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Sake - Vital Statistics & Parameters

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Sake Bottle
Nihonshu - The Taste of Tradition


Rice Varietal
Yeast Strain
Grade of Sake

SEIMAI-BUAI (Degree of Milling)
Premium sake is brewed with special sake rice in which the starch component (the shinpaku or "white heart") is concentrated at the center of the grain, with proteins, fats, and amino acids located toward the outside. With increased milling, one can remove more of the fats, proteins, and amino acids that lead to unwanted flavors and aromas in the brewing process. Ginjo-shu (premium sake) has at least 40% or more milled away. Daiginjo (super premium sake) has at least 50% or more milled away.

What is the significance of the seimai-buai? The lower the number, i.e. the more the rice has been milled, the cleaner and more elegant the flavor.

 SEIMAIBUAI (Pronounced "say my boo eye")
 Degree to which rice is milled before brewing

Yamada Nishiki Rice
A top-grade sake rice
Yamada Nishiki - Unmilled rice

45% Milled Away
Seimaibuai = 55%
Ginjo Grade
Seimaibuai = 55%

55% Milled Away
Seimaibuai = 45%
Daiginjo Grade
Seimaibuai = 45%

Nihonshu-do: Also called the Sake Meter Value (abbreviated SMV) in English, this is the specific gravity of a sake. It indicates how much of the sugars created from the starches in the rice were converted to alcohol, and how much remained to contribute to sweetness. By ancient convention, the higher the number, the drier the sake. What is the range? In theory, it is open-ended. In practice, + 10 or so is quite dry, -4 or so is quite sweet, and +3 or so is neutral. Keep in mind this parameter is affected by acidity, temperature, accompanying food, and a host of other factors so that it is limited in its usefulness.

Acidity: A measure of the acid in a sake. Acidity affects how the flavor spreads, and also the sensation of sweet and dry. The range is quite narrow, with 0.7 being low and 2.0 being quite high. Perhaps 1.2 or so is average.

Rice Varietal: Good sake is made from special sake rice. There are dozens of types of sake rice, which is different from eating rice, but only a handful that are truly worth remembering. The most important of these is Yamada Nishiki. To learn more about the types of sake rice,
click here.

Yeast Strain: Yeast mainly affects fragrance, and then flavor. There are dozens of yeast strains, each with its own subtly different characteristics, mostly affecting fragrance, but also flavor. Learning to discern the characteristics of the various yeast strains is part of the fun of learning about sake. To learn more about yeast strains,
click here.

Click here to learn about the various types / grades of sake, including the main types called junmai, honjozo, ginjo, and daiginjo.

Sake vessels by Harada Shuroku (photo courtesy Honoho Geijutsu)Sake Vessels by Minegishi Seiko (photo courtesy Honoho Geijutsu)

Happy Sake Sipping !!


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