Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi – Part 4

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery

Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi – Part 4

Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4

I visited the Kitagawa Honke sake brewery to see the pressing of the mash for Daiginjo.

This is part 4 of our sake series.

Pressing the Mash

The kurabito crew closely monitor the progress of the fermentation and the toji (brew master) decides when it is time to stop the fermentation and press the mash and make sake. As the fermenting mash is ‘alive’ and no two lots are exactly the same, though it takes about one month, it cannot be said for certain when the fermentation process will be complete. I had hoped to see the pressing of lot no. 18 that I had been following but I couldn’t make it over to Kitagawa Honke in time to see it done, so I have photos here of lot no. 20, which is the exact same Daiginjo.

In Japanese the pressing process is called shibori (搾り) and mash is called moromi (醪).

Here we see photos of the labor intensive ‘handcrafted’, premium sake. The mash is scooped out of the vat and into fabric bags. These bags are placed on top of one another and the sake is slowly pressed out. First by the weight of the moromi filled bags, then mechanically, but as this is premium sake, only a minimum of pressure is applied.

Pressing the Mash – moromi (醪)
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
This is mash (moromi), very yummy stuff itself. This is what traditional Japanese ‘home brewed’ sake, or doburoku is. Doburoku is unpressed moromi.

Pressing the Mash – automation
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
For larger production lots an automated press is used. This is what one looks like.

Pressing the Mash – shibori (搾り)
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
The kurabito crew continuously and gently stirs the moromi and scoops it out and it is poured into long, cylindrical bags.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
The mash filled bags are stacked on top of each other inside a steel sieve.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
The weight of the moromi itself is sufficient to force the sake out.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Fabric shibori bags

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Here Tashiima Toji (Brew Master Tajima) applies some pressure.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Into this glass container is called a tobin, sake slowly trickles down.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Here the kurabito crew is setting up another press.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Here the moromi is mechanically pumped into the bags, but it is the same lot and the quality is the same.

Pressing the Mash – moromi detailSake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Before stirring, the surface looks waxy as it is so thick. The fragrance is pungent, earthy and fruity. I wanted a scoop!

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
The moromi is pumped through the hose from the vat in the background. The large machinery on the left and right are mechanical filters (and not being used here).

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Filling the bags with moromi.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
A look inside the sieve.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Filling bags.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Stackin ‘em up like cordwood.

Pressing the Mash – shibori
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Sake filling up the tobin.

Pressing the Mash – off to the lab
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
The lab technician gets some (tastes some and collects some for testing). I got a taste too. As it is not yet aged it is a bit rough around the edges, and it is quite high powered as it is not diluted with water. Yummy, never-the-less!

Pressing the Mash – in the lab
Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi - Part 4
Sake Series:
Learning to Make Sake: Part 1
Learning to Make Sake: Part 2
Learning to Make Sake: Part 3
Learning to Make Sake: Part 4
Learning to Make Sake: Part 5

2 Responses to “Sake: Learning to Make Sake at Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery in Fushimi – Part 4”

  1. etsuko says:

    Thank you for this series of blog post! Interesting to see both manual method and big hose to fill the bag to press. A bit curious if they are different grade of sake, do you know?

  2. PekoPeko says:

    Hi Etsuko,
    I think I tried to point it out in the post, sorry if I wasn’t clear. This method of shikomi takes time and is done in small lots. So, several presses are needed. Pictured here are both the same production lot, so they are identical in grade, quality, etc.

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