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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93 Comments:

  1. Publius California joined 10/17
    Posted October 22nd, 2017 at 2:11 am | # |

    Why does the rice need to be dehydrated?

  2. erunuevo Long Island, NY joined 7/17
    Posted July 12th, 2017 at 8:44 pm | # |

    I am so excited to find this recipe and your awesome blog! I’ve bought and fallen in love with makgeolli. I was wondering if there is anything I can do with the sediment in the bottle? Can I use it as a strter to make my own? Add fruit juice and wait to see if alcohol happens? Add it to flour for a fermented dough?

  3. 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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  4. 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.

    • 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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  5. 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

  6. MeganinSanDiego San Diego joined 4/17
    Posted April 3rd, 2017 at 3:28 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    Thank you so much for all of your delicious recipes, I have followed your website for years and always enjoy trying yummy new Korean food!

    I have made your makgeolli recipe a few times now, and it is very delicious however I am having trouble with the level of carbonation. After I first make it in strain it, it seems perfect and just slightly bubbly, however after just a day of being bottled in the refrigerator it explodes like soda when I opened it and becomes very, very bubbly. I love the delicious flavor of the makgeolli, but I do not think it is supposed to be so carbonated.

    Do you have any suggestions on how I can prevent my makgeolli from tasting like soda?

    Thank you so much!

    • darthpilsner joined 12/15
      Posted September 11th, 2017 at 1:06 am | # |

      You can poke a very small hole in the lid of the bottle to prevent carbonation.

  7. [email protected] Myanmar joined 3/17
    Posted March 10th, 2017 at 10:22 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi, do you think it would be ok to use pre prepared dried sticky rice like in this photo? It is fully dried and is not still moist on the inside.

    I don’t have ready access to a rice cooler as I am currently living in a hotel.


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  8. mistamyron Toronto joined 11/16
    Posted November 18th, 2016 at 8:57 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi!

    I just bought an Onggi at PAT in Toronto to make this, and I’m so excited. :)

    I was wondering if you could help me out though, with a few questions:

    1) I don’t have a dehydrator, nor is it sunny and breezy here right now. Could I dehydrate the rice in the oven somehow? Or could I skip this step altogether?

    2) How long do you think the Makgeolli will keep in bottles in the fridge after the fermentation process?

    3) Can I wash an Onggi with soap, or should I only use water?

    Thanks in advance for your help. Going to give bottles of this as Xmas gifts this year!

    Big fan since 2007! :) :) Love all your recipes and videos.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted November 22nd, 2016 at 3:10 am | # |

      I used to shop at the same store where you go! I miss the store! I bought my large onggi there and brought it all the way to New York! : )
      Now I will give you short answers.

      1) Yes, you can use oven to dry the rice a little bit.

      2) It will be ok up to 1 month. Maybe longer than 1 month but I always use it up before that.

      3) Don’t use any soap or detergent because onggi has microscopic holes. These micropores allow some gases to pass in and out and breathe. Soap will get into the holes and get into your food. So use only cold, warm or hot water, and scrub it. Some smells will remain even after washing, so if this bothers you, you can give it a good clean by filling it with hot water and letting it sit for 24 hours. Then pour it out and fill it up again with water and let it sit another 24 hours. You can do this until you’re satisfied that it’s clean and doesn’t smell at all.

      A quick way is to just rinse a couple of times and dry it well with a kitchen towel and then set it out to air dry after.

      But even after cleaning, I keep an onggi exclusively reserved for making makgeolli, and when I’m not making makgeolli it sits empty. I can use the same onggi to make soy sauce or doenjang or fish sauce because all of them are fermented and pungent. But once it’s used to make those things the smell never totally goes away, so I keep one onggi reserved for makgeolli and never use it for anything else.

      Good luck with making good makgeolli!

      • mistamyron Toronto joined 11/16
        Posted November 22nd, 2016 at 9:07 am | # |

        Thank you for getting back to me with the tips, Maangchi. Much appreciated! :) Everything is already looking and smelling great. Cannot wait to try it. Thanks again for all your work and recipes. With warmth, Myron.

