Time to Swap The Bubbly For Sparkling Sake

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

It’s almost time to usher in a new year and what better way is there to kick off a celebration than with a glass of bubbly. There is just something about rising bubbles that screams celebration. You may think that sake has nothing to offer in this department, but you would be wrong. Sparkling sake itself is not a new thing, but sake made in the champagne style is.

How is Champagne Made?


Alcohol fermentation produces carbon dioxide gas. When wine is returned to the bottle after fermentation still containing a little bit of yeast and sugar and sealed, it begins to ferment a second time. This is called secondary fermentation. The carbon dioxide gas produced is trapped inside the bottle and dissolves into the wine to form a naturally sparkling wine. Natural gas produced inside the bottle is the key difference between other styles of sparkling alcoholic beverages. In the case of champagne, there are some extra steps and rules about the grapes, etc. but we won’t go into those in this article. We will focus instead on how the gas is produced. This is also referred to as the traditional method. In Japanese secondary fermentation in the bottle is called binnnai nijihakko. While originally, sake was made sparkling by adding carbonated gas, some breweries now use the binnnai nijihakko method.

There is even an association which brewers can join in which all members have to make their sake following strict rules. The motivation behind this recent surge in naturally sparkling sake is undoubtedly the Olympics, indeed the association itself started out with the goal of provide sake for toasting wins during the event, although sadly officially champagne will be used. Some racing tournaments in Japan already use this style of sparkling sake in place of champagne. The name of the association is the Awasake Kyokai.

The key to this method of sparkling sake is that the yeast must be alive in the bottle when it is sealed. Why? Because without the yeast there can be no secondary fermentation and without the second fermentation there is no gas. Because yeast has a low tolerance to alcohol, the fermentation has to be stopped before the level gets too high and it stops. A number of methods are used to make sparkling sake with natural gas.

Post Fermentation Type

The moromi is pressed while the alcohol levels are still low and bottled while the yeast is still active. The yeast is able to continue to ferment even after being bottled.

Secondary Fermentation Type

Yeast is added at the end of fermentation in a form called ori, which are basically the fine lees, and pressed. The added yeast continue to ferment even after the sake is bottled. Note the difference here is that the alcohol level can be higher and it will still work.

Taste of Sake Made by Secondary Fermentation


Sparkling sake have varying degrees of sweetness/dryness, gas strength and some even resemble sparkling nigori.

The level of bubbles and flavor varies depending on which type of fermentation the brewer uses.

Active fermentation: dry, very bubbly
Gentle fermentation: sweet, slightly bubbly

Many sake made by a secondary fermentation in the bottle are opaque, but transparent types are gaining popularity. To make sake by in-bottle secondary fermentation transparent, the nigori components are gathered at the top of the bottle and frozen. This top section is then removed, similar to the method used to make champagne (by slicing off the top). However, according to the rules of brewing sake, no additional sugar or acidifiers, etc. can be added after the sake has been pressed / filtered.

Storage & Opening of Sparkling Sake


The bottle should be stored in the refrigerator because the gas pressure within the bottle will increase if the temperature increases and if the bottle is shaken. Also, be careful not to point the bottle opening at people when opening because sometimes the cork will fly off because of the high gas pressure.

Let the sake bottle stand in a bucket filled with three thirds water and 1 third ice for about a minute before serving. This will calm the gas inside the bottle down. Tilt the bottle at a 35 degrees angle, remove the cage (if there is one) and while pressing hard down on the cork turn the bottle holding it at its base in the opposite direction. The key here is to turn the bottle not the cork. You may find that you need to use a serving towel if the bottle is slippery to steady it. The cork should release with a small phut sound, although if you prefer the explosion and pop, that’s okay too. The cork should not go flying off. That opening style is reserved for F1.


What better way to toast in the new year than with a bottle of sparkling sake. At KURAND, we often include a sparkling sake or two in our lineup. One of these is an original product produced with our partner breweries in the champagne style. Why not pop by if you are in Tokyo. We will be running extended operating hours on New Year’s Eve with something special for those that hang around for the countdown. We look forward to welcoming you soon.

An Easy Way to Get Your Nutrients: Cold Press

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

Once again, in this article, we are taking a slight detour from sake to introduce another type of alcoholic beverage that you can enjoy at KURAND Sake Market.

Increasingly hectic lifestyles mean that getting enough vegetables and fruit is always a struggle and many of us are simply not getting enough nutrients in our diet. One very quick method of nutrient intake that has generated a lot of hype in recent years is cold-pressed juices.

What is Cold Press?


What started out as a way to make fruit and veg infused elixirs to support the detoxing boom, has swept the globe bolstered by support from Hollywood celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow.

As the name suggests, the key difference between the cold press method and other methods of making juices is that the ingredients are mashed up without the addition of heat. The juicing is done using a low speed spinning juicer under strong pressure.

Until now fast speed spinning juicers were mainly used which created a centrifugal force that separates the ingredients. However, the fast spinning blade creates heat which ends up transferring to the ingredients from the blade. The ingredients then start to oxidize when they come in contact with the air. This method loses a lot of the nutrients in the process.

The cold press method uses a low speed spinning juicer that spins between 75-160 times a minute and a millstone is used to apply a strong pressure to mash up the ingredients. The extraction is slow and less heat is transferred, so more nutrients are extracted as a result.

Cold press is famous for its application in making juices, but it can also be used to make edible vegetable oil such as olive oil and coconut oil.


Olive oil and coconut oil lose their freshness and aroma when exposed to high temperatures. By using the cold press method, these oils are not exposed to heat, allowing these oils to be made with the aroma and freshness intact!

How is it Different From a Smoothie?


The biggest difference between smoothies and cold press is the fibre content.

Smoothies are made with a juicer that uses a blade to cut up the ingredients into small pieces, so a lot of dietary fiber remains. In the cold press method, a lot of the fiber is lost.

