HOWTO Make GBR (germinated or Sprouted Brown Rice)




Thanks everyone for making this a popular instructable! This is a perfectly fine way to make good brown rice, but I should mention that I now use the method detailed here: You can use the tools listed in this instructable with the new method, or you can use a warming box or room temperature if it's over 27C where you live.

It's been a few years since I've posted it, so by way of an update I'll answer a couple questions here. 1. The purpose of the hot plate is to keep the rice at a temperature at which it will sprout. If it's warm out, you don't need the hot plate. Recently I built a warming box powered by a simple light bulb attached to a temperature sensor; I put the pot of rice in there and it works great. Easier but a bit more expensive than the hot plate. 2. You can also sprout rice as you would alfalfa sprouts--soak, and then rinse and turn the jar upside down over a strainer. Personally, I find it easier to sprout when the rice is in water. 3. Green tea works to reduce the presence of bad bacteria that cause spoiling. Recently, though, I have had more luck using whey or other fermenter starters. Anyone experimented with this?

This tutorial will describe how to make germinated brown rice (GBR). Why do you want to do this? Because it's healthier and better tasting (I think) than the regular version! I'll discuss some of the health benefits and ways of making it.

Sprouted brown rice can also be called sprouted brown rice, GABA brown rice (for the amino acid GABA that is created during the sprouting), or hatsuga genmai in Japanese.

On page one is a short history and some health benefits. Skip to page two to get straight to the how-to.

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Step 1: History of GBR

First, a really short history. Although people around the world have probably been eating GBR for thousands of years, what we now call GBR or GABA rice was 'discovered' in 2004, the United Nation's Year of Rice, as part of their research into rice. Since then it's become a health craze in some parts of the world, inspiring (predictably) many variants on automatic family-oriented GBR-making machines in Japan.

Why not just buy a machine? GBR is made by soaking brown rice in warm water for up to three days. The rice machines that claim to have a GBR setting soak for two to three hours. Although this probably has some health benefit, most people seem to agree that it's not long enough to properly germinate the rice. Why don't they make the cycle longer? The water gets stinky ... we'll deal with that later.

The rice is also sold by many companies around Japan now. I might go into the business too--it looks like they're making silly profits! They're charging 1000 to 2500 yen for a kilo of rice! One-cup versions on sale in America are about $3 a serving, also pretty expensive.

Step 2: Health Benefits of GBR

On to some health benefits. Personally, I find GBR to be the easiest rice to eat. I've been eating white rice for years in Japan and never enjoyed it. It feels heavy and sticky, I get really sleepy after eating a big bowl, and of course we all know that it's really poor in vitamins and fiber. I started eating brown rice for all of my rice meals this year, and while I've enjoyed it, it also makes my stomach feel very heavy. GBR has a mellow flavor and a soft mouthfeel, and is just really enjoyable to eat.

The most touted health benefit to GBR is the amino acid GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, that is created during germination. GBR apparently has twice the GABA of regular brown rice, and ten times the GABA of white rice, from 6 to 40 mg of GABA per 100 grams of rice. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that seems to have the following benefits: promotes fat loss by the stimulation of the production of Human Growth Hormone; increases the sleep cycle giving deeper rest; boosts the immune system; lowers blood pressure; inhibits development of cancer cells; assists the treatment of enxiety disorders.

Step 3: Germinating Your Brown Rice: About the Hot Plate

You need brown rice to make GBR. White rice has had the hull removed, which means that it is no longer capable of germinating.

GBR is made by soaking brown rice in warm water (30-40 C, 86-104 F) for up to three days. You can soak it for a much shorter time; what you'll want to see is the sprout start to emerge from the grain of rice. Research has been done on GABA production in Japan that relies on a 16-hour soak cycle.

For equipment I use the pot from one of my rice cookers, the cheapest hot plate I could find, a dial rheostat for controlling the power into the hot plate, and a home medical thermometer.

