Have you …as a sake lover … ever heard about "1 koji, 2 moto, 3 tsukuri" ?
This shows important things during sake brewing and Koji is the most important.
Koji is also important for brewing Shōchū(Japanese distilled beverage).
Did you know there are three types " black Koji" "white Koji" and "yellow Koji"?
This time we'll show you about Koji from the characteristics by difference in color.
What is Koji?
Koji is Koji- kin (fungus) breeding on rice, wheat, soybeans and other cereals. Koji- kin is a kind of bacteria and used for brewing sake, Shōchū or Awamori(alcoholic beverage from Okinawa)
It's a good mold fungus that is also used for making fermented food such as miso, soy sauce.
To make sake from cereal as an ingredient, you have to change sugar to alcohol by fermentation. The principal component of the cereals such as rice, wheat or potato which is ingredient of sake is starch. The Koji- kin's job is to convert the starch from the cereals into a form of glucose for fermentation. The function of converting starch into glucose is called scarification.
By the way, during brewing most of western liquor don't use koji- kin for scarification. Japanese sake using koji seemed to be very rare in the world.
For example. Though "Kokuto Shōchū "and "rum "are both using sugarcane as an ingredient, they don't use Koji to ferment for rum. By using koji, it brings unique flavor and rich taste.
Koji-kin are three colors of black, white and yellow
As mentioned at the beginning, There are three difference color of Koji ,"black Koji""white Koji" and "yellow Koji"
The black koji is mainly used for fermentation of Awamori. In the same way, white Koji is for Shōchū and Yellow Koji is for sake. For brewing Awamori, always black Koji is used. On the other hand for brewing Shōchū ,black Koji and yellow Koji also being used. The reason for using a different color of Koji is that it makes a different flavor depending on the koji to use.
As famous Shōchū, the differences between " Kuro(means black) Kirishima" and "Shiro (means white)Kirishima". As you can see from its name " Kuro Kirishima" is used black Koji, "Shiro Kirishima" is used white Koji. When you compare the taste, Kuro Kirishima has rich
and Shiro Kirishima has light taste. You often can find the color of koji from the name or color of labels.
As an exception, "Aka(means red) Kirishima". The color red is not because of Koji, but due to the color of red potatoes. So please remember. It must be nice to compere to drinking Shōchū with different koji.
If you know about the characteristic points of Koji, it must be easier for you to choose Shōchū or sake that your favorite one. In the next part, we'll show you the characteristic points
of "black Koji""white Koji" and "yellow Koji" and differences the tastes of sake.
First of all, black Koji which is used for Awamori.
The black Koji prevents the growth of bacteria. Because compared to other Koji- kin, this black koji produces many citric acids. The south of Japan where they brew Shōchū are hot and humid, by that it's quite easy to grow bacteria. Black Koji is by that often used.
However, black koji also has disadvantages. The main disadvantages are difficulty of temperature management and black dye makes dirt in the brewery.
When you drink Awamori which used black Koji, you taste rich ,crispy and strong. The popular Shōchū with black Koji are Kuro Kirishima which mentioned above, Isami, Murao
There is also sake made with black Koji, just like "Fukumasamune". The characteristic points
of junmai-shu (pure rice sake) with black koji are fresh sour taste from citric acid and dry aftertaste.
It is said that citric acid that contained in sake with black koji, effective for fatigue recovery.
The white koji made by mutation of black koji. The color is not actually white, but a color close to yellow green.
The white koji has the same characteristics as black koji so it contains lots of citric acid.
It used to this white koji was popular to brew Shōchū instead of black koji. Because it doesn't create a lot of leftovers for the brewery unlike black koji. ( Though recently black koji is getting popular again which is the origin of Shōchū brewing.) The taste of Shōchū with white koji is mild and light fragrance compare to Shōchū with black koji. Sweet and easy to drink but still keep uniqueness of Shōchū. So that you don't getting boring to drink. Shiro Kirishima, Moriizo, Kawagoe, Sato Shiro are the Shōchū with white koji.
There is also sake with white koji. For example, Denshu, Sea food, Jozen. Sake with white koji
taste fruity and citrus fresh because of citric acid. You can drink sake as if you drink white wine!
By the way, when you drink Shōchū with black or white koji , you don't taste acidity of citric acid. Because Shōchū is a distilled beverage.
The yellow koji is the one most often used in sake brewing. This koji has been used for a long time also for Miso, Soy sauce and Mirin(a type of rice wine) . It doesn't contain citric acid.
So that it is perishable and management at low temperature is necessary. Therefore, Japanese sake brewing is done during winter when there are less bacteria. Thorough measures against bacteria were applied to the workplace. Around the middle of Meiji period, it used to Shōchū was also bowered with yellow koji. However yellow koji is weak to high temperature, so that Moromi (raw unrefined sake) was easy to rot around warm south Kyushu area. Therefore in 1910, black koji-kin was cultivated from black koji Awamori in Ryuku. After that black koji is getting popular to use for making Shōchū.
The Characteristic point of Yello koji is its gorgeous fragrance. It is opposite from
black koji. Recently production technology is improving and some Shōchū is making with yellow koji. It taste fruity and light. For example, Tomino- hozan, Umi, Maō. We recommend these for female, the person who don't drink Shōchū so often.
at the end
Now, is that clear for you about the importance of "Koji"?
The koji-kin's job is to convert the starch from the cereal into a form of glucose and fermentable. There are three basic types of koji-kin. Mainly black koji is used for Awamori, white koji is for Shōchū and yellow koji is for sake. There are also Shōchū made with yellow koji, sake with black koji. So it must be fun to try other varieties.
This time we talked about classification by color of koji, the difference in sake taste will depend on how to propagate koji-kin to rice. Do you want to know more about sake!? Let's try step into the deep world of koji!