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Sake the Real Story

Hello Chef Fan’s! This week is the second to last week of Mod 5 and that means that it is final projects and papers week! Oh what fun right? Wrong! It’s not that the homework load is overwhelming it is just that you have to keep on top of it and that means taking a lot of time out of your day to do homework. Another way to look at it is “Oh welcome to your senior year”

The true culmination of my International Cuisine class is to present a research topic that we picked out in the begging of class 3 months ago, and present a full class lesson plan complete with history, assigned reading, questions from that reading, key terms, a recipe, a presentation power point, and a recipe/ presentation of a dish that goes along with your lesson. Many people choose to do many different things. However because me and Japan have a close friendship I wanted to do something on a beverage in Japan. Sake was that beverage, and so what fallows is my lesson plan and research about Sake. For the people that don’t want to scroll down and read it all here you can download the word document  Sake Lesson Plan and you will have everything else. There is even a link to the power point in the lesson plan listed under the Learning/ Teaching Activities section. For everyone else who wants to keep reading Enjoy!…

International Flavors

Sake Lesson Plan

Grant C. Klover

Lesson Topic

Sake, its history, traditions, and how to make it.


Lesson Rationale

A focused study of Sake and its history in Japan, its uses in everyday life and in religious ceremonies. By learning about sake we will gain a better understanding of the history and traditions of the Japanese. By looking at the importance of how to serve and taste sake students will gain a better understanding of the characteristics of modern day sake. Students will taste sake and use provided information about the taste characteristics of sake to participate in a sake tasting.



Elements of Evidence



Questionnaires/JournalsCuisine TemplatesDaily Production/Discussion


Desired Results


Students will be able to:

  • Define Key Terms
  • Talk about the different taste and characteristics of sake
  • Identify steps of making sake
  • Indentify equipment used in making sake

Students will have a better understanding of:

  • Participate in discussions about the history of sake
  • Elaborate on characteristics of styles of sake
  • Key Terms










 Time:  15-20 min. total       

  1. Entry Point:
  •  How many people have tried Sake


  1. Sequence of Activities:
  • View Power Point
  • Interactive Q and A during Power Point
  • Students take notes using Power Point outline
  • Provide examples of characteristics of Sake. Ask students for examples of taste and flavor
  • Review the Sake Tasting notes,  providing examples for each category
  • Elaborate on the importance of Sake on the culture

3.   Closure and Connection:

Students will use this lesson to “assist” them in completing readings and a questionnaire about Sake, along as take part in a Sake tasting.



Materials Needed



Video: How to make sake part 1, How to make sake part 2, Sake making,9 Sake drinking cups (for Tasting)LCD screen


Power Point

Power Point Outline

Key Terms:

  1. Short Grain Rice – Here in the U.S.A. this variety is often called “pearl” or “California pearl.”
  1. Koji- Koji is steamed rice that has had koji-kin, or koji mold spores, cultivated onto it. (See photo at right, which is a grain of rice cultivated with koji mold.) This magical mold, for which the official scientific name is Aspergillus Oryzae, creates several enzymes as it propagates, and these are what break the starches in rice into sugars that can be fermented by the yeast cells, which then give off carbon dioxide and alcohol. Without koji, there is no sake. For what it is worth, sake is not the only beverage in the world using koji. There are a couple of others throughout Asia. But the brewing methodologies are vastly different.
  1. Sake #7- This yeast is the most commonly used strain in Japan (and probably the world), being the preferred yeast for non-premium sakes. It’s a clean fermenter that produces very little in the way of esters and fusel alcohols at normal sake fermentation temperatures. This strain is now available to homebrewers year-round from White Labs as WLP705.
  1. Sake #9- This yeast is popular with producers of ginjo grade sakes. First discovered in 1953 by the Kumamoto Prefectural Sake Research Center (the brewers of Koro sake), it is often referred to by the nickname “Kumamoto Kobo” in honor of its discoverers. This strain produces fragrant and fruity aroma (it reminds me of strawberries and vanilla) and mild level of acidity. This is the strain that is available to homebrewers as Wyeast WY3134 “Sake #9”.
  1. Sake #701 & #901- The “01” in these yeast numbers denotes “foamless” variants of the #7 and #9 strains described above.
  1. Moto ()- What the first 14 days of making sake are called. This is the first step in the sake making process and key to creating the starter of sake.
  2. “Multiple Parallel Fermentation”– Sake making is distinguished from other brewing methods by its use of a process called “multiple parallel fermentation”. In making an alcoholic beverage from grains, it is necessary to convert grain starch into sugar, and then convert the sugar into alcohol by means of yeast. Sake brewing combines these two steps by a simultaneous conversion that results in Sake having an 18% higher alcohol content than any other fermented drink.
  3. Moromi () and Odori ()- A 26 day timeline for the final stages in making sake. Is broken up in 3 stages of rice and koji to ensure the maximum alcohol content.
  4. Hatsuzoe- The first stage of the Moromi (醪) and Odori (踊) process, also known as the first 1-2nd days
  5. Nakazoe- The second stage of the Moromi (醪) and Odori (踊) process, also known as the 2-3rd days
  6. Tomezie- The thired and final stage of the Moromi (醪) and Odori (踊) process, also known as the 3-4th days.
  7. Muroka (無濾過)-  “Unfiltered” sake – seishu that hasn’t been further clarified by filtration.
  8. Junmai- Rice only; no adding of distilled alcohol; generally a bit heavier and fuller in flavor than other types of sake, with slightly higher acidity; goes well with a wide range of food; in the past, at least 30% of the rice kernel had to be ground away during the brewing process to qualify as a Junmai, but the laws have changed, and Junmai can now be milled at any percentage, as long as the number is listed somewhere on the label.
  9. Honjozo- A tad of distilled alcohol is added; generally lighter than Junmai, and often very nice at room temperature or warmed; at least 30% of rice kernel is ground away during brewing process.
  10. Ginjo- Highly milled rice, with or without added alcohol; the taste is layered and complex, light and fragrant; at least 40% of rice kernel is ground away during brewing process. If no alcohol is added it will be called Junmai Ginjo.
  11. Daiginjo- Even more highly milled rice, again with or without added alcohol; the taste is even lighter and more fragrant and fruity than ginjo sake; at least 50% of rice kernel is ground away during the brewing process. Like Ginjo called Junmai Daiginjo when no alcohol is added.

