How is Sake Made and What is Fermentation?
We’re traveling back to 19th century Japan to give you a glimpse of the labor and time-intensive sake making process, because it’s always good to take a step back to see where we were to understand and appreciate how far we’ve come. Fermentation involves the metabolic process where sugars convert into an acid or alcohol, using bacteria or yeast. This conversion concentrates all of the rice’s skincare assets, and breaks large molecules down, which makes it easier for your skin to absorb.
Step One: Washing and Soaking When the rice first arrived (remember this is 19th century practices), the first stage was to wash the rice via foot stomping in large tubs called Fumioke. The washed rice was transferred into Kakimasu, a large wooden tub, where it would soak for a precise amount of time. The soaking would help heat to penetrate rice during the steaming process, and also accelerate the speed of starch to glucose conversion.
Step Two: Steaming After steaming in Koshiki for 50-60 minutes, the rice continues on its journey to becoming sake.
Step Three: Adding Koji Mold The rice is allowed to cool down from the steaming process and is mixed with Koji (mold) in wooden trays aptly named Kojibuta. Koji mold’s scientific name is Aspergillus Oryzae and is critical to the sake making process. This addition creates enzymes which break down the starch in the rice and converts it into sugar. As the Koji mold grows, the process produces heat. In order to control the temperature inside the rice, workers make sure to rotate from top to bottom to keep the ideal temperature. This fermentation process may seem similar to most alcohol producing processes, but using koji mold is in fact unique to sake making. Without this unassuming addition, sake production would not be possible.
Step Four: Starter Making Next, the Koji rice and water are mixed together to form a mash; Yamaoroshi. The two ingredients are blended together until they reach an optimal paste-like consistency. The mash is moved into the Dankidaru, which is a sealed hot water bucket, to help keep the mixture warm, aiding in the fermentation process.
Step Five: Final Making Mix, mix, and mix some more is what this stage of the sake production process is all about. The swirling and stirring of the slurry helps further accelerate the brewing process. This final stage is also where more rice and water is added to the final mash, and when the mash has reached its ideal alcohol point and fermentation, it’s taken out to be filtered.
Step Six: Pressing and Filtering The Moromi (mash) is poured into heavy, long cotton sacks to be pressed in Sakafune, meaning “sake boat.” The filtered sake is called raw sake or new sake.
Step Seven: Pasteurizing After settling for about 10 days, the sake then moves to be pasteurized between 65-70 degrees Celsius.
Step Eight: Aging and Bottling The final liquid is bottled in an airtight container and set aside for aging.
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