For this setup, having a cheap hot plate is essential. Adjustable ones sold in Japan start at 80 degrees C for keeping food warm, and generally have a stop at 100 (for boiling water) and 200 (for frying in oil). This is way too hot for sprouting rice! Limiting the flow of electricity into one of these will simply make it not work, as the electrical components are designed to work at regular outlet voltage. Try to find a recycle shop somewhere and pick up the cheapest one you can find; it should be fine. If you're not sure, take it apart and make sure that it's just the plug wires going straight to some kind of metal plate inside.

Step 4: Germinating Your Brown Rice: Getting a Power Controller/dimmer Switch

To control the flow of electricity to the hot plate, you can wire a dimmer switch yourself. I couldn't find any suitable ones in Japan, so I bought a light controller (raito kontorooraa in Japanese--and no, you unfortunately don't sound like Scooby Doo when you say it). Here's the model I used. . They also have a power controller available (pawaa kontorooraa) here . You can find these at home improvement stores like Konan, or you can order them on the internet.

Run some water out of your tap at the desired temperature, put it in your container, and find the sweet spot on the dial by measuring the fluctuations in temperature in the water.

Step 5: Germinating and Cooking Your Brown Rice

When you figure out how to maintain your water temperature, rinse off your rice a few times and set it for soaking. You'll want to have about 1-2 cm of water over the top of the rice. You can figure out for yourself how long you like to soak your rice, but a minimum is about four hours. I let mine soak for at least 16 if I can.

You'll want to change the water every 4-6 hours or it'll start to go bad from bacteria and waste produced by the rice, and that flavor will soak into the rice to a certain extent.

Your sprouted rice may have a slight odor to it after a few hours germinating. That's fine; it goes away when you boil it. But if it's really smelly or if your water has bubbles or foam floating, then you've let it go too long. Rinse the rice, put new water in, and keep germinating it. That will help make it smell better. Change your water more often.

See both pictures below for before and after germination images.

When you're ready to cook it, give it a good rinse and boil it like regular rice. You'll need less water than usual, as it's soaked up a lot in the germinating process. Note for raw foods people: the rice at this point is quite soft and easy to eat without boiling.

Step 6: And One Hack for Making Even Better GBR!

That's the basics, but here's one more way to make it even more healthy. As reported by Mellow Monk in his Green Tea Blog, the Shimane Prefecture Agricultural Technology Center in Japan found that if you germinate the rice in green tea, the GABA is increased again--up to three times the amount in GBR that's available on the market in Japan.

Here's a clip from Mellow Monk's blog (previous link):
The researchers theorize that green tea prevents GABA loss in two ways: because of its higher osmotic pressure and because it naturally inhibits the growth of bacteria, thus eliminating the need to change the water during germination. One also has to surmise that the green tea also acts like a natural plant-growth stimulator--after all, many Japanese pour leftover green tea on their houseplants and use old tea leaves as a garden fertilizer. Finally, brown rice germinated in green tea obviously absorbs the tea's polyphenols and other good stuff.

Source: Nihon Nogyo Shimbun (Japan Agriculture Newspaper)

I should mention that the more bitter green tea is, the more healthy it apparently is. The goal is not to make a delicious cup of tea, but to make a strong one, so I really boil the snot out of my tea when I make it for GBR. With the green tea, I can germinate the rice for 16 hours without changing the liquid.

Happy sprouting, and don't forget to comment with your experiences!

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    121 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago

    why do some say to heat water until a boil then turn off and leave to soak wont heat kill the grains ability to sprout if you simply eat it sprouted raw is that even healtheir?

    the 300 dollor rice cooker produces a nutty flavor is this mean its also healthier?

    i want the healtiest version first to see what this rice can do for me

    i am not clear about the final cooking protocal? can i use a crock pot on the low setting or an oven what temp does the water need to be for the final cook and for how long

    thank u!


    1 year ago

    my oven light will produce a temp of 90F i can add another small lamp to get around

    110F please advise the ideal temp for soaking the brown rice

    im gonna use dry green tea powder how much to add?

    im so happy and looking so forward to this where is more info about the effects

    is there a gaba rice detox?


