rice based wines

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rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Jul 25, 2017 13:10

I thought I would have a go at making sake but it seems rather complicated and expensive. A simpler alternative is Chinese rice wine, which is more akin to beer. The principle is to use steamed glutinous rice mixed with Chinese rice balls, which contain enzymes, which convert the starch to fermentable sugar, and yeast, to convert this to alcohol. Plain pudding rice would do but not so easy to find these days but Thai sticky rice is fairly easy to find. I got the rice balls from eBay, £6 for 4, post free.
The rice should be washed and then soaked until it is 'al dente' then steamed until light and fluffy rather than sticky. I am using 2 x 2 litre sweet jars, so just over a kilo of uncooked rice is required, plus 1crushed rice ball. The warm (not hot) steamed rice is added in 2 cm layers with a sprinkling of the rice ball powder until the jars are 75% full. Conversion of starch to sugar and fermentation occur simultaneously.
Uncooked rice is 25% starch and cooked rice is 66% water. About half of the converted starch turns to alcohol (the rest is lost as co2) so a kilo of rice should produce about 125 ml of alcohol, leaving 750 g of solids and 1.75 litres of liquid, so the final abv would be around 7%.
I haven't actually started yet so comments and suggestions welcome!
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Jul 25, 2017 13:20

Some lemon juice and yeast nutrient would not go amiss.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Jul 25, 2017 14:00

I was puzzled as to why sake has an initial abv of 20%. Reading 2 packets of arborio rice, one stated carbs at 75% and the other at 25%. Clearly the first indicated uncooked rice and the other cooked. I guess the rice balls have a rather weak yeast, so adding wine yeast would boost the abv significantly.
Also the agent used to convert the starch for sake is a fungus, not an enzyme. This enzyme is also present in ginger, banana skin and saliva, which was traditionally used!
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Re: rice based wines

Postby jkp » Tue Jul 25, 2017 15:42

Most of the Rice wine (Mi Jiu) I've tried has been sweet, so you're probably right that the yeast may be a fairly weak strain. There do exist dry versions, but they are much less common. I'm not a fan of either to be honest. The sweet kind can be served hot with egg (to me it's just odd), and the dry version has a rather harsh flavour.

Hope yours works out well.

Korean Makgeolli on the other hand is delicious!
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:06

Thanks for that.
At 75% starch there should be enough sugar for potential abv of 25%. The highest I ever got was 16% and I'm not keen on sweet wine. The simple solution would be to use less rice and add water to dilute the sugar.
In the Tesco world food section I found 2 kilo packs of glutinous rice for £3, along with pudding and suchi rice, with a carb rating of 80%!
I rinsed 500g of the glutinous rice several times, added cold water and a teaspoon of citric acid and left it to soak.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Jul 27, 2017 11:02

The citric acid was overkill. The pH was 2.2. I changed the water and reduced this to 3.5. Overnight the rice had softened somewhat and doubled in volume. The principle is that much of the cooking is done by the absorbed water through steaming.
Converting starch to sugar is not 100%. As with malt (barley contains the same amount of starch as rice) a kilo of starch produces 650 g of sugar, not all of which is fermentable. On that basis, 3 kilos of uncooked rice should produce a 9 kilos of cooked rice, 1kilo of fermentable sugar and 6 litres of wine at about 10% abv. However sake is initially 20% abv. This is diluted to 14% for sale in the UK, because the rate of duty rises significantly at 15%. Rice wine is about 13.5%. The actual final volume of the wine, allowing for losses through co2, removal of saturated rice solids and fining, would be about 5 litres.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Jul 29, 2017 11:25

The rice balls never arrived but a second batch arrived today, with 2 extra balls as a goodwill gesture. Fortunately the soaked rice was still ok. They are small, weighing 8 g each.
The steamed rice hasn't even doubled in weight and is extremely sticky, like glue. I added half a powdered rice ball in layers, plus nutrient and wine yeast, then topped up with water to just cover.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Jul 30, 2017 09:38

Clearly my little steamer is no good for glutinous rice, which forms an almost impenetrable mass, preventing the steam from getting through. I kept topping up the jar with water until it reached a volume of 1.5 litres. Overnight it expanded further, hopefully on account of carbon dioxide. The yeast wouldn't be very active yet on account of little sugar at this stage.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Jul 30, 2017 18:25

I found a recipe which closely matches what I am trying. Being an American one, it uses 2 cups to measure. 1 US cup = 250 ml, so 500 ml. It specifies 1 rice ball, so I crushed the other half and stirred it in. As a test, I steamed some plain rice and got a similar result. Clearly rice steams best under pressure, so I have ordered a microwave steamer for £6.
By the end of the day the rice is clearly liquefying at the bottom and rising at the top.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Mon Jul 31, 2017 11:40

