Glossary of sake terms

Glossary of sake terms



Acidity makes sake taste strong, which masks its sweetness. This element of sake’s flavor is as important as nihonshu-do.


Activated carbon           

To stabilize quality, brewers sometimes add kasseitan (powdered activated carbon) to sake. Activated carbon absorbs the impurities and is then filtered out.


Amino acid value          

Sake with more amino acids tastes richer, with less amino acids tastes lighter.



Arabashiri is the first stage at fukuroshibori. Initial sake filtered out by the weight of sake bags. Characteristics of arabashiri is wild and fresh flavor.



Traditional style of pressing from Edo era (1603-1868). Fill the sake bags with moromi and set these bags in fune (pressing machine). Moromi is filtered through the sake bag and squeezed out by fune. There are three stages at fukuroshibori; arabashiri, nakadori and seme.

Gen-shu (un-diluted sake)                 

Gen-shu will have high alcohol content and a strong flavor because no water was added after it was pressed. To serve, hot or cold water may be added.



First step for brewing. Add Moto(shubo), Steamed Rice, Koji, Water


Henpei seimai 

Flat polishing method. This method will polish rice from outside flatly. Compare with ordinary polishing, this method will be able to polish unnecessary potion and leave the necessary portion.



Cool-down process of steamed rice to keep the core of steamed rice hard. Cool- down steamed rice gradually (about 12 to 16 hours) by packing with cloth.


Joso (pressing)    

Joso is a process of filtering and squeezing of moromi. After finishing fermentation, moromi will be separated to sake and sake lees by filtering. For Joso process, fune (pressing machine) and sake bag are used.


Kake mai          

Rice added to shubo or moromi



Breed name of sake rice


Ki-moto method           

A traditional method of making shubo. Lactic acid is derived from lactobacilli, over a long period of time and through the attentive care of the brewers. This assists in increasing the sake’s yeast content. This starter contains a lot of amino acid and is helpful in producing a dry sake with a rich flavor.


Kobo (yeast)         

A yeast, called Sacchromyces carevisiae, converts sugar to alcohol in the process of sake brewing.



Koji is steamed rice inoculated with koji mold. This mold’s enzymes convert the rice starch to sugar, which is food for the kobo (sake yeast).


Koji mai            

Rice used for making koji



Traditional method used to make koji with kojibuta (wooden box). The koji with this method is mainly used for high-class sake such as ginjo-shu or daiginjo-shu. It takes about 50 hours for making koji.



Brewery or the brewery owner


Kyokai-kobo (kyokai yeast)             

Yeast strain distributed by the “Brewing Society of Japan”. In the Meiji era (1868-1912), after the distribution of Kyokai-kobo was started, the quality of sake improved dramatically at breweries that previously did not have yeast that performed well.



Fermented soybean paste


Moromi (fermenting mash)

Moromi is a mixture of shubo, koji, steamed rice and water. In a tank, rice starch is converted to sugar and fermentation occurs. Well-fermented moromi is filtered and the collected liquied is sake.



One of the processes for making shubo. Put together the shubo into the shubo tank.



Nakadori is the second stage at fukuroshibori. Sake filtered out by the weight of sake bags after arabashiri. Characteristics of nakadori is balanced flavor and aroma.



Nakazoe (middle adding) is the second step for brewing. Add Steamed Rice, Koji, Water.



Not pasteurized sake



Nigorizake is cloudy sake produced by moromi filtered through a coarse cloth.


Nihonshu-do (Sake meter value)   

Indicator of the sweetness or dryness of sake as a number (positive numbers (+) mean dry and negative numbers (-) mean sweet).



Short rest after hatsuzoe to enhance multiplying yeast.



Breed name of sake rice


Sakamai (Sake Rice)         

Rice suitable for brewing sake.



Degree of polishing rice



Seme is the third stage at fukuroshibori. Squeezing by pressing with fune (pressing machine) is called as “seme”. Also, sake squeezed out by pressing is called “seme”. Characteristic of seme is dynamic and rich flavor.


Shikomi (brewing)

Whole processes of brewing sake such as rinsing & steaming rice, making koji & shubo and fermentation (moromi).



Breed name of sake rice



Sake brewed during the current year. It has fresh flavor and aroma.


Shubo (seed mash)

In Japanese, shubo means “mother of sake”. It is also called moto. Shubo is a yeast mash made from a nutritious mixture of rice, koji and water. It looks like moromi but shubo has a strong sour taste and moromi does not. The sake yeast is tolerant of acidity, thus increasing the sake’s yeast content. Undesirable bacteria cannot survive in shubo acidity.


Sokujo-moto method   

This method was also developed in the Meiji era (1868-1912). Lactic acid is produced during the previous methods, but in this method, lactic acid is added, thus shortening the production time. These days, this is one of the most popular methods, as it cann produce any type of sake.


Specific designation     

The classification system determined by the National Tax Agency designates sake as ginjo-shu or junmai-shu. The standards for categorizing sake into these classifications are shown on the table. These are standards specified by the Japanese government.


Materials used


% koji rice

Other features, including flavor


Rice, koji

15% or more

Good flavor, high clarity


Rice, koji

Up to 60%

15% or more

Ginjo-zukuri method, characteristic flavor, high clarity


Rice, koji

Up to 50%

15% or more

Ginjo-zukuri method, characteristic flavor, best clarity



Mixed up the ingredients (steamed rice & koji) inside tub by using hand nail. Even out the moisture & temperature of ingredients.


Three step brewing method     

Three steps are “Hatsuzoe”, “Nakazoe” and “Tomezoe”.



an expert in sake brewing and regarded as the leader of the brewery workers.



Tomezoe (final adding) is the third steps for brewing. Add Steamed Rice, Koji and Water.


Yabuta (yabuta pressing)                  

yabuta pressing is filtering and pressing of moromi automatically using yabuta pressing machine.



Breed name of sake rice


Yamahai-moto method             

The laborsaving ki-moto method was developed in the Meiji era (1868-1912). This method omits the troublesome process called yamaoroshi. Yet the finish and kobo characteristics resulting from the yamahai-moto method are the same as those from the ki-moto method.


Yamaoroshi (moto-suri)

Yamaoroshi is one step in making shubo. Brewers had to mash the rice and koji together well for better fermentation. They put steamed rice, koji, and water in a shallow barrel. After the mixture had cooled down for 15 to 20 hours, it was mashed with a tool called kabura kai. This yamaoroshi process required patience and manpower, and was very strenuous work performed in the winter during the very cold night hours.