International Flavors: Asia and the Middle East

Sake Questionnaire

Questions taken from The Book of Sake: A Connoisseur’s Guide. Reader copies are located in the library office

  1. 1.       According to “The Book of Sake” the secret of success with sake is finding the right temperature. What are the four ways the book suggests serving sake?
    1. On the rocks
    2. Chilled to between 40 and 50 degrees
    3. Room temperature, between 60 and 70 degrees
    4. Warm or hot, from 85 to 130 degrees
  1. 2.       What are the five ways of heating sake the book talks about?
    1. The sake machine
    2. The saucepan
    3. The microwave
    4. The kettle
    5. Self heating cups
  1. 3.       When making fugu-fin sake what is the key characteristic and how does it get its smoky flavor?

The toasted fin of a blow fish (fugu) imparts a pleasant smoky flavor. It is very rare to see on sale and is more commonly found in restaurants.

  1. 4.        What do the numbers with a plus (+)or minus (-) symbol after it mean on a sake label?

This is a sake meter value. The higher the figure with a plus symbol denotes dryness and a number with a minus symbol denotes sweetness.

  1. 5.        What do the two dark rings in a sake cup measure?

They allow the tasters to judge the clarity of the brew.

  1. 6.        Sake made with nothing other than rice and water is called what?

Junmaishu, or junmai

  1. 7.        What kind of rice must “special junmai” sake be made with?

Rice polished to 60% or less of its original size

  1. 8.        What is the name for unpasteurized sake?


  1. 9.        What is the Japanese word for sake breweries?


  1. 10.    Describe the difference between eastern and western sake and how the differences came about.

Western Japan is a warmer climate which produces a richer, fuller and earthier flavor. Eastern Japan has a cooler climate which produces lighter, finer sake.

  1. 11.    What are the main stages of brewing?
    1. The treatment of raw materials
    2. The production of koji
    3. The productions of the yeast starter (shubo or moto)
    4. The preparation and fermentation of the main mash (moromi)
    5. Pressing
    6. After-pressing treatment, storage, and shipping
    7. 12.    True or False: the variety of rice used to make sake influences the final flavor much like the grape varietal affects wine?

False, the influence of the final flavor is not dependent on the variety of rice.

Tasting Notes:

1. Fragrance (none to fragrant)

Some sake has a very prominent fragrance, especially a lot of premium daiginjo sake. Embedded in this aromatic package can be fruit fragrances of all kinds, flowers, rice-like  elements, and anything in between. Sometimes it’s gentle and is only there for a few seconds, other times it can be strong and have staying power of a few days.

Others have almost no perceptible smell whatsoever. Quiet, gentle and straightforward, sake like this survives on its flavor and presence alone.

Neither end of this spectrum is inherently better than the other. More often then not, the fragrance of a sake is a function of the style of that particular region, which it tied in to water, rice and cuisine. Basically assume that the result was not by accident, but was precisely what the toji (head brewer) wanted to make. Both styles have their fans and their times and places. The food (or lack thereof), the company and the mood will all contribute to experience.

