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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90 Comments:

  1. AshleyShell joined 6/15
    Posted April 17th, 2017 at 2:31 pm | # |

    I really want to try making this; unfortunately I gave away my dehydrator and I do not have a crock so I will have to figure out how to improvise! I have a question though…is there any chance you could post a recipe for Jeonju-style moju? I purchased some on my two visits there in 2009 and have been wishing for some ever since.

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    • Joebear30 Arizona joined 5/17
      Posted May 11th, 2017 at 12:35 am | # |

      Hi Ashley,

      I didn’t use a dehydrator either time I made my Makgeolli. I found 2 pizza pans that are like a flat strainer with holes in them. I make round flat rice patties out of the sticky rice and place them gently on the pans and set the oven for 170 deg. for about 2 hours. the rice turned out perfect. I paid $10 for both pans. Something to think about.


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  2. Joebear30 Arizona joined 5/17
    Posted May 11th, 2017 at 12:27 am | # |

    Hello Maangchi,

    I am making Makgeolli for the second time since it turned out so good. I brought a bottle of my first batch to my favorite Korean restaurant 가향 (Ga Hyang) in Phoenix, AZ just to see what the cook and waitress thought of it. They both loved it so I decided to make another batch.

    I have made several of your recipes that turned out fantastic. I just made some fishcake which are still warm as I write this. I used salmon instead of cod and used octopus instead of squid. They turned out FANTASTIC!!!!! They were pretty fun to make too.

    I made your Braised Lotus root twice which turned out fantastic both times. I made both “Traditional Kimchi” and “Easy Kimchi” which both turned out great as well. I left the second one I made “Easy Kimchi” sit on the counter for 4 days to ferment and it turned out really sour. I brought a jar of that to the Korean restaurant as well and the waitress , Su (a native Korean) loved it but it was a bit too sour for her. She told me to make kimchi stew with it which I did and that turned out PHENOMENAL !!! Sooooo delicious that I made it twice in 3 days.

    I have made a few more of your recipes and they all turned out great. A few months ago I planned a trip to South Korea near the end of this coming August for 11 days and started doing some research and found your website and I think your a really amazing cook. Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge of your native country with the world. I have a new found respect and love for Korean cooking and culture and can’t wait to experience South Korea in person.


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  3. Irisheyesofblue Ohio joined 4/17
    Posted April 10th, 2017 at 11:10 am | # |

    Thank for posting I had makeogelli here and then went to Busan where my lovely Airbnb host treated me to Busan makeogeolli when they knew I liked it. It was wonderful I think even better than Seoul’s!!
    After I made my first batch when I got home from Korea last year I’m not sure if it fermented too long it, had small white patches on top after I had made it ? What does that signify. I don’t have an onggi I used a clear jar with a cheesecloth.
    Going to try again.
    Also to keep the temp consistance can you use a heating pad. The weather here is. But unpredictable with colder nights in Spring time.
    Thanks for any advice Deirdre

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