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Production of sake


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Added: 16 Jan 2013

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Production of sake

The main ingredient of the pure original Japanese sake named Seishu (the word “sake” means in Japan all alcoholic beverages) is the good-quality sake rice (sakamai) and pure water. There exist several types of sakamai that differ by their aroma and flavour. Some types of sake are made only from one type of rice, others are made by mixing several types.

First, the rice is milled to ground away the hard skin. According to the percentage of polishing the rice grain, sake is classified in several types. The less milled grains are used for making harder and thicker sake beverages, the finer are used for making finer types. The result is a fine powder where water is added, and it rests in water for several hours until completely soaked. The pureé of rice and water is put into a special steam vessel where the mixture is boiled or brewed by hot steam. A part of the mixture is separated into a fermentation vessel, and the rest smaller part is enriched by a special Kojikin mould. The Koji mould breaks the starch into sugars which are then fermented. The set-aside steamed mixture is combined with the mould rice. The mixture of sake rice, water, and koji yeasts is named moromi.

Fermentation may be carried out in various ways, resulting in unique types of sake which differ by flavour and aroma. The resulting product is affected by the types of yeasts, mixing or pressing the mixture to a finer or thicker paste. Currently, the lactic acid is added during fermentation. After two weeks, during four days, additional rice, water, and koji is added to the fermented paste. The relatively thick paste is pressed to finer consistency. During resting of the pressed sake, the sediments fall down to the bottom, and a relatively clear liquid is on the top of the vessel. Pressing is made manually or by machines. It depends on the producer´s decision. Although the manual press is traditional, the machine works more quickly and is used for mass production. In manual pressing, linen bags are used, that are filled by the moromi mixture, from which sake is pressed out. Inside the bag, only the sediments will remain, that will not get out. Some producers filter sake through coal, others pasteurize it, thus destroying any still active bacteria. By pasteurization, sake is sterilized by quick warming and is deprived of microorganisms. The non-pasteurized sake is named namazake, it has fresh flavour, and must be stored in a refrigerator. The filtered or pasteurized sake further passes, just like wine or majority of distillates, through the process of ageing. The sake having rested for about half year is diluted by water in a stainless-steal or ceramic vessel and is bottled as 16 % alcoholic beverage.

The production process is supervised by the toji master performing both the craft and art at the same time. He supervises the fermentation process and determines the processing of the paste into sake. The overall quality of the rice beverage depends on him.

Sake should be stored in dark and cool rooms, where it should not be kept for a long time. Sake is consumed fresh, and long storage impairs its unique flavour and aroma. Old bottles are characteristic for wines, although some precious old bottles may be found in stores or in specialized sake shops. In addition to drinking, sake is used also in gastronomy. It is added into meals or desserts. Another common property of the wine and sake is to serve it hot or cold.

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