How to Homebrew Sake

by Mutsuo Hoshido,

Homebrew Sake is very easy to brew using simple cooking tools and then you can enjoy the taste of Sake.

Homebrew Sake, called 'doburoku', rather than hazy Sake', is part of the cu lture of Japan. Even under the previously strict control of Liquor Tax law, some Buddhist temples and Shinto Shrines were brewing their own 'doburoku' to serve at their festivals or ceremonies.

Following is one of the simple Sake brewing procedures for Homebrew Sake: Materials:

You will be able to get Kome-koji made from Koji or Koji-kin, a kind of white fungi, together with steam cooked rice at your grocery stores or homebrew stores. If you only can get Koji or Koji-kin, you can easily make your fresh Kome-koji together with steam cooked rice by yourself using your picnic ice box. Later I will show you how to make Kome-koji. If necessary, I can send you some Koji or Koji-kin by air mail, because Kome-koji is too heavy and too easily goes bad to send over the ocean.



Improved Kome-koji process for homebrew Sake

I had a sake brewing job experience at an old-fashioned and traditional sake brewery,Matsuya sake brewery,on Feb.7.

Thanks to the President Mr.Matsubara's openminded explanation about sake brewing and Kome-koji process,I was saccessful to make my own Kome-koji at home,the same appearance and the same taste as that of the sake brewery.

Key point is to steam cook rice as dry as possible by very short time of washing and soaking together.

Equipment and materials I used:

Improved Kome-koji from dry Koji-kin or Koji-fungi

If real "Amasake" is available (sake sludge mixed with sugar is not real amasake), directly add dry yeast in a bottle. You can brew Sake.

In Japan, at present, fermenting more than 1% alcohol without a license is illegal. Before World War I, I heard that every family enjoyed homebrewed Sake. It was the Japanese culture. But the war destroyed the culture too. At present, members of "Homebrew News Letter" is only around 300. It is estimated that about ten thousand homebrewers exist in Japan. We do not only homebrew Sake but also homebrew beer.

In 1992, the minimum amount of licenced beer production was reduced from 2000kl/year to 60kl/year by the pressure from the USA. It was the dawn of local micro beer brewers. We, most of Japanese homebrewers, are wanting more pressure from the USA for free homebrew and for free trade to get cheeper homebrew ingredients.

Commercial Sake brewers use very expensive materials such as 50% polished special kinds of rice, which looks like very small crystal beads because of the excessive polishing process. The special rice kinds grown only for Sake are called Yamadanishiki, Miyamanishiki, Reihou, Gyokuei and so on. We never eat such a rice, we usually eat slightly polished normal kinds of rice grown only for eating. When I visited a Sake brewer near my house, the manager told me that he tried to eat sake rice but that it was not tasty.

Homebrew Sake is very simple to make and satisfactorily tasty if you do not compare it with commercial high class pure rice Sake. I heard that U.S. Sake brewers must produce only pure rice Sake because of U.S. tax laws. Pure Rice Sake means Sake only from rice. In Japan, tax law allows mixture of so called industrial ethyl alcohol into Sake within a certain percentage. Pure rice sake (Junmaishu) is very expensive.

I hope you enjoy Homebrew Sake.

Following is a copy of Mr. T. Takeshima's Home Page,just for your reference.

What is Koji?

Koji is a kind of mold that has an enzyme to convert starch to sugar. Koji is used for making Sake (Japanese rice wine), Miso (soy-bean paste), Shoyu (soy-sauce), etc. As a mashing step is necessary to convert starch to sugar in brewing, the action of Koji is indispensable to make sake. In the case of brewing, fermentation takes place after starch conversion has finished. In making sake, on the other hand, starch conversion by Koji and fermentation by Sake yeast proceed in the same fermenter at the same time. In Sake making, Koji not only works as a starch converter, but also produces complexity in flavor of Sake.

Where to find Koji in US

There are at least a few (probably more) Koji makers in the US. Most of you can get Koji rice at your local homebrew suppliers. Here is a Koji maker of whom I have the address and phone number:

                    Miyako Oriental Foods, Inc.
                    4287 Puente Av., Baldwin Park, CA 91716
                    Phone: 818-962-9633
Another way to get Koji is mail order. Here is the information for a mail order supplier:

                    G.E.M. Cultures
                    30301 Sherwood Rd., Fort Bragg, CA 95437
                    Phone: 707-964-2922
                    Kushi Institute Store
                    Toll-Free: 1-800-64-KUSHI (1-800-645-8744)
These companies make rice Koji fundamentally for making miso (soy-bean paste),soy-source and/or ama-zake. I usually use about a 1 kg (2 lb) pack of dried rice Koji made by Miyako Oriental Foods when I homebrew my sake. According to the mail order catalog of G.E.M. Cultures, they seem also to provide Koji starter which enables you to make Koji by yourself at home.

I hope you are succesful.

Kampai with your Sake!

Mutsuo Hoshido,

Last update: 15 April 1999