    Question 1 year ago on Step 6

    someone above said soak your rice if the temp is not above 27 C (80F) in your house

    most others here say 104 is the ideal for soaking br rice for gaba effect

    which is it?


    1 year ago

    I don't have a hotplate but do have an Excalibur dehydrator. The bread proofing temperature should be just right for germinating rice. I will try it.


    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    My name is Henry.
    How can I buy a hot plate same in your website to process GBR from brown rice ?
    I’m in the US.
    Can you please show me the picture with English website so I can order one ?
    I can not read Japanese.
    Thousand thanks !


    2 years ago


    I don't know if this site is still alive, I hope yes.
    I discovered the GABA rice in the last few weeks and tried to make it. I soaked it in water, green tea and it germinated perfectly, but there is no sweet taste. I don't know what was the problem. Do you have any idea?
    I reaaly appreciate if someone sold the mistery to me. (Excuse me for my lame english).
    Thanks, Emilia

    6 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi Emilia,

    It won't get sweet, like dessert sweet. It gets softer, easier to digest, and has a nice nutty, malty flavor to it, but it's still 95% brown rice flavor.

    There is now an easier way to make GBR. Rinse and soak at 27-30 degrees for 12-18 hours. Then take 1 cup~1 liter of the soak water, and keep it in the fridge. Drain the rest of the water, rinse the rice, and keep soaking for 1-2 more days, changing the water before it gets stinky.

    The next time you make GBR, rinse the rice and then begin soaking with the water you saved from last time (and add more water to cover the rice). Then save water after 12-18 hours, and keep cycling. This will give you a bioactive acidic starter that gives very good results! Any questions, just let me know!


    Reply 2 years ago


    I really thanks your fast answer, I will try your advices. My problem is that I would like to make rice milk (The Bridge quality) and the secret is germinated brown rice. It should be a little sweet without sugar, honey, etc. I read some blogs to be informed about it and some bloggers said Gaba rice was so sweet, they can't eat it with meat. I don't know what could be the secret, maybe the type of brown rice matters too.
    This girl in my country make delicious rice milk-she said. She soak it in a strong green tea for 17 hours in 39°C. Then she blend it and filter it and it's done. I wrote her on a blog if she has an idea why I can't make it but she never answered.
    If I make it like you said, is it faster then the other way?
    Thanks your answer, bye


    Reply 2 years ago

    Emilia, can you post a link to the blog? I'd be interested in seeing it. I've been doing this for more than 10 years, including serving it in my own restaurant ;) and I've never seen it get that sweet.

    17 hours is not long enough for sprouting. The nutrient level will increase and it will get softer in that time, but the flavor changes after about 1.5 days. ;)


    Reply 2 years ago


    You can find here:

    I hope I didn't misunderstood anything.
    There is a traditional sweet thing in my country, Hungary anyway. We call it "csíramálé". Village people make it about 200 years ago. They soak wheat about a day, then change the water and they stretch it out to a tray in 3 cm thick. They cover it with a white tea towel which should be always wet. They rinse the wheat 2 times a day. They keep it in room temperature. After a couple of days wheat has sprout 2-3 cm long and the sprout is white and hairy. Then you can lift the sprouted wheat like a carpet, it won't go to pieces. After it they grind it in a meat grinder and soak sprouted wheat in water for an hour. Then they filter it and they mix this grass-flavoured water with wheat fluor. In this phase there is a thick, tasteless pastry. Then they bake it in oven on about 150-180 °C for an hour. The result is a very sweet cake. The starch change to sugar while baking.
    I wrote this because maybe it matters the heat treatment and the °C to rice too. I don't know.
    If you can find out the sweetness of rice or anything what can help me to make originally sweet rice milk, please let me know it.
    Bye, Emilia


    Reply 2 years ago

    That method is fascinating! There is a health drink called Rejuvelac that is made in a similar way, by soaking grain and letting the water ferment. It sounds like the microorganisms in the soak water malt the grain while baking. Interesting!

