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)

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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150 Comments:

  1. that1girlie WA joined 4/14 & has 3 comments

    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 joined 8/08 & has 12,049 comments

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

    • Turnbull_AC San Francisco joined 5/20 & has 1 comment

      I just finished making a batch of this as well. I used champagne yeast instead of baking yeast and went to bottle it on day 9 as well. It was extremely sour for me too! I was worried I had messed it up, but I added extra sugar to balance out the sourness (I added sugar a quarter cup at a time and mixed and tasted until it was a little sweeter than I liked, knowing that it would continue to ferment and get dryer tasting in the fridge, wound up being closer to a cup and a half of sugar, I wasn’t counting). I’m glad I did! Not even 24 hours later I opened a bottle and it was fizzy and so so delicious! (Side note: the sugar will reinvigorate the fermentation and make the yeast in your drink get very active, leading to lots of CO2 production leading to carbonation, so make sure to “burp” your bottles by opening them occasionally. Even after just 24 hours in the fridge my bottles were so fizzy that they overflowed like a shaken bottle of champagne!)

  2. Tim123 joined 6/15 & has 1 comment

    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 joined 8/08 & has 12,049 comments

      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.

  3. xiqqin1 joined 6/15 & has 2 comments

    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.

  4. 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?

  5. Kire joined 6/15 & has 1 comment

    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!

  6. 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.

  7. Maaru joined 6/15 & has 1 comment

    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

  8. colewm New York, NY joined 12/13 & has 2 comments

    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

  9. EdLee joined 5/15 & has 1 comment

    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

  10. mizsak joined 5/15 & has 2 comments

    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 joined 8/08 & has 12,049 comments

      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!

  11. Hergla Olathe, Ks joined 10/13 & has 1 comment

    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!!!

  12. animemaga Canada joined 3/15 & has 3 comments

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

    Thanks!

  13. noah0308 joined 5/15 & has 2 comments

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

  14. Cutemom Indonesia joined 3/13 & has 82 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

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

    Thanks,

    Ima

  15. Mattuuggi Little Rock, AR joined 1/13 & has 4 comments

    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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