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Korean rice liquor

Makgeolli 막걸리

Today I’m going to show you how to make makgeolli, a traditional Korean alcoholic beverage made by combining rice, yeast, and water with a starter culture called nuruk. It’s milky-white, fizzy and refreshing. It’s also called “nongju” which means “farmer liquor” because it’s made with a lot of rice, it’s full of carbohydrates and was traditionally served to farmers as part of a midmorning snack or with lunch, giving them the strength and energy to work the rest of the day.

Korea has a long history of homebrewing, and every family used to make their own booze at home, it was much more common than buying it. These days you can buy makgeolli easily at a Korean grocery store or liquor store but when it comes to taste, it can’t be compared to homemade makgeolli. Homemade makgeolli is thicker, less sweet, and more filling than store sold makgeolli.

This recipe is also in my cookbook, Real Korean Cooking, and while developing the recipe I sent a sample of the finished product to the EMSL Analytical food lab for a full nutritional and toxic analysis to see what is really inside it. They let me know that it is totally safe to drink, 7.4% alcohol by volume, cholesterol-free, fat-free, and contains vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6. It’s high in calories and has a lactobacillus count of 375,500 CFU/mL. Lactobacillus is a kind of lactic acid bacteria that’s good for your stomach and digestion and can boost your immune system. It’s also found in yogurt, but in much higher quantities.

So it’s great for giving you energy and is good for your stomach, but the real reason to drink it is it’s so refreshing and delicious! It’s also a great thing to have at a party, and especially when you make it yourself, your family and friends will love to drink it and have a great time doing it. Making good makgeolli is not very difficult, it just takes a little time and there are a few pitfalls to avoid.

I’ve been making makgeolli for special family occasions and my reader meetups for years. Some of you who came to my meetups and tasted my makgeolli have been waiting years for this recipe. Thanks for your patience!neil

Make some makgeolli and enjoy life! Let me know how it turns out!

Ingredients (Make 4 quarts)

Korean rice (short grain rice)5 cups Korean short grain rice

Special items that I use to make makgeolli

Directions

  1. Drain the rice and put it into a heavy pot. Add 4 cups of water. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 15 minutes. Stir and turn the rice over with a wooden spoon. Cover and simmer it for another 15 minutes over low heat.
  2. Remove from the heat. Transfer the rice to a basket of your electric dehydrator. Spread the rice evenly, and fill as many baskets as you need. Cover, set the temperature to 160° F, and dry for 3 hours, until the outside of each grain is hard, but the inside is still moist. If you don’t have an electric dehydrator, you can dry your rice for several hours in a shallow basket set in breezy, sunny place.
    makgeolli makingmakgeolli making (막걸리)
  3. Put the rice into the earthenware crock. Add nuruk, yeast, and 8 cups of water and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Place a cotton cloth under the lid when you close it, to let some air circulate in and out.
  5. Let sit for several hours, then uncover and mix well with a wooden spoon. At this point, the rice will have absorbed a lot of the water to create a thick paste. Cover and let sit overnight.
    makgeolli making (막걸리)Makgeolli making
  6. Open the crock and you’ll see a lot of bubbles popping to the surface, and the mixture will be a lot thinner than yesterday. Stir it well with a wooden spoon and cover again. Stir it a few times a day for the next few days.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)
  7. On day 4 or 5, it will be bubbling a lot less and will have separated to a clear liquid on top and a milky mixture on the bottom. Mix well, and keep mixing a few times a day for a few more days.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)
  8. On day 8 or 9, there will hardly be any bubbles at all. The liquid on the top will be clearer and more amber. It’s now perfectly fermented and ready to drink.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)
  9. Strain the makgeolli into a large bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze as much liquid as possible out of it. Discard the solids. Add 8 cups of water to dilute. Add the optional sugar and mix well.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)Makgeolli (Korean rice liquor:막걸리)
  10. Strain the makgeolli one more time and put it into glass jars or BPA free plastic beer bottles.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)
  11. Serve cold, and stir or mix well before drinking. Serve with kimchi or some side dishes. It can keep in the fridge up to 2 to 3 weeks.

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35 Comments:

  1. soju102 My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted July 27th, 2015 at 4:50 am | # |

    Hey maaangchi. I started my Makgeolli a couple days ago and I noticed little bugs in my Makgeolli. I found out that the bugs are from my nuruk. I’m considering dumping it. Is nuruk supposed to have little bugs in it?