As will your preferences. Fruity, flowery smelling sake that approaches wine in style can be just what you are looking for. Then again, perhaps wine wannabee sake is not what you are foraging for, and a more settled, rice-like flavor with no distracting floral essences is more down your alley.

2. Impact (quiet to explosive)

This is related to the initial impression of a sake immediately after you taste it. Known as “kuchi-atari” in Japanese, the impact a sake has is affected by many things in its production. The pH of the water, the acid content, alcohol content, rice type, milling rate and specific gravity all have a say.

Some sake is soft and gentle, barely making its presence known. Some awakens you  out of slumber with an acidity or sweetness exploding across your palate. Some spreads flavor into each nook and cranny of your mouth, and other sake makes a narrow and clean beeline for your throat.

Acidity can make a sake spread like wildfire, and alcohol can light up your entire palate -often times overly so (which is why most sake is watered down from the naturally  occurring 19-20 percent alcohol to 15-16%). Softer water won’t give you the crisp slap that hard water will. As both types have their pros and cons, let your palate find your preference.

3. Sweet/Dry (sweet to dry)

Although seemingly very simple, this dimension of a sake can be difficult to express and convey. On the most elementary level, this is tied in with the “nihonshu-do,” also known as the Sake Meter Value (SMV).

The nihonshu-do is a measure of the specific gravity of a sake, or the ratio of the density of the sake in relation to the density of pure water. Grossly oversimplifying – although it  will do nicely for our purposes here – the more unfermented sugar in the sake the more dense it is. The scale used by brewers (it is open-ended, but generally runs from -5 to +10 or so) has numbers assigned in such a way that lower or negative numbers indicate increasing sweetness, and higher positive numbers indicate drier sake. (This is why my  scale has sweet on the left and dry on the right; I have attempted to maintain a sense of logic with the nihonshu-do scale.) Originally, 0 was considered to be neutral. However, as  perceptions and preferences have changed drastically over the last few decades, +2 or so is considered to be neutral.

Back to sweet versus dry. The nihonshu-do is far from being the only factor affecting the impression of sweet or dry. In particular, acidity plays a huge role in our sensations. Sake with Top of Pagehigher acidity will generally taste drier than it actually may be based on the numbers alone. The other side of the coin is that a sake with lower than usual levels of acid can taste a tad sweeter than their nihonshu-do would indicate. Temperature is another contributing factor. In my humble opinion, sweetness and dryness in sake is much more temperature-dependent than in wine, if only by virtue of sake’s narrow bandwidth of overall  flavor. Just a few degrees of change can make a sake seem sweeter or drier. Accompanying food has a say in the formula, as does whether or not you are tasting  other sake, and if so the flavor of the previous sake comes into play. In the end, sweet or dry is a precariously subjective assessment, and nihonshu-do is at best a ballpark indication of this parameter.

4. Acidity (soft to puckering)

This is refreshingly simple after the last one. Well, almost. Acidity in sake is expressed as the number of ml of a base chemical was needed to neutralize 10ml of sake. Just keep in mind that the number is usually 0.8 to 1.7. This is not a huge range, and the important thing to keep in mind is that the perception of acidity is not always directly  correlated to the actual acid content. A sweeter, rougher sake may not taste as acidic as a drier sake with the same acidity.

More practically, acidity can make its presence felt most noticeably at the beginning and at the end – and in between it helps spread everything about. Sake with higher acidity often stands up better to oilier foods like tempura or oilier fish (raw or cooked!). Rich flavored or rather salty side dishes may not need all that acid, and in fact will work better with a lower-acidity sake.

5. Presence (unassuming to full)

This could also be referred to as body, or even richness. Sake is in general a light  beverage. Even compared to the lightest of wines, sake is quite light. “Presence” refers to the mouth feel, the graininess against your tongue, the viscosity or lack thereof in a sake.  It can range from unassuming, quiet, light, airy and delicate on one end, to full-bodied, fat, heavy, thick, and ripe on the other. There are sake that are smooth and airy and sake that are rich and creamy.

Naturally, the actual difference between one sake and another is a bit more subtle than the words here may convey; the spectrum is not all that wide. But there are very real  differences between one sake and another in terms of the presence they command in the audience of your palate.

As with the other parameters, this naturally depends on a myriad of factors, and the culprits are the same here: water pH and mineral content, acidity, choice of rice, ad infinitum. Note that namazake (unpasteurized sake) generally has a much more prominent presence than sake that has been pasteurized.

