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Making Traditional Japanese Sake

Have you ever wondered how Japanese Sake is made? You’ve come to the right place. Today we are diving deep into the world of sake as I’m going to take you through each step from beginning to end.

Making sake involves a lot of processes. It isn’t complicated but it does take time and patience. If you want something fast consider a Chinese rice wine. which only takes a few weeks. This process takes about 3 months and the end result will be a sake traditionally brewed and incredibly rewarding.

Before we begin we need to talk about s few ingredients that you will need to make sake. The first is obviously rice. You can use table rice like sushi rice or jasmine rice but it is recommended to use a short or medium grain 40-70% polished rice. The better your rice the higher quality your sake will be. The next most important ingredient in making sake is koji (aspergillus oryzae). This mold is critical in the process and sake can not be made without it. The role of this incredible mold is to break down the carbohydrates in rice to turn them into fermentable sugars.

Once you have fermentable sugars it is then the role of the third most important ingredient in making sake, which is yeast. Technically you can use any brewers yeast but I highly suggest getting your hands on a specific sake yeast by Wyeast #4134 . This yeast has the ability to handle higher alcohol contents, works well in low temperatures, and delivers a silky smooth finish with the most incredible flavor profile.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide on how to make sake. It’s a shortened version of a much more complex series of processes. If you really want to invest in this craft I suggest you pick up the book Sake (USA): The complete guide to American Sake

If Fred’s book is a little too pricey you might want to print up these sheets and read them over (this process is directly adapted from his work). He discusses all of the steps you see me do in greater detail. Here is a link to that page:

Let’s talk about koji for a minute. There are 2 ways you can approach the koji ingredient for sake. The first is to buy koji rice online already made. This is by far the easiest method. You will need about 8.5 cups of koji rice for this recipe. If you want to experiment with koji in other recipes then I highly suggest you make it yourself. This method is a little more work but once you start producing koji you can effectively make it forever. This is what we do. In order to make it yourself you’ll need koji spores.

Finally before we get into the production of Sake it is important to keep everything sanitized. You don’t want to introduce bad bacteria to any of these processes. I use Iodophor to sanitize my equipment and tools. This sanitizer is great as you only need a little bit and can be used for all sorts of projects. We use it in our fermenting projects, cheese making projects, salami projects, I can go on and on

This particular recipe requires an area with controlled temperature. I have a modified refrigerator that I use to make salami. As it’s empty right now it’s the perfect place to make this sake as the temps will range between 75F on the high and and 45F on the low end. The temperature is determined by what step you are on. I control my temperature using an inexpensive Inkbird Temperature controller . I plug my fridge into this unit and then set it to whatever temperature I want. Very easy. These controllers are also great if you ever want to grow mushrooms, make salami, make cheese, make beer or different wines.

In the process of making Sake you will want to take the specific gravity and record those numbers. This will help you understand you alcohol %. This will also let you know how dry your sake is at the end. By knowing these numbers you can make adjustments in the final steps to sweeten your wine a bit. (Refer to pages 13-15 on the following document for more detailed information: )

Things you will need to make Sake

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Print Recipe
4.79 from 14 votes

Japanese Sake

Experience the process of true sake
Prep Time88 days
Total Time88 days



Day 1:

  • In the evening, mix 2.5 cups of distilled water with the lactic acid, magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, and the yeast nutrient. Make sure it is mixed well
  • Place 1/2 cup of that solution in the fridge covered and leave the other 2 cups of that solution on the counter covered

Day 2:

  • In the morning. Smack the pack of yeast and let it begin to inflate
  • Prepare 1.6 cups of rice by washing the rice very well. Steeping it in water for 1 hour, then draining it in a sieve for 1 hour and finally steaming it for 1 hour.
  • Add the 1/2 cup of solution that is in the fridge from yesterday to the rice to help cool it down (70-75F)
  • Once the yeast pack is fully inflated open it and add it to the 2 cups of solution that you prepared yesterday. Cover and let rest for 1 hour.
  • Sanitize your moto container (2 gallon)
  • After 1 hour add 1 cup of koji rice to your yeast solution and stir will. Pour this into your sanitized moto container and begin adding the freshly steamed and cooled rice.
  • Place this container loosely covered in an area that is 65f-75f

Days 3-6

  • stir your moto every 12 hours (i stir mine at 8am and 8pm). The temp needs to be between 65f-75f

Day 7

  • Continue stirring twice a day and lower the temperature to 60F

Day 8

  • Stir twice a day. In the evening add 1.5 cups of koji rice and 1.5 cups of water to your moto and stir well.
  • Place 1.25 cups of water in the refrigerator covered

Day 9: Hatsuzoe

  • Prepare 2.5 cups of rice by washing the rice very well. Steeping it in water for 1 hour, then draining it in a sieve for 1 hour and finally steaming it for 1 hour.
  • Add the 1.25 cups of water that's in your fridge to the freshly steamed rice to cool it down. You are looking for 70-75F
  • sanitize a 5 gallon fermenting container.
  • In the freshly sanitized 5 gallon bucket add the moto that you've been stirring along with the rice you made today.
  • Lower the temp in your chamber to 55F and for the next 48 hours, stir the rice/yeast mixture twice a day for 5 minutes at a time.