    But, this malting process doesn't happen with the rice. I usually let my rice soak as long as possible before it gets stinky, so there are lots of microorganisms but it doesn't rot. But then the rice is boiled, so they are killed, poor microorganisms XD If you heat the rice in the same way as your baking bread, perhaps there would be a similar effect... you could try it! The only other way I know to convert rice's starches to sugars is to make koji, but that's a very different process.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Okay, but what is the explanation about that woman's experience, what I have linked before? How could she cook gaba rice so sweet?
    I have heard about Amazake and koji. But there has to be something without koji, too.
    The Bridge rice milk made from italian rice, water and an oil. No sugar. And it's sweet a little. Sweeter like dairy milk.
    I can feel I'm close to solve this mistery... I'm sure it's in front of me...

    Here are two very simple methods you can use.

    1) Buy a Germination Pad: A "Germination Pad" is like a hot pad used for sore muscles, but with lower temperatures designed to get seeds in trays (or sprouts) to germinate. They are cheap and useful for sprouting or growing plant starts and microgreens. If you are into GBR, then you are probably interested in sprouting and should own one anyway. You can even buy a thermostat that attaches if you want the ability to program the EXACT temperature such as 85F if that's what you want. I bought these online at a popular online retailer/bookstore that we all know about.

    2) Ambient Heat: Another simple method would be to turn up the thermostat you already have- the one in your house, above 27C/80.6F in that room for one day to get it to germinate, maybe even giving it a good burst of 90F to get things going - OR you could try a small space heater nearby to ensure this minimum temperature.

    3) I use a Zojirushi Rice Cooker with GABA functionality to cook GBR. The GABA Brown setting uses a long soak and a long, lower temperature cook cycle (to avoid destroying the GABA and nutrients that might be denatured by higher heat)

    This GABA feature is cool and we love it. However I know that the default setting of 2 hours soaking in warm water is LAME. That won't allow anywhere near full germination. To get anywhere near useful germination levels, combine the GABA setting with the TIMER function to extend the soak/germination time. You need to experiment with the TIMER function if you are serious about making GBR.

    What I do personally is wash the brown rice very well, IMPORTANT: give it a flash soak in mild vinegar water to kill yeast and bacteria, then rinse very well again- **ideally with cooled boiled water so it is sterile (this will improve your results alot if you are worried about avoiding that "cheesy" smell). Now you are starting off very "clean".

    Select "GABAbrown" and set the TIMER function to 13 hours or more. You may sneak in another rinse or two during this waiting period, if you can avoid disrupting the timer/GABA settings. My model (Zojirushi NP-HBC-10) lets me get away with this meddling.

    *Using the TIMER function works because the Zojirushi's computer chip "knows" how long you've been soaking your rice and it recalculates cooking time and temperature based on this timer delay, so you still end up with perfectly-cooked rice every time, with little chance of getting sick. If you try soaking rice outside in a bowl and then introducing it into a programmable rice cooker, the cooker will assume you are starting with hard fresh rice, and likely overcook it into mush.

    That is the upside. The downside is that you might not be able to soak/germinate as long as you want, and you can't do rinses after a certain point once the timer hours run out and it starts the 3-hour slow cook.

    "Blood-Brain Barrier" defeatism:

    I know that lots of people say that GABA doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier and because of this it isn't useful to germinate rice. To this, I simply suggest that these people may be committing "The Luddic Fallacy" or assuming that "that which has not yet been proven must be false", though it could be totally valid.

    It is possible that giving the body plenty of GABA in food and the bloodstream:

    A) might give the body everything it needs to make plenty of its own GABA , leading to higher serum and brain GABA levels than the body would produce under different circumstances. Or having plenty of those raw materials in circulation could free up demands elsewhere in the body, allowing it to make more neurotransmitters. We just don't know.