6. Earthiness (delicate to dank)

This particularly interesting axis is more defined by the presence of heavier elements than by the lack of them. In other words, some sake has elements to the flavor profile that are  bitter, dank, tart, dark, and/or heavy. The best Japanese term is “koku ga aru,” although a direct translation will not make it through unscathed. The opposite of this is not so much  light and delicate sake as it is sake that doesn’t display these attributes so readily.

Aged sake often has such earthiness as part of its flavor profile. So does, very generally speaking, sake from the southern part of Japan, although there are a plethora of exceptions. And again, although the connotations of words like earthy and dank may conjure images of a good 20-year old distilled beverage, the above must be taken within the context of the flavor profile of sake, i.e. delicate and of narrow bandwidth. Point being, it’s subtle, very subtle, but enough to be noticed and worthy of comment.

7. Tail (quickly vanishing to pervasive)

Does the sake flavor jump ship and disappear from your mouth and throat in an instant, leaving you feeling somewhat rejected? Or, does it linger and hang out, the puckering acidity or stubborn sweetness remaining to be savored for minutes afterwards.

A sake tail (kire in Japanese) can run the gamut from clean, crisp, sharp and vanishing to lingering, puckering and friend-for-life pervasive. Although all too often the  instantaneously-vanishing tail is the favorite, lingering tails can be a godsend, with the right accompaniment and attitude. If a sake flavor is pleasing, it only makes sense to want it around a little longer.

Naturally, this too is a matter of preference and a related to the external environment.


How to make sake part 1, How to make sake part 2, Sake making,

Yield: 3 Gallons


10.00 lbs (4.54 kg)      Short grain white rice

40.00 oz  (1.13 kg)     Cold Mountain Rice Koji (2x 20 oz tubs)

2.00 gal (7.60 l)      Cold water

0.75 tsp (4.00 gm)     Brewer’s yeast nutrient

1.00 pn  (0.70 gm)      Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate – MgSO4)

1.25 tsp (7.00 gm)     Morton Salt Substitute (potassium chloride – KCl)

1.00 pack                WYeast Sake #9 Yeast

The ratio of the main ingredients in this recipe follows the traditional ratios that tojis have been using for centuries: koji:rice:water ratio of 25:100:160. That is 2.5 pounds of koji to 10 pounds of dry rice to 16 pounds of water. You can change the unit types (pounds, kilograms, whatever) to whatever you like, as long as you maintain that ratio.


You will need some very basic equipment for making sake. If you have a basic homebrewing or winemaking equipment kit, you’re already most of the way there! Here’s a short list:

Fermenter – A five-gallon, food-grade plastic bucket with a tight-fitting lid that has been drilled for a fermentation airlock like this one, but the spigot is not necessary (you won’t normally use it). It need not be as expensive as the one in the link, though: these kinds of buckets, with their lids, are often available for free if you just ask your local bakery or deli for one – just make sure to ask for one that hasn’t had anything toxic (like lye) or super pungent (pickles) in it.

StarSan or BTF Iodophor Sanitizer – Yes, I consider this to be hardware. Yes, it’s required equipment. Everything that comes into contact with your fermenting sake must be sanitized. If you don’t sanitize, your sake will spoil.

A large steamer – Really the only specialized piece of equipment you need, a large steamer that can hold 3 to 5 pounds of rice would be very nice to have. You could cook rice with a rice cooker or in a pot…but really, sake rice needs to be steamed. Steamed rice doesn’t get mushy and gluey like boiled rice does, and this is important for the koji to get hold of it. Large aluminum steamers sell for about $30 at your local Asian market, so it’s not a huge investment. If nothing else a cheap and common bamboo steamer will do just fine, as long as you line it with some cheesecloth or even some canvas.

A racking cane and hose – Like beer, sake can be damaged by contact with oxygen, so siphoning is generally the rule when transferring it between vessels (the exception being when pressing the lees). This is available at your local homebrew supply store, if you don’t already have one as part of your homebrewing/winemaking equipment kit.

Airlocks and one-hole stoppers – Again, you want to protect your fermenting sake from the environment, and that’s what these are for. If you bought a homebrewing kit, you have these already.

Glass jugs of one-gallon capacity – Later in the process you’re going to want to get the sake off of the rice lees, but it’s not quite ready to drink yet (unless you like nigorizake). One-gallon glass jugs (like the ones good quality juices come in) will serve as perfect secondary fermenters or “bright tanks” in which your sake can finish fermenting, clear, and mature.

A means to control fermentation temperature – If you have a basement, garage, or any part of your home that stays in the 50ºF-55ºF (10ºC-13ºC) temperature range for at least part of the year, that will do nicely to keep your sake fermenting in the right temperature range for each step of the process.

The Actual Process:

The taste of Sake depends on achieving a balance between sweetness and acidity, a balance that can be maintained only through the combination of proper water, malt, yeast and steamed rice. This balance cannot be assured by technology, but only with the experience of skilled artisans who have special insight into the subtleties of minute changes in climate, rice and water.

