Episode 13 Show Notes
Season 1, Episode 13. Call it Shubo, or Moto, or Seed Mash, or Fermentation Starter or Yeast Starter… it’s all the same thing! In sake production, shubo is the step where fermentation actually begins and the goal that this step is actually to create a healthy vibrant yeast colony for the main mash. To expand the number of yeast bit by bit, we need this stepping stone of a process to get us from a tiny amount of yeast to enough to ferment a big tank of sake. The time we spend to make “shubo” gets us there. There are 4 possible ways to make shubo: Sokujo, Yamahai, Kimoto and Bodai-moto. Tim and John explore each of these variations and dig a little deeper into the family tree of sake.
Skip to: 00:19
Welcome to the show from John and Timothy
Skip to: 01:46
Learn more about Shubo Here:
UrbanSake.com Glossary: Shubo
Amabuki Kimoto Omachi Junmai Daiginjo
Brewery: Amabuki Shuzo
Classification: Junmai Daiginjo, Kimoto
Rice Type: Omachi
Dan Yamahai Junmai Ginjo
Brewery: Sasaichi Shuzo
Rice Type: Omachi
Brand: Dan (旦)
Yeast: Kyokai 9
This is it! Join us next time for another episode of Sake Revolution!
Episode 13 Transcript
John Puma 0:22
Hello and welcome to Sake Revolution, America’s first sake podcast. I am your host John Puma, the founder of the SakeNotes.com, Administrator of the internet sake discord, all around sake nerd.
Timothy Sullivan 0:35
And I am your host Timothy Sullivan. I’m a Sake Samurai, sake educator, as well as the founder of the Urban Sake website. And together John and I will be tasting and chatting about all things sake.
John Puma 0:47
So Tim, what are you been doing keep busy lately?
Timothy Sullivan 0:51
Well, you know, my works changed a lot. I used to fly all over the place. But as many people have I’ve been leading a lot of Online webinars.
John Puma 1:03
I can identify with that there’s absolutely no shortage of online sake webinars going on these days.
Timothy Sullivan 1:09
Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of sake webinars too. And I’m really impressed with how many good sake questions people are putting in the chat at these webinars.
John Puma 1:18
Yeah, it’s kind of great to know what people are interested in hearing about.
Timothy Sullivan 1:24
You know, we should do that too. I think our listeners have some questions.
John Puma 1:28
Well, let’s do it. Then. We want to hear from you at home. If you have a burning sake question that needs to be answered. Please send it over to [email protected], So Tim and I can answer it right here on the show.
Timothy Sullivan 1:42
I’m really looking forward to see what people send in.
John Puma 1:46
That’s certainly going to be a good time. But for today’s episode, I understand that the sake education corner is gonna be making its triumphant return.
Timothy Sullivan 1:54
Yes, we’re doing part three of our series about sake production
John Puma 2:00
What is part three, Tim?
Timothy Sullivan 2:02
Well, it’s shubo
John Puma 2:04
shubo fantastic. What is it?
Timothy Sullivan 2:07
Do you know what shubo means? Literally?
John Puma 2:11
I do not. Not literally no
Timothy Sullivan 2:14
well, “shu” is one of the words for sake. And “bo” is one of the words for mother. So shubo is actually the mother of sake, some people call it the seed mash or the fermentation starter or the yeast starter, but it is the step of sake production where all the ingredients finally come together and we get fermentation.
John Puma 2:37
The sake mother?
Timothy Sullivan 2:38
the sake mother.
John Puma 2:39
So a couple weeks ago we talked about omachi been the grandfather… And now this is the mother. the family is expanding.
Timothy Sullivan 2:46
Yes. Just wait till we get to the second cousin.
John Puma 2:54
I wait with bated breath.
Yeah. So the the purpose of shubo There’s another word for shubo. There’s always another word. Sometimes people say “moto” as well, and m-o-t-o moto.
Okay, I’ve definitely heard that word.
