Usually, 12 to 20 % alcohol by Volume
HISTORY: Little is known of the beginnings of sake. It is believed that sake brewing began around 300 B.C.. There has been evidence of drinking cups and pots with traces of rice. For the last two thousand years sake has been the main drink of the Pacific Rim. Today, there are over thousands of sake brewers outside of the Pacific Rim and hundreds of sake brewers in the United States.
CLASSIFICATION: Sake is considered to be a rice wine, but actually it is produced more like a beer. Sake should be considered a rice beer, however sake is difficult in nature because of the difference in the types of sake. There are several different types of sake and all of them are produced in different ways. The confusion of sake is made from its clear color and its high alcohol content. Sake is also free from impurities causing hangovers, such as sulfites. Sake is unique because of the difference between them. Some sakes are served hot while other sakes are served cold.
The rice polishing is the first process in the production of sake. The rice used in sake brewing is polished white rice. It is polished to mill away the outer layer. The rice is 80 percent polished less than its average size. During this process, friction heats the rice considerably. There should be very little moisture in polished rice. If they are washed soon, the grains will crack when they come in contact with the water. Basically, the polishing of rice with rid the grain of unpleasant flavors and adversely affect, the fermentation process. The more the rice is polished the cleaner and the lighter the sake will become.
After the rice has been polished, a powder remains on the grains. The simplest way to wash rice is to transport the rice through a tube of water. However, the highest quality of sake: are still washed by hand.
After washing the rice is then soaked to absorb the appropriate amount of water. This stage is critical to establish a consistency between the grains. The steeping stage takes only a few hours.
The steaming stage softens the grains and brakes down the starch molecules. This stage can be different for several brewers. Basically, this stage produces a bacteria; called Koji. After the rice is steamed, it is considerably smaller in size than eating rice. The firmness of the rice is crucial to making the proper sake.
First the steamed rice is cooled to 95 to 97 degrees. Then the rice is taken to the Koji Culture room. The first stage is called bikiomi, where spores from molds are sprinkled onto the cooled rice. The spores are kneaded into the once steamed rice. The growth rate of the mold is enormously sensitive to two factors; temperature and moisture. As mold grows it generates great amount of heat. After 7 hours of heating the rice is cooled in the culture room, where the molds growth stops. The rice will have little if any moisture after a 12-hour incubation in the culture room.
Finished Koji rice is added with yeast and water, are mixed together in a small tank. Lactic acid is then added giving the mixture the ability to ward off any unwanted bacteria. Then the mix is brought to a cool 68 degrees F. The mixture is then nurtured for ten to fifteen days.
The starter mix is then loaded into a much larger tank. During this stage the mix becomes much thinner. The mix is let to settle in the tank for the second day. On the third day, the mixture is added to a huge tank in which more rice and water is added. Finally the mixture comes to a thick, cloudy pourage like concoction.
The mixture is then taken to the a machine press in which the mixture is filtered from the grains of rice. The machine press collects grains of rice and thins the liquid.
REMOVAL OF LEES:
After a few days in the tank, a fine sediment settles at the bottom of the tank. The clear liquid is removed by siphoning it out, leaving the lees behind.
A process used in Japan for nearly 3000 years, where a liquid is heated to 149 degrees F., to sterilize the liquid.
In this stage, the sake is kept in the tank till next autumn. During this phase, the sake becomes into it’s own.
This is where the sake is bottled and packaged and sent off.