Anything I’m Fermenting

October 4, 2008

Soy Sauce…6 months later

Filed under: Soy Sauce,Tasting — iwouldntlivethere @ 10:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

Yes, it has been half a year since I started making the soy sauce. We’ve been using it often – haven’t bought soy sauce in months! I often railroad any guests we have over into trying the soy sauce; the general opinion seems to be that it tastes good, but is very salty, and is different from regular soy sauce.

The sauce has gradually darkened – I have a tub of it that we are working through, but I pour off some into a more practically sized bottle for everyday use, and have noticed the change. Originally, I tended to only use it when cooking, but now use it in salad dressings, etc. where it is not cooked, and it tastes good.

So my conclusions are that next time I will not panic (no matter what Kikkoman says!) and keep the salt % lower. As well, I had considered roasting some of the wheat flour to darken the next batch, but that may not be neccesary. Although… it would probably add a richer depth to the brown colour, and perhaps add some toasted taste to it.

One of the things I did was to keep a little bottle of the actively fermenting soy sauce (bottled soon after brining the soy chunks, and before adding more salt) to use as a starter for the next batch. I have kept it in the freezer. With hope, by ‘repitching’ this as a starter, or inoculum, for the next batch, I will gradually develop my own soy fermentation culture. At least it should ensure a bit of consistency between batches.

Here are two pictures of my soy sauce now. The first has my soy sauce on the right, comparing it’s colour to a commercial fish sauce (which is a bit darker). The second compares the current coloour of the soy sauce with the frozen ‘starter’ bottle I froze in April. The ‘starter’ bottle ended up half-freezing – the top is ice, the bottom is concentated soy sauce, so to get the colour you have to mentally ‘average’ out the two colours (the very top 1/3 or so is empty, the sides are just frosted).


  1. I like the effort you have put in to this. I’m thinking about trying what you have done, but I don’t know yet if I have the commitment in me to follow through…

    The “holy grail” for me would be to make miso, but that is even more complicated!

    I’ll be reading though your post one more time, and research a little more before I start. I’m probably going to do it all organic, perhaps even with sea salt.
    I’m bookmarking this site – thanks for keeping the blog alive!

    Comment by Joakim Lindén — October 23, 2008 @ 7:58 pm | Reply

  2. I read somewhere (I can’t recall now unfortunately) that the solids strained out of the soy sauce after brining the soy chunks are miso. I can confirm that they have the same taste and consistency as commercially produced miso – maybe a little coarser. It also acts the same in miso soup, making those cool little clouds at the bottom of your bowl. You actually get quite a bit of miso – I ended up with at least 3 cups worth (packed). It appears to be indestructible – I don’t use that much miso, so I still have most of it – it still looks, smells, and tastes the same as when it was made.
    Going organic should be easy if you can find organic soybeans (which should be stocked at most bulk food stores). I used sea salt (see ‘The on-going soy sauce controversy’:

    Comment by iwouldntlivethere — October 23, 2008 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

  3. Hi again… I’ve started a blog at a website I’m involved in. It’s a gamin site, so it has nothing to do with soy or fermenting – also it’s in swedish. But I have a lot of images of each step in my process:

    Check in if you like. It’s a little touch and go – I’m sort of improvising some of the methods. I’ve used a tiny tiny bit of Aspergillus Oryzae that I’ve purchased from the U.S. (a company called Vision Brewing).

    The patties were covered in mould after 24 hours(!) – I’m about to post a new blog entry with photos of that.

    Comment by Joakim Lindén — October 28, 2008 @ 5:30 pm | Reply

  4. Joakim, I just checked out your blog – AWESOME work, man. I wish we had some way to compare the taste of our soy sauces. I can’t believe you paid big $$ for some aspergillus culture from the US – but it’ll probably mean your soy sauce tastes like the commercial stuff, rather than the mix of flavours I got. I registered on gameplayer site, but can’t seem to comment (yet?), so I’ll do so from here.
    Some things I wanted to mention about your process:
    1. You are hard-core! Grinding your own grain in a mortar and pestle!?
    2. Your soy patties and chunks look great. Much cleaner looking than mine (all those wild molds made a mess!)
    3. DON’T make your salt brine 20%! You will find your soy sauce to be unbearably salty. A salinity of 8% is more than enough to kill the mold and inhibit the growth of unwanted bacteria. At that level you will allow the lactic acid bacteria (and other good ones) to survive and add a sweet tang to your sauce, and give the flavours much more depth. I seriously recommend that you go easy on the salt – don’t worry about the mold (it is edible anyways). You can always add more salt later for taste, and boil the soy sauce if you are worried about the mold. Remember that people have been using WILD molds to make soy sauce for millennia, and they lived! When I panicked and added more salt, it probably only made the salinity around 16%, and it tastes too salty – I had a Korean friend over who, after tasting it, immediately said it was too salty.