    B) that there could be other beneficial components to germinated rice such as vitamins, enzymes, aminos, and other compounds, etc that make sprouting or germinating rice useful. (this is likely true)

    C) There could be undiscovered receptors throughout the body that interact with GABA in the bloodstream or gut- we are constantly finding out new things about the human body, immune system, neurology, and the brain. We recently discovered that there are olfactory (smell) receptors all over the skin- very few and widely placed, but they are there... sandalwood incense and aromatherapy, anyone? Some people might have lauded aromatherapy in the past. Keep an open mind and if people want to eat common, whole, natural foods, it's usually not a bad thing. Almost all grains, seeds, nuts, and beans are better for you when sprouted or germinated, as long as the right methods are used.

    Personally I'd rather germinate and HOPE to recieve health benefits.

    4 replies

    Thanks. I could be really, really geeky and post more about microbiology and biochemistry of it all. But the main points are there. You need clean rice and water, clean procedures and handling, a precise temperature, and the longest time you can germinate without it starting to ferment (rot). Just like with gardening or sprouting microgreens, everything needs to be done scientifically using best practices, almost like a science experiment. This is what gets you the best results.

    I am interested in making GABA Red (Bhutan rice) and GABA Black (Chinese Black Rice)... these can also be done. But don't mess it up- these rices are expensive! I think the slower and longer cooking methods makes these rices less hard ("al dente") and more perfect, especially with red rice.

    Put the geek stuff in a separate linked offsite article, because sometimes exact info is necessary but not everyone wants or needs it.

    Thanks. By the way, I have never used green tea. I might try it soon because I find that interesting. But right now I'm preparing to make carrot cake, green tea brownies, paella, Aomori Black Garlic and other treats inside my rice old cooker, using parchment paper and some grapeseed oil (which handles high temperatures and long cooking very well compared to other oils).


    10 years ago on Step 3

    I've used a rice cooker on it's warm, as opposed to " cook" setting. I didn't use a thermometer so I can't vouch for if it was actually below the recommended temperatures for raw diets. You mention that the temperature should be between 86-104 F but most raw books say that the living enzymes that are beneficial to our health are destroyed when they are above our bodies temperature, 98.6 F

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    Perhaps I miscalculated or got some bum information from the internets... At any rate, you're right--I think just over 70 degrees F should be sufficient for sprouting. However, many sources seem to say that up to 100 degrees or more is perfect for germination. My experience is that as long as you keep the water fresh, rice has a tendency to germinate in a wide range of temperatures. The warm setting on a rice cooker, though, is intended to keep food hot enough to prevent contamination, so I suspect it would be too warm for germinating rice. Did you succeed?

    I read somewhere that the warm setting on a rice cooker is about 122F which indeed might be too hot for germination or sprouting. Some rice cookers have "Extended Keep Warm" feature which might be a slightly lower temperature.

    There are these sprouting cups called "Sproutamo" which are amazing and foolproof for sprouting seeds, beans, anything really. I have four of them and rotate crops constantly so I always have germinated beans ready to cook, sprouts for salad, and spicy sprouts for pita sandwiches. I'm sure you can germinate brown rice in the cups, but then if you put it in a rice cooker it will "assume" that you are giving it hard rice, and you'll get mush. My rice cooker has a "hard" rice setting which might not overcook this sprouted rice... but I haven't tried it. That would be totally ideal because with this Sproutamo thing I've never gotten rot or mold since it has some sort of design to lift out heat generated by germination by convection, somehow keeping the seeds aerated/oxygenated without drying. It's very clever. This means that you could germinate brown rice for a very long time, until they are almost plants. I have turned mung beans into hundreds of little green and purple plant seedlings and never got nasty smells since I rinsed them in a glass pyrex pan and let them sit in sunlight while immersed in water for a while (turns the colors rich and bright, enhancing phytonutrients). I will try this technique on Brown Rice! One could always use a very lightly oiled nonstick pot to cook the GBR to perfection, the old-fashioned way, and then get the ultimate GABA rice!