DIY Tutorial: The Real Way To Make Fermented Rice Water

Have you been unwittingly damaging your skin with dodgy homemade "fermented rice water"? Keep reading to discover the genuine way to brew this skin-nourishing elixir (approved by fermentation experts and saké brewers in Japan).

During the thick of the COVID pandemic, everyone was jumping on the DIY bandwagon, and one of the most popular trends was making your own rice water and fermented rice water. The internet was flooded with people reposting pretty much the same recipe - rinse off some store-bought rice with tap water, then let the leftover water sit in a jar on your kitchen counter or in your fridge for about a week.

But what if I told you that nearly all these DIY blog posts are teaching you the wrong way to make fermented rice water? Doesn't sound like a big deal, until you think about all the nasty bacteria and fungi that might end up on your skin. Gives you the heebie-jeebies, doesn't it? 😬

when you realize all those diy fermented rice water tutorials were wrong

So, why are we revisiting this topic of fermented rice water? Well, if you've tried one of these DIY recipes, you may have been left feeling let down by the results. You might have even started thinking that fermented rice water doesn't live up to the hype. We're here to reintroduce one of the most potent skincare ingredients, a longstanding favorite in Asian beauty products, and this time, we'll show you the right way to do it.

But before we get to the how-to part, let's go over the difference between plain rice water and fermented rice water. This'll help you get the best results for your skin and keep things safe.

Why fermented rice water?

You might be asking, "Why should I go through all the fuss to make fermented rice water?"

Good question! When rice is fermented the right way, with the help of a special mold and yeast under safe and controlled conditions, it unleashes over a hundred natural compounds that are like superheroes for your skin. They pack a punch when it comes to hydrating, lightening dark spots, fighting the signs of aging, strengthening your skin barrier, and so much more. No wonder it's a superstar in Asian beauty products.

Wanna get all the juicy details? Hit this link to our deep-dive article that breaks down the science and talks about all the cool things fermented rice water can do for your skin.

Summary and Key Takeaways

Fermented rice water has nearly 10x the benefit of regular rice water.

The skincare brand SKII incorporates fermented rice water compounds into their products.

Most articles and influencers are showing you the wrong way to make fermented rice water, which results in just spoiled rice water.

If your diy fermented rice water smells sour, you've made it wrong.

Fermenting rice water requires Koji, but you can easily get Koji rice online.

Fermented rice water is essentially Sake, aka Japanese rice wine.

rice bag falling
all natural rice plant

Table of Content

  • Introduction
  • What is rice water?
  • The wrong way to make fermented rice water
  • What is fermented rice water?
  • Correct way to make DIY fermented rice water
  • Free step-by-step guide
heian japanese woman rinsing hair

Rice Water vs Fermented Rice Water: Breaking it Down

Let's clear up the difference between ordinary rice water and fermented rice water.

Regular rice water is just that - water left from rinsing rice before cooking. This practice has been around since the Heian period in Japan when court ladies used it to give their hair a glossy shine and strength.

Rice water has also been proven to improve your benefits to your skin

(Remember that rice back in the day wasn't as processed as it is now. If you're using store-bought rice to make rice water, make sure it's been stored under sanitary conditions and doesn't contain any nasty pesticides.)

Now, let's talk about fermented rice water. It's rice water that's been allowed to ferment. Sounds simple, right? Well, there's a bit more to it...

“Leaving rice water out on your kitchen counter and expecting it to ferment is akin to leaving grape juice or milk out and hoping it will naturally turn into wine or cheese. It's simply not how the fermentation process works.”

 - Hatayama Natsuko 
Japanese Fermentation Expert

Regular rice water can certainly do some great things for your skin and hair. Rice water has tons of beneficial effects your body but also your skin.

But when it comes to the full suite of benefits, the true magic lies in fermented rice water.

Many DIY tutorials you'll find online claim you can whip up your own skincare potion, something akin to the fermented rice water you'd find in high-end Asian beauty products.

But if you've tried to follow any of these recipes, you might have been left feeling less than impressed. Maybe you've even had some downright unpleasant results. Ever been greeted by the rank smell of a rotten or rancid jar of fermented rice water? Or found your skin breaking out after use? You're not alone.

The truth is, there's a lot of misleading information out there about fermented rice water. Too many of these tutorials promise amazing benefits but fail to deliver because they don't guide you to create authentic fermented rice water. These dodgy tutorials could not only leave you disappointed but also risk irritation or serious skin damage. So, let's set the record straight and learn how to do this the right way.

A Recipe for Disaster? DIY Fermented Rice Water Tutorials

We've all seen them, haven't we? Those tutorials promising the magical benefits of homemade fermented rice water. They make it sound as easy as pie: Buy some rice, rinse it off, plonk it in a jar, and leave it to "do its thing" on your countertop for a week, or maybe you graduate it to the refrigerator after three days.

Hold up a minute, though. Have you ever paused your enthusiastic DIY session to ponder just what is happening during this so-called fermentation fiesta on your kitchen counter?

Expectations vs Reality: That's Not Fermentation, It's Spoilage!

