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AMINO ACID in Sake

Updated: Feb 11




Sake amino acids are a general term for the amino acids contained in sake. Enzymes in koji for sake making makes amino acid while saccharification acts.

Sake contains about 20 types of amino acids, such as glutamic acid, alanine, lysine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, histidine, tryptophan, arginine, proline, glycine, serine, aspartic acid, asparagine, methionine, cysteine, and cystine. Amino acids are the components of proteins, and there are also about 20 types of amino acids in the human body.

Please find the English translation of the following table:

Amino Acid

Taste

Glutamic acid

Umami, sour

Alanine

Sweet

Lysine

Bitter, umami

Isoleucine

Bitter

Leucine

Bitter

Phenylalanine

Bitter

Tyrosine

Bitter

Histidine

Bitter

Tryptophan

Bitter

Arginine

Bitter

Proline

Bitter

Glycine

Sweet

Serine

Bitter

Aspartic acid

Sour

Asparagine

Sour

Methionine

Bitter

Cysteine

Bitter

Cystine

Bitter


In general, Japanese sake that contains a lot of amino acids is generally considered to have a strong umami flavor and richness. In addition, Japanese sake that contains a lot of amino acids is characterized by a soft, smooth texture and mellow taste. However, just because it contains a lot of amino acids does not necessarily mean that it affects the aroma or texture. Various factors, such as the type and amount of amino acids and the balance with other ingredients, are involved in the taste of Japanese sake.


Amino acids form the taste of sake, such as umami, sweetness, sourness, bitterness, astringency, and saltiness. Sake amino acids are produced by the action of koji mold during the production process. Koji mold not only breaks down starch in rice into sugar, but also breaks down protein into amino acids. The amount of amino acids in sake varies depending on the type of sake. Generally, the lower the polishing ratio of the rice, the higher the amount of amino acids. Also, the amount of amino acids is lower in Sokujo style fermented sake than in Kimoto style fermented sake.


Sake amino acids have a great influence on the taste of sake. Sake with a high amount of amino acids has a strong umami and richness, and a rich taste. On the contrary, sake with a low amount of amino acids has a light and refreshing taste.


<Types with a lot of amino acids>

-Low polishing ratio

-Kimoto style fermentation


<Types with a little amino acids>

-High polishing ratio

-Sokujo style fermentation


The difference in aroma and flavor due to the difference in polishing ratio. The lower the polishing ratio, the more the umami components of rice remain, so the type with a lot of amino acids has a strong umami and richness, and a rich taste. On the other hand, the higher the polishing ratio, the more the umami components of rice are lost, so the type with a little amino acids has a light and refreshing taste.


The difference in aroma and flavor due to the difference between Kimoto style fermentation and Sokujo style fermentation, Kimoto style fermentation is a process in which koji mold produces lactic acid by itself, resulting in a long maturation period and a complex taste of sake. Therefore, even the type with a lot of amino acids has a fruity aroma and a graceful "ginjo aroma" like flowers. On the other hand, Sokujo style fermentation is a process in which lactic acid bacteria are added to make sake in a shorter period of time than Kimoto style fermentation. Therefore, even the type with a little amino acids has a refreshing aroma and a sharp taste.

<Typical sake Types with a lot of amino acids>

-Ginjo sake

-Daiginjo sake

-Pure rice sake

<Types with a little amino acids>

-Honjozo sake

-Futsu sake


【Examples】 The representative of the type with a lot of amino acids, "Dassai 23", has a low polishing ratio of 23% and is brewed by Kimoto style fermentation. Therefore, it is a rich-tasting sake with a strong umami and richness, and a fruity aroma. The representative of the type with a little amino acids, "Kubota Junmai Ginjo", has a high polishing ratio of 50% and is brewed by Sokujo style fermentation. Therefore, it is a light and refreshing sake. As you can see, the amount of amino acids in sake varies greatly depending on the brewing method. The amount of amino acids affects the taste of sake greatly, so it is good to choose according to your preference.

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