As May and with it spring firmly ensconce themselves, the brewing season for this year is coming to a close. Few brewers have any sake remaining in fermentation tanks, and most of this season's
brew is maturing a bit and waiting is turn. I myself am on the road most of this month, hence the somewhat abridged newsletter. Enjoy it for its brevity! Warm regards, John Gauntner
Reading the Foam
Now, that's using your head!
Long before the days of thermometers, hydrometers and barometers, brewers relied entirely on their senses to gauge the progress of a
fermenting tank of sake. They might not have known the scientific causes, but experience and intuition told them how to interpret what they saw, tasted
One of the most reliable of these empirical
yardsticks -- one that is still used today -- is the appearance of foam on the top of the moromi (fermenting mash). Throughout the 18- to 35-day ferment, the foam will change appearance quite regularly -- and very clearly
reflect what is taking
place inside the tank. Over the centuries, names were given to the foam at each stage, making it easy to assess and convey the status of the work in progress.
After the yeast starter
has been created, and after water, rice and koji have been added over four days, foam will begin to develop as the yeast cells process the sugars in the tank and give off carbon dioxide. This will rise to the surface, often
dragging yeast cells with it. This is why the
foam has 2 1/2 times as many yeast cells in it as the liquid beneath.
Two or three days into the ferment, small striations will appear on the surface, similar to
taut muscle under skin; hence the term suji-awa (muscle foam). Next, a thick layer of soft foam will begin to cover the entire tank; this is known as mizu-awa (water foam).
The timing of these changes, of course,
depends on myriad factors, such as how much the rice has been milled or the tank's temperature. But soon after this, the ferment will enter its most active stage, and foam will rise in great swaths, so that it looks like
huge boulders tumbling over
each other. This is known as iwa-awa (rock foam).
This continues into the highest stage of foam, known as taka-awa, when the bubbles themselves become very small and fine. This
usually occurs around the 10th day or so, but there is great variation.
The foam rises so high that brewers usually use a simple rig consisting of a piece of wire that gently spins on a motor. Its sole purpose is to
beat down the foam gradually, which spares them the need for high-walled tanks. It also aids in sanitation, as one of the greatest sources of sake
-spoiling bacteria is foam that has dried on the tank's interior.
As the fermentation begins to wane, the foam too falls back, leading to the stage known as ochi-awa (falling foam). This segues into a stage with very large, soapy-looking bubbles known as tama-awa (ball foam).
After this foam also fades away, the moromi's surface is referred to as ji (ground). This stage has many sub-conditions with their own names. Small wrinkles in the surface are referred to as chiri-men (a type of rough
cloth). A totally smooth surface is known as bozu, in reference to the
shaved head of a priest. If rice solids that did not ferment have risen to the surface, it may look like a lid is on the moromi, and this is
referred to as futa (lid).
Much can be told about the quality of the sake at this stage from observing this surface. For example, if the lid is thick, it indicates that a significant amount of wild yeast ended up in
the moromi and survived. This is because the rice fibers tend to attach themselves to many types of wild
yeast and rise to the surface when pulled by the carbon dioxide molecules, giving that thick-lidded
appearance. Brewers know, then, that a thick-lidded moromi in its final stages will often lead to a sake that is rough, acidic and less refined.
Naturally, today these observations are combined with chemical
measurements, such as acidity, residual sugar and temperature, to create the precise and wonderful flavor profiles.
Note, there are yeast strains that do not foam up, which has several advantages, including
permitting brewers to get higher yields out of their tanks, since they do not have to worry about leaving room for the rising foam. Let us look at these non-foaming yeasts in more depth next month.
Sake Professional Course
Dallas, Texas, August 8~10, 2013
The next Sake Professional Course will take place May 8 to 10 in New York City at a private venue in the Murray Hill
neighborhood of Manhattan. More about the seminar, its content and day-to-day schedule, can be found here. The Sake Professional Course, with Sake Education Council-recognized Certified Sake Professional certification testing, is by far the most intensive, immersing, comprehensive sake educational program in existence. The three-day seminar leaves "no sake stone unturned." The tuition for the course is $825. Feel free to contact me directly with any questions about the course, or to make a reservation.
* * * * * * * *
Sake Education Council
Please take a moment to check out the website for
the Sake Education Council, the organization behind the Certified Sake Professional and Advanced Sake Professional certifications. We plan to grow steadily, strongly and continually, and we will need the support of all
those that love sake to do so. Follow us through the "usual suspects" of social media.
Sake Homebrewer's Online Store
Please be sure to check out Homebrewsake.com for supplies, information and a forum, including lots of supporting information on everything from recipes to history. I have been meaning to mention this site and the gentleman behind it, Will Auld, but have repeatedly forgotten in past newsletters. The site is replete with instruction, augmented with videos, schedules, and more. If you are even remotely interested check this site out right away.
