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Steaming Rice

So, I’m probably over thinking this, but I can’t find answers, so in lieu of messing up pounds and pounds of rice, I thought I would see if sage advise could be found here. Basically I’m wondering about depth of beds, layering, penetration etc.

I think I have probably not been steaming my rice correctly…except it sake is good and most everything is going as I would expect it. That said, I have a 10" aluminum steamer with two layers, each 3" deep. I’ve been lining with cheese cloth, and filling about 1/3-1/2 full (and here is where I now think I’ve been going wrong) and pulling up the cheese cloth so steam can make it up and around both layers of rice quickly. Once I see steam in the top layer, I start my timer.

  1. I’m now starting to understand the steam should go through the rice. How thick can that layer be? Can it be 3" deep? Is there a limit (2,3,4) the number of layers of rice I have?

  2. From watching a video of SakeOne, they ‘layer’ their rice (using layer different here), some depth thick, watch for steam to make it’s way up, and layer more rice on. Once it’s all on (I wonder how deep they go), then they start the timer. Do we need to do that? Or even at 3" deep, with two or three steamer layers, will the steam just power through?

  3. When do you start your timer? When you put the rice on or once you see steam coming out the top layer? I lean toward the later, but also don’t want to over steam the lower layer.

  4. With our home equipment, how much can we steam at one time? I’m asking because about 5 lbs has been my limit, but if I can go 10"x3" that would jump to 15 lbs.




I’m pretty sure you want no gaps in your layers, as the steam will go through the gap and not the rice. Steam is water, just moving up instead of flowing down. So imagine a sponge with a hole in the middle, vs a sponge with no hole. The water will flow though the hole, as opposed to evenly filling the entire (hole-free) sponge.

Also, I’ve had terrible results with cheese cloth being a PITA to scrape my rice off of, so I use muslin now. Same results, just sturdier and can be washed and reused.

I have a bamboo steamer basket, the kind you get at super-asian-marts where the clerks don’t speak English well. Each basket is 3 trays and a lid. I bought 2 baskets, and have done 5 layers (final addition) without issue. I do reverse my trays (12345-54321) halfway through though), but it likely isn’t necessary. I think the lid makes a big difference, I even drape a dishtowel over the top too. Each tray gets filled to its capacity, about 2" deep and 10" diameter.

I start the timer after I build the trays and set it over the steaming water. It takes about 60 seconds for steam to come out the top, so I figure it’s not that tight of a margin on time. I suppose I could get more precise, stopwatch in hand and all, but I think in the quantities we’re talking about, the differences wouldn’t be that noticeable.

I think this is merely a question of what your equipment will allow. Someone on here built a giant 50gal steamer, others use methods similar to what I described above. Adding layers to your setup would certainly boost your throughput, and I don’t think it would adversely affect your outcome. If in doubt, just rotate your layers like I do. With home equipment, the best indicators seem to be lots of trial and error testing. Write stuff down, make detailed notes and take lost of pictures, or video.

Best of luck.

Thanks. That is just what I needed. I appreciate it. I’m going to give it a roll on the next batch.

The batch came out fantastic.

On the recommendation of a toji whom I happened to get into a conversation with, I did a couple other things that I thought I would pass along.

After soaking (in this case, believe it or not 1.5 minutes for a 60% Akita Komachi ) I drained it (it had absorbed 30% water) and let it rest 12 hours in the refrigerator to let the moisture distribute evenly through out the rice. The result was a perfectly dry, hydrated rice the next morning that the steam just ran through without any issue. His recommendation is that even for the rices we soak an hour, and drain a 1/2 hour, it will come out superior if the rice is left 12 hours to evenly hydrate.

The other item was to lay down, in a nylon bag, a sacrificial cup of calrose on the bottom of the steamer to take the brunt of the initial steam and not have it over steam and become mushy.

Can hardly wait to see how this comes out. It’s incubating currently with the new source of Koji I mentioned in another thread. At 36 hours, it’s nearly done and pristine white. So far, so good.


So wait… you only soaked for 1.5 minutes? I can’t even seem to get it rinsed that fast, let alone soak.

And if we soak for 1 hour, drain for 1/2 hour, and rest for 12, what’s the difference between the draining and resting…?

I said the exact same thing. And with an 85% ‘white’ rice, agreed. I could not get it washed that fast either. But with the 60% it was basically spotless. Almost no dust at all and the water ran clear after two rinses.

Again, I said and asked the same thing about the length we typically soak, drain and rest. The answer was ‘polish’. That is what seems to make the difference. With this soak, water uptake clearly was fast. I think the key is that it could have absorbed more (being more porous if you will, being down to the kernel), but if it had, after it had rested and drained, it would have absorbed too much water.

That said, thinking and writing this now days later, basically we can get away with, and even need these longer soaks because the 85% polish inhibits water uptake so much compared to 60%.

Something interesting, is that with some sacrificial calrose soaked 1 hour, and drained 1/2 hour, it still didn’t have that dry feel the 60% did after resting overnight. I wonder if it would ever get there, how much it is needed (it sure made steaming nice) and if a 24 hour rest or longer might be needed to achieve the same conditions.

Noob just surmising here, but it seems the goal of soaking is to absorb all the water you need to hydrate the entire grain, but in the out part (say 75%). The rest time is then to allow the limited water available to distribute evenly. With polished rice, it’s easier to absorb more water than you need quickly, leaving a grain too hydrated. But with something of less polish, it may be near to impossible to over hydrate, and it’s just waiting time to even out the levels.

Trying not to re-invent the wheel, some of this feels like other processes I’ve experimented with where procedures are taken and followed that work for one material (50-60% polish) and try to apply them to what is available (85%) without really knowing how the original procedure behaved.

That all said, I’ve tried the polished rice from SakeOne and don’t recall it behaving this way…but that was my first batch and two years ago.

So, does anyone have some SakeOne/Steinbart rice around that can describe it’s appearance post resting?

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