Sake making is distinguished from other brewing methods by its use of a process called “multiple parallel fermentation”. In making an alcoholic beverage from grains, it is necessary to convert grain starch into sugar, and then convert the sugar into alcohol by means of yeast. Sake brewing combines these two steps by a simultaneous conversion that results in Sake having an 18% higher alcohol content than any other fermented drink.

Moto ()

(Total time: 14 days)

  1. Prepare 2.5 cups (600 ml) of cold water by adding 0.75 tsp (4 gm) yeast nutrient and a pinch (0.7 gm) of Epsom salt and stirring until completely dissolved. Then add 0.5 cup (118 ml) of koji and stir it into the water. Put this into the fridge at the same time as you put your rice to soak for steaming.

If you want to use the shubo method of starter by adding acid to lower the pH, add 1 teaspoon (3.8 ml) of 88% lactic acid solution to the water used in the above step.

  1. Prepare 1.5 cups (355 ml) of rice (wash, soak, steam).
  2. After steaming, add the hot rice to the cold koji and water mixture in your fermenter (there’s no reason to use an intermediate vessel here) to produce a starting temperature of about 74ºF (23ºC). Mix well with a sanitized spoon, and put this fermenter somewhere where it will remain at this temperature for the next couple days. Stir twice a day with a sanitized spoon. In the first few hours the rice will soak up almost all of the liquid, but after 48 hours the koji enzymes will cause the rice to liquefy again.
  3. After two days, cool to 50-60ºF (10-15ºC) and add the yeast on top. Cover and let stand for 12 hours. The cool temperature at this stage is very important (sake yeast is a lager yeast) – remember the sour flavors I mentioned earlier? Move the fermenter to your basement or into a temperature-controlled refrigerator.
  4. After 12 hours have gone by, allow the temperature to come back up to 68-72ºF (20-22ºC) and stir the moto mixture with a sanitized spoon. Stir twice a day for 3 days, then once a day for three more days.
  5. The basic ferment of the moto is now finished, and the temperature should again be lowered to 50ºF (10ºC). Allow the moto to rest for 5 more days. Now you are ready for moromi fermentation.
    1. If you’ve added lactic acid for a shubo style starter, then you can skip this second week of resting the moto at cooler temperatures and just move on to the moromi buildup.

Moromi () and Odori ()

(Total time: 26 days)

The moromi ferment will be a three-stage buildup over a four day period. The slow buildup is necessary to ensure a maximum alcohol content. The stages, or additions, are called first addition (hatsuzoe), middle addition (nakazoe), and tomezoe or last addition. Each consists of a further portion of koji, steamed rice, and water. These sequential additions each double the volume of the mash until the full ferment can take place over about three weeks.

I realize that the timetable of additions I describe here can be a little bit confusing. What we’re doing is adding 3 rice additions over 4 days and each addition is going to double the total volume of our moromi.

Hatsuzoe (初添): (Day 1 – 2)

Day 1: The night before you expect to add this addition (that’s going to be on the 14th day of the moto), wash and soak 2.5 cups (591 ml) of rice in cold water. At the same time, add 1 cup (237 ml) of koji to the moto, which has now been working for 2 weeks. Stir the koji in with a sanitized spoon.

Day 1: After soaking, prepare the rice with the usual steaming method. While the rice is steaming, dissolve 1.25 teaspoon (7.0 gm) of Morton salt substitute (or potassium chloride) in a little warm water, then add more cold water to make a total of 2.75 cups (650 ml). Stash this in the fridge to chill.

Day 1: When finished steaming, de-pan the rice and add the above mentioned chilled water addition. Mix thoroughly with your clean hands, making sure to break up any clumps you find. When the rice gets down below 85ºF (29.5ºC), add it to the moto.

Day 1 – 2: At this point you can switch to a very large and well-sanitized spoon. Once the rice and water mixture is added to the moto, stir the whole thing thoroughly and vigorously. This should take you about 30 minutes or so, the goal here is to aerate the contents of your fermenter so that the yeast cells have ready access to the oxygen they need for the reproduction phase that is about to start. After this, aeration is no longer required. When you’re done, put the lid and airlock back on and keep the temperature at around 70ºF (21ºC). Stir with a sanitized spoon at 2 hour intervals for the next 12 hours, then twice a day for the next 2 days. You have now tripled the volume of your original moto.

Nakazoe (仲添): (Day 2 – 3)

Day 2: 12-18 hours early, wash and soak 6 cups (1.42 L) of rice. At the same time, add 1.5 cups (355 ml) of koji to the fermenter. Stir it in with a sanitized spoon.

