Very Simple, Very Good, & Very Stripped Down Method for Brewing Sake

alcohol, Homegrown Grains, mold

Inspired by the sparse intervention of the natural winemakers, here is a method to make sake doing the very bare minimum method and to have ready to drink sake in ready about 3 weeks.

The goal of this sake brew was to get acquainted. The bare-bones steps I took were aimed at building an understanding of what the processes do and where it feels necessary to expand on the technique.

All the recipes I could track down never provided a method that felt natural enough. So instead I researched accounts of traditional makers and pieced a basic outline together.

The recipe I came up with went as follows:

  1. 2# koji rice mixed with 2# steamed rice.
  2. Topped with water. (I wasn’t too particular about measuring the water as that will mostly affect the abv, I just added enough to make the mixture… liquidy.)
  3. Stirred ~2x daily. Fermentation at 65 degrees took about two weeks.
  4. Once the activity dramatically fell off I strained the solids out.

That’s pretty much it.

The solid mass that would settle on the surface in need of knocking down.

The mixture was left in a 65° room the entire time. It took about 5 days for the fermentation to seem settle in. At least twice a day I stirred the mixture to break up the solids that built up on the surface (similar to wine punch-downs) and incorporate anything resting on the bottom and to break up the anything that might want to start growing there.

The spontaneous fermentation in full swing (but only 3/4 moon)

Once the fermentation got boiling it was another two weeks before it started settling down.

Near completed fermentation, the solids no longer build up on the surface overnight.

After that it was strained off the solids. And I racked once at day or two later.

The final flavor was good. It had a custardy- like aroma and a wonderful amber color. The flavor was fruity, earthy, and a tad fungal*.

note the Topo Chico bottles have a green tint

Some observations:

  • *The koji I used was some old leftover stuff I had stashed in the fridge. Considering this is basically the ingredient of sake, it made sense that the sake flavor greatly reflected the original koji aroma. It’s a good thing to consider when growing out your koji- treat it with the same love as if it were a grape cluster on the vine.
  • The rice I used was unremarkable and it showed in the final product. This however was a preliminary test for making sake using my farm’s grains.
  • I forwent an essential step of making a starter. This starter is a mixture of koji, steamed rice, and water at a porridge consistency is mixed several times a day and held at refrigerator temperatures for a couple weeks according to the Kimoto Method. This is to encourage Lactic Acid Bacteria and other desirable microbes to get a jump start on its unwanted competition. I decided to skip this step because I preferred to get acquainted with those microbes to make up my own mind about them.

Overall I liked how weird and interesting it turned out. I’ll probably let it go to vinegar for cooking but am now armed with understanding that I want to

1. Grow out my koji more deliberately and

2. Use the cold starter step to examine the potential corralling flavors more deliberately.

The fuller method for making sake that includes Shubo preparation (the starter) and Moromi (which is a 3 stage addition of new rice/ water to the mash at the beginning of fermentation over the course of 4 days), will be described in detail in another post shortly.

But overall the basic, streamlined steps are effective and I’m looking forward to comparing the results.