Smoothies are recommended for those trying to maintain a dietary fiber intake while feeling full. Cold press is recommended for those trying to bolster their nutrient intake.

Cold Pressed Fruit Liqueurs

KURAND has created its own line of fruit liqueurs using the cold pressing technique. Made with a base of junmai sake,and packed with actual chunks of fruit, this is as close to the joy of eating fresh fruit an alcoholic beverage will ever get. Our liqueurs are of course also full of nutrients and vitamins, so why not indulge in a healthy introduction to the world of Japan’s indigenous alcoholic beverages. We look forward to welcoming you soon.


Some of the branches of KURAND includes a selection of cold press fruit liqueurs to try. But if you want to sample the entire range, you need to head on over to our sister brand SHUGAR. The system is identical to KURAND, with over 100 different types of fruit liqueurs and umeshu. Why not make your own cocktails or simply enjoy on the rocks or with soda. Our staff look forward to welcoming you soon.

What Goes into Making an Umeshu?

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

And from time to time, we take a slight detour from sake, to introduce you to some of Japan’s other indigenous beverages.

KURAND SAKE MARKET is a parent company behind the brand KURAND. While KURAND is our leading brand the focused heavily on sake, we also operate several sister brands showcasing other Japanese alcoholic beverages such as umeshu (plum wine)(Only in some stores.) Umeshu is sweet and has a pleasant fruity texture. However, did you know that umeshu can be made with a myriad of different alcoholic beverages and a variety of plum?

The Various Umeshu Bases


Umeshu is made by soaking ume in sake. However the base varies, and different bases bring out different characteristics.

Shochu

Shochu brings out the sweet flavor of the ume and gives a depth to the umeshu.

Sake

The gentle sweetness of rice and the strong sweet-sourness of ume form harmonious contrast that offers the drinker a smoother taste experience.

Rum

Creates a confectionary-like sweet aroma. Very often, alcohol flavor can be slightly enhanced, so if you like your umeshu with punch, this is the style for you.

Wine

The fresh sweetness of grapes mixes with the sourness of ume to create a dessert like umeshu.

Vodka

As you might expect, vodka-based umeshu packs quite a punch and so is reserved for those who want to be able to taste the alcohol in their umeshu.

What is the Most Common Base?


Shochu is still by far the most popular base. There are two reasons for this.

The first reason is that according to the liquor tax law when making umeshu at home, using distilled liquor that is not above 20% alcohol to make umeshu is not permitted. Liquor produced by fermentation, such as sake and wine, can only be made by breweries that have filed the required paperwork.

Although shochu is generally single distilled in a pot still, there is a type of shochu that goes through multiple distillations in a column still. This is called ko-rui and is the closest you can get to completely tasteless and odorless liquor: fewer elements to hinder the natural sweetness and aroma of the plums. Moreover, this is the second reason that shochu is preferred.

Plum 101


Plums are grown on a plant belonging to the rose family. Wakayama Prefecture is the undisputed main growing area in Japan. The plum has been a much-loved fruit in Japan since ancient times, enjoyed for its high level of nutrients, among the highest in the Japanese fruit bowl. It is already well known for being high in organic acids such as citric acid, malic acid, succinic acid, but did you know that it also contains proteins, calcium, potassium, iron and several types of vitamins including vitamin A, B1,B2, and C.

Health Benefits


Plums also offer many health benefits (not scientifically proven). As well as keeping you beautiful, plums may help you recover from fatigue, improve appetite, help keep germs at bay, strengthen liver function, reduce constipation, prevent anemia, alleviate migraines and fight allergies — so many benefits inside one plum.

Varieties of Plum Used to Make Umeshu


It is thought that there are currently over 300 variety of plums, that’s more varieties than there is sake rice.

Oushuku


Its aroma makes it perfect for umeshu and umeboshi (dry salted plums).

Nanko

It’s the more significant ratio of flesh to seeds that makes this variety the undisputed king of umeshu plums. Increased exposure to the sun often turns the skin a crimson red.

Gojiro

SONY DSC

This early harvesting variety is strikingly beautiful and makes not only great umeshu but great plum juice soft drinks.

Shirakaga / Shirokaga

Any plum which comes from a plant with such fragrant flowers is going to taste delicious. It boasts small seeds and succulent flesh. As well as umeshu it makes great pickled plums and a type of umeboshi with more bite.

Bungo

This large variety of plum with faint crimson flowers is suited to umeshu as well as pickled plums and umeboshi.

Gyokuei

Another wide variety, with large white flowers, Gyokuei is the preferred plum for umeboshi.

Aojiku

Famed for its green-tinged white flowers this variety makes excellent jam, umeboshi and of course umeshu.

Ryukyo

This is a very small plum with tiny seeds, but it makes up for its size with its perfect uniformly formed shape—and this is what makes it ideal for umeboshi.

Kouyou

A red color from its exposure to the sun with small red, pink and white flowers, this tiny crisp plum makes great umeboshi.

Nanaore

A small, yellow variety often used to make plum syrup and umeboshi. Grown mainly in Aichi prefecture.

For many breweries, umeshu production was and still is a side business to keep them busy during the summer months when they are not able to produce sake due to the temperature. Umeshu is also a great way to use up sake kasu (lees), from which the brewer makes a shochu that they can then use as the base to produce an umeshu.


Some of the branches of KURAND also include the odd umeshu or two in their lineup, a great way to refresh your palate in between sake tasting sessions. You may even find the bizarre umeshu made with a base of sake. With over 100 different types of sake including umeshu, shochu, and fruit liqueurs, there is no better place in Tokyo to begin your discovery of Japan’s amazing indigenous beverages. Immerse yourself in this cornerstone of Japanese culture that dates back more than 2,000 years.
We look forward to welcoming you soon.

