I swore I would never dare make my own Sake. I'm fond of saying, "I have too much respect for Sake to brew it myself. So how did this happen? More importantly: How does it taste?!?
For context, it's worth mentioning that I have home brewed craft beer for close to 10 years, now work as a professional brewer, and have a friend who is making his own Sake professionally at Nova Brewing Co. in Covina, L.A. County. (In his case, he also interned at an outstanding Sake brewery in Japan.)
I was invited to a private, online Sake Group. It turned out this invitation included detailed instructions for something called "The August New Moon Sake Brew". Intrigued by the name, I read on and realized this was absolutely something I could manage at home.
Most Sake is made from rice strains specifically for brewing. This is where my Sake knowledge came in handy. I knew that one strain of table rice (for eating) is also used in some Sake: Koshihikari (pronounced "Co.-She-He-Car E", but think "Kosher Hickory" if that helps you remember). So I bought a nice, big bag of it and raced home to ... wait a week!
Instructions were for a wild fermented Sake, using an ancient method called Bodai-Moto - basically the sourdough starter version of Sake-making. After waiting that week, the water had become nice and acidic. I removed the uncooked rice, steamed it, cooled it, and reintroduced it to the water, mixed with re-hydrated, store-bought, Koji rice.
What followed was several days of aggressive fermentation. From my bedroom I could hear the jar of rice, Koji, wild yeast, and water bubbling away in the kitchen! After a couple weeks of daily mashing and stirring (a step called Yama-Oroshi), the mixture became almost completely liquid. Tasting it, there was a pleasant balance of creamy rice sweetness and dry, acidic alcohol.
My next step was to strain it. Pouring the the whole thing into a nut-milk bag, I got a tiny amount of yellowish, somewhat-transparent sake out. This tasted very rich in Umami and slightly citrus, like lime, but the rest of the Sake was too thick, so I had to switch to a cheesecloth.
Unlike every step prior, straining was hugely difficult, messy, and required constant squeezing and re-adjusting. My resulting Nigori (cloudy) sake tastes good, but would have needed much longer to breakdown and a specialized press to ever become a beautifully clear bottle of Sake.
I am left with a small amount of interesting and honestly pretty tasty, home-brewed Sake, an understanding of how difficult the pressing process for real Sake-makers has been historically, and immense, renewed respect for the beverage I love to buy and effortlessly enjoy.
Fruit of My Labor
Ultimately, the process took close to a month, and I achieved 40 ounces of Nigori Sake and a small jar of Sake Kasu - the leftover rice pulp from Sake making - which I look forward to using as an ingredient in baking!
I hope you enjoyed reading about this experience. Did it leave you wanting more? Or want to skip the learning and go straight to tasting Sake? SAKE SECRET can help:
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Until next time,