Longtime lurker, so I thought I’d (make my first) post on what I’ve learned (good and bad) thus far.
Don’t freak out after you start your shubo and see no liquid. The rice soaks it up and by the next day, it looks like you think it’s going to.
The temperature windows in the recipes are carefully selected over much trial and error to be exacting… But they’re still a guideline. Being off by a few degrees shouldn’t kill your batch. Remember, they used to make this stuff outside in Japan.
Stir often; I feel I got better results when I stirred often, as opposed to stirring longer.
Cheesecloth sucks, buy some muslin and hem the edges. If you use it to line your steamer (I do), get it wet first, as the rice won’t stick as much and you can peel it right of afterwards.
You don’t HAVE to get every last grain of rice from the steamer, but it’s better if you DO.
The steps of the buildup are basically doubling; if you can’t fit the last quantity into your steamer (like mine), figure out what you can, and adjust backwards (halving) for the quantities of the previous steps. The difference (remainder) can be broken into 6ths; 1/6th for the hatsuzoe, 2/6th for the nakazoe, and 3/6th for the tomezoe.
Stir often; I got better results even when I mentioned that I stirred often.
Foam sucks, but it happens. Wait an extra day or so before combining those fermentors to save space. Then bag them (loosely), and set them on a tray, just in case you weren’t patient enough.
Strain through 2 bags (I use 5 gal nylon paint strainers), but not at the same time; strain ~1 gal into the second bag, then strain that bag out too.
Don’t be afraid to sanitize. StarSan is cheap, and only takes a minute to make up a spray bottle worth. A batch of sake ingredients isn’t cheap, and spoiling your brew in the 1st 3 days is only slightly less annoying than spoiling it in the last 3 days.
The best fining agents are time and patience.
Bottle some nigori; chicks dig nigori.
You don’t need fancy equipment to make a decent tasting sake. You need a system and focus.
Save samples of different steps along the way and taste them. Make adjustments based on what they taste like, not on what something measures out to be.
If this is your first batch, save a bottle’s worth for posterity; even if posterity is only 6 months or so away.
Stir often; Jesus loves it when you stir often.
I’m sure I’ll add onto this list as I think about it; feel free to do the same.
Thanks, and pleased to greet ya.