    Comment by iwouldntlivethere — November 6, 2008 @ 6:51 am | Reply

  5. I’ve mailed you about this, but I figure it might be nice for others to know, if they end up trying this as well. From the mail:

    Well, I guess I will have a too salty batch of soy sauce, because I have already done the brining… I’ve not been very scientific about it though. I ended up looking at the recipie for shoyu in the Miso book at google books ( I think I got the link from the comments in your blog ). From there I did an estimation… I used the weight of the water and the weight of the salt (I think the recipie used pounds, but I converted it to parts and then applied them to grams). I ended up with three jars ( 2×1.5 litres and one 0,75 litres), and I decided to use different amounts of dried soy and salt in all of them – just to see which would do best.

    The salt levels, without the soy – just water, were: 17%, 16% and 15% (roughly)
    The amount of dried (completely dried and then weighed) soy were in the ranges: 21%, 9,7% and 28% (in the same order as the salt figures).

    I’ve written the weights on the jars, otherwise I would loose track of the numbers. I’ll post a series of images in the blog again soon, documenting the evolution in the jars. I’ve kept them in the oven the last few days since it’s very gloomy outside – no sun at all. I’ve turned the oven on for a minute or two now and then, to get some degree of warmth going (not any high temperatures of course)… The smell is…interesting. 🙂

    Thanks a lot for your heads-up! Hope you have some insight into the soy-brine ratio… I’m not certain at all what amount would be sufficient – since the soy cakes were completely bone dry, they weighed almost nothing.

    Comment by Joakim Lindén — November 10, 2008 @ 11:18 pm | Reply

  6. Joakim,
    Your comparison sounds like a great way to see what the effects of salt strength and soy concentration are on the final soy sauce. I commend you for that effort!
    I never did weigh the dry soy chunks before brining them. Like you, I found that they were very light. This means that you must have very thick brines if one of them had 28% soy by weight. I think my brine was much more dilute (soy-wise). As I remember, I just followed what canucklehead suggested – “start out with 4lbs of water with 4 oz of salt”.
    Keep me posted on how the soy sauce is maturing.

    Comment by iwouldntlivethere — November 22, 2008 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

  7. I tried a batch of soy chunks but am unsure how long they need to dry be fore I ferment them.I ended up with a rainbow of molds.The black worried me and i threw it away.Could anyone guide me threw the fermenting proccess
    or a link to a good recipe.Im ready to try again!!

    Comment by kanobi — February 12, 2009 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  8. Bagaimana membuat kecap yang benar? aku mau membuat kecap memakai kedelai/tempe dan air kelapa, namun bagaimana supaya kecap saya memiliki cita rasa yang kuat?
    mohon dibalas ya

    salam sukses

    how to make soy sauce that correct? I want to make the soy soybean / tempe and coconut water, but how that I have a soy taste strong?
    please reply on ya

    always a success

    Comment by petrus — February 14, 2009 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

    • Petrus: I’m a bit unclear on what you are asking, sorry. Are you trying to make a soy sauce with coconut water? That sounds interesting! I don’t have any suggestions on that, though. About how to make the soy taste strong, I think you would use less brine and more soy, and you should leave it out in the sun longer, and at hotter temperatures (this would encourage enzyme action and concentrate the sauce by evaporation). I hope this helps.

      Comment by iwouldntlivethere — February 14, 2009 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  9. Kanobi: I found the comment about mold:
    “I actually consulted a scientist about the dangers of the molds involved – and generally it is a very safe process and one would have consume ALOT of the dangerous strain to even get close to hurting yourself. So far so good – keep knocking on wood I guess.”

