How to Make Sake at Home – Introduction
This guide is intended teach you, my fellow homebrewers, how to make authentic seishu (清酒) – refined Japanese sake – at home, using the kan-zukuri (寒作り) [cold-brewed] method. While I’m at it, I hope to educate you, at least a little bit, about different varieties of sake and maybe even different methods for making it. I don’t intend for this to be the be-all end-all guide to sake, but I do hope it will encourage more homebrewers to take an interest in making their own sake at home from ingredients and equipment that are quite readily available. This is a long guide, with many pages, but hopefully taking the time to read all those pages will help shed some light on a process that appears at first glance to be complex, mysterious, and heavily steeped in tradition, but really is quite simple at its heart and even based on familiar science.
This guide is aimed at moderately experienced homebrewers. If you’re not a homebrewer, some terms will be a little unfamiliar to you. A quick Google search will usually help define those words for you, but feel free to post questions in the form of comments on this guide. I’ll be more than happy to answer them for you.
This guide contains quite a few Japanese characters, which may not display correctly if you don’t have the Japanese language pack for your OS installed. If 清酒 looks like a couple empty boxes and that bothers you, then set your browser encoding to Japanese (Shift-JIS) and follow the prompts to install the Japanese language pack. If it doesn’t bother you to have empty boxes in place of certain characters, then carry on!
Finally, to give credit where it’s due, nearly everything I know about the process of making sake, I learned from the book Sake (U.S.A) by Fred Eckhardt. I don’t want to duplicate his work in its entirety here, but the recipe and method presented here are based on what I learned from his work in that book and my experience as a homebrewer. I heartily recommend adding his book to your library if you find this guide to be at all helpful, and if you can locate a copy for a reasonable price.
I would also like to point out here that this is only one of many different methods homebrewers can use to make true sake at home. In the interim since I originally brought this guide to the internet in 2007, Fred Eckhardt himself has written an update of his own method and made it available to the online homebrewing community. While I’ve done my best to cover all the different options available to the sake homebrewer while also trying to keep things simple for the beginner here, it’s worth noting that the above linked instructions now differ significantly from this guide in quite a few ways. That having been said, it’s certainly worth reading after you’re done here.
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