We hate to burst your bubble, but that's not a harmless ferment you've got going on there. The "fermentation" process you thought was unfolding might be more accurately described as, well, spoilage. A thought that is about as palatable as a mouthful of spoiled milk, I know.

Picture the air around you, teeming with invisible unwanted microbes like Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Corynebacterium. And let's not even start on those uninvited mold spores in your fridge that turn your cheese green. Some of these microscopic crashers aren't just annoying; they can downright harmful and potentially cause infections and illnesses.

potentially harmful for skin

So is fermented rice water a lie?

Nope. Here's the good news! Fermented rice water and even regular rice water does have incredible benefits for the skin and hair.

So why is there so much misinformation about fermented rice water?

You see, the issue arises from well-meaning DIY enthusiasts who repost the same home-brew tutorial, often without diving into the rich history and the true origins of fermented rice water. Knowledge is power, folks, and a lack of it can lead to soggy rice on countertops.

So, where did fermented rice water spring from, and what exactly is it? Cue the drumroll, because it's none other than sake, the iconic Japanese rice wine.

Skin benefits of sake? Now, that's a happy hour I'd sign up for! This intriguing skincare secret comes from Japan, where it's been known for centuries.

The Toji – master sake brewers – provided the first clues. Despite the harsh working conditions, their hands remained youthful and radiant, thanks to the daily ritual of plunging them into vats of fermenting rice water. This odd skincare discovery was first scientifically validated in the 1970s by Japanese scientists in collaboration with skincare brand SK-II. If you're interested in a deeper dive into this, we've got an article all about it.

Continual research from Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan has since solidified sake's skincare benefits. Today, this miracle ingredient appears in countless Japanese and K-beauty products, often under the enigmatic label "fermented rice water."

So, How Exactly is Sake Made, and Can You Try it At Home?

OK, let's be real, real Sake isn't something that's easily whipped up alongside your Sunday brunch.

Just as you wouldn't expect grape juice sitting in your fridge to morph into a Merlot, the same principle applies to rice water — it's not going to spontaneously magick itself into Sake.

Here's why.

Understanding the Sake Brewing Process

Like grape wine, the craft of fermenting rice for sake is an intricate process that requires special equipment and a controlled environment that creates an optimal playground for beneficial microbes to thrive while keeping the unwanted ones at bay.

Koji & Sake Yeast: The Fermentation Dynamic Duo

In Sake rice fermentation, Koji mold (Aspergillus oryzae), officially dubbed "the National Mold of Japan", plays a crucial role. It converts rice starches into sugars, which Sake Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) then happily turns into rice wine.

So basically:
Starch > Sugar > Sake

Fermentation Boost the Skin Benefits

It's this unique fermentation using koji mold that gifts us over 100 skin-nourishing compounds. 💯

From kojic acid, amino acids, and peptides that lighten spots, boost collagen and elasticity, to organic acids like lactic and acetic acid that exfoliate, stimulate cell turnover and improve skin texture. It even produces moisturizing polysaccharides and B vitamins, along with minerals that enhance the bioavailability of these beneficial compounds. We also can't forget the protective antioxidants like ferulic acid that shield our skin from environmental harm.

These skin-loving properties have catapulted "fermented rice water" to stardom and made sake a skincare darling in cosmetics.

Regular rice water has a fraction of the benefits of fermented rice water, but even then, they are both really good for your skin.

The Final Stretch: Completing the Sake Journey

The magical journey of sake brewing continues through a series of additional steps - pressing, filtering, pasteurizing, aging - each important in contributing to the quality taste of the final product. And voila! You have bottled Sake, a masterpiece of tradition and artistry, and skincare magic.

If you're still thirsting for more knowledge, dive deeper into the meticulous art of Sake brewing here.

The fermented rice mash that is strained and leftover from this sake making process is called Sake Kasu 酒粕 is also super rich in nutrituous compounds and is taking off in Japan for both heathly cooking and skincare. 

To see all the ways that Sake Kasu can improve your skin, check out this article.

At this point, I can see you scratching your head, thinking, "No sake brewery in my kitchen, no access to fermented rice water goodness." Right? 🤔

Well, hold my sake, because I'm about to share how you can whip up your own DIY fermented rice water at home!

Though it's not Sake, this simpler version captures many of the same skincare benefits. Best of all, this version contains no alcohol for the zero proof fans out there.

We learned the real process from koji fermentation experts in Japan, and we're excited to share this rare knowledge with you!

Creating Your Own Genuine DIY Fermented Rice Water: A Simple Guide

There are two ways to perform this fermentation miracle: one that uses a yogurt maker and takes just a day, and another that takes five days but doesn't call for a yogurt maker. We'll guide you through the latter process, so even those without a yogurt maker can join the fermented rice water club.

Continue reading for our step-by-step instructions below or watch the video below for a visual guide.

Get ready to embrace your inner Toji! 🌾

freeze dried koji rice

For this process, you'll need:

(1) Freeze-dried Koji rice 100g
(2) Clean filtered water 250mL (ideally distilled if you can get your hands on it)
(3) 1 ziplock bag
(4) A cheese cloth or strainer

Helpful Hint: You can find freeze-dried Koji rice on Amazon or at your local Japanese grocery store. It will look like fuzzy rice. Don't get the wet, pre-mixed Koji rice; make sure it's the dried out Miyako Koji brand (see video below). 