  9. oldturtle Boston joined 10/16
    Posted October 25th, 2016 at 6:08 pm | # |

    This did not turn out quite as I expected. After straining it was a lot thinner than the picture in step 9 (basically the same consistency as plain water). It also separates very quickly in the bottles. It’s been a little bit since I’ve had any (store bought) makgeolli, but it I remember it being homogeneous, sweeter, and less boozy. What I made tastes okay, but I think I may prefer something closer to the store bought stuff. I’m more interested in something light and slightly sweet than in getting tipsy. Next time I will try to bottle some of the mixture at various stages to see what I like best.

  10. Inches Chicago joined 6/16
    Posted September 7th, 2016 at 11:50 am | # |

    Do you have to have dry yeast starter? Can you rely on wild yeasts to start this fermentation?

  11. Kevin Miguel Hawaii joined 7/16
    Posted July 29th, 2016 at 2:02 pm | # |

    Yay! My makgeolli was ready this morning! I strained it and added the 8 cups of water and sugar. It made a whole gallon! I had an empty makgeolli bottle that I bought from the store, so I filled it up so I can share it with one of my friends. It’s the first time I tasted homemade makgeolli, and it’s so much better than the one sold in the market! Thank you for teaching me how to make this, it’s my first time making booze! :)


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    • Kevin Miguel Hawaii joined 7/16
      Posted July 30th, 2016 at 5:10 pm | # |

      I guess Hawaii is warm so it takes exactly one week to make makgeolli. So every Saturday I will be cooking rice and making this liquor! One gallon a week is perfect! I’m cooking the rice for my second batch right now :)

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted August 1st, 2016 at 3:43 pm | # |

      Yes, homemade makgeolli is much more intense taste than store-bought makgeolli. Yours looks great! Congratulations!

  12. jamez548 Seoul joined 5/16
    Posted May 6th, 2016 at 11:23 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi!
    Quick question for you and all of the makkeoli makers out there. I started my makkeoli 5 days ago and I am at the same point as per your directions. However I took a quick taste today and I noticed that my makkeoli smells a little bit musty/mildewy. Is this a natural part of the process? I did notice on day 1 that my nuruk smelled the same way but I just assumed that it was normal and contributed to the fermentation process. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Kevin Miguel Hawaii joined 7/16
      Posted July 29th, 2016 at 2:07 pm | # |

      My mixture smelled really nice on day 1 and 2, almost like bananas. The rest of the days it had a musty mildew smell like you describe. But it turned out fantastic when I bottled it this morning. I think your batch is going to be okay :)

  13. Yeechan Canada joined 4/16
    Posted April 10th, 2016 at 3:11 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi! Thanks for the recipe. My first try of making Makgeolli turns out really good! Me and my husband are enjoying it soo much!


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    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted August 1st, 2016 at 4:04 pm | # |

      omg! It looks thick, strong, and tasty! : )

  14. Mkyun23 Jersey shore joined 4/16
    Posted April 10th, 2016 at 12:26 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi! First let me say that I love watching your videos! You are my “go to” person when I want to cook Korean food. That being said, I’m on my 7th day of fermentation and my makgeolli has not separated yet. It smells wonderful tho! The only change I made was using my rice cooker so instead of 5 cups of rice, I used seven 3/4 cups which would be the equivalent of 5-1/4 cups of rice. Would the extra 1/4 cup make a difference?


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    • Kevin Miguel Hawaii joined 7/16
      Posted July 29th, 2016 at 2:20 pm | # |

      I also used my rice cooker. Inside of my rice pot there are lines telling me how much water to add. But I followed Maangchi’s instructions and added 5 cups rice and I measured 4 cups of water. It filled the rice pot to the exact line where I would normally fill the water. So now I know I can just cook 5 cups of rice without measuring the water. My mixture was in a very wide container and I couldn’t see any seperation until day 7. It was just a very very thin layer of clear liquid on top. Today is day 8 and my mixture was finished. The liquid on top had an amber color, but still it was a very thin layer on top. But it turned out fine when I bottled it and tasted a sample. I think your mixture will be okay! :)

  15. kslaterszirom Bellingham, WA joined 4/16
    Posted April 3rd, 2016 at 5:24 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi! I haven’t made this before. How do you infuse/add fruit or other items to the makgeolli? I would like to try adding apple or strawberry to it. I also remember in Jeju-do they hade a famous pumpkin makgeolli. Do you just add the raw fruit into the dried rice in step 3 so it ferments with everything else? Or would you have to cook it a bit first?

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