Closeup of Sake Production: Hiire

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

So far in this series taking you through sake production process, KURAND Magazine has looked at how the brewer prepares the rice, the fermentation, filtration or pressing and various stages of processing. In this article we look at how the brewer stabilizes the sake to make sure that the flavor and quality that they want you to enjoy is what arrives in your glass.

Sake Making in a Nutshell

The chart above is a basic diagram of the sake brewing flow intended only as a basic outline. The actual process varies depending on the variety of rice and the target style of sake.

What is Hiire?


Even after sedimentation, a small amount of enzymes remain in the sake. The aim of hiire is to shut off the activity of these enzymes. Hiire is high temperature heat sterilization. The sake is heated to about 60-65 degrees for about 30 minutes which is normally the minimum level of heat required to kill all bacteria and microorganisms.

A Brewer’s Worst Nightmare: Hiochi-kin


One type of bacteria in particular that can only be killed off via this method is the evil cousin of the lactic acid bacteria called hiochi-kin. This brewer’s worst nightmare is extremely malignant: it can survive high levels of alcohol and pretty much all the other factors that weakens more benign bacteria. Rather unfortunately for brewing, sake provides the perfect nutrient rich environment for hiochi-kin to breed in large number.

How is Hiire Done?

Modern Methods


Generally, hiire is done by passing sake through a jyakan (heat exchanger),which is kept at about 60-65 degrees, and is quickly cooled afterwards. This is the general process of pasteurization.

However, this hiire method is not able to sterilize the hiochi-kin that remains in the tank which is used to store genshu. This it is not 100% secure. Thus it must be stored at under 5 degrees and go through hiire again before it is bottled.

Method for Super Premium Sake


Two hiire can significantly harm the delicate aromas of super premium sake such as ginjo and daiginjo. Therefore, recently a time-consuming method called bin-kan hiire is used by many breweries. This method immerses the bottle containing sake into a hot water bath to sterilize causing less damage to the delicate aromas of the sake while maintaining the original flavor.

Definitions of Namazake


Namazake may omit one or both hiire. In the case of once pasteurized sake, its name changes depending on the pasteurization that is omitted.

Namazake

Hiire is not done at all. This is also called hon-nama and nama-nama. This is the real nama (raw).

Namazake that has not had hiire done to it has a fresh fruity flavor. However, because it is not pasteurized (hiire), it is extremely delicate. For this reason, please be very careful how namazake is stored when drinking namazake at home.

Namazume (Namadume)

The sake goes through hiire before being stored, but skips the second right before bottling. Its name literally translates to bottled raw.

Namachozo

This sake is put into refrigerated storage without any hiire, but does go through a hiire right before it is bottled. Its name literally translates to stored raw.

Final Word

Sake that has taken so much time and effort is often ruined in an instant because of hiochi. The fruity flavor of namazake is delicious but managing namazake is difficult.


If you have enjoyed this article and feel ready to embark on a voyage of discovery, why not head on over to Japan, to Tokyo, and visit KURAND where you can taste over 100 different types of sake without time limits at your own leisure. Each sake comes with a story of how it was made and no two sake are made 100% the same way. We look forward to welcoming you very soon! In the next article we will look at kasui (addition of water) which is the process of adjusting the alcohol level of the genshu.

Closeup of Sake Production: Roka

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

So far in this series taking you on a tour of the sake production process, KURAND Magazine has looked at how the brewer prepares the rice polishing, washing, soaking and steaming it before dividing it up into batches to create the koji and shubo, which are all ingredients for the moromi (main fermentation mash). Once the fermentation is complete, pressed and filtered to remove the solids, the brewer carries out several stages of processing each with a different purpose. In the last article, we looked at oribiki, the process of removing the ori (fine sediment or lees) from the sake to make it clear. Attention now moves to removing any remaining fine particles in a process called roka.

Sake Production in a Nutshell

The chart above is a basic diagram of the sake brewing flow intended only as a basic outline. The actual process varies depending on the variety of rice and the target style of sake.

What is Roka?

Roka translates to filtration, but the actual process is closer to fining. The aim is to remove the natural gold color and any leftover off flavors.

Just before roka, the sake may sometimes undergo a second super-fine filtration that removes any stubborn finite particles floating around in the sake.

Methods of Roka

There are two ways to carry out Roka.

The first one is tansoroka, where the brewer adds powdered active carbon into the sake. Through chemical absorption, the active carbon picks off any remaining zatsumi (off-flavors) which stick to it like metal to a magnet and strips away the color. The type and amount of active carbon used for tansoroka depend on the brewery and the type of sake being made, but nearly all breweries put their standard sake lineup through this stage.

Another method, which does not use active carbon passes the sake through a filtration machine. This process is called su-roka. Filtration machines employ various filters made from different materials such as filter paper, cartridge style filters, and cotton. The brewer chooses the material that is the best fit for the style of sake they are trying to produce.

The method of passing the sake through a filtration machine is often done together with tansoroka. Tansoroka is done after su-roka to adjust the taste.

Why is Roka Necessary?

The biggest reason is to remove any leftover zatsumi and neutralize the color of sake which is inherently golden. Sake’s prominent image as a clear beverage means that there is a pressure to do this for aesthetic reasons. However, there are some other benefits.

Other Effects of Roka

Roka also has the effect of preserving the taste of sake after it has been shipped. Sake that has been stored for an extended period develops a zatsumi and a distinct aroma called hineka. Roka reduces the risk of hineka.

Roka’s ability to take away the zatsumi and color of the sake is especially effective in sake where the seimai-buai is low, and there is a lot of zatsumi. Roka is important for the sake brewing process because it preserves the taste of sake for a long period even after it is shipped.

Muroka

You might have seen sake labels printed with the term muroka. Muroka translates to unfiltered/unfined.

