About Japanese sake

Japanese Sake: The main ingredients of Japanese Sake is rice (suitable for Sake brewing), water, rice Koji and yeast. (Some types of Sake uses distilled alcohol.) 

Brewing Japanese Sake: Japanese Sake is made by fermentation process by yeast like wine, but, it has more complex brewing process. Because, the rice needs to be changed into sugar (saccharification process) before fermentation process. For this saccharification process, we ueses Koji (a type of mold) which is made from rice. And, then, the rice (sugar) begins fermentation by adding Sake yeast (fermentation process). Those two steps are conducted in parallel in the same container. This process is called "multiple parallel fermentation". So, the brewing process of Japanese Sake is complicated than the other brewed alcohol.

Koji : Koji is a type of mold that produces enzymes which occur saccharification process from starch of rice to sugar. This Koji is the most important ingredients for brewing Japanese Sake. This Koji is made by each Japanese Sake Brand bewery, and this Koji producing step is the most sensitive and important step.


(Koji mould, the photo from KIKUHIME)

Sake rice (Sake specific rice): For Sake brewing, we uses special rice which is very good for Sake brewing. We called it "Shuzo Kotekimai" in Japanese. 

Yamadanishiki: The most popular Sake rice. The King of Sake rice. Especially, suitable for producing delicious and very fragrant such as Daiginjo. Designated by the association in 1936. 
(Rice field of Yamadanishiki, Yokawa in Hyogo, the photo from KIKUHIME)
Gohyakumangoku: A famous sake rice from Niigata prefecture and from the Hokuriku area. Designated by the association in 1957.
Miyamanishiki: This rice is grown in the northern part of Japan because it is hardy and survives cold climates. Designated by the association in 1978.

Seimai Buai: Milling (polishing) ratio. Usually indicated as a percentage on the label, this refers to the amount of rice that remains after milling. If "Seimai Buai 40%" is indicated on the label, 40% of the rice is remained. Basically, the lower the percentage, the higher the grade of the sake.


(Sake specific rice after polishing and washing, the photo from KIKUHIME)

Yeast: A microbe that consumes sugar and produces alcohol in a process of Sake brewing. "Brewing Society of Japan" started distribution of Kyokai-Yeast which is derived from the brewery which produces good quality Sake in Meiji era (1868-1912). After the distribution, the quality of Sake in Japan improved dramatically.

Water: Quality of the water used in brewing Sake is also important. Breweries take advantage of the various kinds of natural water availalbe in Japan to make excellent Sake.

Grade of Japanese Sake: The standards and specifications for the grade of Japanese Sake is defined as the followings.  

Junmaidaiginjo (純米大吟醸): Ingredients: Rice and Koji, Seimai Buai: less than 50% remaining 

Junmaiginjo (純米吟醸): Ingredients: Rice and Koji, Seimai Buai: less than 60% remaining

Tokubetsujunmai (特別純米):Ingredients: Rice and Koji, Seimai Buai: less than 60% remaining, special brewing method

Junmai (純米):Ingredients: Rice and Koji, Seimai Buai: not defined

Daiginjo (大吟醸):Ingredients: Rice, Koji and Distilled alcohol, Seimai Buai: less than 50% remaining

Ginjo (吟醸):Ingredients: Rice, Koji and Distilled alcohol, Seimai Buai: less than 60% remaining

Tokubetsuhonjozo (特別本醸造):Ingredients: Rice, Koji and Distilled alcohol, Seimai Buai: less than 60% remaining, special brewing method

Honjozo (本醸造):Ingredients: Rice, Koji and Distilled alcohol, Seimai Buai: less than 70% remaining

Yamahai (山廃 in Japanese) brewing method: An older way of making the yeast starter. The difference between the regular yeast starter method and Yamahai is the way that the lactic acid needed to begin yeast fermentation is obtained. In Yamahai starters, bacteria that produces lactic acid are grown in the tank first, and then yeast fermentation begins when the necessary acid level is reached. The word "Yamahai" is an abbreviation of a longer term, "Yamaoroshihaishimoto", which means to skip the step of mashing down steamed rice wtih wooden poles that was common to Sake making before the Yamahai method developed, and continues to be part of the Kimoto method even today. 

Pasteurized Sake and Not pasuteurized (Nama) Sake: The purpose of pasteurization is to stabilize the Sake by eliminating bacteria and by deactivaing enzymes. Most of the Sake is pasteurized twice. However, some of Sake are not pasteurized, because the less the sake is pasteurized, the fresher and livelier its taste remains. We call not pasteurized Sake "Nama". This style is becoming popular in Japan. However, in this shopping site, we don't line up not pasteurized (Nama) Sake because we think that Not pasteurized (Nama) Sake is not suitable for international transportation.

If you want to know more about Japanese Sake, please feel free to contact us.