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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113 Comments:

  1. Kim Yunmi United States joined 7/12 & has 30 comments

    I’d like a recipe for Soju… Andong Soju. Show how to distill it, etc. I found something online, but then I’m not clear how to make it not turn into vinegar in those 3 weeks.

  2. aswini india joined 11/18 & has 1 comment

    hello mangchi,
    i am from india and i am doing a project on alcohol fermentation as my major.as a kdrama fan i want to try making maekgeolli but there is no nuruk to buy in india.so can i prepare maekgeolli without nuruk or can you make a video on how to make home made nuruk.it would be so helpfull if you would answer it.
    thankyou

  3. B.T.W Berlin, NH joined 8/18 & has 1 comment

    Hi, Maangchi.

    I tried my hand at this recipe and it turned out quite well; now I’m in the process of making a second batch. Just wanted to say thank you and 좋은 하루 되세요


    See full size image

  4. Pyeongtaeker Pyeongtaek, KR joined 8/18 & has 1 comment

    I’ve made Makgeolli a few different times and culture my own Nurak. I fine each recipe unique and thanks for sharing your recipe. Your recipe is the first time I’ve seen a dehydrator used, could you elaborate on why?

    I usually let the rice cool on the counter on my cheese cloth with a small fan for an hour or so to prevent killing the Nurak yeast. I’m also trying picking up different wheats to culture different flavor Nuraks for this winters brewing. I recently learned the method of making Danyanyju/Gwanaju where addition spirits are added.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,532 comments

      Wow it sounds like you are an expert in making makgeolli!

      My recipe is made from my experience over the years. The traditional way to make makgeolli is with steamed rice, and then after steaming the rice you can cool it down like you did and make makgeolli with it. But in this recipe I was making makgeolli an easier way and instead of steaming, i made rice in a rice cooker, but I needed to dry it out. Without drying it out the alcohol level in the makgeolli is too low.

    • AMassie Maryville,TN joined 8/18 & has 2 comments

      I’m interested in how you culture your own Nuruk. Nuruk is impossible to get in this area of Tennessee and ordering it online is expensive.

  5. Desertdrifter7 Tampa, FL joined 7/18 & has 1 comment

    Hey Maangchi, I ordered an 11 liter onngi and a dehydrator. I have my first batch of Makgeolli started. I am looking forward to drinking it from a Makgeolli pot and cups I bought for my dad while I was working in Korea.

  6. stormriderz2001 South Carolina joined 7/18 & has 1 comment

    Question-Can you substitute a ceramic pot for the earthenware pot to ferment the Makgeolli ?

    • Kim Yunmi United States joined 7/12 & has 30 comments

      You could, but Onggi are special in that they are made to breathe (as in the pot itself, not just the opening at the top. And Earthenware, in general are more Porous. It would be the same result as using say… a glass jar.

      Onggi, though, if you are a serious kimchi maker, want to make sauces, or Korean alcohol are a worthy investment. You can buy them online and sometimes from Korean markets.

  7. tanjm348 Singapore joined 4/18 & has 2 comments

    Hi Mangchi…is it necessary to soak the rice overnight.
    I have tried 2 batches with different kind of rice. The final color is different. 1 is more amber while the other is more white in color.
    I didn’t use Nuruk…couldn’t get it in where I stayed…i used Chinese yeast balls instead. Still taste pretty good. I had 2 Koreans friends as test objects :)

  8. Robin1981 Malaysia joined 2/18 & has 1 comment

    Dear Maangchi,
    I am going to try making this soon. But is it possible to give me the ingredients in grams?
    1cup of rice in grams
    1cup of nuruk in grams

    Thank you.

  9. slwagner Ann Arbor, MI joined 4/13 & has 1 comment

    If I wanted to brew this with fruit at what point would I add the fruit and how much fruit would I use?

  10. Kimbosiwang Arizona joined 2/18 & has 2 comments

    Made my second batch of makgeolli. It tastes great and my friend took back 2 litres home to enjoy. :) Definitely tastes better than the commercialized ones.

  11. BrandNewScene Atlanta, Georgia joined 11/17 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi! I’ve just ordered a dehydrator and am going out in search of an onggi today! I have one question – store bought Makgeolli is sometimes flavored with things like chestnut or banana. Do you have any tips for flavoring the Makgeolli with additional ingredients?

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