper written about Sake from 1881 or something, which is titled “Chemistry of Sake” as far as I can recall. A large part of it was descriptions of him visiting some high profile sake breweries and describing their methods. Is this something that will be included in the book?

    But most of all I think a demystification of the additions added throughout the production of Sake would be a welcome section 🙂

    Claes Nilsson

    1. Claes,

      I list a tiny bit of history but the majority is restricted to brewing. Actually, in the beginning I planned to have a chapter on the history but this was growing rapidly; so I decided to not include it (there are several posts though). That was pretty early on, now, as I am trying to finish it I have had to remove several items that I would have liked to include. Including them though, would have meant, maybe, another year.

      I have not included the material in the 1880s paper you are referring to.

      If enough people like the book I may do another book or a second edition with the parts that I have had to leave out of this book. Anyway, I think this one should be available within a month or two.

      Thanks and here is the Table of Contents:

      Table of Contents
      Introduction 1
      How Saké is Brewed 5
      Brewing Equipment 11
      Quick Start Saké Brewing 23
      Rice – Kome (米) 37
      Koji (麹) 47
      Yeast – Kobo (酵母) 57
      Water – Mizu (水) 65
      Nihonshu-do (日本酒度) or Saké Meter Value (SMV) 71
      Sando ( 酸度 ) – Acidity 77
      Amino Sando (アミノ酸度 ) – Amino Acid 79
      Protecting your Homebrew Saké from light 81
      Sanitation 85
      Seimai (精米) or Rice Milling / Polishing 89
      Rice Preparation 101
      Koji Making 105
      The Moto 111
      The Buildup – San-Dan-Jikomi (三段仕込み) 135
      The Main Ferment – Moromi (諸味) 145
      So you like the Honjozo (本醸造) 151
      Time for Shibori ( 搾り ) 157
      Final Steps in Saké Brewing 161
      Measuring Your Homebrew Saké 163
      Spoilers and Trouble Shooting 189
      Glossary 191
      Links and Contacts 209

  3. Thanks Will. Really interested in what you have to say about making a mill!

    Another thought: I read someplace that the Japanese are also growing rice for sake Hydroponically. Something like that might provide a cheaper option for aqcuiring those other strains of rice in quantity.

  4. Hi Will,

    I’m a fan of your site from a while back. I believe I even bought Fred Eckhardt’s book after reading about it on your site.

    I’m very interested in what you might have to say about the soft/hard water issue, as well as any other water qualities. I’ve read a couple of John Gauntner’s books, and he mentioned one region in particular (which I can’t remember right now) in Japan famous for great water for sake, and I believe he said that Montana had water with the same qualities.

    I’m also curious about the fesability of aquiring various strains of sake rice from Japan. Related to that would be the question of highly milled rice.

    Also, again from Gauntner’s book, he describes a sake brewery that does a slow drip straining for their daiginjo. I’m guessing that is related to what you are talking about regarding oxidation.

    Finally, (and forgive me if you’ve weighed in on any of these subjects before, I haven’t had a chance to fully catch up on some of the articles I’ve missed), it’s seems, if what I’ve read is to be believed, that the sake industry is more and more heading toward producing sake that is meant to be served cold to enjoy all of the finer flavours, which I can appreciate, but I really enjoy warm to hot sake – is anyone pioneering sakes that are better suited to heat? Do you have any insight?


    -Trevor from Montreal

    1. Trevor,

      Thanks. It really helps to see what people are interested in.

      There is a possibility of getting strains of good sake rice but it would have a high price. Higher than it seems people are currently willing to pay. This may change as more people get into sake brewing. As for the milling rate, we have a similar issue with price. I did a couple articles around the TwinBrid personal milling machine that can be used if you want it bad enough. However, based on the TwinBird I believe we can make a reasonable mill that will handle about a batch of rice all at once. If I make such a thing, I will do an article on it.

      Warmed vs. chilled sake, this is good. I did an article on this. In part the emphasis on chilling good sake by the experts is an attempt by the experts to keep the message simple for beginner sake drinkers. A warmed sake can be very nice. One guy that really appreciates warm sake and covers it regularly is: Check him out!

      Thanks again. 🙂

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