The Wine Pages: Homebrew winemaking
Sake, or saki, is arguably the national drink of Japan. It is basically rice wine. I choose to call it wine, because it is more like wine than beer, but his really in a catagory of its own. Its roots lie in the 3rd century, when villagers make 'kuchikami no sake', or 'chew in the mouth sake'. This consisted of people chewing millet in there mouths and spitting it into a tub to ferment.
Since that time the drink has evolved and changed. During wartime rice shortages alcohol and glucose were added to the rice mash, thus greatly increasing the yield. In fact as it was such a cool idea, 95% of the sake made today uses a similar method. The snobs of this world still consider the best saki is still made with just rice, koji rice and water.
Now in the same way that scotch makers get all worked up about the quality of their raw ingreidiants, so do sake makers. The rice has to be special Japanese rice, grown for the purpose, and polished until most of the rice as gone, and the white kernal is left. This process is claimed to prevent the saki causing hangovers. Bollocks I say. Naturally all saki factories sit next to some highly pretentious spring that spurts out wonderful water full of interesting things that you can mention on the back of the bottle to impress the punters.
The third item in the makeup of saki is 'Koji rice'. I am a little doubtful about this, but as far as I can establish this is mouldy rice. However, it is of course a very special type of mould. I think this mould converts the starchs in the rice into fermentable sugars. This probably could be replaced by more obtainable starch enzyme.
Enough talk. How does one actually make the stuff at home?
I have collected several differant recipes. One is rather traditional, some were posted on the newsgroup rec.crafts.winemaking, another is how I would make sake after reading the other two.
My advice is to read all this and form your own conclusions. Anybody getting a burst of inspiration, please contact me.