Timothy Sullivan 3:08
Yeah, you can use them interchangeably. And so just a quick recap, we had rice milling. Then we had the rice preparation, washing, soaking and steaming. And then we had our Koji making. And once you have the Koji made, you really have all the ingredients you need to begin fermentation and shubo is the first step in that process. I call it most often the fermentation starter.
John Puma 3:36
I think I’ve also heard that terminology before, probably in one of your education seminars…
Timothy Sullivan 3:44
the purpose for doing the shubo Some people think it’s, you know, really to get the alcohol production started, but that’s not really the reason you begin fermentation at this point. The purpose of shubo is Actually to grow the yeast colony before it goes into the big tank. The yeast arrives at the brewery in a little tube about the size of a chapstick. There’s already millions of yeast cells in there, but you need to grow it to billions of yeast cells. So they use this shubo step to have a small tank, and they grow the yeast very carefully over generally a two week period. And that produces a really healthy vibrant yeast colony that can then move on to the main deal the main fermentation.
John Puma 4:34
Yeah, I think the first time I ever visited a sake brewery, I didn’t quite understand how that worked. And so they brought us into this room with these very small tanks and they’re they’re working on and there was a lot of foaming going on and they’re very like, this can’t possibly be the sake tanks like they’re not these yields are too small. There’s no way and then it was explained to me that this was actually this is the starter and then then from there, it goes into and we will Next room. Yeah, big tanks.
Timothy Sullivan 5:03
Yeah, you have to think about it like this. If you put those yeast cells into a giant tank, they would spread out so much. It’s like putting seven people into a football stadium. You know, they can’t really connect with each other that well, but
John Puma 5:18
in the age of social distancing, this is a good thing.
Timothy Sullivan 5:21
Well, we don’t want a social distance or yeast,
John Puma 5:23
okay, we do not want a social distance our yeast… but we do now have an episode title.
Timothy Sullivan 5:30
Yeah, so we want to get the yeast together and growing, reproducing. And it’s a great way to ensure that the yeast that go into the main tank are vibrant, and there’s a lot of them and it will ensure a really healthy fermentation at the next step.
John Puma 5:49
That’s very interesting. Now, I understand that there’s more than one way to do this more one way to accomplish this. What do we have what are what are the options available to us?
Timothy Sullivan 6:00
Well, we’re going to talk about four types of shubo. The most common one is what we call “Sokujo”. Sokujo is used by about 90% of all sake production. It’s called the modern, fast fermentation starter method. And this area gets a little bit technical. But one of the things that we add to the shubo is lactic acid and lactic acid. I always explain it like this. If you think of the shubo tank, the little shubo tank as a canvas, sure, when you put lactic acid in there, it’s like an eraser or white paint that you put on the canvas. It cleans off everything and gives you a clean slate. So what the lactic Yeah, the lactic acid is killing all the wild bacteria and any stray yeast that got in there and it gives The sake yeast a clean starting point. It’s like clearing out all the riffraff and putting the sake yeast into a pristine environment. So adding lactic acid right before you add the yeast is ensuring that they have the best possible start so that lactic acid addition is done manually for the sokujo methods so they just they literally take some in a in a in a tube and they pour it in and that kills all the wild yeast wild bacteria. And the sake yeast can begin growing uninhibited
John Puma 7:35
but the lactic acid does not impact the sake yeast…that’s interesting.
Timothy Sullivan 7:38
That’s right Sake Yeast, it actually thrives in a higher acid environment.
Ah, very interesting. Okay, that is that’s fascinating.
Yeah, so the other the other types of shubo are all variants about how to get the lactic acid into the fermentation starter. So the most common method is to purchase lactic Acid it comes in a liquid form and you just dump it in.
John Puma 8:03
That sounds very straightforward.
Timothy Sullivan 8:04
Yeah, very straightforward. And that shubo we put in water, we put in the lactic acid, we put in regular steamed sake rice. And then we put in that Koji rice, the molded rice, right? And then all the East goes in on the first day. And then that begins fermentation. So that’s the recipe for the modern fast method. And that takes two weeks
John Puma 8:28
that seems remarkably efficient for what’s being done here.