I did an iodine test for starch which proved positive. Unlike malt, the rice starch conversion process is gradual. As a result, the fermentation is very slow, which should result in a high alcohol yield. My 1.5 litres of cooked rice should contain 375 g of starch. If all of this is converted to the same amount of sugar, the wine would be rather sweet.
The reason for the non-delivery of the initial batch of rice balls was revealed today. The vendor simply stuck a 1st class letter stamp on the jiffy bag, which was not enough. Royal mail charged me £3 to collect it, which is extortionate as the correct postage charge was only £1.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby LeithR » Mon Jul 31, 2017 16:14

tonyhibbett wrote:I found a recipe which closely matches what I am trying. Being an American one, it uses 2 cups to measure. 1 US cup = 250 ml, so 500 ml. It specifies 1 rice ball, so I crushed the other half and stirred it in. As a test, I steamed some plain rice and got a similar result. Clearly rice steams best under pressure, so I have ordered a microwave steamer for £6.
By the end of the day the rice is clearly liquefying at the bottom and rising at the top.


Nothings simple, I have 3 sets of American cup measuring sets brought to the marriage by my American wife, they are all different to each other, but that doesn't matter as long as you use the same set consistently. Its the ratio of the cup and sub-cups measures that makes the system work.

When I was a young boy my dad used to make a rice and raisin wine that was known in his wine making club as Jungle juice and pretty potent stuff it was!
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Re: rice based wines

Postby serum » Mon Jul 31, 2017 17:19

Are Chinese rice balls the same as makgeoli enzyme? I've wanted to make makgeoli for ages buy haven't been able to get the right stuff.

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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Aug 01, 2017 11:47

Yes domestic measuring containers are notoriously inaccurate. The same applies to much of the information found online!
I have a recipe for rice and raisin wine but the principle of starch conversion is not used so I guess the rice is just for body.
I would assume the enzyme is the same but other constituents may well influence the flavour as well as the type of rice used.
Day 4: The brew is now quite liquid, so I inserted the pH meter, which read 3.1. Cooked rice has a pH of 6 and sake is 5, so only a small amount of acid should have been added, preferably lactic, which I didn't have. Rice also contains some tannin, but not much.
Clearly I have misunderstood the principle of steamed rice. A steamer cooks vegetables in their own water content without immersion, whereas rice is initially immersed in just sufficient water for it to absorb during cooking and kept covered with a heavy, unvented lid on a very low heat until all of the water has been absorbed. Washing and soaking rice before cooking is for appearance and texture and not relevant for making rice wine.
I considered using my test batch as a starter for a larger brew to save on rice balls, but while yeast multiplies during fermentation, enzymes do not and the rice balls play a significant role in flavour. No matter. I ordered 4 balls and ended up with 10 at 90p each.
Using a hydrometer to predict abv is out of the question. However, I have a vinometer which is reasonably accurate if the final wine is dry.
Now that fermentation is well under way, albeit much slower than other brews, I have fitted an airlock to the plastic jar lid by cutting a hole with a 10mm wood bit.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Aug 02, 2017 10:00

Day 5: At some point, the liquid is supposed to separate out but no sign of that yet. My neighbour says his Chinese dad used to make it in a bucket with 3 rice balls, so I'll try that next. I'll cook the 1.5 kilos of rice left in the packet and use a 2 gallon bucket with lid. Once it has liquefied, I'll transfer it to the safer environment of a 5 litre fermentation vessel. This should yield 3 litres of wine.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Aug 03, 2017 13:01

The microwave steamer arrived yesterday but did not work because microwaves cook the rice faster than it can absorb moisture from the steam. Might work with a smaller quantity. Nonetheless a useful microwave accessory for fish and veg. I boiled the rice instead. A bucket is much easier to work with than a tall jar and holds considerably more. I cooked a second batch today and the volume is now almost 5 litres. I added a pinch of Epson salts (magnesium sulphate) as advised in one sake recipe.
Rice wine is not unique to Japan and China. When trekking in the Himalayas, usually the only alcoholic drink available was ruksi (raksi). At each daily stop, my guide would seek out the local brewer and bring back a small bottle of the stuff for a modest fee. Served warm (like sake) it went down well with the usual dal bat (mostly rice with a little local veg). At the end of a trek it is customary to give the guide a bonus. I gave him enough money to get the kit for his wife to make ruksi to supplement their meagre income. Some simple distillation is involved in production.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Aug 04, 2017 09:27

Day 7: Now it gets interesting. There is now enough free liquid at the top to test the abv. It does not taste sweet. The adjusted vinometer reading is 11.5% and the iodine test shows starch is still present. Therefore the abv should rise further. I suspect it could peak at 15.
Meanwhile the batch in the bucket is already liquefying. As with all brews, the process is more efficient in bulk.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:44

Day 8: The liquid at the top now tastes slightly sweet and the iodine test indicates much less starch, so I conclude that the starch to alcohol process is pretty much complete. I strained out the solids and squeezed out as much liquid as possible, yielding 1.1 litres and 180g of solids. Curiously, the sg is 1065!
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Aug 06, 2017 08:30