Day 10: Odori (24 hours after hatsuzoe)

  • Add 2.25 cups of koji rice and 4.5 cups of water to the fermenting bucket. Mix well with sanitized spoon
  • place 4.25 cups of water in the fridge covered

Day 11: Nakazoe (48 hours after hatsuzoe)

  • Reduce temp to 50F in your chamber
  • Prepare 6 cups of rice by washing the rice very well. Steeping it in water for 1 hour, then draining it in a sieve for 1 hour and finally steaming it for 1 hour.
  • Once the rice is steamed, cool it down by adding the 4.25 cups of water that is in your fridge (target temp 70-75F) Add to the fermenting bucket and stir well
  • In the evening add 3.5 cups of koji rice and 10 cups of water to the fermenting bucket. Stir well to combine
  • Place 6 cups of water in the fridge covered

Day 12: Tomezoe (24 hours after nakazoe)

  • Reduce temperature in your chamber to 45F
  • Prepare 10 cups of rice by washing the rice very well. Steeping it in water for 1 hour, then draining it in a sieve for 1 hour and finally steaming it for 1 hour.
  • Once the rice is steamed, cool it down by adding the 6 cups of water that is in your fridge (target temp 70-75F) Add to the fermenting bucket and stir well
  • Stir every 12 hours for 2 days then allow the sake to begin fermenting for 20 days

Day 32

  • Separate the sake from the lees by using a cheese cloth. Try to squeeze as much out as possible.
  • Once your sake liquid is separated from the lees solids place the liquid in your secondary fermenting containers that have been sanitized. Place an airlock on those containers and put them in your chamber

Day 44

  • Rack sake and place back in the chamber

Day 54

  • Rack Sake and place back in the chamber

Day 68

  • Rack Sake and place the 1 gallon containers of clear sake in a double boiler to pasteurize. Heat to 145F and hold it there for 20-30 minutes.
  • Place an airlock on newly pasteurized gallon containers and place back in the chamber

Day 88

  • Rack sake. Take the specific gravity and determine if you want to add sugar (amelioration stage). Bottle and pasteurize to 145F.

20 thoughts on “Making Traditional Japanese Sake”

  1. Hi! I was just curious what the point of letting the sake sit after the bottling process was. Is 6 months the recommended amount or is it like wine where the longer you let the wine sit and develop the more different flavours it acquires? Did you try the sake at different points in the aging process, and if so what were the differences? I’m at my hatsuzoe phase today and I’m following the instructions in your video, thanks for making it easy to follow!

    1. NO!

      Sake has a very short shelf life and is highly perishable. If you are going to “age” it, it needs to be aged cold. Sake has about a year shelf life and then its flavour quickly begins to degrade.

      How’d yours turn out though?

  2. Hi brother.

    It’s amazing than any free document like you did. I did the same way and successful.
    But unlucky for the second time, I put the sugar as instruction and its spoiled, I really don’t understand why. Because, I read and read many time before putting the sugar. Could you please help to show out exactly 1 litter need how many grams sugar.

    I read all your information but did not see any where you mentioned to Project of make Sweet Potatoes Shochu.
    If you got some information to share with us. We very appreciated.

    Thank you and have good day.

  3. 5 stars
    How did you “lower the temperature to 60F” and why? My house is always 74F. Is it possible to perform this entire operation at 74F?

    1. I was using a modified refrigerator to tweak the temperatures. The reason is because at different temperatures the koji and yeast ferment out different flavors. You get a more complex tasting sake. You could just make this at 74f You would end up with more of a Chinese rice wine type of drink but it would work..

  4. 5 stars
    Today marks the bottling step for me. This recipe was phenomenal. I have been trying it all along the process and really enjoying the changes. I can’t wait to see what it tastes like in 6 months. Thanks for such a thorough write up!

  5. 5 stars
    This design is steller! You most certainly
    know how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job.
    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.

    Too cool!

  6. 5 stars
    Howdy would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using?

    I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough
    time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs
    and I’m looking for something unique. P.S Sorry for being
    off-topic but I had to ask!

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