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A Comprehensive Glossary of Sake Terms

The world of sake and sake bottles can often be full of unfamiliar terminology. Fret not – here’s a comprehensive glossary of commonplace sake terminology that is used to describe the ingredients in sake, sake qualities, the sake production process, and to different types of sake –  so you can be confident on your next sake adventure!

The Ingredients in Sake

Shuzo kotekimai (Sake Rice)


This refers to rice that is used for sake brewing. Rice of sake brewing typically have larger grains than ordinary table rice used for eating. Sake rice, or shuzo kotekimai, has a relatively larger internal starchy core called the Shinpaku.


Today, many farmers and breweries across Japan cultivate new types of sake rice, while many older strains of sake rice are also being revived.



Shinpaku refers to the inner starchy core of the sake rice grain. A starchier rice core helps to produce delicious sake.



How to Make Homemade Koji | Revolution Fermentation

Koji is sake rice that has been steamed and cultivated with koji mold. The koji mold is crucial in the sake fermentation process, whereby enzymes from the koji mold convert rice starch into sugar, which the sake yeast feeds on.


Koji mai

Koji mai refers to the rice that koji mold is made from.


Kobo (Sake yeast)


Sake yeast, also called kobo, is integral to creating the alcohol in sake by converting sugar into alcohol during the sake brewing process.


Kyokai-kobo (Sake yeast strain)



This refers to the particular strain of yeast that was distributed by the Brewing Society of Japan during Japan’s Meiji era.


Also known as brewers alcohol, this distilled alcohol is made from sugar cane and sometimes used in sake production to adjust the flavour or improve its yield.



Qualities of Sake

Seimai-buai (Rice polishing ratio)



The degree of rice polishing tells you what is the percentage that the sake rice grain has been polished down to. The lower the percentage number you see on the sake label, the higher the degree of rice polishing of the sake. For example, a rice polishing ratio of 70% means that 70% of the rice grain has been derived after polishing off 30%.


Nihonshu-do (Sake Meter Value)



The sake meter value is a numerical indicator of how dry or how sweet a sake is.


A (+) positive number indicates more dryness, while a (-) negative number indicates more sweetness.


San-do (Acidity)


San-do refers to the acidity of a sake, which is an important factor to balance out a sake’s sweetness.


Aminosan-do (Amino acid value)


Amino acid values can tell you about how rich a sake tastes, as higher levels of amino acid causes sake to taste richer, while lower levels of amino acid causes sake to taste lighter.


Seizo nengetsu (Date produced)

Both the production month and year should be included to indicate the sake’s date of production.


Common Terms in Sake Production

Shubo (Seed mash)



The seed mash, or shubo, is a yeast mash produced from rice, water, and koji. The shubo is highly acidic, killing any bacteria that enters the mash.


Mormoi (Main mash)

 Moromi (Fermentation mash) | Nanbubijin Sake | Nanbubijin CO. LTD.

Moromi is the main fermentation mash, and is made from a mix of steamed rice, water, shubo, and koji. The moromi is placed in a fermentation tank, where starch from the rice is converted to sugar during the fermentation process.


The moromi is then filtered and pressed, leaving the liquid sake that we drink.


Ki-moto method


Kimoto (生酛) - The traditional brewing process - SAKEMARU - Artisan Sake  Online Boutique+Subscription

The ki-moto method is a traditional Japanese method to producing shubo, also known as the seed mash. Sake brewers use a paddle to manually pound and grind the sake rice, introducing lactobacilli bacteria to produce lactic acid. This manual process helps to accelerate the yeast content in the sake, which contains a lot of amino acids, giving sake a rich flavour.



Different Types of Sake



Shinshu is fresh sake that was brewed in the current year. Shinshu tends to have a fresh flavour and aroma.




Aging - Make sake more soft and balance - SAKEMARU - Artisan Sake Online  Boutique+Subscription

Koshu typically refers to aged sake that was brewed during the previous seasons. Koshu tends to have a more mature flavour profile and smooth mouthfeel.




This refers to aged sake that has been stored for a long time. Aged and matured sake can come in various taste profiles with different qualities.


Genshu (Undiluted Sake)



Genshu refers to undiluted sake that has a high alcohol content and a strong flavour as water was not added to it after being pressed. Genshu can be served with an addition of warm or cold water.


Tezukuri (Hand-crafted)


This refers to sake that is brewed using traditional methods.




Namazake is unpasteurized sake.


Sake is typically pasteurized twice before being marketed and sold – once before bottling and once after bottling.



Ki-ippon refers to Junmai-shu that has been brewed at only one brewery.


Taruzake (Cask sake)



JBmarket.jp / TARUZAKE(Cask sake)

Taruzake is sake that has been stored in a cedar cask. This allows the sake to take on some of the flavours from the cedar wood, developing a unique aroma and flavour.




Hiya-oroshi is sake that was pasteurized once after brewing, matured until the following autumn, then bottled without pasteurization.





Nigorizake is cloudy sake that is a result of coarsely filtered moromi. Nigorizake can contain cloudy and flavourful moromi sediments. It is pasteurized to preserve its quality.




Hot Sake (Kanzake) 101 | Sake On Air

Kanzake refers to hot sake. Warming the sake also affects its flavour profile, and the alcohol in warmed sake is also more quickly absorbed by the body.




Jizake refers to “local sake” that is produced by a local craft producer or artisanal microbrewery. Jizake can come in many different and exciting flavour profiles depending on the region, climate, and brewer’s method, which may not be seen as much in mass-produced sake.



Happy sipping!