Sake is a brewed alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice but few people know how it is actually made. Fermentation is a process where yeast converts sugar into alcohol. Since rice does not contain any sugar, it cannot be fermented as is. It has to first be converted into sugar with the help of enzymes found in a particular mold called koji-kin. The resulting koji is then added to yeast known as kobo and left to ferment. From this labor intensive process we get sake.
Polishing hulled rice, the main ingredient. As it passes through specialised polisher, the proteins and bran that can produce off flavours in sake are removed.
Washing, steeping and steaming. The polished rice is washed in water to remove the bran and is left to steep in water. When the grain has absorbed 30% of its weight in water it is steamed. One batch of steamed rice may be used to make koji, yeast starter, and to feed the moromi mash.
1. Koji 2. Shubo 3. Moromi
Spores of the aspergillus oryzae mold ( koji-kin) are added to the steamed rice, which is then incubated to produce koji. the koji is added to the yeast starter and the moroni mash to help convert the rice to starch into glucose.
This is made by mixing steamed rice, water, koji, and yeast. It contains large amounts of yeast, which promotes the moromi fermentation process.
Preparing the moroni
Koji, steamed rice, and water are added to the shut and then left to ferment. [ Sandan Shikomi]. Here ( during the moroni preparation stage), a process unique to Japanese sake brewing takes place. It is a three-step fermentation process known as sandman shikomi. On the first day, koji, steamed rice, and water are added to the yeast starter ( this addition is called hatsuzoe). the mixture is left to stand on the following day to allow the yeast to slowly multiply( this step is called odori). On the third day, the second batch of koji, steamed rice, and water is added to the mixture( this addition is called nakazoe). Then finally on the fourth day, the third batch is added to the mixture( this addition is called tomezoe) to complete the three-part process.
[ Multiple parallel fermentation] From this point, the koji will convert the starch in the rice into glucose, which the yeast will then use to create alcohol and carbon dioxide. The conversion of starch to sugar and sugar to alcohol takes place in parallel all in the same tank. This is known as "multiple parallel fermentation," and is a process that is entirely unique to sake.
Once the moroni is completely fermented, it is passed through a press to separate out the sake lees. the sake is then filtered, pasteurised, and played in cold storage where it matures before being bottled.