    Comment by iwouldntlivethere — February 14, 2009 @ 2:25 pm | Reply

  10. Dear

    Thanks … I intend to make this business a good environment for me and then I was before of my production I would like to ask the people like you because if I be in the production of this eligible for the sale, so

    Comment by petrus — February 15, 2009 @ 10:15 am | Reply

  11. Very interesting project. I followed a process shown on the eGullet page and also your info to make some myself. But I used Pinto Beans and Corn Masa instead of soy beans and wheat. I live in the southwestern part of the US and those are more “regional” ingredients. The mold was essentially koji kin that was hanging around my house (in the air) after making sake. I also added some chile peppers during the fermentation, which made it sweeter. It took from last January until August before I bottled it. I left it outside in the sun for most of the time, unless it rained, and only stirred occasionally. It turned out pretty good. I am happy to see you have a lighter color also, since mine is brownish and I was wondering if I had done something wrong. Thank you for your step by step updates and pictures.

    Comment by bill — September 29, 2009 @ 11:04 am | Reply

  12. Are all you guys leaving this to ferment “Uncovered” in the sun ?

    Comment by ADAM — May 25, 2011 @ 11:29 pm | Reply

    • I live in a rainier area, so l put a lid on the jar when it was outside. Not airtight though – don’t wan’t to let gas build up inside from any continuing fermentation…

      Comment by iwouldntlivethere — May 26, 2011 @ 9:35 pm | Reply

  13. I leave my in the sun, but I have put it in a beer/wine fermenting glass jug with a one way air valve on it. It seems to be working the way it is expected to. Only time will tell.

    Comment by Todd Shipman — June 14, 2011 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  14. I am getting ready to brine my first set of moldy soy sauce patties (I inoculated mine with Koji culture but ended up with a collection of wild molds from the environment anyway) and am curious, if you were to start the project again, what concentration of salinity would you go with? The suggestions I have gotten range pretty wildly from 6.5 to 30 %, and I am leaning more towards ten, but would love to hear how you would approach it now that you have a successful batch under your belt. You also mention miso as a by-product of the process- did you simply drain off and pack the remaining solids from the brine? Lastly, I am attempting this as an additive to my final project for culinary school- a traditional Japanese menu sustainably sourced from organic ingredients in the Pacific Northwest. Thusly, my fermentation is taking place on a temperature controlled shelf in a large scale production kitchen. (no sunshine for my little soy chunks) Could this inhibit the process, or would the temperature control add a level of stability?

    Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing your feedback! This blog has been a huge help in my quest to make this project as authentic as possible!

    Comment by Brittney — May 28, 2015 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

    • Hi Brittney,
      First of all, it’s been a very long time since I made soy sauce! I actually had to reread the posts to fully remember what was going on. I’m honoured that you are using my blog to help you with your final project. Hope it turns out well!
      1. About the salinity. If I were to do this again I would use a brine strength recommended for fermenting other foods (like sauerkraut, etc) in order to allow for actual bacterial fermentation. You may, through your schooling, already know the correct brine strength (and calculation of it) for this. After fermentation I would adjust the salt by taste to a level that I liked (if needed). As you see from all my discussion about calculating salinity, the range of suggested salinity may be partly a result of different ways of calculating it.
      2. About the miso. Yes, I strained the soy out of the sauce at the end using a mesh bag (somewhat like the bags sold in paint stores to strain paint), squeezing out as much liquid as possible. The resulting solids were so much like miso in appearance, taste, and how they affected other foods that I am sure this is how miso was originally made.
      3. I wouldn’t worry too much about the sunshine – the fermenting sauce would originally have been stored in opaque containers so I doubt much light got in. Time is what causes the colour to darken, I found. Perhaps add some roasted flour to contribute a darker colour. What temperature is the shelf? Traditional Japanese style soy sauce was made in cooler weather.

      Good luck! Don’t hesitate to ask any other questions.

      Comment by iwouldntlivethere — May 29, 2015 @ 1:07 am | Reply

      • I making soy sauce using Chinese method too, using only soybeans and all purpose flour. My mom used to make soy sauce this way. Only she kept soybeans whole, didn’t mashed the beans into cake. She says the mold should be white, but mine after 3 days looks like more black than the white mold with some yellow. I wish there a way attached some photos to show. Do you think I should concern for the black mold? Thanks!

        Comment by Santy — September 3, 2016 @ 3:14 pm

      • Hi Santy,
        As you can see from my pictures, I had ask sorts of molds growing on the cake and it turned out OK. The mold your grandmother described is likely aspergillus, which is frequently used in Asian food. It was likely very common in her kitchen and so would have quickly colonized her soya cakes. If you want to, you can order aspergillus spores online for sake making that would likely work for making soya sauce.

        Comment by iwouldntlivethere — September 3, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

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