Flavour Difference

Generally, muroka refers to sake that has passed through a filtration machine but has skipped tansoroka. There are no precise rules for its definition, so there is no right or wrong.

Sake shipped out as muroka is almost colorless, but there are plenty of exceptions. It depends on how the brewer omits the filtration/charcoal fining. Muroka tends to display more astringency and richness than its counterpart. When combined with nama and genshu, it is labeled as muroka nama genshu. This sake gives you freshness, youthful energy, body, acidity, and a rich flavor.


If you have enjoyed this article and feel ready to embark on a voyage of discovery, why not head on over to Japan, to Tokyo, and visit KURAND where you can taste over 100 different types of sake without time limits at your own leisure. Each sake comes with a story of how it was made and no two sake are made 100% the same way. We look forward to welcoming you very soon! In the next article we will look at hiire the process of stabilizing the sake through pasteurization.

Rice Preparation Stages: Recap
Polishing
Karashi
Washing
Soaking
Straining
Steaming

Koji Making Recap
Koji Making
Shubo
Shubo
Moromi/Shikomi Recap
Moromi/Shikomi
Joso Recap
Joso
Oribiki Recap
Oribiki

Closeup of Sake Production: Oribiki

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

So far in this series taking you on a tour of the sake production process, KURAND Magazine has looked at how the brewer prepares the rice polishing, washing, soaking and steaming it before dividing it up into batches to create the koji and shubo, which form the building blocks of the moromi (main fermentation mash). In the last article, we explained how freshly fermented moromi is passed through a filter (pressed) to separate the solids called lees from the liquid, a legal requirement to qualify for the legal definition of sake. The liquids and solids are now separate, but the liquid is not yet clear. In this article, we look at the next stage of processing called oribiki.

Sake Making Process in a Nutshell


The chart above is a basic diagram of the sake brewing flow intended only as a basic outline. The actual process varies depending on the variety of rice and the target style of sake.

What is Oribiki?

Freshly filtered/pressed sake is still not completely clear. That is to say that some sediment made up of lees, rice solids, koji, and yeast remains. These particles are too small to extract in the joso stage. This sediment is called ori in Japanese, similar to the fine lees in winemaking. This sediment, while fine, gives the sake a cloudy (opaque) appearance.

The brewer transfers the sake back to a tank and waits for the sediment to clump together and sink to the bottom under its weight.

Once the sediment has completely settled, the brewer pumps out the clear sake from the top of the tank called uwazumi. It takes time for the sediment to clump together, so rather than play the waiting game, some brewers add a fining agent which brings the sediment together faster.

Is Oribiki Really Necessary?

As well as making sake clear, oribiki removes any leftover koji and yeast which can continue to convert glucose and ferment it respectively, altering the quality and flavor over time by creating more sugar and amino acid.

Can You Tell if Sake Has Undergone Oribiki From the Label?

To an extent, yes, because sake that skipped oribiki is often labeled as origarami. Origarami is basically sake in the unstable state described above, so it doesn’t retain the same flavor for long and is best consumed young.

Characteristics of Origarami

If you like savory sake, you might like origarami. These sake boast far more prominent rice-derived flavors. With its light cloudy appearance, it often goes under the pseudonyms usunigori (light cloudy) and kasumizake (misty sake).


If you have enjoyed this article and feel ready to embark on a voyage of discovery, why not head on over to Japan, to Tokyo, and visit KURAND where you can taste over 100 different types of sake without time limits at your own leisure. Each sake comes with a story of how it was made and no two sake are made 100% the same way. We look forward to welcoming you very soon!

Rice Preparation Stages: Recap
Polishing
Karashi
Washing
Soaking
Straining
Steaming

Koji Making Recap
Koji Making
Shubo
Shubo
Moromi/Shikomi Recap
Moromi/Shikomi
Joso Recap
Joso

Closeup of Sake Production: Joso

Closeup of Sake Productions: Joso

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

So far in this series taking you on a tour of the sake production process, KURAND Magazine has looked at how the brewer prepares the rice polishing, washing, soaking and steaming it before dividing it up into batches to create the koji and shubo, which are all ingredients for the moromi (main fermentation mash). Once the fermentation is complete, the brewer carries out several stages of processing each with a different purpose. In this article, we look at joso.

Sake Making Process in a Nutshell

The chart above is a basic diagram of the sake brewing flow intended only as a basic outline. The actual process varies depending on the variety of rice and the target style of sake.

What is Joso?


Newly fermented sake is like rice porridge, a far cry from the clear liquid commonly associated with modern sake. That is because not all the ingredients dissolve into the moromi leaving solids made up of rice, koji, and yeast behind. Joso is the process of separating these solids from the liquid. Beer and winemaking also commonly leave behind these solids called lees and remove them before bottling. The Japanese word for lees is kasu. The brewer separates the lees and liquid by forcing the moromi through a mesh filter. There are different techniques to do this which we cover in more detail below.

The literal translation for joso is pressing, but because the solids pass through a filter, it is technically filtration. Sometimes it is better to use the word pressing though to avoid confusion with a later stage in the process where the brewer strips out color and aroma using charcoal, also translating as filtration (an article on this to follow). Both are okay.

There are many ways to press/filter the sake, varying from brewery to brewery, which break down into two categories: traditional and modern.

