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Arpolis 12-10-2012 11:12 PM

Making Traditional Sake! The difference between it and Rice wine.
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Hello everyone

I am getting the brew bug off my back this week and wanted to make some Sake again. There has been some really awesome threads on rice wine recently and here I wanted to point out some differences between Sake and Rice wine fermentation. I will start with a small intro into some key differences and then will give some step by step pics as I make the Sake from scratch.

First of all it seems that the steps recently outlined in these forums for Rice wine are more from traditional Main land customs specifically from China and surrounding parts. Sake is more of a Japanese style of brewing. Japanese Sake requires 4 ingredients. Rice, Kome-Koji, Water & yeast. Rice wine requires only two main ingredients, Rice and Jiuqu or dried yeast balls as they are commonly called now.

In both recipes they use molds that produce enzymes that break down the starch in the rice into simple sugars to be eaten by the yeast & changed to alcohol.

Rice wine actually uses multiple mold types which are different depending on the region the Jiuqu was made in. These molds produce Alpha Amalyse, Beta Amalyse, protease & lipase for the sachrification process of changing starches to sugar.

The Kome-Koji is rice that only has aspergillus oryzae growing on it usually and it produces mostly Alpha Amalyse and some Beta Amalyse.

The Jiuqu has natural yeasts that grow in it so the mold and yeast are all cultivated in one flour/water brick which is later rolled into balls and sun dried. More modern ways of creating Jiuqu have these flour/water mixes inoculated with sediments off of a successful rice wine so that the yeast and molds cultivated are uniform.

Kome-Koji is kept in a very sterile environment so that there is only one mold and no yeasts grow on the rice. That means that yeast is introduced separately.

Lastly Rice wine requires no real water addition past cooking the rice because the jiuqu does a really great job sachrifying the rice into liquid quickly. Where as Sake does use water but is completed in multiple steps or additions of extra rice and Koji.

Beyond taste and the exact methods of making the two there is not a whole lot of other differences. If you would like to check out making Rice Wine instead of Sake then sheck out the bellow link.

Click here for a really great Rice wine thread

I think I have rambled enough now so lets look at making some Sake!

Well I normally go out and get my Rice, water, yeast and Kome-Koji but this time I thought I would not by the whole Kome-Koji from the oriental market and just make my own from Koji spores sold at my LHBS. So lets start with making the Koji and then I will get into the recipe and process of Sake making. I actually started yesterday at about this time & I will do my best to update daily with new pics.

I went out and purchase "Rice Select Sushi Rice" because it is highly milled Short grain sticky rice that works well for Sake. Only issue is that it is a bit pricy so I use different rice for the main rice additions in Sake but more on that later.

I am planning a 1 gallon batch of Sake to be made in a wide mouthed 1 gallon glass Jar. For this recipe you will need 1 1/3 cups of dried rice to make your Kome-Koji with. The rice must be cooked for the Koji spores to take hold so we need to properly soak the rice first. I placed the Rice in a metal strainer and rinsed until the water ran pretty clear and back into the measuring cup it went with Hot water filling the measuring cup. Here is a pic several minutes into the soaking:

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We are wanting for the volume of the rice to expand by about 33%. For this batch I am just waiting for the volume to hit the 2 cup mark. That took me about 40 minutes of waiting.

It is very important to Steam the rice and not boil it. If you boil it you will get a sticky glob of rice or it will be too crunchy and the Koji will not properly take hold and not produce the enzymes you want causing bad flavors or worse no amalyse produced at all. I do not have a fancy rice steamer but that does not mean I should just give up and boil the rice anyways. Check out my high tech jerry rigged rice steamer!

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I just fill the bottom with water and set a high flame under it with the rice resting in the metal strainer. I also cover the whole thing with 2 paper towels. You do not want a hard lid because the steam will condensate and fall into the rice and it will get over cooked and too sticky. I just need to stir the rice every 10 - 12 minutes to make sure the steam evenly cooks the rice.

The whole steaming pocess takes about 45 - 60 minutes. You know you are done when the rice has changed from a stark white to a pale white almost translucent color. the consistency when done should be firm but not krunchy. If it falls apart in your mouth then it is cooked too much. Eat that rice and try again. These steps can not be done improperly or you will get poor results. During this time you want to do two things.

First get your incubator ready. I use a simple water cooler as the container. You will see here that I have a heating element in there to provide heat. You can use any kind but I have this Flexwatt stuff that I use for other hobby stuff & it works great. On top of the heating element I have a bowel of water. That is to keep the humidity up in the cooler.

