Rice is necessary to produce Sake but that doesn’t mean that any rice is suitable for making Sake. The types of rice suitable for Sake production are categorized as “Shuzou Koutekimai” (literally meaning “rice suitable for manufacturing Sake”). The rice suitable for eating and the rice used for making Sake have different characteristics. Even if a rice tastes good when eaten, it is not necessarily suitable for Sake making. Here, let’s have a look at some differences between them.
THE HISTORY OF SAKE
Rice suitable for Sake production
For example, protein is a source of amino acid so if the rice contains too much protein, the taste of the Sake becomes too rich. If the mineral content of the rice is too high, the fermentation process induced by the Sake yeast (Kohbo) does not work properly. Therefore, when making Sake, the surface of the rice is polished away in a process called Seimai.
When rice is prepared for eating, 10% of its surface is polished away and 90% of it is left. For rice used to produce Sake, only 60 to 70% of it is kept, with the remainder of its outer layer removed. In fact, producing one type of Sake, Daiginjo-shu, requires more than 50% of the rice to be removed through polishing. This means that larger quantities of rice are required to produce this type of Sake and it is thus more expensive than other types of Sake. Each grain of rice contains a white core called Shinpaku (white heart). Rice with a bigger Shinpaku is more suitable for manufacturing Sake. Compared to rice produced for eating, rice suitable for Sake is larger and softer, and has a bigger core. The rice brands of Yamada Nishiki and Gohyakuman-goku are known to be good for Sake making and many of the great Sakes are made using these brands of rice.
The outer layer of white rice contains protein, minerals (e.g., iron, phosphorus), and fat. The more of these substances rice contains, the better it tastes when eaten. These types of rice are highly nutritious, so when you produce rice for eating, these substances are important. However, when it comes to Sake production, these substances are not required as they add unpleasant flavors and therefore do not produce good Sake.