Methods of Pressing/Filtering

Fukuroshibori

Fukuroshibori is the bag press method (fukuro is Japanese for bag and shibori is Japanese for press). The brewer puts the moromi into 50cm by 20cm sakebukuro (literally, sake bags), bags made with a special material that does not impart unwanted flavors of aromas into the end product. The brewer then hangs the sakebukuro from a pole or plank of wood placed over the tank opening. This method relies on gravity to force the liquid to drip slowly out of an opening at the bottom of the bag. Fukuroshibori is often also sometimes called shizuku-shibori (literally, the drip-press method). This method of pressing/filtering produces the most natural flavor with the least zatsumi (off flavors) and relatively low risk of tainting the aroma. However, the time to complete this method of pressing puts the sake in contact with air for longer, increasing the risk of oxidation, which is a problem because oxidized sake loses its punch and freshness. Fukuroshibori is very time-consuming and requires tank space to press, so it only produces limited volume, which is why it is often reserved for special products and competition sake. After pressing into the tank, the brewer usually then decant the sake into 18L bottles called tobin. You may often see the term tobin kakoi on the label for this type of sake. Fukuroshibori sake can be some of the most expensive sake.

Funeshibori

Funeshibori is like fukuroshibori in that the moromi is put into sakebukuro. However, instead of letting the liquid drip out naturally, external pressure is applied from above using a vice-like mechanism.

The sake-bukuro are laid on top of one another in a large tub called a fune, which resembles the bow of a boat (fune is Japanese for boat). A large vice-like mechanism is lowered down onto the sakebukuro. The technology mimics a wine-press, only instead of crushing; the moromi is pressed gently to force the liquid out of small openings in the bags. The brewer then extracts the liquid through a small tap at the bottom of the fune. Like fukuroshibori, this method demands time and physical labor. It is vital that pressure is applied slowly so as not to create coarse off-flavors. Sake pressed this way has little zatsumi and is delicate, but as the sake is still in contact with oxygen for a long period, some oxidation often occurs, although the most-skilled brewers can keep this to a minimum. The hardest part of using the fune is maintaining it. The brewer has to care for their fune or risk future pressings tainting the sake. To avoid this, the sake-bukuro has to be washed thoroughly after each pressing. Many breweries have fune gathering dust in a corner somewhere, but no longer use it in favor of the much faster, more efficient and more cost-effective modern machine-powered methods.

Modern Method

As explained for the traditional methods, the biggest problem is oxidation. The longer it takes to press, the longer the sake is in contact with air, and this is not desirable. The traditional methods also often leave many solids behind so less of the raw ingredients make it into the bottle. The assakuki machine solves all these problems.

The machine resembles a giant accordion or bellows; rows upon rows of slats divided by bags. The sake goes into space between inside a lining. In between the lining, slats and bags is a filter. The machine pumps air into these bags which inflate squeezing the moromi between and forcing it through the filter. Just imagine putting the moromi between the gaps in an accordion and pressing and that’s pretty much how this machine works, although sadly without the music — more like a loud whirring noise.

The only problem with this method is the strength of the pressure; too strong to extract the delicate flavors of daiginjo sake without harming them. However, this machine is perfect for processing large volumes of moromi quickly and requires only a small labor force to run. Perhaps the most significant merit of this machine is the short time the sake is in contact with air. The most time-consuming part of this method is assembling the machine at the beginning of each brewing season and scraping off the thick lees off the slats at the end. There are various brands of assakuki, but the most famous one, used by over 90% of brewers, is the Yabuta. Very few brewers used the word assakuki in favor of the Yabuta brand.

Why the Need to Press/Filter?

Simple, Sake That Isn’t Pressed / Filtered Isn’t Sake

Simple, Sake That Isn’t Pressed / Filtered Isn’t Sake
The legal definition for sake is according to the liquor tax law is, “that which has undergone pressing removing the lees.” Therefore, sake that skipped pressing is not sake; it is something else—probably a home-brew sake called doburoku (see this article). Cloudy sake or nigorizake is also pressed. So why is not clear? You may wonder. The brewers press the sake, but they use a filter with bigger holes to let some solids through into the final product (or sometimes filter and then return the solids afterward)—a legal loophole if you will. It is perfectly acceptable under the tax laws though.

How Does Joso Affect Sake Brewing?

Pressing in Fractions

With both the fune and assakuki methods, the brewer can press in stages, applying different amounts of pressure to extract different flavors. These separate pressings are called fractions. The first fraction is called arabashiri (literally, rough run) and is pressed with very minimal pressure. The sake that comes out has a very rough, coarse flavor. The next fraction is called nakagumi (literally, middle fraction) and comprises of the contents from the middle of the tank where the flavors and aromas are best balanced. The last fraction is seme and comprises of the rest of the moromi, the contents at the bottom of the tank and sometimes includes off-flavors, so very few brewers use seme alone, blending it with arabashiri or nakagumi instead. As well as off-flavors seme includes umami, so it is worth the effort to extract this fraction.

Sake Kasu

The shape and consistency of the lees vary depending on the method used. The lees of sake pressed using the assakuki are sold in sheets, like pastry, whereas the lees from the traditional pressing are sold as a paste in bags. The paste is easier to use in cooking, but the sheet form is useful for making sake flavored cakes or biscuits.

The lees, called sake-kasu, have an alcohol strength of 8%. They are sold in the brewery shop or distributed to suppliers. Sake-kasu can be used to make a special miso soup called kasujiru or a sweet low-alcohol sake called amazake. It has several other applications.


If you have enjoyed this article and feel ready to embark on a voyage of discovery, why not head on over to Japan, to Tokyo, and visit KURAND where you can taste over 100 different types of sake without time limits at your own leisure. Each sake comes with a story of how it was made and no two sake are made 100% the same way. We look forward to welcoming you very soon!

Rice Preparation Stages: Recap
Polishing
Karashi
Washing
Soaking
Straining
Steaming

Koji Making Recap
Koji Making Recap
Shubo
Shubo Recap
Moromi/Shikomi
Moromi/Shikomi Recap

The Veteran of Sake Rice Hiding in the Shadows: Omachi

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

Sake can be made with ordinary eating rice, but this is not desirable. The ideal is a special rice cultivated specifically for brewing. The most superior sake rice are called brewing rice or shuzokotekimai (literally rice ideally suited to brewing (see this article to learn more about shuzokotekimai). As of 2018, there are over 200 varieties of shuzokotekimai. In past articles we introduced the king, Yamada Nishiki; the Yokozuna of the east and official No.2, Gohyakumangoku; and the No.3, Miyama Nishiki — but follow the lineage of these varieties and you will eventually stumble across a much older variety, a veteran hiding in the shadows of time: Omachi.

