Simple Sake (Doburoku) Recipe


Since I tried a cup of my friend’s homemade doburoku, unfiltered and unpasteurized sake, I started to research how to make it. Sake sold in the United States can be very expensive. I tend to hesitate to use those expensive sake for cooking, but sake for cooking I can buy at Japanese grocery stores contain salt and tastes terrible.

Doburoku recipe I introduce here is additive free, unfiltered and unpasteurized. It’s perfectly good (really tasty) for both drinking and cooking. My husband prefers to drink homemade doburoku over store bought sake.

There are many slightly different doburoku recipes you can find. If you are a connoisseur and want to make vintage, you may need to get the best ingredients and keep trying to achieve your goal with great care. But the basic recipe of brewing doburoku is very simple and forgiving.

As long as you have rice koji, Japanese rice, and dry yeast (for bread), you can start brewing. Japanese grocery stores tend to carry rice koji, but I’ve never seen it in other Asian stores. If you are out of luck, you can get from Home Brew Sake, which also provides tons of sake brewing information.

It is illegal to brew sake in Japan, but it’s perfectly legal to brew alcoholic beverage for your own consumption in the United States. Therefore, real sake yeasts, which are not available through retail distribution in Japan, are sold in the United States. But if you don’t want to make an effort to buy the real yeast for sake, regular bread yeast will do the job.

I recommend to brew doburoku in the simplest (cheapest) way first. If you fail or don’t like the taste, experiment using different or better ingredients. Most likely you are pleasantly surprised to know how easy to brew doburoku, love the taste, and hooked.

Ingredients (Makes about 3 Pints)

  • 3 cups white Japanese rice or Japanese sweet rice (1 cup is 180 cc in this case)
  • 10 oz rice koji
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • Filtered water or bottled water (I used filtered water. If you buy bottled water, choose soft water, because Japanese water is soft.)


Wash the rice well with cold water. Even if you usually don't wash rice, you must wash rice thoroughly to brew sake. Using a fine strainer, change water several times until the water comes out clear.

Cook 3 cups of regular Japanese white rice with the water to cook 2 cups of white rice. If you are using Japanese sweet rice, cook it accordingly (follow the direction of your rice cooker) or steam after washing it thoroughly. (note: 1 cup of rice is 180cc. It's different from U.S. measurement.)

When the rice is done, wait for 10 minutes and move the cooked rice to the container to brew sake. Immediately add 3-1/2 to 4 cups of water and mix well to loosen the rice, but don't mash. As long as the water covers the rice completely, that's fine. I used regular Brita filtered water, which I drink at home. If you are buying drinking water, use that one. I personally think that it's better to avoid using hard water, such as Evian, because Japanese water is soft. Experiment using different water. This process brings the temperature of the rice/water mixture somewhere around 100°F (40℃), a little warmer than body temperature, which is ideal for fermenting process to start. If it's too warm, organisms will die and fermenting process won't start.
Immediately add koji and yeast, and further mix. Again, don't mash.

Cover the container with plastic wrap to prevent unwanted microbes coming in, and top with the lid. Don't seal the container tightly. While fermentation is going on, microbes generate carbon dioxide. If you use seal the container tightly, the pressure will build up during the process. Keep the container at room temperature.
Using a clean utensil or hand, stir the sake mixture once or twice a day. Just stir, don't mash the rice. From the second day or so, you start noticing distinctive smell of sake. You will see and hear the bubbles rising up. It takes about 3~4 days in winter, and 2~3 days in summer. Try tasting everyday, and see how the flavor develops. You can stop the fermentation at any stage you like. If you don't stop, I heard that the mixture keeps fermenting and becomes vinegar eventually.
Strain the mash and liquid. Spread Japanese tenugui or cheesecloth over a colander in a big bowl. Pour the mixture over the cheesecloth in batches using a ladle. Don't try to strain at once, as you might end up spilling sake all over. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
The liquid is sake (doburoku). Pour it either in a bottle using a funnel or wide mouth container, such as pitcher as I used, and keep it in a refrigerator. As the microbes are still present and alive inside of the strained doburoku, it still generates certain amount of carbon dioxide even in a fridge. Loosely cap the bottle and release the gas to prevent the pressure to build up. When doburoku sits for a while, clear liquid and cloudy white liquid will be separated in a bottle. This clear part is sake.

The leftover white stuff in the cloth is called sakekasu. It's delicious to add in miso soup, and makes great marinade for fish. (I will upload the recipe later.) You can make amazake, by adding water and some sugar and heat it over the stove and dessolve. Sakekasu can be kept in a refrigerator for about 6 months.

Sake Brewing References


  1. Sally Veach says:

    Hello Yuki!
    I have just come back from Japan and am fascinated with the Japanese diet and want to try eating more healthy Japanese food at home. Want to try making sake! One question: when we were there they served us a sweet sake in a restaurant. Do you know how to make a sweet sake?

    Thank you,

    • Hi Sally,

      I’m so glad to know that you enjoyed visiting Japan. You picked the right season, too! As to sweet sake, was it amazake or regular transparent sake? If it’s amazake you can I uploaded the recipe ( If it’s regular sake, I also have a recipe (, but use more koji than recipe calls for to enhance sweetness. Homemade sake is cloudy, as it’s not clarified, but tastes much better than store bought ones.


      • Sally says:

        Hi again! Thank you for your reply. Just one clarification if you don’t mind….are you saying that after the bottle sits a while ( when it is done) it separates ito sake and something else? What is the leftover cloudy liquid? When you make sake, do you just drink or it right away or wait till it separates and drink only the clear sake?

        Thanks again, sally

        • I don’t bother to try clarifying homemade sake, because it’s not easy to do at home, even if I try. That’s definitely a professional brewery job. It’s very difficult to pinpoint what kind of sake you had in Japan, because infinite numbers of small sake breweries sell many different products. But I can guess that you probably had some sort of junmai-ginjo-shu, which means the sake is made from highly polished rice, but without the aid of extra alcohol. Fortunately, there are many premium sake bottles sold at large liquor stores in the United States recently, even though they tend to be pricey. They tend to be sold in small intricate bottles. I hope this information helps.

  2. Sally says:

    What I had was the clear sweet sake. If I use extra Koji and then wait till the sake separates, will the clear liquid still be sweet?

    Thank you!

    • Marcello says:


      Unless you have all the equipment, which you don’t, the only sake you can make is Doburoku, Homemade Sake, and it will NEVER CLEAR. Just swirl and drink, You could also add some Pepi Lopez Coconut Milk for a different flavor, and a more pure white look, More Koji will make it sweeter, but you can back sweeten it when it is done also with sugar syrup. That way you are assured to get a good sugar drunk. Enjoy!

  3. terry says:

    I have the Miyako Koji that comes in the white plastic tub.. do you just mix it straight from the container to the cooked rice? once its cooled?

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