Glossary of Terms

Since my guide uses a lot of Japanese and other uncommon words that many readers may be unfamiliar with, I’ve decided to add a glossary. This list is intended to supplement the guide and not to be comprehensive. I tried to avoid defining terms that I have already defined in the guide (though there are some obvious duplications that I felt were important), but please feel free to refer to it as often as necessary.


bentonite – A type of sodium-silicate clay that white wine vintners use to clarify their wine and must.


doburoku (濁り酒) – Traditional Japanese homebrew sake. It is not filtered (at all), unpasteurized, and often fermented at room temperature – all of which often results in a pretty sour product. I often refer to this as the Japanese equivalent of our American heritage of Blue Ribbon homebrew of 50 or 60 years ago. Homebrewing is illegal in Japan, so quality ingredients and education regarding process just aren’t available to would-be homebrewers in that country.


enzyme – Nothing more than a specially-shaped protein that happens to be good at certain tasks. The task in question depends on the shape of the protein, but when we apply it to sake making we’re talking about enzymes that are good at chopping up starch molecules to produce sugar.


fermentation – The anaerobic process by which certain single-celled organisms (like yeast) consume sugar to produce energy for themselves. Alcohol and carbon dioxide are the fortuitous (for us) waste products of this process.

fining – The process of adding clarifying agents like bentonite to a liquid in order to reduce or remove haze-causing particles.


genshu (原酒) – “Undiluted” or “full-strength” sake, to which no water has been added to decrease its alcoholic strength.

ginjo (吟醸酒) – This word translates to “premium,” and means any sake made with rice that has been polished down to no more than 60% of its original weight.


hatsuzoe (初添) – “First addition.” This refers to the first addition of rice and koji to the main sake fermentation.


junmai (純米酒) – “Pure” or “all-rice” sake. This refers to sake that has been made with only water, rice, koji, and yeast. No additives like the distilled spirits that are commonly used in the industry.


kan-zukuri (寒作り) – The traditional “cold brewing” method of making sake. “Cold brewing” refers to keeping the fermentation in the low 50ºF range – either by brewing only in the cold time of year, or through means of refrigeration – resulting in a smoother, better quality sake.

kasu (粕) – Sake lees. The bits of rice that the koji couldn’t break down, which are separated from the sake through pressing. Kasu is used to make tsukemono (pickles), shōchū, and is even eaten by people and livestock.

koji-kin (麹菌) – Aspergillus oryzae mold spores.

kome-koji (麹) – Rice that has been incubated with koji-kin, and is now coated in a nice fuzzy white coat of mold. Enzyme rich and ready to be used to make sake.


masu (枡) – Traditional square wooden cups from which chilled sake is drunk. They hold six ounces and are now often seen made of lacquerware or even ABS plastic.

mirin (味醂) – A very sweet condiment used in Japanese cooking that can be made from the same process by which sake is made.

moromi (諸味) – The sake’s primary fermentation mash.

moto (元) – The yeast starter step in making sake, also called shubo.

muroka (無濾過) – “Unfiltered sake.” Sake that has been separated from the nigori by decanting, but has not undergone the usual charcoal filtration (or bentonite fining in the case of my homebrew). It’s hazy, but not milky white like nigorizake.


nakazoe (仲添) – “Second addition.” This refers to the second addition of rice and koji to the main sake fermentation.

nigorizake (濁り酒) – “Cloudy sake.” Sake that has been pressed from the kasu lees, but not separated from the finer rice particles and yeast. It’s milky white and has a fuller body and sweeter flavor than muroka or filtered sake.


ochoko – The diminutive cups that sake, hot or cold, is served in. Usually accompanied by a tokkuri as part of a matched set.

odori (踊) – “The dancing ferment.” This refers to the very fizzy nature of the sake’s primary fermentation.


sake – Japanese rice wine. You know what this is or you wouldn’t be here, right? Right?

sanitizer – A homebrewing term that refers to any chemical agent used to eliminate most of any spoilage microorganisms that may be residing on homebrewing equipment.

seishu (清酒) – The “official” Japanese name for sake, mostly for tax purposes I’m told.

shubo (酒母) – The yeast starter stage in the sake brewing process. Also called moto.

Sparkolloid – Another fining agent often used to clarify sake. Works much slower than bentonite, but creates a lot less sediment, allowing more sake to be recovered.


tomezoe (留添) – “Final addition.” This refers to the third and final addition of rice and koji to the sake’s primary fermentation.


yeast – Any of several microorganisms of the genus Saccharomyces, used in brewing alcoholic beverages, as a leaven in baking breads, and in pharmacology as a source of vitamins and proteins.

yodan (四段) – “Stabilizing addition.” The step following moromi in which water or koji and rice can be added to sake to adjust its final alcohol content and flavor profile.