Sake Secrets – How Best To Warm Sake
Heating sake is a snap! You can do it so many different ways from the ancient method of warming sake between your seated legs or throwing your brew in the microwave. (In Japan they have some cans of sake that have a disposable portable heating system in the bottom of the can. You twist it to activate the heating device and then voila a can of hot sake!)
I have canvassed the sake industry, touched base with the pros and have come up with a consensus choice for the best way to warm sake. Drum roll please! Most folks take a pan filled half way, bring the water to a boil, then put a tokkuri in the hot bath and then turn off the flame. That’s it! And it’s sooooooooooo laborious. It’s sooooooo difficult! A lot of people then ask – how do you know when it is ready? And therein rests the secrets to the trade. Most tokkuri have concaved bottoms. When placed in the hot water these concaved bottoms create an air pocket that keeps the hot water from touching the tokkuri. If you try to gauge the temperature of the sake by touching the sides of the tokkuri you get the temperature of the water. But if you lift the tokkuri out of the bath and touch the concaved bottom then you get the temperature of the sake within. Aha!
Heating sake can be done as crudely as placing sake into a tea kettle – electric or otherwise, microwave, emersion hot water heaters, or the oven. (This last summer I heated sake in Kikusui funaguchi cans placed near a fireplace) Just don’t put that metal tokkuri in the microwave, if you do please send a before and after photo. The point is to get the sake to the temperature that creates the best flavor in a heated state. And yes there are different temperatures in the category known as “hot sake.”
Serving Temps For Sake:
- Tobikiri-kan – Very Hot (131-Over)
- Atsu-kan – Hot (122-131)
- Jyoh-kan – Warm (113-122)
- Nuru-kan – Luke Warm (104-113)
- Hitohada-kan – Body Temperature (95-104)
- Hinata-kan – Sunlight Warm (86-95)
- Suzu-hie – Cool (50-59)
- Hana-hie – (41-50)
Thank You Jessica from Ozumo!
I prefer the zone called Nuru-kan, because I have never liked hot beverages. I don’t drink coffee and it takes a lot of blowing to drink tea, so that tepid zone speaks to me. But there are several tricks to luke warmed sake, because it is easier to have the sake fall from that temperature zone than let’s say hot sake. There is a little more room for error. If you lightly warm a sake and then pour that gently warmed brew into a cold o’choko then the sake falls from the nuru-kan point quickly. I always pre-heat my o’choko in hot water. Also, I usually don’t fill a tokkuri up when making nuru-kan sake because by the time you sit and pour a little it’s already cooled down. (Sounds crazy I know, but I am a purist at heart)
What about overheating sake? Yes you can overcook a brew for sure! Heat does kill the beast. Too much and it’s toast, it chemically changes the sake. Too much heat and it’s like a third pasteurization, which creates an entirely different sake.