Timothy Sullivan 8:32
Yeah. It’s it’s kind of amazing what you can accomplish in two weeks.
John Puma 8:35
So what else do we have? Well, there’s
Timothy Sullivan 8:40
the the next most recent one is called yamahai Okay. And there’s a related style called kimoto. kimoto is more ancient than yamahai. But they have something in common with kimoto and yamahai, they allow lactic acid to develop naturally over two weeks, and then they add the yeast and it continues from there for another two weeks. So the kimoto and yamahai methods are a four week process. And the key difference is that those two allow for natural lactic acid build up over time. They don’t add it manually.
John Puma 9:21
That sounds like a bit more work.
Timothy Sullivan 9:25
And there’s one difference between kimoto and Yamahai that differentiates them
and what would that be?
…kimoto sake, when they put the rice in the water in at the very beginning, they use these long poles to mash the rice in the water together. And they thought for many, many hundreds of years that you needed to mash the rice and water together or you or it wouldn’t work. But then around 1900 1910, they discovered that if they just let it sit there and raise the temperature a little bit, you would get the same development of lactic acid. So There’s the kimoto method, which is been around for a really long time. And that’s where they do this pole ramming. They mash the rice with these long poles. And then Yamahai is the method that came after that, where they just stopped that pole ramming. And they allowed lactic acid to develop naturally
John Puma 10:21
Kimoto sounds like even more work. Yes, now it has a pole?
Timothy Sullivan 10:26
You have to picture like a long pole with a brick shaped block at the end of it. And they would use that to mash the rice and water together and create like a slurry and they thought that that would help kickstart the this whole process to work really well. But when science advanced a little bit in the early 20th century, they figured out Oh, let’s just leave it as is and raise the temperature a little bit and then it got to.
John Puma 10:53
I like the idea that somebody was just like really tired one day I was like, wait a minute, guys. We just don’t do this part. Let’s see what happens. What’s the worst that can be?
Timothy Sullivan 11:02
There’s actually songs that they would sing to keep time when they’re when they’re mashing. So it’s like a very laborious process. So yeah,
John Puma 11:10
but it seems like it I have seen photos of the of the kimoto. Yeah, pole mashing. And it does not seem like a good time. It seems like a tremendous amount of physical labor and a lot of work.
Timothy Sullivan 11:29
Yeah, so things have gotten progressively easier. But did you know there’s even a more ancient method than kimoto?
Does it involve poles?
Well, we can call it the grandfather of shubo. Oh, this is the grandfather of the sake mother. This
John Puma 11:49
This is the grandfather on the mother’s side. All right, got it.
Timothy Sullivan 11:53
So I think in a past episode, we’ve featured what’s called a “bodai moto” This is also referred to sometimes as monk’s sake aid because this yeast starter our method was developed by monks in Shinto shrines.
John Puma 12:14
And how does it differ from the kimoto
Timothy Sullivan 12:17
what we do is we take some rice and some water and we let it soak in a small tub. And over the days that it’s soaking, the water becomes rich in natural lactic acid, so lactic acid is going to develop naturally in there. After about three days they remove the rice and separate the water and rice. The rice is then put into the Moto tank, and the lactic acid rich water is then mixed in there with some koji rice, the yeast and they begin the shubo in that way, so they’re creating this lactic acid rich water that gets put in to start fermentation and that’s One of the key differentiators. The kimoto method kind of refined that even more, and then they moved on to Yamahai and then sokujo. So there’s a clear development over time of this fermentation starter.
John Puma 13:15
Nice. All right. Well, Tim, thank you for that. That rundown. I actually, to be honest with you, I don’t know as much about shubo I probably should. And now I know quite a bit more. As we are known to do on the show, we have brought along some sake, and this week, we’ve got some uncommon shubo methods sakes is if I’m not mistaken.
Timothy Sullivan 13:40
That’s right. Why don’t I go ahead and introduce mine and then you can tell me what you have.
