Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: July 13, 2023

How to Make Rice Wine [Japanese Sake]

Love sake or soju? Want to know how to make rice wine? Check out our recipe for homemade sake.

white rice for wine


Ah Sake. If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine or a wines and spirits connoisseur of sorts, you’ll have undoubtedly come across and possibly even tasted Sake, or rice wine as it’s also commonly known. 

While it’s a very traditional drink, it has become popular over the years with the increasingly popularity of Japanese cuisine.

Rather than being a vodka, as some tend to categorize it, it’s closer to beer, but without the use of hops. Although it is a lot more like beer without using hops. Have you ever wondered how to make rice wine? Perhaps you’ve thought that as well as knowing how to make Sake at home, you would need a whole lot of complicated machinery.

Traditionally, Sake is made from koji, a microbe fungus that is used to ferment by processing the starch and turning it into fermentable sugar. However, it’s likely that you have not got access to koji. The good news is that you can replace the koji in most Sake recipes with wine yeast, which is a lot easier to get your hands on.

If you fancy making sake, check out the following rice wine recipe. We have tried to give you as full and comprehensive a guide so that you can learn how to make sake at home.

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sake in a cup


The following is a list of ingredients you will need to make rice wine.

  • 1kg of Rice
  • 6 to 8l of koji or wine yeast
  • Enough water to cook the rice
  • 200g of Sugar for every 1l of wine to sweeten and fortify.


The following are some of the tools you will need, depending on which type of starter, whether it’s yeast or koji, that you use.

  • Bucket with a lid
  • Paint strainer bag or cheesecloth
  • Container, jar or bottle

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Our Rice Wine Recipe

You've gathered all the necessary tools and ingredients and now it's time to get to get to work!

Step One – Washing and Cooking the Rice

It’s amazing how many people forget to do the first step, as it’s the most important. But why?

Rice is incredibly starchy. You can get rid of a lot of this excess starch by rinsing.

So, you should take the time to clean your rice thoroughly before you use it or cook it.

By far, the easiest way to do this is by putting some water and rice into a pan and move the rice around with your hand. As you do this, the water starts to become less clear and cloudier.

That’s all the extras found inside the rice bag that you want to separate from it before using it to make wine or dinner.

white rice for wine

After sloshing it, you need to pour the contaminated water away and then pour fresh water into the pan and again, slosh the rice around with your hand. The idea is to repeat this process until you are completely sure the water is clear as it can possibly get.

Now, the rice is ready to be cooked. Are you going to use a rice cooker? Good, then follow the normal instructions. If not, just take a large stainless-steel pan and fill it so that the water fully covers the rice by at least one centimeter.

Now, take the pot and place it on your stove or hob and cook on a medium for around 15 to 20-minutes. The rice is cooked properly when all the water has been absorbed. You now need to let the rice chill to room temperature at the very least.

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japanese rice wine

Step Two – Mixing The Rice Yeast

Once you have allowed the rice enough that you can touch it, it’s now time to take your rice yeast and add it to the mix.

Depending on whether you are using traditional Koji or a rice yeast, like Chinese yeast balls, will determine what you do next. For the yeast balls and other forms of rice yeast you need to crush the yeast into a powder.

You can then take that powder and sprinkle it into the rice and then beat it until the yeast and rice are fully incorporated. As Koji comes as a starter, you just need to take it out and add it to the rice.

Step Three – Let the Rice and Yeast Mixture Ferment

After mixing the yeast and rice, you now move onto one of the most crucial stages in the whole process – fermentation. Either take the paint strainer bag, if you are using one or a cheesecloth and fill it with the mixture.

A paint strainer bag is better because it’s easier to empty. Take your bucket and place the mixture inside it and seal the lid tightly. Now comes the pint when you need to be a little patient, as you need to leave the rice and yeast mixture to ferment for around three to four weeks.

It is important that you regularly check on the mixture and let the gasses that have built up inside it, escape. If you don’t, the lid might be forcibly blown into the air and you will get possibly the biggest fright of your life. Use this opportunity to check that your yeast culture is still thriving and healthy and that there’s no mold growing.

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wine making utensils

Step Four – Bottle That Rice Wine Up

After three to four weeks have passed, the big moment has arrived. The fruits of your labor and patience will be ready to try. All that fermentation should have resulted in a tasty and strong bit of homemade Sake.

So, without further ado, take the bucket and remove the lid. You now need to lift the paint strainer bag or cheesecloth from the bucket.

Carefully squeeze all the liquid that you can from the rice. Try not to worry too much if any of the rice particles are still in the finished product because they are fine and safe enough to eat.

Pro Tip – The rice that is leftover can still be used and eaten, so don’t feel like you must get rid of it.

After straining the rice completely, pour the wine that remains into a suitably sized container or bottle for storage. Now, you can pasteurize the wine so that you can get an even longer shelf life out of it.

If you are not interested in that and just want to drink some now and don’t care when it runs out, just chuck it into your fridge, where it will stay good for at least a couple of months without any pasteurization.

That delicious and strong rice wine that you were dying to try about a month ago is now finished and ready to drink. Now you just need to decide if you are going to drink it straight, try a mouthwatering cocktail or drink it as an accompaniment with food.

Some people believe that because both sushi and sake consist of rice in some form, they should not be served together. However, if that sounds boring to you, just have your sushi and enjoy your Sake.

It also works really well with spicy food. It offers for an interesting contrast in flavors that is more than a little pleasurable.


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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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