  2. Vinthundar Horseyville My profile page joined 4/14
    Posted July 23rd, 2015 at 3:23 pm | # |

    This is my second time making makgeoli. A couple of things I wanted to discuss, that are inconsistent with the results here.

    1) The rice doesn’t seem to break down into a thick goo. Mine keeps its shape.
    2) It never turns an amber color – it is pure milky white.
    3) It tastes lovely! Tart, a little sweet. It is not highly effervescent though.

    Any suggestions?

  3. centeredki69 My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted July 13th, 2015 at 9:41 am | # |

    Hello Maangchi,

    I made Makgeolli 3 times using a glass jar and they were delicious. I Then tried making some in a new Onggi crock. However the Onggi Makegeolli has a bad taste.
    Could the Onggi I bought not be for food safe but be made for decoration only? I bought it at a local Korean grocery.

    Thank you for your help,

    Donald

    Click for full image

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted July 13th, 2015 at 6:54 pm | # |

      Hi Donald, wow! You are very serious about Korean cooking! You bought these onggi! They look good to me!

      What do you mean by a bad taste? What’s it like?

      Onggi is totally safe to use, but maybe yours needs to be well cleaned before you use it. I’d soak it in hot water for a day, empty the water, and then soak it in hot water for one more day. Give it a good rinse and dry it out well.

  4. hawkeye85 My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted July 8th, 2015 at 8:29 am | # |

    맛잇어요! Thank you Maangchi! I successfully made some DELICIOUS Makkeolli, and had it with pajeon last night!

  5. that1girlie WA My profile page joined 4/14
    Posted June 30th, 2015 at 8:25 pm | # |

    Help I don’t know what I did wrong? When I made it the result was extremely sour even after adding sugar to it. It does have alcohol, but the bitter taste is more than what I am used to from the store bought drink. I followed your instructions except I just let the rice cool off for several hours instead of dehydrating it.

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted July 13th, 2015 at 6:30 pm | # |

      Your makgeolli must have fermented too much. If you make it again next time, ferment it for a shorter time.

      • that1girlie WA My profile page joined 4/14
        Posted July 22nd, 2015 at 8:43 pm | # |

        I tried it again. My mom who’s korean tasted it and liked it. It’s sour and sweet. Used spring water and was very careful to sterlize everything. Thank you

  6. Tim123 My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted June 28th, 2015 at 10:48 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi,
    I have made some of your other recipes but I must be doing something wrong here. I used 5 cups of rice and 8 cups of water in the crock. I dried the rice in my dehydrator and it fit into the amount of water fine. But, then in a few hours the rice had expanded so much that I needed to literally remove about 70% of the rice in order to get it into 8 cups of water. I probably could have used about 1.25-1.5 cups of raw rice to make enough cooked rice for 8 cups of water. What am I doing wrong? Any ideas?

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted June 30th, 2015 at 9:59 am | # |

      Hi Tim123,
      “in a few hours the rice had expanded so much that I needed to literally remove about 70% of the rice in order to get it into 8 cups of water.”
      You should let it ferment instead of removing the rice. Check out the step 5, please.

  7. xiqqin1 My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted June 24th, 2015 at 10:38 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi, thank you so much for the good recipes! I made a batch. It turned out kind of sweet by itself, tastes very much like sake, with strong alcohol taste. After it’s cooled, it tastes very refreshing, not too strong alcohol taste. I like it more cooled. I never had makkoli before. I was expecting sweet and sour like yogurt drink, but mine is not sour. :D how does yours taste like? Have you tried infusing fruits? I tried a little with plum extract. It wasn’t good.

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted June 24th, 2015 at 9:55 pm | # |

      It sounds like your makgeolli turned out perfect. Mine tastes a little sweet and sour.

      • xiqqin1 My profile page joined 6/15
        Posted June 24th, 2015 at 10:34 pm | # |

        Thank you so much for responding! We are going to enjoy it when camping.

  8. ksh00825 My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted June 23rd, 2015 at 1:41 pm | # |

    Hi! I’ve tried to make this 2 times but it isn’t frizzy (bubbly like champagne). Also sour. What could have gone wrong you think?

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted July 13th, 2015 at 6:42 pm | # |

      “bubbly like champagne” sounds good but “sour” sounds like it was fermented too long.

  9. Kire My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted June 6th, 2015 at 2:21 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    I live in Seoul, Korea and am looking for the Nuruk starter enzyme. I have not found it in any of the grocery stores yet (3 so far, including eMart). Can anyone familiar with Seoul let me know where I can purchase the Nuruk starter?