Step 1:
Put the Koji rice in the ziplock bag and gently break apart the Koji rice clumps. Continue kneading the Koji just until you have separated grains of the fuzzy rice and no more clumps.

Step 2:
Pour the water into the Koji rice bag and gently knead the mixture until the water is fully incorporated (about 3 mins).

Step 3:
Gently press out as much air from the bag as possible then seal the ziplock bag.

rinse rice well

Step 6:
Leave the bag out at room temperature for 5 days, away from sunlight/heat. The Koji Rice Water mixture will begin to ferment, converting the starch into sugars and amino acids.

Step 7:
Open the bag once a day to give it fresh air and gently mash the mixture for 30 seconds. Remove the air from the bag and re-seal the ziplock. Repeat this process daily for 5 consecutive days.

Step 8:
After 5 days, squeeze out the liquid with a strainer or cheese cloth. Put the liquid in a clean container and keep it in the fridge (the cold temperature halts the fermentation).

Note: You may be tempted to use a stick blender to speed up this part of the process. Be sure to avoid doing this and sticking with a mash technique. Channel your inner Lucy and Ethel and stomp away if you have to.

diy fermented rice water

Step 9:
Voila, now you have bona fide fermented rice water. You can apply it to your face or other parts of your skin that you want to treat.

The fermented rice water will last for 10 days in the fridge.

Optional Step 10:
The leftover mash solids are also nutrient-rich and there are so many ways to use it.

(1) Mash the solids further until it turns into a paste. Use it as a skin mask and put a thin layer on your skin for 15 minutes and rinse off. Store the paste in the fridge and use it within 2-3 days.

(2) For cooking, rub the mash onto meat and let it marinate and tenderize the meat. Remove the Koji mash before seasoning and cooking. The Koji turns the protein into amino acids and tenderizes the meat.

See All The Ways to Use Rice to Get Amazing Skin 👇

Once you've mastered how to make your own genuine fermented rice water, there are so many ways you can use it for your skincare and hair care routine. 

DIY Sake Toner...Yes please! 🤩
Sake Rice Bath Soak...Count me in! 🙋‍♀️
Exfoliative Rice Body Mask...Heck yeah! 💖
Honey Sake Face Mask...Absolutely, positively! 🌟

Get our FREE downloadable guide below to get Sake Brewer-approved ways to get amazing skin through the power of rice!

Get the Ultimate Guide to Using Rice for Better Skincare

The Fountain of Youth is in Your Kitchen! Get Radiant Complexion in 3 Days.

Easy ways to see if your skin is getting all the nutrients it actually needs?

Learn how to create your own rice water serum.

Step-by-step guide on creating your own fermented rice body and face mask.

Get your soak on, and learn how to whip-up a Sake-tastic bath bomb.

27 pages chock full of minimalist skincare tips!

Rice: The Timeless Secret to Glowing Skin in Japan

Ever since Japan's Heian period in 794 AD, rice has served as a nourishing secret in skincare, its magic further captured by the beauty brand SK-II in the 1970s.

But what if you'd rather skip the DIY route and get straight to the good stuff?
We've got you covered with INÉ's Sake Fermented Rice Skin Nutrient Bar.

Handcrafted in Japan, this hybrid soap bar infused formulated with Sake Kasu lets you cleanse and nourish your skin from head to toe in a single shower.

We're bringing the Toji's secret to radiant skin directly to your bathroom. Consider this your ticket to an effortless, all-over glow!

INÉ Skin Nutrient Bar: Your Key to Unlocking the Ageless Beauty of Fermented Rice Water!

Introducing the INÉ Skin Nutrient Bar

An Artisan Soap Bar Made with Japanese Sake

Immerse yourself in the transformative power of fermented rice with the Skin Nutrient Bar, meticulously crafted with 100% organic Sake Kasu, a legendary secret from ancient Japanese skincare rituals.

Each bar, lovingly crafted to preserve the full, potent benefits of Sake Kasu, is designed to cleanse, nourish, and rejuvenate your skin from head to toe—all in the meditative mist of your shower. Just as the Toji's hands glow from daily immersion in sake, your skin too can embrace the radiant benefits of sake.

  • Free from Harmful Additives
  • Vegan Friendly 
  • Non-Comedogenic
  • Safe For All Skin Types
  • No Artificial Coloring or Fragrance
Learn More

Skin Nutrient Bar


INÉ's Skin Nutrient Bar is made with Sake Kasu, the upcycled, sustainable byproduct of traditional Japanese Sake brewing process that unlocks the full power of fermented rice.

Handcrafted in small batches in Japan, it will cleanse and nourish your skin from head to toe, in the shower in one go.

  • Non-comedogenic
  • Free from sulfates, silicones, parabens
  • No artificial coloring or fragrances
  • Vegan-friendly
  • 100% happiness guarantee
Unlock Your Glow

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