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 won’t 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, everything I know about 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 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.
Shall we get started? Use the table of contents below or the page numbers at the bottom of this post to navigate the guide.
Table of Contents
Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: About Sake and How Sake is Made
Page 3: The Recipe
Page 4: Ingredients
Page 5: Equipment
Page 6: Preparing the Rice
Page 7: The Process
Page 8: Secondary Fermentation
Page 9: Maturation and Bottling
Page 10: Drinking Sake and Conclusion
To help you in your sake making experience, I’m making some files available for download from this guide. All of the following files are hosted with permission from their respective authors. Here are your options:
You guys keep sending me a lot of really interesting questions about making sake, and I've accumulated and answered enough of them so far to make into a Frequently Asked Questions list. So, here it is, the Taylor-MadeAK Homebrewing Sake FAQ!
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.
The glossary itself starts after the jump.
So...you've made your fist batch of sake. You've pressed your lees and now you've got about three pounds of pasty kasu. I know what you're thinking: what the heck do I do with this stuff? I get asked this question pretty often, actually, often enough to make this post. The answer to your question is: lotsa stuff! Sake kasu has almost as many uses as miso, but it's not quite so popular in this country because of its rarity. The Japanese find it very useful, however.
In Japan, fresh kasu becomes available in Spring as all the sake kuras press their sake. They then sell their kasu to grocers for public consumption or to farmers for use as livestock feed. In America, we don't have quite the same heritage with sake as the Japanese do, so kasu generally isn't easily found in our markets. But we're homebrewers, right? We make our own kasu!
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