SAKE EDUCATION CENTRAL
For Your iPhone & iPod: The Sake Dictionary App.
Newly improved, now with audio, and
drastically reduced in price to $0.99!
Get it here: http://itunes.com/apps/sakedictionary
are, perusing a menu, or standing in front of a shelf of great sake, or perhaps reading a sake newsletter… and up pops one of those hairy, pesky sake terms in Japanese. You know you have heard it many times, but dammit,
you just cannot remember what it means now…
No problem! Just whip out your iPhone or iPod and fire up your trusty old version of The Sake Dictionary. In a matter of seconds, you'll be amongst the cognoscenti once
again. But… if only you could pronounce it properly. Now that would really rock!
Done! Just tap on the term and you will hear a clear example of how to pronounce the term in Japanese. Repeat it a couple of times
and the term is yours for eternity, to toss about and impress your mates.
What's more, it's less! Less than what it cost before, much less. Like less than one-seventh less. For a limited time only, the
audio-enhanced version of The Sake Dictionary iPhone app is available for a mere $0.99.
The Sake Dictionary is a concise little package of all the terms you might ever come across when dealing with sake. Almost 200
of them - including sake grades, rice variety names, seasonal sake terms, special varieties, rare types, post-brewing processing words and the myriad terms used in sake production - many of which are not even familiar to
the average Japanese person on the street - are listed up here with concise, useful and clear definitions and the written Japanese version as well. And now, with the new audio component, you can listen and learn just how
to pronounce those terms properly.
Start to toss around Japanese sake terms like you were raised knowing them! Gain a level of familiarity hitherto unimaginable! Avoid frustrating paralysis when faced with a
Get your copy of The Sake Dictionary now and never be confused by sake terms - or how to pronounce them - again.
Get it here: http://itunes.com/apps/sakedictionary
(Note if you have already purchased it, this upgrade to the audio version is free. Just go to iTunes and get it!)
Sake's Hidden Stories
I am very pleased to announce the publication of my new ebook, Sake's Hidden Stories, subtitled The Personalities, Philosophies, and Tricks-of-the-Trade Behind the Brew.
Sake's Hidden Stories ($14.99) will give you a view to what goes on in the sake industry
behind the brew we all love so much. The book goes into stories much deeper than the information we most commonly encounter; way beyond simply what ginjo-shu is, what junmai-shu is, or what the role of koji is. You will
learn about the personalities behind the sake. You will see in just how much detail some brewers make sake, and how each is different in where importance is placed. And most significantly, something that has not been
written about in any book on sake in English, you will meet more than a dozen brewers, and encounter their personalities. You'll see what makes them tick, what drives them in their work, and how their histories and
idiosyncrasies affect the sake they brew.
For more information on content and get your copy, go here.As with any ebook or informational product I offer, satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. If you don't like it or feel
it was worth what you paid for it, I will cheerfully refund your money. Finally, for a nice third-party review of the book, check out this cool blog.
Sake Educational Products
Jump-start your sake savvy
Just a reminder to check out the Sake-World e-store, currently offering three educational products immediately downloadable for your education and further sake enjoyment. We
offer three products, with more to come soon, including a full-blown, comprehensive self-study course covering all the material in the Sake Professional Course, and more.
First is The Sake Notebook, a 15-page pdf file guaranteed to jump-start your sake understanding and appreciation. It covers everything related to sake in a tight, concise and easily digestible presentation
replete with plenty of photos and diagrams for at-a-glance enlightenment. Sake basics, history, grades and quality levels, aging, temperature, storage and more are all briefly touched upon to create a foundation upon which
more sake learning can flourish. There is also a list of 250 (count 'em!) sake brands to look for and try. Finally, included with purchase is access to a password protected area on www.sake-world.com known as "The
Goodstuff" a regularly updated list of good sake recommendations, replete with brief commentary on each, and some indication of John's personal recommendations and preferences. Available for $15.
The Sake Production Slideshow, an executable file (Photojam) wherein resides a 15-minute slideshow of photos of the sake-brewing process from beginning to end, giving you a glimpse into the day-to-day brewing environment of
sakagura in Japan. Available for $15. Also, access to "The Goodstuff" comes with this product as well.
Third is a bundled package of both The Sake Notebook and The Sake Production Slideshow for those
that cannot make up their minds or simply have to have - or give - both as gifts. Available as a set for $25.
Surely these would make wonderful gifts for those close to you that are itching to get into good
sake, and their easily downloadable digital format makes it all that much easier.
More information on the following topics can be found at
- Sake Homebrewing
- Books on Sake
- Information on the archives of this newsletter
- General information related to this publication
Questions and comments should be directed to John Gauntner. Email John from this link: www.sake-world.com/html/email.html
All material Copyright, John Gauntner & Sake World Inc.