There are two mason jars there which will hold up the plastic container that will hold your inoculated Rice. If you find that the humidity still does not hold well then take a damp paper towel and drape that over the rice bowel. The temperature is important so make sure your heating element does not get the cooler too hot and not too cool. The ideal temp is 95*F - 96*F. Koji dies at 113*F and bellow 87*F down to 60*F the Koji produces less and less Amalyse enzyme the cooler it gets but rather other enzymes that do not just break off simple sugars from starches but changes them into other non-fermentable compounds. So too cool and you will get no sachrification/fermentation power from your Kome-Koji.

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To be continued........

Arpolis 12-10-2012 11:56 PM

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OK so at this point you have your incubator ready and warming up and your rice is still cooking. Now you need to get two more things ready for when the rice is done because you want to move quickly.

Get a large metal pan cleaned off or covered in tin foil & stick it in the fridge or freezer. You want it cold so you can rapidly cool off your cooked rice.

Next get your Koji spores ready. You will use 1 1/2 tsp of koji spores and 1/2 tsp of bleached all purpose flower. Mix the two evenly and set aside for your rice.

Once you are happy with the rice spread it over your cooled metal pan. Be carefull because the rice will be super hot. Do not use your hands at first but rather a spoon or butter knife. After about 30 seconds to a minute you should be able to use your hands to turn the rice over and over and cool the rice down to below 85*F.

Now make sure your hands are super clean. Spend at least a good 30 seconds to a minute washing them with anti-bacterial soap.

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Oh and when they call this stuff sticky rice. THEY ARE NOT KIDDING! The rice will permanently attach itself to your skin almost so just do your best. If you loose a little rice because you had to wash your hands to remove the rice then that should be fine. do not worry. See check out one of my hands as I just started turning.

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Now you can take a small spoon or flour sifter and evenly coat the top of the rice.

Again start turning the rice so that the spores are covering the rice more evenly throughout.

Scoop up all the rice and place into your plastic container and get it into your incubator as quickly as you can to prevent any contamination.

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The whole incubation time should take 40 - 50 hours depending on humidity and temps. As the mold grows it will grow out white tendrils that will hold all the rice together and make a hard clump. Because of this you need to turn and break up the rice every 10 - 12 hours. So yes you may find yourself at 3 in the morning turning stinky moldy rice but you have to do it. I have it planned so I can check on it before bed and right before I go to work. I have already turned my rice twice now. I can't seem to get any real good pics of the rice but know someone who has some great pics of the rice changing to Kome-Koji so I will add those pics here to represent my rice unless I see any major differences:


Here is your rice at 10 hours. No real difference. There will be a little clumping and the smell will be there. Some say they get horrible smells but mine is kind of cheesy and funky. The rice will be much more handelable and will not stick as badly so go crazy with the hands and make sure there are no clumps left.


Here we are at the second turning at about 20 - 24 hours in. You will really notice the whole mass being stuck together so get those fingers in and break it up. If you did not notice a smell at first you will now! It is getting pungent and noticeable. Just looking you can not see much but it is there.

Tomorrow after my 4th turning I should be able to update on how to finish and store the koji for Sake making!

saramc 12-11-2012 12:36 AM

Arpolis.....steaming trick to prevent condensation from lid droplets falling on rice is to wrap the lid from bottom up with a tea towel or the like. The towel absorbs any droplets.

Liking the thread.

Arpolis 12-11-2012 01:09 AM

Good trick with the tea towel. I may need to try it with that next time and just see how the rice cooks differently from the way I have done it here. Might have a lower cooking time.

Halbrust 12-11-2012 02:53 PM


Originally Posted by saramc (Post 4669890)
Arpolis.....steaming trick to prevent condensation from lid droplets falling on rice is to wrap the lid from bottom up with a tea towel or the like. The towel absorbs any droplets.

Liking the thread.

I'm probably just being dumb. But what do you mean by "wrap the lid from bottom up"?

sonofgrok 12-11-2012 09:05 PM

Ooooooo. Did I just get burned?

I'll link your thread in my main post if you link mine?

And p.s. you got it dead on. Its more a traditional mainland China method I use. Hence why I called it "traditional rice wine". People are just more familiar with the term "Sake". My in laws actually make "Sato" if you are familiar with that.

Arpolis 12-11-2012 09:40 PM


Originally Posted by sonofgrok (Post 4672856)
Ooooooo. Did I just get burned?

I'll link your thread in my main post if you link mine?

And p.s. you got it dead on. Its more a traditional mainland China method I use. Hence why I called it "traditional rice wine". People are just more familiar with the term "Sake". My in laws actually make "Sato" if you are familiar with that.

