How to Make Amazake

Who needs to bust open a bottle of hen dog when you can chill with a nice cup of moldy rice, or to be more precise, a cup of amazake. Amazake, an ancient Japanese beverage, is made by the bizarre process of introducing a fungus, Aspergillus oryzae to a batch of cooked rice. The fungus breaks down carbohydrates into simple unrefined sugars yielding a sweet and pleasant beverage that we’re proud to say we made ourselves here at the Homegrown Revolution compound earlier this week.

You can find amazake in the isles of upscale health food stores thanks to the same generation of hippies who brought tofu to the flyover states back in the 1960s. Or you can make it yourself and save some dead presidents. Here’s how:

1. Get your Aspergillus orzae in the form of inoculated rice grains called koji. We found our koji in the refrigeration cabinet of our local Japanese supermarket. Koji can also be found at some health food stores or you can mail order it from G.E.M cultures. We used a brand called Cold Mountain.

2. Bring 1 cup of white or brown rice to a boil in 2 cups of water. Turn down the heat and simmer for 50 minutes. We used sweet rice, but any kind of rice and if fact almost any grain will work.

3. Cool the rice down to 140º F (60º C). Mix in 2 cups of koji and put it in a sterilized wide-mouth jar.

4. At this point you need to incubate the concoction for 10 to 14 hours at 131º – 140º F (55º C – 60º C). We accomplished the incubation by placing the jar in a small cooler filled with water heated to 140º. Every few hours we checked the temperature and added a little more hot water as needed.

5. After 10 hours check for sweetness. If it’s not sweet enough continue the incubation process for a few more hours.

6. Once you’ve reached the desired level of sweetness you must stop the fermentation process by boiling the mixture, otherwise you’re heading down the road to making sake, something we plan on attempting in the fall. Taking a tip from the guru of fermentation Sandor Ellix Katz, we first boiled two cups of water and added the amazake to it to prevent burning. Mix well and as soon as the amazake begins to boil remove from the heat and refrigerate. You can eat it as a porridge or cut it with some more water to enjoy as a beverage. You can also add flavorings such as chocolate, almonds or espresso.

Aspergillus orzae is also used to produce soy sauce and miso, though miso making, according to the Cold Mountain pamphlet that came with our koji, will take you between 18 to 24 months. For now we’ll enjoy our amazake.

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12 Comments

  1. Thank you for the recipe, i made some amazake for the first time. It came out sweet but i was wondering if the yeast taste is normal? thanks!

  2. Hey Anonymous,

    It’s been a long time since I made this and I don’t quite remember exactly what it tasted like and if there was a yeasty note. Will have to try it again. If it came out sweet it probably worked.

  3. Thanks for posting about one of our favorite drinks.
    We just posted about some of our own experiments with amazake: 1) amazake can still be made in 10-14 hours using 1:4 koji to rice ratio; this also reduces the yeast tastes 2) you can also use old amazake to make a new batch, passaging just like sour dough 3) you can make amazake with partially husked rice for a more complex flavor
    I invite you to check out our post on amazake: http://www.rauom.com/blog/2011/04/20/amazake-che-gao/

  4. Koji making doesnt allow for any shortcuts. I’ve found little written in English; learning the basic mushroom-growing techniques will be your best guide. I did hear Koji was originally made in caves. With that in mind, & aiming for a sterile procedure- Koji can grow itself:-) For me in LA it’s important the air is very clean(for all dust has wild spores).
    Then I basically follow amazake process- except using normal gohan [dinner-style rice, separate grains, NOT porridge]; cultured on a flat tray [straw mats are best]; & I use the oven pilot light for warmth. I do not heat above 116F. This allows a coat of living Aspergillis to ‘bloom’ or colonize the grain.
    If you can keep conditions sterile, within 24-72 hours delicious, bright white fungus will fully cover each grain. It’s a special brewers’ art- it can take experimentation to respond to your local conditions while adhering to basic fungus-inoculating technique.

  5. Thanks for the help!!! I heard about Amazake and tried it once, and instanstly, it was my favorite beverage during the winter. Thanks and good luck to everyone who wants to try it!!!

  6. Pingback: Friday Food News Round Up: Gut Up or Shut Up | Our World Eats Culture

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