Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sake Update

The Sake Saga continues.

So I've made it through the Moromi stage. The idea here is that you add three additions (the hatsuzoe, nakazoe, and tomezoe) of rice, koji and water over four days. Each addition doubles the volume of the mash, sequentially stepping up the amount to the full volume. This stepping-up allows the koji enzymes to keep working on fresh rice while the yeast is replicating and fermenting, preventing shock to the yeast and the koji, and allowing for a fully fermented sake with a greater alcohol level. I expect it will be around 18% when finished.

The problem is that the rice must be steamed, not boiled.

A lot of rice. 10 pounds of rice.

The hatsuzoe wasn't a problem. The night before, I took out the now completed moto, and added a cup of koji to it. Left it upstairs to warm up overnight. The next day I soaked 2.5 cups of my rice in water for an hour and a half or so, then steamed it in two layers using my bamboo steamer. The steaming took 45 minutes. While that was going on I mixed 1.25 teaspoons of Morton Salt Substitute (potassium chloride) into 2.75 cups of water and stuck in the fridge to chill. When the rice was done I moved it to a large clean pot, added the water, and mixed until it was chilled to below 85. Then I mixed it into the moto.

I also took this opportunity to drill a hole in my bucket lid to accommodate an airlock. Isn't the vinyl in my kitchen lovely? I call it The Gong Show Kitchen. At least it doesn't show dirt. I had white tile in my last one. Never again.

Ok: first major deviation from the recipe. The Recipe says "Long-time beermakers hate this step" and he's right. You're supposed to wash your hands and forearms really well, then use your hands to stir the mash, breaking up clumps, for a full half hour.

Screw. That.

I decided that I'm more willing to chance a few clumps than stick my filthy paws into the mash. So I used a sanitized wire whisk and just whisked the heck out of it, breaking up clumps as best I could, for a good 10 minutes. Seemed to work well. The way I figure it, Gekkeikan isn't mixing it by hand, they're going to use something like a whisk, so I will too. If the sake is a failure, well, lesson learned. Somehow I think it will turn out just fine.

Anyhow, the mash was to be stirred every two hours for twelve hours. Well, I mashed in at about 8 PM on a weeknight. So it got stirred once before bed, then again a couple times in the morning. C'est la vie. I took to just swirling the bucket around really well rather than opening it. The rice turns to watery goo pretty quickly.

It started to bubble away within an hour. The noise actually woke me up in the middle of the night, and I was worried that it might be getting too hot. But a 4:00 AM thermometer check showed 69 degrees. Perfect!

Next came the nakazoe, the middle addition. After 12 hours of fermenting (i.e. the next morning) I added 1.5 cups of koji. That evening I soaked 6 cups of rice for an hour and a half in preparation for steaming it. This created a problem: how to steam that much rice? 2.5 cups basically maxed out my bamboo steamer. At 45 minutes a batch, I wasn't excited to spend two hours steaming rice.

Then it hit me: my couscousiere! It's basically a big aluminum pot, with an even bigger lid that has a bunch of holes in it. In Moroccan couscous cooking the idea is that you make a big stew in the bottom and use the steam generated by it to cook the couscous. This sucker will make couscous for a village. Seriously, the smallest amount I've ever made in it fed twelve. And it was about $30 at a Middle Eastern market in Miami. But it doesn't have a lid, and I worried that the rice on top wouldn't cook as fast as that on the bottom. So I used my wok lid. Fit perfectly. Sweet.

Steamed the rice for 45 minutes. Put it in a big 4 gallon pot. Added 8.75 cups of cold water. Whisked to break up clumps. The idea was to chill it to 70, and it was taking a long while. So I put it in an icebath in the sink. Worked great. Pitched it into the mash. Stirred every couple hours.

The next morning: the tomezoe. Mixed in the remainder of the koji, a whole 20 ounce container. Stirred a couple times during the day. By now the airlock was bubbling away and fermentation was clearly rocking.

That evening came the Big Steam: the rest of the rice. Over five pounds of it.

The couscousiere worked like a champ. Here it is pre-steam. I like how the soaked polished sake rice looks like Styrofoam pellets.

When the rice was done it went into my 4 gallon pot, set in a sink full of ice water. Added a gallon plus a cup of cold water and got to work with the whisk. Whisked till it was 70 degrees. Given the volume of rice, I figure this is important. If say, you only cooled to 90 it would take hours, maybe even a day or more, to drop to ambient 70. But in the ice-water bath it took maybe 15 minutes to whisk it down to 7o. Then into the mash it went, along with some good whisking to mix everything up a bit.

It took off like a shot. Happily burbling CO2 out the airlock. Interestingly, the bucket created a sort of drum, and the airlock made a thurb thurb thurb noise all night long. ALL NIGHT LONG. By morning it had actually krausened out the airlock. The Japanese call this odori, the Dancing Ferment.

I made this video so you can experience the magic yourself.

Next time, it gets to dance somewhere more quiet. Like the basement.

Fortunately in the morning it was time to chill it. So I moved it downstairs into my lagering fridge. There it will stay for three weeks at 50 degrees. I lowered the fridge to 45 degrees for the first 12 hours to help cool it, and even then it was probably warm for a while and I hope that won't impact it badly. Ideally I'd use a Stopper Thermowell and set the fridge to stay on until the sake hit 50, but I lost the thermowell in the move. Man I need to get another one.

So there we go. Sake is bubbling away. I think the project is going swimmingly so far. Most importantly, it smells like sake. No off-sour notes or anything weird, just sake and a bit of yeasty. We'll see how it turns out.

Next up: The Pressing.


Jerome said...

"The Dancing Ferment", I love it.

Russell Hews Everett said...

I know! Basically 'odori' captures a variety of traditional Japanese dances. Here's an example:


I like to think that this is what my yeast are up to.

will said...


Good going.

If the bamboo steamer you have is a 12" two layer it would have worked just fine as well.

When I brew sake I just use a spoon to stir. Just flame it stir. That way I don't have to worry about any sanitizing solutions.

I can't wait to see what you think of your final brew! Kanpai!

Russell Hews Everett said...

Yeah, unfortunately it's a 9" steamer. Still, I think I could probably manage a double batch using the couscousiere so I've got that going for me next time if the 3 gallons goes too quickly.

Due to all the brewing, bottling, racking etc that goes on here I usually have a bucket of Star-San around that's reasonably fresh, so I just used that on my whisk. Also used a slotted spoon to stir the sake sometimes. A minute or two in the sanitizer and it's good to go.

I know! I'm very excited about it. At pressing I'll pull a half-gallon or so off as nigori sake, so first taste should be in two weeks or so.

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