What is Omachi?


Shuzokotekimai are generally created by cross-breeding other varieties of eating and sake rice together, but not Omachi, no, this variety is the one that gave birth to all the others. It is one of the only known pure breeds in existence. To refer to this as the roots of sake rice is no exaggeration.

It’s discovery traces back to near the end of the Edo period around 1859. The first successful cultivation is recorded in 1866 and this is also the year it was registered. There are people who believe strongly that Omachi has been around for a lot longer, just waiting in the shadows of time to be discovered, perhaps going under a different name, being mistaken as eating rice.

Where was Omachi Discovered?


Omachi was discovered in the town of the same name in Okayama Prefecture. It quickly built, a reputation among the brewing populace and before long, the southern part of Okayama prefecture had began to cultivate it. Although Omachi is now grown throughout Japan, Okayama remains the main growing area.

The Phantom Sake Rice

Omachi is weak against disease and insects which makes it notoriously difficult to cultivate, so much so, that it almost went extinct entirely. Its rarity had earned it the moniker: the phantom. However, in recent years a group of people in Okayama prefecture of mainly sake brewers have worked together hard to revive it. Their efforts have been rewarded with a newfound interest in the variety and new crop of brewers exploring its potential in their brewing.

What are the Characteristics of Omachi?


Compared to the elegance and fruity flavours of Yamada Nishiki, the light clean dry flavours of Gohyakumangoku, and reserved character of Miyama Nishiki, it is strikingly different boasting far more depth and an earthy, rustic flavours and aromas not found among any of its offspring. For those that enjoy its charms, Omachi is instantly recognizable in even the most modestly rice-focused sake.

So why hasn’t Omachi stolen Yamada Nishiki’s crown you might ask. Well, as explained in past articles, Yamada Nishiki became famous as the key ingredient to create competition junmai daiginjo sake. Its tolerance to high levels of polishing and perfectly shaped shimpaku are just some of the traits that make it superior. Unfortunately, this is where Omachi falls down. It has a good size shimpaku like Yamada Nishiki, but the shape is round instead of disc shaped and very brittle, making it extremely hard to polish to daiginjo level and keep the core intact, which causes the protein to get mixed up with the starch making it very difficult to create the delicate flavour profiles that often win gold in Japan. But that doesn’t mean Omachi is not an award-winning rice. It is and often takes the crown at regional level, especially in competitions that focus on sake displaying characteristics from the rice.

Omachi is what we call an okute (late ripening) variety, so by the time it is harvested it is quite mature and has a very high moisture content which gives it a long storage life.


Every now and then, the KURAND lineup includes the odd Omachi sake or two why not pop in the next time you are in Tokyo. With over 100 different types of sake carefully selected from boutique breweries all over Japan and unlimited time to taste them at your own leisure, all for one flat fee, there is no better place to start your sake journey. We look forward to welcoming you soon.

Closeup of Sake Production: Shikomi / Moromi

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

So far in this series taking you on a tour of the sake production process, KURAND Magazine has looked at how the brewer prepares the rice — polishing, washing, soaking and steaming it before dividing it up into batches to create the koji and shubo. The shubo created in the last stage is now transferred to a larger tank (about 6,000l). You may remember our previous explanation that the 1,2,3s of sake brewing are koji, moto, and moromi. In other words, we are about to dive into the third most important stage in the process.

Sake Making in a Nutshell

A very basic diagram of the sake brewing flow can be found in the chart above. This is just a very basic outline. The process varies depending on the variety of rice and the target style of sake.

What is the Moromi and Shikomi


The moromi is the bubbling melting pot where everything comes together. In English, it is called the mash. The process of building the moromi is called shikomi.

The total ratio of ingredients for the moromi is 80% steamed rice, 20% koji, 130% water. No additional yeast is added. Basically, the remaining steamed rice that was not turned into koji or used to make the shubo forms the fuel for the moromi.

Instead of throwing all the ingredients into the tank at once, the brewer divides the volume up over 4 days, in 3 stages called hatsuzoe, nakazoe and tomezoe, starting off with small additions and gradually increasing the volume at each stage. The process is aptly named the 3-stage fermentation process, or sandan-jikomi and is unique to sake.

Why Not Just Add Everything in One Go?


Early brewing used to do precisely that. But in many cases, the fermentation would stop prematurely and the batch would spoil. Sake is made from a complex fermentation process of microorganisms. It is imperative that wild bacteria cannot invade and spoil the fun. As explained in the last article, the yeast is able to hold the fort as long as there is a big enough population and conditions within the tank are right —the balance of acidity and temperature.

In the early stages, the yeast is still growing and needs space to be able to do this. If we were to use the analogy of a campfire, once you have a small fire lit, you never just throw all the logs onto it because this risks overwhelming it and extinguishing it. That’s because the bigger logs block out the supply of oxygen that the fire needs to grow. It’s a lack of oxygen that kills the fire, but it’s lower acidity that allows wild bacteria to invade and snub out the moromi.

As explained in the last article on shubo, yeast is tolerant to high acidity, whereas other bacteria isn’t. Steamed rice, water, and koji are not very acidic. Adding too much of them too quickly will tip the balance of acidity in favor of the wild bacteria. Therefore, instead of throwing all the ingredients in at once, you add them in small quantities gradually increasing the volume as the yeast reaches full strength and becomes able to control the levels of acidity in the mash itself.

The Sandan-Jikomi Process in a Nutshell


The process is as follows:

Day 1:Hatsuzoe

The first stage is hatsuzoe and is carried out on the first day of the 4-day shikomi.