Burned? Oh no! I really enjoyed your thread & it really interested me in the comments of everyones end product. Personally I think I like the general process of brewing your rice wine better than the complicated Sake. But I got into brewing for the history and tradition of brewing stuff. So everything is great as long as it has a story to it.

I'll go ahead and add an addendem to my main post and link your thread.

I have only heard of Sato but never read up on it much or tried any. All I know is that it is a Thai Rice wine.

sonofgrok 12-11-2012 09:47 PM

Just giving you a hard time. Someone in another thread tweaked my nipple the wrong way. I added your link as well. Looking forward to the results!

neosapien 12-11-2012 09:48 PM

This is awesome! please continue updating this thread. I'm incredibly curious about trying this myself.

Arpolis 12-11-2012 11:02 PM

OK I checked out the Kome-Koji before work this morning at the god awful time of about 3 in the morning and checked it again just recently. Here are some pics of what the 30 & 40 hour-ish marks should look:


Here is the 30 hour mark. At this point the rice is really sticking together. There is white fuzzy stuff starting to grow in patches all over. If you notice anything other than white or slightly yellow then throw it away. Especially if it is green, black or brown. Mine was a litty soupier than the pic because I think the humidity got a little too high. I removed the damp paper towel in there and took a clean towel from the clean laundry and wiped the condensation from the insides of the incubator. I also removed the water bowel at this time. If I had more than 10 hours to go then I would not have removed the water bowel. If it gets too dry for too long then the mold goes into spore production which you do not want. But another 10 hours would not hurt & I did want the rice a little drier so it handles more easily.


This is the finished Kome-Koji. You should notice fuzzy white all over and there should be some liquid starting to pool at the bottom. That stuff should be pure Glucose. Give a piece of rice a taste at this point. It should be super sweet with a slight nutty flavor in the back. It reminds me of a watered down Anise seed extract.

At this point I take all the Kome-Koji and add it to a ziplock bag while removing as much air as I can. Now I am going to weigh the bag and get it's weight in grams. My batch came in at 584 grams. To store the Kome-Koji you can place in the coldest part of the fridge for a maximum of 3 - 4 weeks if needed befor it breaks down the rice too much and use up all the enzymes. You can freeze it like this for 3 months befor the freezer starts giving the stuff funky flavors. If you want to keep it longer you need a cold air dehydrator to repidly dehydrate the stuff then that can keep frozen for a year at most.

Now on to making the Sake!

First lets talk about the recipe.

Traditional Sake is made up of the 3 main ingredients Kome-Koji:Rice:Water & should always be at the ratio of 25:100:160. So depending on the amount of Rice you use you want 25% Kome-Koji and 160% Water. My recipe was scaled down to some odd numbers & are not exact but I am using:

1 1/3 cup Kome-Koji
5 cups Rice
8 cups water

For my rice I am going to use the Sushi Rice for my Moto step (See later) and then will use Botan Calrose Rice for the rest of the steps. It is a medium milled short grain rice that work well for Sake and is much less expensive.

You will find a lot of traditional recipes also using Epsom salt and Mortons salt substitute. That is usually if you are using a highly filtered water or RO water. I will be using spring Fiji water and plan on using a tiny portion of DAP. "1/8th tsp."

If you talk to your LHBS they will tell you to use Citric acid in your Sake recipe. Please do not do that. If you do this stuff will get real sour and not that pleasant. Just make sure to follow instructions here and you will have a great drink without that Citric acid.

The steps for making Sake will be broken up into 4 steps lasting about 30 days. Each step doubles the volume of rice each time. The math can get tricky when trying to figure up how much rice, kome-koji & water to use for each step. That is why I measured my Kome-koji in grams earlier.

Also weigh your Rice and Water in grams as well now. My 5 cups of rice came to 1185g in dry rice weight. My 8 cups of water came to 1936g.

You can figure your additions by grams easily. Just apply the following percentages to the total weight in grams to get how much you need for each step.


So now that we have all this data & spent the time to make the Kome-Koji from scratch we can finally go onto making the Sake. Following me so far? Fun in a complicated head hurting way huh :cross:

First we make our Moto or Starter mash.

Lets multiply the 6.666% to the dry rice weight to get the amount of Rice needed and prepare this like we did the Koji rice at first. "Rinse, Soak & steam". Traditionally you use super cold water or Ice water and place the rice in the fridge the night before and let it soak overnight for 12 hours or so. I am feeling lazy right now and will just soak the rice in warm water for 30min to an hour to get that magical 33% growth in volume we want.

I am cooking the rice now so will update more once that is done.

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