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Making Sake, Part II - The Actual Process
Ok, step-by-step, here’s how to make a batch of sake.
(Total time: 14 days)
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.
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!
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 (醪) and Odori (踊)
(Total time: 26 days)
Fred Ekhardt wrote in his book:
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. I’ve worked up this handy little example image to illustrate how this would look on a calendar.
Hatsuzoe (初添): (Day 1 - 2)
Nakazoe (仲添): (Day 2 - 3)
Tomezoe (留添): (Day 3 - 4)
I've been getting a lot of e-mail and forum questions about the subject of yeast foam jumping out of the fermenter - sometimes explosively! - at this point in the process. Well, different yeast strains make different degrees of foam, but they all make foam during fermentation and this fact was taken into consideration when I recommended the commonly available 6 gallon bucket as the fermenter of choice for this size batch of sake. The fact is, if you're using really fresh yeast and have gotten all of your moto steps right, then having a crop of yeast in your starter that are healthy enough to make some serious foam is perfectly normal. In fact, this is actually a desirable sign of a healthy fermentation! As long as your fermenter isn't over-full, then the measure you should take to calm that foam down at this point in the process is to simply cool the fermenter down immediately. If you open the fermenter to add that final addition of rice and you see this, then skip the final overnight 70ºF (21ºC) rest and move your fermenter into the fridge (or whatever temperature control solution you're using) and get it down to 50ºF (10ºC) right after adding the final dose of rice. The overnight warm temperature rest is only there to give the fermentation a chance to really get going, but if you have that much foam already then it should be pretty evident that the fermentation is already pretty somewhere near full-steam! If cooling the fermenter isn't enough to stop foam from climbing out of it, then you're probably using too small a fermenter for the job you set out for it. Just go ahead and attach the old blowoff hose until fermentation calms down.
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). Believe me, 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, 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!
Ok, on to the next step:
(Total time: a few hours to a day)
The "stabilizing addition." I really only mention this for sake of completeness, as I always skip any post-fermentation additions because I prefer 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:
Why would you do this? Beats me, I’m just parroting the math. I’ve never done any of these water additions.
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.
Next page: the sake finishes fermenting in the secondary fermenters.