Demystifying Sake

Sake, the alcoholic beverage has been around more than 2000 years ago and originated from japan.  But this fermented drink has been misunderstood many times during discussions or even sometimes in official communication by those who were not familiar with this beverage and It’s called “Rice Wine in an incorrect way.

All the major alcoholic beverage is catergorised according to manufacturing techniques. For example, beer and whisky use similar ingredients and the only difference is the type of fermentation that is carried out to get the final product.  For example, beer is fermented while Whisky is distilled.

So, what’s the difference between Wine and Sake? 

Basically, wines are made by harvesting grapes and crushed for their juice.  The juice is then fermented by adding yeast which converts the juice’s sugar into alcohol.

Sake on the other hand is made from rice. It is obvious that we can’t get juice from rice. Furthermore, rice does not contain sugar in his natural form that can be converted into alcohol.

For basic fermentation to occur, you need organic matters such as carbohydrates or proteins which are decomposed by microorganism (yeast, bacteria) and converted to a specific substance.  The resulting substance such as alcohol defines the type of fermentation e.g alcoholic fermentation. I am very sure you have consumed or purchased fermented food and beverages such as alcohol, cheese, yogurt, soya sauce, bread, miso and vinegar.

The method of fermentation Sake in theory involves more than one fermentation action.   In simple terms rice is polished first to specific percentage. It is then steamed just like what you see in a rice cooker after adding rice grain and water.  After steaming, portion of the rice is used to make koji (steamed rice inoculated with fungus). The process of making koji is a complex one and will be explained in subsequent article. The ordinary steam rice is plain in colour.  However, rice inoculated with koji will have white spots on each grain. The koji rice will have a chestnut aroma too.  In summary, steamed rice, rice koji and yeast starter are added at once in a small fermentation tank. This will start the process of alcoholic fermentation and saccharification to occur simultaneously. This is the only fermentation process where sake obtains the highest alcoholic content (up to 22% abv) among fermented beverages in the world.

Joshua Kalinan is the first Singaporean to win Sake Sommelier of the Year.
This title was bestowed by the Sake Sommelier Association, an organisation based in the United Kingdom.

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