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Making Sake with Regular unpolished Rice

Long time beer brewer, some wine, and now I’ve been thinking about trying to make sake.

I see that you’re supposed to use Sake rice.

That being said, Has anyone tried using unpolished regular dinner rice, or brown rice to make sake? If so, how did it turn out.

All I have available is hardly polished medium grain (maybe short) sushi rice to make my Sake. Once in a great while I can order 60% polished rice from Sake One through Steinbart’s, at quite the shipping cost.

Sushi rice still makes very good sake. We just have to work harder, make adjustments to the ferment to help with the less refined tastes derived from the lesser quality rice.

It also helps to make a good batch of koji, and adjust it’s growth to accommodate the rice being used.

With this being said, for homebrewers, the dinner sushi rice is standard fair.

Brown rice sake, there is a special name for that and I’ve seen it made by professional boutique sake brewers. If you are growing koji from brown rice, they said its a little more difficult to get the spores through the thin coat. From my memory brown rice adds quite a bit of character to the sake, it will be different with a definite palette impact, but I hear not bad. The rice is harder to use, longer steam times… I am looking for references and will get back to you.


Thanks for the info.

I have access to Sushi grade rice at my asian grocer, so if I use that, what did you mean when you said I had to work harder. This will be my first sake, I’d prefer not to make something undrinkable? let me know, thanks

The sushi grade rice will be perfect, but expense wise, a good short to medium grained white rice will do just fine for the first couple of batches.

Making sake probably isn’t any harder than making a good lager. Using agood guides from within this forum should make great tasting sake, but you may notice a ricy-ness to it because of the cultivar/polish ratio of the rice. My comment was just to the effect of that. I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with not-so-perfect rice. Mainly by attempting to bring out other enjoyable flavors of the process to override the rice contributions.

Like in brewing, hard water will effect your hops. By trying first wort hopping, a different flavor can be brought out that surpasses standard recipe flavors being subdued due to hard water. Won’t be the same, but could be a good replacement :wink: That sort of harder/adjustments.

I make sake with short or medium grain rice, Calrose brand in fact. Don’t use sweet rice(glutenous) at first, something that has a little more polish than table rice, but by all means use table rice. I wouldn’t start with brown rice. Once your familiar with the process using the stepped addition cold brewed method, experiment.

I made something using the process with popcorn, air popped. Not sure if it would be considered sake, it worked, it was well… a mix of sake,popcorn, pretty beefy on the ethanol, with lots of umami. Reminiscent of alcoholic soy sauce… Great for cooking :wink:

If you like a little hands on, following no-corner cutting processes, this project is very rewarding indeed.

Good luck and if you do start, be sure to share pictures!

Good advice from dray.

I’ve made sake with Calrose medium grain. It’ll make decent sake. Nothing to brag about, but it’s fine considering its relative cost.

The polished sake rice is much more expensive. But the milling removes the outermost layers of the endosperm where a majority of the proteins and lipids are concentrated. So if you’re using unpolished rice you should do what you can to avoid any oxidation … same as you would for your beer … to avoid cloudiness (proteins) and sweat- or goat-like flavors from the lipids.

The “type” of grain (long, medium, or short) that we use is probably more important for us (homebrewers). As a general rule, long grain rice will have a higher amylose content than a medium grain rice, and a medium grain rice will have higher amylose content than a short grain rice. But there are exceptions to the rule – there are medium grain cultivars that have slightly lower amylose content than some of their short grain cousins (this is true of several California cultivars – like Calrose).

So just avoid the long grain and extra long grain products. Basically, a high amylopectin (low amylose) content is preferred as it generally is more aborptive (water content) and more “digestible” for the Koji. The amylose-amylopectin ratio also affects pasting and gelatinization properties – which is more of an issue for commercial use (rather than homebrew). But, there are some studies that show that sake made from low amylose rice tends to score better in taste tests.

As for the brown rice … that’s something I would probably skip unless you have a specific goal and really understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Brown rice simply has the hull removed but retains the germ and some of the bran (so it’s still brown). The good part is that bran contains about 60% of the grain’s nutrients and the germ contains vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, B6, E) – all good stuff for yeast. The bad part is that the bran contains various oils (off flavors) and reduces the grain’s ability to absorb water (protential problems for the Koji).

Anyway, sorry to be so long-winded. But with over 100,000 different varieties and well over 700 million tons of the stuff being used worldwide each year, the different products can make your head spin. It’s no fun burning time & money on things that might be doomed from the start. So it helps to have some background on basic things that help.

Bottom line: try Calrose medium grain to start (it’s inexpensive). Once you get the process down and have the appropriate equipment, maybe try some of that more expensive, highly polished sake rice. Then decide for yourself how much difference it makes.

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