Article: All Things Sake Water
All Things Sake Water
Hello Sake Lovers ,
I am sure you have now a better understanding of Article 2 which covered the 1st ingredient of sake which was Rice.
Now we will take a closer look at the 2nd ingredient which plays an equally important part of our everyday well-being - Water.
Approximately 80% of sake contain water. Water quality affects sake quality and taste. The amount of water used in all stages of sake brewing process adds up to more than fifty times the total weight of the rice.
Not only is water used for washing and soaking but is also added to create mash and to adjust and perfect the final flavour of sake too.
Are all types of water suitable for Sake Production?
The answer is NO. Let me take a deeper look at this basic ingredient with you!
What is sake-suitable versus unsuitable water?
Suitable water is water that contain minerals such as potassium, phosphoric acid and magnesium. These three elements are necessary to aid the propagation of Yeast in the shubo (yeast starter) which we will cover in-depth in our next chapter as well as the proper development of a good rice Koji. If there are insufficient levels of potassium, phosphoric acid and magnesium, the yeast cell will not multiply as quickly as they should. The entire fermentation process will also take a longer time.
On other hand, unsuitable water are water that contains iron and manganese. These two elements are detrimental to sake production as they will cause discolouration of water which will have a tremendous effect on both the flavour and aroma of the final product.
Hard water vs Soft water
Have you wondered why when you take a shower while holidaying in UK, it’s very difficult to get bubbles or lather as compared to when you take a shower in Japan where you get a lot of bubbles. It's got to do with the hardness and softness of the water. Hard water takes a longer time to create bubbles as compared to soft water.
Let us now look in-depth as to where the important sake water sources are :
The most renowned source of high quality brewing water is from Nada region in the city of Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture. Other water sources are from Fushimi in Kyoto prefecture and shizuoka prefecture, shijo from Hiroshima and Aizu-Wakamatsu (Fukushima).
Let’s look at the 1st water source in Nada Prefecture which is the most famous for water that rushes down from Mt. Rokko in Hyogo prefecture into Nishinomiya and Nada. This water is known as “ Miyamizu” ( Heavenly water). Miyamizu water is an example of “strong water” due to the rich content of potassium and phosphate. Like I have mentioned earlier, these two elements promote yeast growth which means faster and safer fermentation which will result in dry sake.
The water of Nada is naturally low in iron. As the water travels underground from the Rokko mountains, it flows through gravel. There it mixes with oxygen and the iron will oxidise and insoluble compounds are deposited along the way. Due to this heavenly water, the region has become the largest producer of sake.
Another important water source is Fushimi from Kyoto. Fushimi means “ hidden water” or underground water. During the Heian period, aromatic water was discovered inside the shrine compounds and was named “ Gokusui” which means honourable spring water. For your information, Gokosui is one of the highest ranking among Japan’s 100 best water. Fushimi water is much softer than Miyamizu water and is known for being smooth and mellow.
Another lesser known water region that is hardly in the limelight is from Saijo in Hiroshima prefecture. With the advent of ginjo-style sake that favours a slow fermentation and will result in fruity and aromatic style of sake. This prefecture is an excellent prefecture to look out for those who love fruity and aromatic style of sake.
I do hope that I was able to shred more light about water. If you are still thirsty to know more, drop by Nomi Dining Bar and chat with any of our Sake Sommeliers. You can gather your friends, and have a tasting of our Sake from Hyogo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, paired with some succulent grilled items from the binchotan grill at Nomi.
Reading up, coupled with tasting of the real stuff will definitely enhance your experience with sake!