Milling Rate of the Sake Rice
What determines the various classification of Sake is a process called the "milling" or "polishing" of the Sake rice. Unlike grape wine where the specific fruit itself defines the style of the beverage, in Sake the "milling rate" or "polish rate" of the Sake rice is what determines the various classifications.
One of the first steps in making Sake is to mill (polish) the rice, or to remove the protein and fatty substances in the outer part of what started out as brown rice. A "90% milling rate" is a rice that has been polished by only 10%, which means it has been de-hulled and minimally milled to remove the bran.
Rice used traditionally and commercially for sake production normally has a polish rate of 40% to 60%, which means that much of the grain has been milled away. Often a Ginjo style Sake is made from rice that has a polish rate of under 60% (more than 40% of the rice grain is milled away), and a Daiginjo style Sake is made from rice that has a polish rate of under 50% (more than 50% of the rice grain is milled away).
The milling (polish) rate of the Sake rice does have an impact on the final flavor, fragrance as well as price point of the Sake. However, as many Toji (brew masters) will agree, just because the classification of the Sake is higher or lower, it does NOT necessarily make the Sake better or worse. While it is an important indicator which determines the style of the Sake, each individual flavor must be judged based within its own classification.
- Brown rice
- 60% milling rate (40% milled)
- 50% milling rate (50% milled)
- 40% milling rate (60% milled)