John Puma 13:45
Timothy Sullivan 13:46
…but I brought along a sake called Dan. D-a-n, like Dan’s the man
John Puma 13:51
Dan is the man
Timothy Sullivan 13:52
Dan Yamahai Junmai Ginjo. So this is that Yamahai style that I told you about. This is a natural development lactic acid style, but it doesn’t do the pole ramming doesn’t do the mashing of the rice beforehand.
No pole – got it.
That came into being around 1910 or so. And that indicates to me when I see kimoto or Yamahai in the name that indicates to me that I might look for something a little bit earthy, a little bit funky. And yeah, so that’s that’s the one I brought. What do you have today?
John Puma 14:30
I brought a sake from a brewery called Amabuki in Saga prefecture. And this is their omachi – right there’s it there’s a theme guys. there is a theme lately with John. `This is their omachi kimoto junmai Daiginjo. So I went “kitchen sink” on titles for this week, I think and this is a very exciting and interesting sake, that I cannot wait to To start sipping and talking about
Timothy Sullivan 15:03
awesome, yeah. So why don’t you go first, you can go ahead and pour and let us know about the aroma and the taste for your sake.
John Puma 15:12
Sure. So the aroma is very, it’s still very floral, a little bit of kind of honeydew. It’s, you know, it’s sweet on the nose. It’s kind of nice. It’s very different. It’s very unique. And then the flavor is just wildly complex. There’s so much going on here. So a few weeks back, we talked about that omachi note that we have a hard time truly describing. And that’s there, but it’s not alone. It’s brought friends. There’s bits of melon, strawberry. It’s complex and moving. It’s always changing while it’s in your mouth. This is a very interesting and unusual, sake – so they are taking this ancient method, this very rich rice, and then they’re milling it down to 46%. So it’s still very luxurious. While it’s made from all these very ancient components. It makes a really interesting, very interesting juxtaposition. And it is really a lot of fun to drink.
Timothy Sullivan 16:42
And one thing I think we can’t skip over when we talk about this brand, Amabuki is that they use flower yeast for all of their Saki. That’s right, their signature thing. So the yeast that they use to actually ferment the mash is cultivated off of different types of flowers.
John Puma 17:00
That is that is the fun thing about Amabuki is that they’re always doing that. It’s always it’s always interesting.
Timothy Sullivan 17:06
Yeah. And for the Junmai Daiginjo kimoto. The flower is the Rhododendron.
John Puma 17:13
You know, I have that in front of me and I was going to casually skip saying it because I couldn’t pronounce the word right.
Timothy Sullivan 17:20
John Puma 17:21
Rhododendron. Thank you.
Timothy Sullivan 17:23
Yes, I could not tell you what it looks like. But the fact that they get all their yeast off of flowers, other other styles they make they use strawberry blossom. And it’s just amazing that they’ve been able to get these really complex flavors using this really unique yeast. Most breweries do not do this. They buy yeast from suppliers.
John Puma 17:50
And that is truly one of the more interesting things about Amabuki. And we should dive into that a little bit more in a future episode.
Timothy Sullivan 17:58
Yeah, they’re super interesting.
John Puma 18:00
brand. So Tim, let’s let’s sip on the Dan. Let’s talk about that.
Timothy Sullivan 18:05
All right. So, this is as we mentioned before, a yamahai junmai ginjo. And the brewery name is Sasaichi
John Puma 18:20
Timothy Sullivan 18:22
And they’re from Yamanashi Prefecture.
John Puma 18:25
Yamanashi prefecture we don’t get that much sake from there. Do we?
Timothy Sullivan 18:29
Yeah. You know, Yamanashi, I think is really well known for the wine grapes that grow in Japan. So there’s a certain types of wine grapes that grow and I think Yamanashi is well known as the one area in Japan that has wine tradition. But yeah, this has a 55% rice milling rate. I’m going to give it a smell, hum. So it has a wonderful kind of apple/pear smell to it. Oh, that’s nice, crisp fruits that you bite into and you get that crunch the apple, green apple, pear. really lovely. It’s a fruitiness but it’s not that tropical. Melon banana. It’s it’s much more crisp fruits. Really delicious and let’s give it a taste. Hum. Oh, wow. Oh yeah, really rich. Feels very, very full. It almost feels a little nama-esque. There’s a little bit of that rich, juicy characteristic that you get in nama. It doesn’t have the brightness of an unpasteurized sake, but it has that rich, really coating. The alcohol percentage is only 16.5%. So it’s not super high and alcohol, but it’s very dense and rich. And guess what? The rice is our old friend, Grandpa omachi.