Day 3: Steam your rice as usual. Then de-pan the hot steamed rice and add 8.75 cups (2.1 L) of very cold water. Mix with your clean hands to break up all the clumps, and then add the whole thing to the fermenter. Again, switch to your giant, sanitized spoon and stir thoroughly.

Day 3: Put the lid back on, keep the temperature at about 70ºF (21.5ºC), and stir it up after 12 hours. By now your volume is about 2 gallons (7.6 L).

Tomezoe (留添): (Day 3 – 4)

Day 3: After you stir the mash up in the last step, add all of the remaining 20 oz of koji (570 gm) to the moromi and stir it in. At the same time, wash and soak the remaining 5 pounds (2.27 kg) of rice.

Day 4: The next day, 24 hours after starting the nakazoe step, steam your rice (in batches if necessary, this is a lot of rice). Add 1 gallon + 1 cup (4.3 L) of cold water to the hot steamed rice to cool it down, break up the clumps with your clean hands, and add the whole lot to the moromi. Then break out the giant sanitized spoon and mix thoroughly into the moromi. This will again double your volume to around 3.5 gallons (13.25 liters). Leave this alone at 70ºF (21ºC) overnight. At this time you can observe odori – the dancing ferment. This bubbling action of happy yeasties is a familiar sight to anyone who has made their own beer or wine before.

From the fifth day on, you want to maintain a cooler temperature for the fermentation. After the room-temperature overnight period between days 4 and 5, you should chill it down to as close to 50ºF (10ºC) as you can get, or at least keep it between 45ºF (7.2ºC) and 55ºF (12.7ºC). You want to ferment this cool. A warm sake fermentation can lead to some funky flavors, so try to avoid it. This is why the Japanese traditionally only made sake during the cold winter months, which is why this is called the kan-zukuri (寒作り) or “cold-brewed” method. Stir at 12 hour intervals through the 6th day, and then leave it alone for the next three weeks. Somewhere between day 19 and day 21, the fermentation should pretty much be over (a hydrometer would read at 1.000 or less at this point). Note that, since there’s no way to determine an original gravity for sake, it’s not really possible to calculate ABV for the product. You’ll know it’s alcoholic when you taste it, though!

Yodan (四段)

(Total time: a few hours to a day)

The “stabilizing addition.” I really only mention this for sake of completeness, if you skip any post-fermentation additions you will get the driest and most alcoholic sake possible. There are two ways you can go here: you can add water to decrease the alcoholic strength of the product, or you can add koji and/or rice to sweeten the sake. Here are the calculated water additions:

  • 0 fl. oz. – If you add no water in this step, the sake should finish with an alcohol content above 18.5% ABV. This is genshu sake (原酒).
  • 30 fl. oz. (0.89 L) – This will yield about 16% ABV, which we could call “ordinary” sake.
  • 68 fl. oz. (2 L) – The alcohol level will decrease to about 14% ABV.
  • 120 fl. oz. (3.5 L) – Add just under a gallon of water and you’ll be down to about 12% ABV, which is the usual strength of fruit-flavored sakes.
  • 178 fl. oz. (5.25 L) – This will yield 10-11% ABV, which is low enough to allow you to prime and bottle condition the sake for a carbonated product.

Last, but certainly not least, adding 2 cups (473 ml)(uncooked amount) of steamed rice and 1/2 cup (118 ml) of koji to the sake at this point will add more sugar than the yeast can ferment, which will sweeten the sake. This amount of rice and koji will produce a very sweet sake called mirin, which is used in Japanese cooking to make such things as teriyaki sauce. Basically, the Japanese tend to use mirin in place of sugar wherever a sweetener is needed. If you prefer your sake to be sweeter, but not so sweet as mirin, you can decrease the amount of rice (or omit it entirely, just adding koji will add body and a little sweetness) added in this step. Obviously this kind of fine-tuning will require some trial and error on the brewer’s part.

.Secondary Fermenter

(Total time: 14 days)

If you made no additions at yodan, then it is now time for joso – the pressing of the moromi. Clean and sanitize three one-gallon jugs, a small (1-2 qt range) stainless steel or other non-reactive pot with a handle (you’ll be using this as a dipper), a nylon paint straining bag (or a natural cotton canvas joso bag like the Japanese use), your standard bottling bucket, and one-hole stoppers with airlocks for each of the jugs.

How you go about doing your pressing is up to you, but here is one method I’d use: Line your bottling bucket with the straining bag, then use your sanitized dipper to carefully ladle out as much of the moromi as your joso bag will hold and use your hands to press as much nigorizake out of the moromi as you can (if you have a small fruit press this will be a lot easier, though your method will differ somewhat). After the pressing is done, it’s a simple matter to open the valve on your bottling bucket and fill your sanitized jugs. Leave a little head space in the jugs and close them with your one-hole stoppers and appropriate airlocks.

