Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice. You can brew traditional sake with just four humble ingredients; rice, water, yeast, and Koji.
The Rice Fermentation Process
It can seem rather alien to leave a large jar of cooked rice on a room temperature shelf for two weeks, for it to then turn into a popular alcoholic beverage–but it’s that easy. With a little help from Koji and yeast, you can turn a flavorless starchy food into a clean and refined adult drink.
Koji is responsible for breaking down the starch in the rice into sugar. At this point, yeast takes over and converts the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The CO2 gas escaping the rice wine is why you may see bubbles rising in your fermenting sake.
What To Expect
If alcoholic fermentation is new to you, here are a few things you can expect to see during the process.
Over the two weeks, you will see the unassuming pile of rice begin to release liquid. Towards the end of the cycle, some or all of the rice will float to the surface.
If you notice any white mold running through the jar, or growing on top, do not be alarmed; This is the result of the Koji spores, which are present in the Chinese yeast balls. However, if you find colored or dark mold growing on the rice, you’ll need to throw it out and start over.
Your final product may be cloudy at first. Proceed to bottle it and leave the bottles in the fridge for a few days. The more time you give it in the fridge, the more clear it will become. Decant the clear liquid off the sediment which collected at the bottom of the bottle. The cloudiness is purely aesthetic and won’t affect the overall flavor.
Making your own Sake is fun, unique, and exciting. Try this traditional rice wine recipe the next time you’re looking for a one of a kind project.
How To Make Sake (Rice Wine)
- 2 cups Thai Jasmine rice (uncooked)
- 2 Chinese yeast balls
- 3 cups water
- no-rinse sanitizer (Star San)
- digital thermometer
- long mixing spoon
- 1 gallon wide-mouth glass jar with lid
- medium saucepan with lid
- plastic sandwich bag
- nylon fine mesh bag
- large bowl
- wine bottle with a stopper or two 500 mL beer bottles with swing-top lids
- Prep your tools: Follow the dilution directions on your no-rinse sanitizer. Coat the digital thermometer’s probe, long spoon, and wide-mouth jar in sanitizer. Pour out any excess sanitizer and set aside.
- Add water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, add the rice, cover, and reduce heat to low for 15 minutes.
- After the rice is cooked, remove from heat. Allow the rice to cool to 85°F, about 2 hours. While you wait for the rice to cool, add the yeast balls to a plastic sandwich bag and crush them into a powder.
- Once the rice is cool, scoop a layer into the wide-mouth jar. Next, sprinkle in a layer of yeast ball powder. Add another layer of rice, followed by yeast powder. Repeat the process until all of the rice and yeast powder are used up.
- Fold the sheet of cheesecloth over several times and place it over the mouth of the jar and affix the lid. It should be firmly in place but not airtight. Place the jar in a room temperature location for two weeks. Make sure the top layer of rice does not dry out! To keep your rice from drying out, stir the fermenting rice once or twice in the first week.
- After two weeks, the fermentation process should be complete. Use some no-rinse sanitizer to coat a large bowl. Place the nylon bag in the large bowl. Pour the fermented liquid and remaining rice into the nylon bag. Strain out all liquid. Squeezing the bag will significantly increase your yield.
- Use your no-rinse sanitizer on the wine, or swing-top beer bottles, and transfer the sake into it. At this point, it will be cloudy. It can be consumed in its cloudy state, or you can put the bottles of sake in the fridge for 2-3 days and decant it into new bottles, leaving the sediment behind. The longer you allow your sake to sit undisturbed in the refrigerator, the clearer it will become.
We used the following products in our sake recipe: