“Ask Beau” – “Can you make sake using Uncle Ben’s rice?”
This funny question came from one of my Instagram followers and the answer is pretty easy! Yes! Yes you can absolutely make sake using any sort of rice! The bigger question is can you make good sake using any type of rice? And that answer is a resounding no!
They make specific sake brewing rice for a reason. And that reason is all about how well it saccharifies and ferments. But before the actual brewing process takes effect good brewing rice must have some powerful traits. For example the best sake brewing rice varietals are hard on the outside and soft on the inside. Why? Well each grain of rice gets polished up to 30-40-50% and it must be hard enough to stand up to all of the heat and friction found in the milling process. If the rice cracks during milling then it does not ferment evenly and the sake loses its balance.
Why soft on the inside? Good sake brewing rice is soft on the inside because it helps in the soaking process where water is added back to the dried and milled rice. The more absorbent the rice the better it is for steaming. Is Uncle Ben’s rice soft on the inside? I don’t think so. Lastly, sake brewing rice is twice as starchy or glutinous as regular consumption rice, and this is extremely important for the saccharification process.
So in a word you can basically ferment any organic material – think fruit and grains. But specifically designed sake brewing rice is the best fermenting rice out there, plain and simple. Oh and yes there are some “ancient” and “heirloom” rice varietals that were not “designed” but they still are amazing sake brewing rice. Sorry Uncle Ben!