If you want some nigorizake (cloudy sake) to drink, this is a good (but not the only) time to draw it off, bottle, and pasteurize it.

Affix stoppers and airlocks to these jugs, then keep them right at that 50ºF (10ºC) temperature for the next couple weeks. This will allow any residual fermentation to finish up and will allow the rice solids and yeast to settle out, leaving your sake relatively clear.

If you intend to make a fruit-flavored sake by adding fruit juice or puree, this would be the appropriate time to add it.

At this point you could just put a tight lid on your jugs of sake and store it in your fridge for anywhere from 2 weeks to a month before you drink it all. I seriously don’t recommend this because any longer and lactobacillus can and will take over and turn your sake very, very sour. The next step is pasteurization.

Maturation and Bottling

Right now you have a couple options:

After aging, you can leave the sake as-is (or mix the sediment into solution and rack to smaller bottles, followed by re-pasteurizing and sealing) and enjoy it as nigorizake (濁り酒) – cloudy sake that is meant to have the sediment mixed into the sake before drinking. This kind of sake is sweeter and has more body than filtered sake, and is always enjoyed chilled.

Pasteurizing sake is pretty easy. Just put your sake into a pot of cool water (start with cool or room temperature water to avoid shocking your glass!) on your stove, stick a thermometer in through the mouth of the bottle, and heat until the sake reaches 140ºF (60ºC). Then take it out, put a lid on it, and allow it to cool. The resulting pasteurized sake can be stored for up to 6 months before drinking (as nigorizake or muroka) or repackaging.

Or you can allow the jugs to become well-settled and carefully rack the cleared sake off of the sediment into smaller bottles, re-pasteurize, and seal. This is muroka (無濾過) or “unfiltered” sake – seishu that hasn’t been further clarified by filtration. It’s still pretty hazy, and that’s generally considered to be unacceptable for seishu. To render this sake brilliant, I suggest fining with bentonite – a type of clay used by vintners to clarify their white wines.

The ratio of bentonite used is generally 1/2 teaspoon per gallon being fined – for our recipe, that works out to 1.5 teaspoons bentonite. Start with a cup (8 fluid ounces) of really hot water. Stirring continuously with a whisk, slowly sprinkle the bentonite powder into the water. Once you have it all in a smooth slurry, gently stir it into your sake in its secondary fermenter (split it up if you’re using multiple jugs as secondaries). In about three days the bentonite will completely settle out and you can rack the brilliant sake off of the sediment for bottling and pasteurizing.

There is, by the way, absolutely no reason why you can’t do this during the first pasteurization step in this process, followed by re-pasteurization during bottling. If you pasteurize your sake during this step, then the temperature at which you store your maturing sake does not matter as long as you avoid extreme high temperatures. You can, however, speed the clarifying process along by storing the sake as cold as you can get it.

Sake is ready to drink any time after it’s bottled, but a modest aging period of about two months tends to improve the flavor. Traditionally, sake is aged at the brewery for six months in this stage of production, before filtering, bottling, and re-pasteurizing the product for sale. But I’m not going to suggest anything so extreme here, aging for 6 weeks to two months will be sufficient to get rid of the “green sake” flavors.

International Flavors: Asia and the Middle East

Portfolio/Presentation Rubric (Portfolio denotes the body of required work/assignments for the course)

Elements of Evidence












  • The portfolio does not contain pieces of the required work
  • The student fails to properly organize his/her work
  • The student includes entries that do not meet content requirements as outlined in the syllabus and/or
  • The work selected demonstrates that the student does not understand what represents “best work”
  • The portfolio contains all required sections
  • The vast majority of assignments meet the content requirement as outlined in the course syllabus
  • Most of the student work represents an understanding of “best work”
  • The student has chosen to include work in excess of what was required
  • All assignments meets the content requirement as outlined in the course syllabus
  • Most of the student work represents an understanding of “best work”
  •  (The instructor will indicate assignments within the portfolio where exceeding standard is possible. The instructor may assign additional  work assignments to those wishing to exceed standard)
  • The student has chosen to include work in excess of what was required in scope and amount
  • The student has taken personal responsibility for their education and demonstrates the capacity to collaborate with the instructor to develop and complete additional value added assignments
Presentation Organization

Submission of Work and GUM

(to include on-line assignments)

