How is Saké made?
Saké appears to have come onto the scene in the 3rd century AD – around the same time as rice planting began in Japan. Pure Saké is made from rice and water, which is left to ferment naturally after the starch is converted to sugar by koji. The mix is then pressed and strained to produce a clear liquid.
Today, there are many grades of Saké on the market. Cheaper varieties often have a lot of alcohol added. More premium varieties have a certain amount added, while pure Saké made the totally traditional way doesn’t have any additives at all.
The flavour of Saké varies and depends on the method used to make it and the degree to which the rice is milled. The Saké we sell is mostly made by more traditional methods from rice with minimal milling and polishing.
Some important Saké terms include:
Here’s an excerpt from our good friends at Black Market Sake:
- Arabashiri or ‘rough run’. This is the free run of the fresh Sake liquid, captured before the actual pressing begins.
- Daiginjō. The rice grain must be polished down to 50% or less of its original size.
- Ginjō. The rice grain must be polished down to 60% or less of its original size.
- Genmai or brown rice.
- Genshu or undiluted. Meaning no extra water has been added.
- Junmai is 100% pure rice sake without any additives such as ethyl alcohol [often known as brewers alcohol], sugars and starches. Junmai is sake made of rice, water, yeast and kōji mould only.
- Kijōshu or ‘Noble-Brew Sake’. Generally aged before being sold, this type of Sake often has a range of flavours similar to Sherry.
- Kōji is the steamed rice that has been inoculated with starch-breaking moulds.
- Kōji-kin is a starch-breaking mould with the Latin name ‘Aspergillus Oryzae’ which is added to the rice to produce enzymes to convert the starch in the rice to sugar which can then be converted to alcohol.
- Koshu or aged Sake. Many people have the misconception that Sake cannot be aged, but actually this is where it is easy to draw parallels with wine.
- Moto is added to kick-start the ferementation process by producing necessary lactic acid for the yeast.
- Muroka or unfiltered.
- Nama or Namazake means unpasteurised.
- Nigori or cloudy.
- Nihonshu or ‘Japanese Sake’. The word ‘Sake’ in Japanese only refers to all alcoholic beverages.
- Seimaibuai or Rice Polishing Rate. The Seimaibuai or rice polishing rate that we list for each Sake is telling you how much of the rice grain remains after polishing.
- Shuzō or Sake brewery.
- Tōji is the Master Brewer / Head Sake Brewer.
- Yamahai is a less labour intensive method of fermentation.