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.

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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)

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    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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137 Comments:

  1. Miss Tina MD USA joined 4/20 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,
    I was watching several videos for making rice wine and I found yours to explain it best. ;-) But I’ve started a batch which I added crushed Chinese yeast balls but I didn’t have nuruk. I found a place to order it. Can I add it later (which would be half way through 4-5 days) or just let this batch go which would be more Japanese style? This way has clear liquid forming at the bottom separating from the porridge on top which you strain off. I can always make another batch with nuruk later for comparison..

  2. versokeen Seattle, WA joined 8/19 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi! I have a 1 gallon onggi pot. Can i still make this recipe? How do I scale down this recipe to make sure it can all fit? Thank you so much I am sooo excited to start fermenting!!!

  3. Texaspete363 Maryland joined 4/20 & has 2 comments

    Here’s the large jar I used for fermentation.


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  4. Texaspete363 Maryland joined 4/20 & has 2 comments

    I’m not sure how, but I ended up with more than a gallon. The recipe is so easy and works perfectly! I couldn’t find an onggi at our Korean market, so I used a glass jar, but it worked fine. I just wrapped the jar in a towel to keep out the light and hold in the heat. The end result was so tasty!


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  5. medusagurlyeah Adelaide joined 1/14 & has 31 comments

    Hi Maangchi!
    Please teach us how to make Makgeolli bread in your next video. Thank you. Xx

  6. Katznaperr Elk Grove Village, IL joined 3/20 & has 4 comments

    Day 1: I’m going to give this a try. I use to live in Korea over 20 years ago and remember drinking Makgeolli at summer festivals and at college hangouts. I’ve been brewing beer for over 15 years so I am going to apply some of that process as well. Wish me luck!


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  7. lizlewis71 Twin Falls, Id. joined 11/13 & has 4 comments

    Hi. How do I make it different flavors?

    • Katznaperr Elk Grove Village, IL joined 3/20 & has 4 comments

      Hello lizlewis71, I am planning to give flavors a try now that I have mastered my first successful batch. I have been home brewing for over 20 years including beer, wine, soda and cider. I think there are 3 possible ways to add flavor to makgeolli. (1) The most easy would be to simply add flavor extract to the final product before bottling. This is how soda and seltzer are flavored. Soda Stream sells a large variety of flavors and they can be easily purchased at Walmart or online. (2) add flavor enhancers known as Nibs during fermentation. Nibs can be purchased at any home brew shop and are common to use in flavoring beer. I just made a stout beer that I used coco nibs to give it a Chocolate flavor. These are limited in choices though, I am considering using orange nibs in my next batch. (3) you can use frozen juice flavor concentrate to dilute your brew before bottling. This is how ciders get their punch. For example at the end before you bottle your brew instead of diluting with water as the recipe suggests you could use frozen juice concentrate instead of water. I think this would be the best result except for the fact that frozen concentrate has a lot of sugar and the fermentation in your brew might go into overdrive if you add it. This would result in extremely high alcohol content, very foamy makgeolli and exploding bottles if you cap the bottle too tight. If you use this method I think it would be wise to first use some Potassium Sorbate tablets from your home brew supplies store first. This will kill the yeast with out affecting the flavor. I hope this helps. I think I am going to do a double batch next and try all these techniques to see what gives the best results. I’ll be sure to post how it went when I am done.

  8. ErwinV Amsterdam joined 1/20 & has 3 comments

    Hi, i am afraid i did not pay attention to you receipe and managed to put in the 20 cups all at once, bit stupid i know

    It is fermenting strongly but i am still wondering if this has a chance of succeeding?

    Can you tell me if it is best to throw it and start over or to see what happens?

    Thanks for your time.

    Erwin

    • ErwinV Amsterdam joined 1/20 & has 3 comments

      … this morning i took some water out. I’m now at day 2. Thinking of adding 1/2 kg of rice in the afternoon. I do not have any Nuruk anymore. The 1 1/2 cup was all i had.

      Maybe you have some advice on what to do now .. :)

  9. Iffyskyes Nigeria joined 1/20 & has 1 comment

    Hey… I just wanted to ask what I can substitute the earthen Crock… Will it taste different deeping on where it’s left to ferment?

  10. KP Nashville joined 10/19 & has 1 comment

    Maangchi I hope you see this and can help me (I posted this in two different places sorry!). I am making this for the 10 time maybe and I am on day 8 and this is still looking like day 5. There is no clear clear layer, there is still a lot of bubbles/yeast activity so I am not worried that that yeast was not good (I have had that problem before and I knew it wasn’t a good batch by day or 5). And the smell is right, sweet smelling like alcohol. I will say that I went a little heavy on the rice and it was probably about half a cup more than 5 cups. So what do I do? Do let is ferment for a few more days and see if the amber layer appears? Or should a harvest it now? If it doesn’t appear should I just harvest it or throw it out?

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