Day 9: Clear it, at max dose, removed a lot, but failed to clear the wine. This is probably due to some residual starch, as indicated by an iodine test. Rice also contains protein, which can also cause a haze. As I recall, the Nepalese raksi wasn't clear either. Nonetheless I have ordered some amylase.
The sg is still high at 1060 and the vinometer now reads 14% abv, which is theoretically true, as fermentation has stopped completely. The pH is 3.6, but fining has probably removed what little tannin was in the rice, so the wine is somewhat bland.
Meanwhile I have applied a second dose of finings, which has made the wine clearer.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Mon Aug 07, 2017 11:56

Day 10: 2 more doses of finings have actually removed all of the starch, but there is still a slight haze, presumably from protein. Bentonite may remove it.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:31

Day 11: The amylase arrived today, which I have added.
Meanwhile the bucket brew is progressing well. I sampled the rice, which appears now to be mostly fibre. It's 5 days since it started. I used a fruit press and got 5.5 litres of liquid and 750 g of solids. This means that about a third of the starch has yet to be extracted, so I mixed the solids back in and added some amylase. As a result, the now pulpy rice has risen to the surface, just like fruit pulp.
About 500 ml of the water was lost during cooking.The pH of the liquid is 3.3 and the sg is 1040. There is no sweetness, so I guess the dissolved starch is responsible for the sg reading.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:16

Day 12: This is day 6 for the bucket brew. The volume has increases to 7 litres due to the gas in the rice. Had I used more than 1.5 kilos of rice, there would be a risk of the must overflowing and a larger bin would be required.
The sg has dropped to 1035, which is reassuring. While not an indicator of sugar in this case, it indicates that the starch content is steadily reducing while the alcohol is rising as fermentation steadily continues.
Apart from the slight tang of succinic acid, the must has little flavour and no colour.
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:22

Day 13 (7): Fermentation was very slight, so I strained and pressed again. The solids weighed 690 g. Allowing for moisture content and yeast, I concluded that all of the starch had been extracted, converted to sugar and then alcohol. The volume of the liquid was 5.5 litres, so I divided it between 2 dj's. Sediment settled quickly but accounted for about a third of the volume. After racking, I ran this sediment through a number of paper coffee filters and recovered more than half of the liquid.
After fining the wine was clearer but still somewhat cloudy. As no starch was present, I resorted to the Harris filter. Progress was very slow and I gave up after just 1 litre, which was crystal clear. I ran the rest through a jug water filter and then through a paper coffee filter. I then ran it through the Harris filter. This was much faster but curiously did not result in crystal clarity, but nonetheless significantly clearer wine.
The sg was 1028, but with no hint of sweetness. The taste is pretty neutral, with no harshness and the initial acid twang has gone too, even though the pH is 3.5. The titration reading was 5 ppt (as tartaric), at the low end of wine acidity. The vinometer reading was 15% abv. The final volume was 4 litres. 1.5 kilos of raw rice contains 1.125 kilos of starch, which theoretically could produce about 700 ml of alcohol. As a percentage of 4 litres, that's about 16.5% abv. Allowing for unfermentable sugars, the abv would be lower. Dry rice wine is sold at 13.5%.
Sake is normally served warm in a small china decanter and drunk from teacup sized china cups in one gulp. I dug out my sake serving kit, warmed up the wine and tried it. Drinking it warm brings out its true flavour and distinct character, which is very nice and more-ish!
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Re: rice based wines

Postby Crastney » Fri Aug 11, 2017 16:33

sounds good - well done!
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Aug 13, 2017 14:26

Day 14 (8): I drank it with chicken teriyaki, as the sauce includes both saki and mirin (sweet rice wine). After the meal I finished off the wine whic left a somewhat unfamiliar and unpleasant acid aftertaste. Clearly the acid balance of rice wine is quite critical, as is the quality and mineral content of the water used. My tap (Thames) water is slightly acidic (pH 6.4). A significant amount of water is lost during the cooking and cooling of the rice (which is also slightly acidic) which concentrates the acid. Next time I will use more neutral (pH 7) bottled water. For the time being I added enough potassium carbonate solution (2 ml per litre) to reduce the acidity of the wine by 25%, so it now has a pH value of 3.8. Problem solved, although next time I will finish the wine during the course of the meal!
The mystery of the high sg of a dry tasting wine is partly explained by the stickiness of the kitchen floor after a certain amount of spillage had dried up. Clearly not all sugars are sweet, just as most substances classified as salts don't taste salty.
Sake is aged for 6 months
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Re: rice based wines

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Aug 13, 2017 14:42

day 15 (9): Tried it out on a couple of neighbours. One said it was sweet and tasted of peaches - although she had just been picking peaches. The other said it was like his dad used to make but not as strong. His dad used to distil it. Well that's 1 litre gone already.
I decided to store it in 500 ml bottles, as it is sold, keeping 1 for cooking. I only have crown cap beer bottles of this size, but I have several plastic caps that do the job. Havng bottled the one clear litre, I found the remaining 2 were still fermenting, despite fining and filtering. I will leave them be for the time being, although sparkling sake is a novel idea!
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