Sake Ingredients #01: RICE
Rice is the central ingredient of Japanese sake. Like wine is made using special wine grapes instead of table grapes, sake is made using special sake rice.
Hundreds of rice strains, specifically designed for premium sake, are grown in Japan. They are much bigger, harder to cultivate and therefore much more expensive than your regular table rice. Each variety brings its unique characteristic and style to the final flavour of sake.
Sake Ingredients #02: WATER
Great water makes great sake. In fact, water makes out 80% of your sake bottle. It is heavily used throughout the entire production process. The type of water used, "hard" or "soft", will significantly affect the flavour and texture of sake. It is the reason why you'll find most breweries within close proximity of pristine natural water sources.
The higher the mineral concentration, the harder the water and the more pronounced the flavour will be.
Sake Ingredients #03: KOJI
Rice and water are the two elementary ingredients of sake. However, merely mixing them together will lead to non-alcoholic "wet rice",... which is not what we're after here. It is where microorganisms come in to save the day!
Koji-kin, also known as Aspergillus Oryzae among scientists, is a Japanese fungus that magically turns its starchy core into fermentable sugar!
Once the rice is as sweet as candy, the yeasts can step up on stage.
Sake Ingredients #04: YEAST
Yeasts are the key ingredients to making any alcoholic drinks. They are the magical microscopic fungi responsible for turning sugar into alcohol.
In our case, once rice starch is transformed into sugar by the koji-kin, yeasts can step in to convert that freshly made sugar into alcohol!
Sake is made using specifically selected "sake yeasts" just like wine or whiskey, each made using the most appropriate yeast culture. The type of yeast used will impact the flavour profile of sake. Some brewers even let the natural yeasts present in their breweries do the job! A minimum intervention culture that yields very interesting sakes.