The day before hatsuzoe, the brewer moves the shubo to a medium sized tank and creates something called mizukoji by mixing water and koji into the shubo releasing enzymes from the koji into the mixture. You may remember mizukoji from the yamahai version of kimoto, explained in the previous article. It’s essentially the same thing. Having koji enzymes readily available is important because it takes time for the koji to dissolve into the moromi and release them itself, and without enzymes there is no glucose — and no food for the yeast to grow. To the mizukoji, the brewer adds 1/6 of the total volume of steamed rice, koji, water. During shikomi, the steamed rice is referred to as kakemai and the koji as kake-koji.

Total volume of ingredients in tank: 1/6

Note: there is a version of hatsuzoe where the ingredients are put straight into the full-size tank. This is called suppon-jikomi. The reason for using a medium sized tank in the first place is to limit the amount of breathing space for other microbes and make it easier to control the temperature. But the traditional method also requires more labor and takes longer. With more accurate temperature control and ways to keep data from previous brewing years, brewers no longer need to take this precaution.

Day 2:Odori

Although the 3-stage fermentation process is 3 stages, there is a stage in between stages 1 and 2 called odori. Odori literally means to dance. On the second day, the brewer stops adding ingredients to let the yeast propagate or dance. The brewer, on the other hand, does not get a day of rest; they have to keep a watchful eye on proceedings, constantly adjusting the temperature and monitoring acidity balance.

The steamed rice added the previous day absorbs the water. At a glance, it resembles thick rice porridge. The brewer uses a large wooden oar called a kai to mix and fold the contents of the tank. This allows gas to be released and softens the mixture. This task is seriously back-breaking work and the brewer can be required to stir for hours on end.

By the end of this stage, the yeast has begun to breed again and ferment the sugars in the tank into alcohol.

Total volume of ingredients in the tank: 1/6

Day 3:Nakazoe

On day 3, it is time to return to shikomi.The mixture is first moved to the full-size tank. The second stage is called nakazoe. Another 2/6 of the total ingredients are added so that the total volume in the tank is now double what it was at the end of hatsuzoe, half in total.

Lowering the temperature simultaneously prevents the breeding of germs and adjusts the balance of yeast propagation and alcohol fermentation.

At this point, shikomi is half-way complete.

Total volume of ingredients in the tank: half

Day 4: Tomezoe

The final stage is tomezoe. The remaining half of the ingredients are added and the temperature is lowered further.

Following this first 4 days, the moromi will be allowed to continue to ferment for a further 20-28 days. The exact period of fermentation depends on the style being produced. For example, for a drier sake, the brewer will ferment for longer to leave less residual, unfermented sugar behind.

Total volume of ingredients in the tank: all.

Why Stop at 3 Stages?

3-stage fermentation is the standard, but some brewers extend the shikomi with an extra addition of kake-mai or kake-koji to sweeten the moromi or adjust the balance of sugar and alcohol conversion.

The most common variation is 4-stage fermentation or yondan-jikomi, but there is even a 10-stage variant called jyudan-jikomi. Basically for every addition of kakemai or kojimai, the number increases. But it is generally accepted that there is little point to go beyond 4 stages.

By the end of the moromi stage, the abv of sake is around 18-20%.


So there you have it. This article has only scratched the surface of how the shikomi is made. If you have enjoyed this article and feel ready to embark on a voyage of discovery, why not head on over to Japan, to Tokyo, and visit KURAND where you can taste over 100 different types of sake without time limits at your own leisure. Each sake comes with a story of how it was made and no two sake are made 100% the same way. We look forward to welcoming you very soon! In this next article in this series we will explain how the sake is pressed / filtered.

Rice Preparation Stages: Recap
Polishing
Karashi
Washing
Soaking
Straining
Steaming

Koji Making Recap
Koji Making
Shubo
Shubo

Closeup of Sake Production: Shubo

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

So far in this series taking you on a tour of the sake production process, KURAND Magazine has looked at how the brewer prepares the rice, polishing, washing, soaking and steaming it before malting it to create koji in the seigiku stage. A batch of that steamed rice is now taken to a special room to create something called the shubo. You may remember that we explained that the 1,2,3s of sake brewing are koji, moto, and moromi. Moto (origin or base) is another word for the shubo, so in other words, we are about to dive into the second most important stage in the process.

Sake Making in a Nutshell

A very basic diagram of the sake brewing flow can be found in the chart above. This is just a very basic outline. The process varies depending on the variety of rice and the target style of sake.

What is the Shubo?


Shubo is basically a mini-fermentation, a starter or seed mash where the yeast is propagated or bred into a big enough healthy population to facilitate the rest of the fermentation process. Without a large enough population of yeast, the fermentation may stop prematurely or become contaminated by wild bacteria or yeast because the yeast cannot defend itself in small numbers. But what is the yeast defending itself from? you may ask.

A very key difference with other fermented beverages is that the tank in which sake is fermented does not have a lid. The nutrient-rich mash is an open invitation to wild bacteria and other microbes and to those bacteria, a sake mash is the nutrient shake from heaven. If the yeast is eliminated, the wild bacteria will take hold of the moromi and spoil it, a condition called fuzo (literally, rotten mash) in Japanese.

The size of the shubo tank is a 10th (600l) of the fermentation tank (6000l). If the yeast was thrown straight into a large tank, the sheer volume of ingredients and space would overwhelm it and it would struggle to propagate.

Sokujo vs Kimoto


The shubo is basically a battle for survival among microbes and it is the brewer’s job to insure the yeast comes out as the victor. Wild bacteria and other microbes have no problem surviving the conditions of the fermentation tank that is except for one condition: acidity. In general, microbes have a low tolerance for acidity. But yeast is a different beast in that it is able to survive high acidity. So all the brewer has to do to give the yeast an advantage and the other microbes a handicap is to raise the acidity levels in the shubo. The modern way to do this is to add lactic acid. There are two methods to add lactic acid.

