This is part eight of a series on making sake at home, part one is here.
If you haven’t picked it up from my posts, by now, let me be blunt…
Making rice into alcohol is easy. Making sense of sake making is hard.
There are so many possible forks in the road, decisions to be made. So little agreement. So few materials available in English. So little of what is published, is meant for homebrewers. Since we are speaking plainly: there are also so many people on the internet who say their simple homebrewed sake is delicious, and maybe it really is, maybe it just is to them… or maybe they don’t want to tell you that it’s not that great.
We drank our sake chilled first, then gently heated. Chilled, it had a heady, rough nose: like sake should smell, but somehow magnified. ‘This could be ok’, said one taster, and then she sipped. ‘Oh. I don’t think I really like it.’ I thought it was too rough, too bold. Others thought it was too rich, or too… something they couldn’t quite put their fingers on. Too much.
When we tasted the sake warm, things got even worse: the word ‘disgusting’ was used by the most polite friend I have. Nobody who tasted it wanted to finish their cup.
If I had to pick, I’d say there were two possible variables I’d like to revisit and retest. One, the use of regular Calrose rice, and two, the weird situation at the end where we didn’t really have a handle on how to pasteurise and bottle, and when. When I try again (not tomorrow, I’m tired) I will see if somehow, from someplace, I can get properly milled rice; and then I will put real effort into knowing what to do around clearing and pasteurisation.
We still have eight bottles left, and I’ve set them aside for a few months to see if things improve, but honestly I’m not confident. Maybe someone on the internet will read this post and help me out, because I’m up for trying this out again, with a different list of variables. Just… not next week.
However, the bigger question is, was it worth it? Absolutely it was. There really is no better way to make sense of flowcharts like these:
than to just jump in, try it one way, and see. I must have read the chart above ten times before starting my sake, and still felt totally lost; now it makes a lot more sense. I have a sense of how much I’d be making and I know that the volumes and work can be handled at home. I’ve also been introduced to koji rice.
Koji, you see, is the real standout for us from this whole experiment. Making koji is fun. Meat ‘aged’ in koji is meat that tastes expensive when it’s cheap; we want to make some miso and some soy sauce, and play around with more mould fermentations. There’s so much to explore in projects that are manageable and productive.
Now that I know it’s a thing, I’m seeing mould fermentations everywhere on the net and I’m keen for the next one. I might even have to buy us our own cooler, and let my neighbour have his beer transportation back (mould free).
So that’s a wrap for sake (this time). A successful learning experience in very many ways, if not productive of a tasty rice wine.
If you have advice, I’d love to hear it in the comments. Some of the more useful things I read and watched are here:
- Release the Toji Within. I still have a lot to learn from this book. It’s worth brewing several times while reading, I think.
- American Homebrewers Association article
- Brew Your Own article
- Sake Brew Club
- Vision Brewing
Each of these were inspirational in some way for part of my process, and when I try again, I’d consider each useful for a re-read to improve my process.
Thanks for reading this far. If you would like to hear more about sake the next time we have a go, or read about more ridiculous homebrew projects (next up, ice cider), sign up for the Booze News. The Booze News is my curated collection of new ideas, recipes and research on home boozemaking from around the web. Just pop your details here: