There's a Japanese saying that goes, "Wherever there is fine water, there is fine sake." And near any Japanese wellspring or groundwater reservoir known for its clear water, we'll find a sake brewery. The sake production is tied to the natural water resource.
Sake production requires three key ingredients; rice, yeast, and koji that is the magical mold that makes sake brewing possible. However, the most important ingredient is water because finished sake is 80% water! Water for sake brewing comes from many sources such as wells, rivers and streams. Water in Japan is much softer than the water in the US that helps to brew delicious sake.
Water is not only the ingredient in sake but it is involved in almost every major process of sake brewing from washing the rice to dilution of the final product before bottling; rice is washed and steamed with, or sake is mixed with water to drink. Furthermore if you count the amount of water to wash glasses and other utensils we are talking about 50 times as much as the amount of rice used for sake brewing. That is the reason most of sake breweries are located in places with pure and great water.
What is great water in sake brewing? It is the water with abundance of mineral such as magnesium and potassium that nourish koji and yeast during fermentation and are considered desirable. On the other hand what great water should not have is some mineral such as iron that bonds with an amino acid produced by the koji to produce off flavors and a yellowish color.
Type of water determines sake taste. Hard water is rich in minerals. These provide nutrients for the yeast and speed up fermentation. This makes for a sharp and dry sake.
On the other hand, soft water has lower mineral content. This makes the fermentation slower, resulting in a sweeter drink.
Miyamizu is classified as hard water that is high in mineral content and the water hardness level is 6.5. Brewing with miyamizu, with its high mineral content, produces a relatively dry sake.
In contrast, the water found in the Fushimi area of Kyoto is softer water, relatively low in mineral content and hardness level is only 4. Because of that, the sake it produces is sweeter and has a mellow mouth-feel.
Tokyo area is 5.5, relatively hard water, and sake brewed in the area tend to be sharper. I’ve heard that Evian is hardness level 16.8 and just wonder what kind of sake we could brew with!
Of course water is not the only key factor for the sake brewery. However we cannot transport too much water to brewery in the area with less desirable water. It is safe to say the water often determine the taste of sake.
People tend to drink whiskey with water but did you know it is also great to have sake with water? I think the best ratio is 80:20 and then we make it warm. It will make the sake smooth and obviously less alcohol content helps you not to get drank easily. Sake is also great on the rock. If you pour sake on ices and sprinkle fresh lime juice, it is the best drink especially for summer!
If you insist you want to enjoy sake without mixing with any water you can still keep a glass of water while you have sake. It is the best practice for your health anyway and helps prevent from hang over. The key is to select high quality water!
Interested in enjoying sake in a beautiful sake cup? Check out our gorgeous sake set collections!