John Puma 20:05
So at this rate we’re going to read in the show omachi revolution. And I have no regrets.
I actually bought this sake not knowing that, but I have no regrets either.
I forgot that sake omachi
Timothy Sullivan 20:24
Yeah, so this is this is there’s a lot going on with this sakereally, really fun, juicy, full bodied. But I’m trying to think of something to pair it with.
John Puma 20:39
I don’t even know. Yeah,
Timothy Sullivan 20:41
it’s like a meal in itself. Yeah, there’s so much going on. But I think I would pair it with richer foods for sure. For sure.
John Puma 20:52
That’s interesting. And in my case, though, the Amabuki, even though it’s omachi. It is. It is a junmai daiginjo It is very lush and very luxurious. And I’m, I am terrified to mess with it. I would not want to give it any hard flavor and a strong flavors. Maybe, you know some grilled fish, maybe some white fish with this but I would not want any strong. Nothing really. This is staying away from my meats for my beefs and whatnot. This is staying away from the from the spicy food. I might actually try to keep this away from food in general. But if I want to pair something into something that is in-offensive like, grilled fish,
Timothy Sullivan 21:40
you know, John, I wanted to ask you about the texture of your sake because it’s a Junmai Daiginjo. That’s like super premium grade. And the rice milling is so low. When I hear that, I think, you know, super silky Is it a lighter in texture or a richer in texture?
it’s Kind of plump and viscous is. Yeah, it’s it’s very luxurious it coats the mouth is a lot going on. Yeah. When you mill that sake down to 40% things are gonna happen especially when you combine it with this, you know, ancient methodology is a heritage style rice, and then on top of that, flower yeast It’s such a unique and interesting sake completely unlike most things ever had.
Yeah, there’s a lot going on, and it sounds like compared to a very traditional Junmai Daiginjo. This has so many more layers.
John Puma 22:36
Absolutely. When you think of Junmai Daiginjo you think of something that’s very kind of light and refined and fragrant. And this is like you know, this is a little bit light, it’s still very luxurious feeling. But it’s so complex. It’s so interesting and so different, that it’s really not like most other junmai daiginjos that that I’ve ever tasted. It’s probably a lot different from a lot of them out there. Yeah.
Timothy Sullivan 23:02
So if people are looking to try kimotos, yamahais or sokujos or bodai motos, any of the fermentation starter styles that we talked about today. I can tell you that the sokujo, the modern method is about 90% of sake production. The Yamahai the style that I had is about the next 9% and kimoto is only about 1%. So kimoto the most labor intensive of the most recent three styles is the rarest because it has the most labor involved. And the bodaimoto is really just produced by a few places in the country. It’s very rare, rare style of sake. So that is something you really have to seek out as a specialty niche product, but for kimoto, yamahai and sokujo, depending on the amount of labor involved there increasingly more available, you know, the easier they are to produce. Yeah. Well, I think that about wraps it up for this episode. I want to thank all our listeners so much for tuning in. And if you can, please take a moment to rate our show on Apple podcasts. It’ll really help us out a lot.
John Puma 24:19
Yeah, it is. I think Apple podcast is still the best way to get the word out about podcasts. Unless, of course, you just tell a friend which you should. And also tell your friends to subscribe wherever they download their podcasts so that you do not miss an episode and neither does your friend.
Timothy Sullivan 24:37
And as always, to learn more about any of the topics or sake that we talked about in today’s episode, be sure to visit our website SakeRevolution.com for all the detailed show notes.
John Puma 24:49
And as we mentioned earlier, if you have a specific question that you need answered, we want to hear from you. Reach out to us at [email protected] so until next time please remember, keep drinking sake and Kanpai!