Scientists Transform Leftover Tofu Into Sake-Like Drink

The whey waste tofu creates can be converted into a tasty, sake-like drink. A professor and student at a Singapore university have created a method to convert the waste into a boozy beverage with health benefits.


May 23 2019, Updated 4:48 p.m. ET

No matter what your dietary preference, tofu can have a polarizing effect on your tastebuds. While it's sometimes regarded as bland or boring, tofu is one of those foods that is easy to spice up with just about any number of seasonings, sauces, or preparation styles. Tofu can have a healthy form of protein, for both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, but like most things we consume, creating it does result in the some waste. Interestingly, researchers from the National University of Singapore have been able to develop a new sake made from excess tofu whey. That's right: The newest alcohol on the market might just have a tofu base.

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Called “Sachi,” this alcoholic beverage is created from tofu whey that’s discarded in the process of making the tofu itself. As tofu is made from soybeans, there’s a notably high level of soy nutrients, but the waste also features an abundance of calcium. The duo of professor Liu Shao Quan and student Chua Jian Yong were able to create a useful method to recycle the whey. 

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The idea of creating an alcoholic drink came from Chua’s undergraduate studies in alcohol fermentation. Soya milk was converted into tofu, which resulted in excess tofu whey. Acid, sugar, and yeast were all added to the whey, and the formula was fermented to create Sachi. After three months, they were able to develop a method where all the whey waste was used.

"The health benefits associated with soy products, coupled with changing preferences towards vegetarian diets, have fueled the growth of tofu production,” Liu told “Alcoholic fermentation can serve as an alternative method to convert tofu whey into food products that can be consumed directly. Our unique fermentation technique also serves as a zero-waste solution to the serious issue of tofu whey disposal.”

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Tofu whey can go bad in less than day, but this process extends its life significantly. It takes about three weeks to create the boozy drink and the whey will last for approximately four months. Sachi, which translates to “bliss,” ends up being a sweet sake drink with hints of fruity and floral taste. It also registers between seven and eight percent alcohol by volume.

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Liu tells Business Insider that the alcoholic beverage provides “health benefits like bone health, heart health, and cancer prevention” with isoflavones, which are most abundant in soybean products. They are still looking into increasing the shelf life of Sachi up to nine months, and they are also working on obtaining a supply of tofu why so they can skip the early process of creating it.

Eliminating tofu whey waste would be a significant aid to the environment. If not treated before disposal into waterways and sewage, it will consume oxygen from the water. Being able to recycle it into an enjoyable zero-waste drink at low costs provides a great way to avoid creating pollution. While tofu remains one of the most unattractive health food items, it could get a boost in its reputation with Sachi.

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