    Thanks for your help!

    • sanne Munich My profile page joined 8/14
      Posted June 6th, 2015 at 8:29 am | # |

      Hi Kire,

      I know that problem …
      At Dongdaemun perhaps?
      I’d ask at a pharmacy, too.

      Bye, Sanne

  10. centeredki69 My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted June 5th, 2015 at 12:54 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi ,
    Why is the dehydration part necessary? I have read other recipes on the internet similar to yours and they do not require the dehydration. They do however steam the rice slightly undercooked as apposed to boiling it as you did. If I choose not to dehydrate the rice should I reduce the 8 quarts of water added at then end of your recipe? Thank you for your help.

  11. Maaru My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted June 5th, 2015 at 12:48 pm | # |

    Hello!

    I wantet to ask is there any online shop what will sell Nuruk starter culture and ship it world wide? I live in estonia and im really interested korean food and do it every now and then but the fact is that its really hard to get those Ingredients in here. So i would be really gratefull if you guys know where i can order it ?

    Merle

    • Oxide California My profile page joined 2/15
      Posted June 6th, 2015 at 6:10 pm | # |

      Hi Merle,

      I found it online by searching various online Korean markets clipping and pasting the Korean characters – 누룩 for nuruk. But when I search the same site using the word ‘nuruk’ I got nothing.

      http://www.hmart.com/shopnow/shopnow_newsub.asp?p=0761898666456

      Note: Hmart has a lot of stores in several states. There may be be near you.

      Good luck and happy brewing.

  12. colewm New York, NY My profile page joined 12/13
    Posted May 30th, 2015 at 1:26 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    I have a question. I was reading online that when you are making makgeolli and the brew separates into the different layers that you can take the clear top layer off and drink it as cheongju. Is this true? Also, would you still be able to use the rest of the takju to make makgeolli?

    Thanks,

    Cole

  13. EdLee My profile page joined 5/15
    Posted May 29th, 2015 at 12:35 pm | # |

    Maangchi,
    I love this!!! Will make this as soon as I find the ingredients.

    Just out of curiosity…. back in your grandma’s day, before dry yeast and the convenient packet nuruk, what and how would it be made?

    btw, I also love love love the Gochujan recipe….thank you

  14. mizsak My profile page joined 5/15
    Posted May 28th, 2015 at 11:21 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi! Just watched the video and want to make this next. My husband and I used to make beer years ago, but his is so much easier! One question: I noticed that you appeared to be saving the rice solids after you strained the finished makgeolli. Do you use that in another recipe? I know that Japanese sake is made in a similar manner, and they do sell the rice solids for use in other Japanese dishes, such as pickles and hot pots. How do you use it in Korea?

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted May 30th, 2015 at 10:56 am | # |

      The rice solids are edible, but I threw them away this time. I tried adding them to my pickled radish once, but it didn’t turn out too well. You can try something and let me know if it works.

      When I was young, one time my cousins and I stole the solids from my grandmother while she was making magkeolli. We snuck it into the alley and ate it with a bit of sugar. Of course we became a little drunk, and all the adults laughed at us. Good memories!

  15. Hergla Olathe, Ks My profile page joined 10/13
    Posted May 25th, 2015 at 5:01 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi, If I use the same onggi where I put kimchee to ferment, do you think the Makgeolli is going to taste like kimchee? or is it better to have one onggi exclusively for Makgeolli making? :-)
    Thanks!!!

  16. animemaga Canada My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted May 22nd, 2015 at 8:59 pm | # |

    Hi just wondering, Ive been looking for a dehydrater and i was wondering what company is yours and is it good?

    Thanks!

  17. noah0308 My profile page joined 5/15
    Posted May 21st, 2015 at 2:09 pm | # |

    Maangchi,
    Would you please share the recipe of samgyetang?
    Thanks

  18. Cutemom Indonesia My profile page joined 3/13
    Posted May 21st, 2015 at 1:59 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    How long does makgeolli keep? I live in hot country. Should I keep them in the fridge?

    Thanks,

    Ima

  19. Mattuuggi Little Rock, AR My profile page joined 1/13
    Posted May 21st, 2015 at 12:15 pm | # |

    정말 감사합니다!

    I have been waiting for this…thank you! Thank you ! Thank you!

    Only question I have is, does it matter what type of rice you use?


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