You might already know that sake is made of rice, but most people are probably unfamiliar with the kind of rice used for sake brewing. Do brewers use special rice for sake brewing instead of table rice? Yes, in most cases.
Indica rice vs. Japonica rice
The rice that you might find in a non-Asian supermarket is Indica rice. The appearance of this rice is long and narrow, and when cooked, it becomes dry in texture. On the other hand, the rice you might find in an Asian supermarket is Japonica rice. This rice appears more round and takes on a sticky texture when cooked.
Japonica rice has more starch than Indica rice and is more suitable for sake brewing because the quantity of starch is very important in saccharification (the conversion of starch to sugar). You can read more about this process in my previous article “What is Rice Polishing Ratio?”
Properties of Japonica rice
Within the Japonica rice category is a special rice for sake brewing. Sake brewing rice is more suitable than table rice because it possesses better properties as follows:
① Large grain size
② Contains shinpaku（心白：The white and opaque part at the center of the rice)
③ Lower levels of lipids and protein
④ High water-absorption rate
⑤ After steaming, it becomes hard on the outside and soft on the inside
The most important property for sake brewing rice is shinpaku because it is mostly made of starch. The structure of shinpaku helps the hypha of the koji mold (another important ingredient) reach the center easily, and therefore, plays a good role in saccharification.
Examples of sake brewing rice include Yamadanishiki（山田錦), Gohyakumangoku（五百万石), and Miyamanishiki（美山錦).
Have you ever tried choosing sake based on kinds of sake brewing rice?