Sokujo


The easiest way to add lactic acid is to do just that, add it. This is the way the modern shubo is made. Sokujo is a very fast method of making the shubo. It takes just 14 days. This method also produces the most consistency and balance of flavor.

Kimoto

Back in the early days of brewing, brewers lacked the scientific knowledge to understand why the shubo worked. They didn’t yet fully comprehend the relation between acidity and the yeast. But somehow, perhaps through trial and error, they developed a method to create the shubo.

This method is called kimoto. This method is all about exploiting the lactic acid bacteria that congregate around the tank when the conditions are right and eventually fall into it. In this method, the lactic acid is not added but created by these bacteria. The first challenge is enticing them into the tank. Generally, lactic acid bacteria are searching for the same thing as other microbes, namely, nutrients, in particular glucose. And what creates glucose in sake brewing? That’s right, the koji. At first, glucose, conversion happens slowly, too slowly at first and leaves the tank open to contamination. In order to speed up the conversion, the brewer pounds the mixture of steamed rice, water, and koji to increase contact between the starch and koji enzymes. This stage of making a kimoto shubo is called either motosuri or yamaoroshi. A specialized tool called a kaibo, which is basically a long wooden oar, is used. In order to limit unwanted microbial activity as much as possible, yamaoroshi is normally performed at very cold temperatures.

As the mixture is pureed and the glucose conversion is sped up, the lactic acid bacteria enter the tank. At first, the lactic acid bacteria is joined by other undesirable types of microbes and bacteria but over time it weeds them out and kills them. Once all the other bacteria have been eradicated and only the lactic acid bacteria remain, their job is done. For reasons not fully understood, the bacteria itself then dies. One theory is that the lactic acid they created is too strong even for them to survive. Whatever the reason, they have made the ultimate sacrifice.

This brewing method originated during the beginning of the Edo period meaning around the latter half of the 17th century.

Is the Yamaoroshi Really Necessary?


Traditionally, the yamaoroshi is carried out through the night into the early hours. So was this back-breaking work really necessary? It’s a question that went on unanswered for a long time. And then, in the early 20th century, a professor at a university in Tokyo, found the answer: It wasn’t. The professor discovered that if koji enzymes were dissolved in water first and this mixture called mizukoji (mizu is Japanese for water or liquid) was added before the steamed rice, there was no need for the yamaoroshi. In other words, the brewer simply has to switch the order that the ingredients are added. The water effectively acts as an alternative catalyst bringing the starch into contact with the enzymes. A little heat is sometimes required to activate the enzymes and the starch conversion process. Although this stripped down version of the kimoto removes a lot of the manual labor it doesn’t make the process any faster because the brewer still has to wait for the lactic acid bacteria to do its work.

The result is still the same as for the regular kimoto. This version of kimoto is called yamahai, which is an abbreviation for yamaoroshi-haishi (literally, omitting the yamaoroshi). All kimoto- made sake has a more rustic quality to it, higher acidity — in particular, lactic acid derived acidity — and in some cases, although not a dead cert, higher umami. In the case of regular kimoto, the extra lactic acid provides a sharp backbone to the sake with buttery, milky notes. Some people say kimoto tastes cleaner than sokujo, but a number of breweries purposefully create a funkier, wilder style of yamahai. They do this by exploiting the wild bacteria before they are eradicated, leaving them alive just long enough to produce the desired flavors. Sake in this style is quirky, with notes of mushroom, spice, chocolate, nuts, and game.

Commercial Grade Lactic Acid

It was not until after the end of World War II, that lactic acid was available to buy in liquid form. This is another reason sokujo came after kimoto and not the other way around. But liquid lactic acid removed the hassle of having to make lactic acid. The advantage of having lactic acid, to begin with, is that you can add the yeast a lot earlier. In the kimoto method, it is too risky to add yeast before the lactic acid bacteria has created lactic acid which can be as late as 14 days after starting the shubo. That is why while it takes only 14 days to make sokujo compared to the 30 days it takes to make kimoto. Another reason the kimoto process takes so long is that by keeping the temperature low for much longer to reduce the activity of undesirable microbes also slows down the desirable ones. The effect is that the entire process runs at a snail’s pace. But with sokujo, with all the unwanted bacteria eradicated from day one, the brewer can increase the temperature much earlier to speed up the process. There is even now a super version of sokujo which can be completed in half the time of sokujo, simply by increasing the temperature even more.

Which Method is Best?

Deciding which shubo method to use is a question of time, cost, practicality and flavor and aroma. Kimoto is a much more complicated process and requires a great amount of skill, so many breweries stick to sokujo. As well as skill, kimoto requires a room with a certain microbial balance. This is not something you can create overnight.

For many breweries, challenging kimoto is all about honoring the traditions of their ancestors. For others, it is the trademark of their style and part of their story.

By the end of the shubo, the sake already has an average abv of 8−10%.



Sometimes, the shubo method used to make the sake is printed on the label (sokujo is rarely printed on the label, but if nothing is printed on the label, chances are it’s a sokujo). Why not see if you can’t find the odd kimoto or yamahai or two the next time you are scanning the shelves of your local sake shop or menu of your favorite restaurant.

At KURAND, we always try to include at least one or two kimoto or yamahai in our 100 strong sake lineup, all available to taste at your own leisure, with no time limits, for just one flat fee. Each sake comes with a story of how it was made and no two sake are made 100% the same way. We look forward to welcoming you very soon! In this next article in this series, we will finally put all the ingredients together and explain how the sake is fermented.

Rice Preparation Stages: Recap
Polishing
Karashi
Washing
Soaking
Straining
Steaming

Koji Making Recap
Koji Making