  • Sections of the portfolio do not demonstrate care for appearance. Formatting, layout and or materials are inconsistent and of poor quality
  • Body of work is not organized
  • Work is often submitted late
  • The student makes multiple errors with GUM and work is poorly written
  • The portfolio is neatly organized demonstrating care for its appearance including formatting, word processing, binding, layout and quality of materials
  • Submitted work is occasionally submitted late
  • The student makes minimal GUM errors and assignments are adequately written
  • The portfolio is neatly organized and  the student has chosen to include design elements in the presentation of the portfolio that demonstrate a great care for the appearance including formatting, binding, layout, use of technology and/or quality materials
  • Submitted work is consistently submitted by the scheduled date/time
  • The student makes virtually no GUM errors and assignments are well written
  • The portfolio is neatly organized  and the student has chosen to include design elements in the presentation of the portfolio that are unique and demonstrate the utmost attention to detail including formatting, binding, layout, use of technology and/or use of quality materials
  • Submitted work is never late an often early
  • The student makes virtually no GUM errors and demonstrates an advanced level of writing

Research Quality

  • Research does not support the student’s assertions or assignment focus
  • The student does not research topics at an appropriate depth or breadth
  • Work is not properly cited
  • The research information supports the student’s assertions and improves the overall quality of the assignments
  • Submitted work frequently demonstrates an ability to match research depth and breadth to the assignment as outlined in the syllabus and or by the instructor
  • Submitted work is most often cited properly
  • The student has included pieces of work which exhibits more and further reaching research efforts than were required
  • The student successfully integrates a greater amount of research in a manner that improves the quality of the work
  • Submitted work is consistently cited properly
  • The students’ portfolio consistently includes more and further reaching research efforts than was required
  • The student successfully integrates a greater amount of research in a manner that greatly improves the quality of the work both in depth and breadth
  • Submitted work is consistently cited properly and includes sources in excess of the requiremnet

Asian and Middle Eastern Cuisines

  • The student is unable to comprehend and discuss the influences and characteristics of selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student is unable to identify ingredients, eating habits,  techniques and tools associated with selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student is unable differentiate between selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student is unable to respond to  basic cuisine questions associated with selected cuisines
  • The student demonstrates an understanding of the influences and characteristics of selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student is able to identify ingredients, eating habits, techniques and tools associated with selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student can often differentiate between selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student is able to respond to basic cuisine questions associated with selected cuisines
  • The student is able to elaborate verbally and in writing on the characteristics and influences of selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student demonstrates a greater understanding of ingredients, eating habits, techniques and tools associated with selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student can routinely differentiate between selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student is able to elaborate/respond in to  basic cuisine questions associated with selected cuisines
  • The student is able to elaborate in detail verbally and in writing on the characteristics and influences of selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student demonstrates an advanced understanding of ingredients, eating habits, techniques and tools associated with selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student can differentiate in detail between selected Asian/ME cuisines
  • The student is able to elaborate/respond in detail to  basic cuisine questions associated with selected cuisines

Active Participation

  • The student rarely contributes to  or participates in class discussions and activities during lecture, outings or online
  • The student usually contributes to and is involved with class discussions and activities during lecture, outings and/or online
  • The student consistently contributes to and is involved with class discussions and activities during lecture, outings and/or online
  • The student aggressively engages instructor and classmates in discussions  and often demonstrates a greater responsibility towards his/her education by preparing ahead

Suggested Readings:

Harper, Philip, and Haruo Matsuzaki. The Book of Sake: A Connoisseur’s Guide. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2006. Print.

“The History of Sake.” Asian Art Mall. Web. 09 Feb. 2012. <http://www.asianartmall.com/historyofsake.htm&gt;.

“How to Make Sake at Home – a Taylor-Made Guide.” Taylor-MadeAK – Brewing Sake. Web. 09 Feb. 2012. <http://www.taylor-madeak.org/index.php/2008/02/29/how-to-make-sake-at-home-a-taylor-made-g&gt;.

“Introduction.” Sake.com. Web. 09 Feb. 2012. <http://www.sake.com/introduction.html&gt;.

“Sake – Types and Grades of Japanese Sake, Nihonshu, Rice Wine.” ESake – Premium Japanese Sake (Rice Wine, Nihonshu) Online. Web. 09 Feb. 2012. <http://esake.com/Store/grades-chart.html&gt;.

“Sake – Types of Japanese Rice Wine.” ESake – Premium Japanese Sake (Rice Wine, Nihonshu) Online. Web. 09 Feb. 2012. <http://www.esake.com/Knowledge/Types/types.html&gt;.

“Sake.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 09 Feb. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sake&gt;.

“Sake World – Types of Sake.” Sake World Homepage – John Gauntner. Web. 09 Feb. 2012. <http://www.sake-world.com/html/types-of-sake.html&gt;.



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One Comment on “Sake the Real Story”

  1. Grandma March 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Wow what a beautiful paper.

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