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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119 Comments:

  1. TDCGuy Wichita, Kansas USA joined 3/16 & has 2 comments

    I first learned to enjoy Makgeoli years ago, during my military service in Korea. I used to go to a “Makgeoli House” in the town where I was stationed. Some ROK soldiers took me as their guest and I LOVED the Makgeoli! We ate hot peppers and drank Makgeoli! Now, I am making it at home. The recipe at your website is a good one. My Makgeoli comes out good, everytime. Thank you. My latest effort is brewing now. I made a mistake when I mixed in the Nuruk and Yeast by adding too much water! But, it seems not to make any difference. The mixture is bubbling and “talking” to me. I can hear it “cooking” when I put my ear close to the mixture. It smells great and although it’s still working, already tastes like Makgeoli! I’ll wait until it stops working, then strain and bottle. I use old root beer plastic bottles that are 1/2 liter in portion. This is great for friends and family. Makgeoli goes great with Kimchi, Bulgokki and other tasty Korean dishes. But, I still like to eat peppers when I drink Makgeoli, like I did as a young man in Korea, so long ago.

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,710 comments

      Thank you for sharing your story, it was fun to read! Especially the part about peppers and makgeolli, it reminds me of when I was young and went to my grandmother’s house and saw farmers eating peppers and makgeolli, too. They always had ssamjang or doenjang to dip the peppers into. And sometimes just kimchi. It can be a light meal or snack because makgeolli has many carbs.

      ‘The mixture is bubbling and “talking” to me. I can hear it “cooking” when I put my ear close to the mixture.’
      I’m happy to meet you through website, and I feel your passion for making perfection!

      • TDCGuy Wichita, Kansas USA joined 3/16 & has 2 comments

        I learned to love Korean food, when I was stationed in Korea years ago. I still eat Kimchi and have both Betchu and Mu-kimchi in my fridge, as I write. I also enjoy Kaktu-gi kimchi, when I can get it. I frequent a local Korean Food Store and get many “Eye-goo’s” when I go to buy freshly made Betchu Kimchi! I get to talk with the Koreans present about my days in Dong-du-Chon and Taegu! One day, a Korean man in the store, asked me if I ever had drank Makgeoli in Korea. Of course I had and that was how I found out that the store had Nuruk! But, it was YOUR website with Makgeoli recipe that got me making my own! Thank you so much. Not only for the Makgeoli recipe, but other yummie foods that I ate in Korea and still enjoy to this day! Yaki-Mandu, is of course an all time favorite! I still remember my Hangul and can read Korean after many years! That’s the key, for Americans to learn Korean. Learn the alphabet first! Then, pronunciation of the words is much easier, whey you know how the letters sound! I love your website! Ko Map Sumnida!

    • FeedMeKimchi California joined 4/16 & has 1 comment

      I really liked your story as well, thank you for sharing! I was unsure whether to try out making some makgeolli, which I’ve only tried from the grocery store, but you’ve helped to inspire me. I’ll make sure to eat some hot peppers with it as well.

  2. jaylivg Houston joined 7/10 & has 107 comments

    Hi Emily !!

    I am not sure if you’re familiar with what they call wildyeast , or another word , sourdough starter . I have successfully growing my own culture this past month . Then i saw in the video makgeoli making , the package you bought it was dry starter( culuture ) .. I was wondering do you know what is that made from ? If it is the same with this sourdough starter that i made . If it is .. i wonder if we can use it for making makgeoli .
    Although my problem would be drying the rice ..
    Just curious what’s them makgeoli starter made from ? THank you !!

    • RobColossal United States joined 8/14 & has 2 comments

      Hello. Another name for the starter culture (she calls it “nuruk”) is powdered amylase enzyme – same thing. I got mine at my Korean grocery store. If you don’t have a Korean/Asian grocery store, you can get it on Amazon. Good luck!

  3. KimchiSmell lJhkwbkjk9 joined 2/15 & has 2 comments

    Maangchi can you list dishes that will go well with this drink
    I would like to prepare this and dishes for my friends.
    Please and thank you.

    • ddnorman Southern NH, USA joined 9/13 & has 75 comments

      Hi KimchiSmell!

      Check out TDCGuy’s post above and Maangchi’s reply for suggestions on foods that go well with Makgeolli.

      I hope this helps!

      Cheers!
      Dave

  4. BeerHappy Pittsburgh, PA joined 2/16 & has 1 comment

    Hello Maangchi!
    I love every recipe I’ve made from your website, and I received your new cookbook for Christmas! I’m so happy I don’t have to look on phone while cooking now! My question is for Makgeolli. Why do I need to dehydrate my rice? I’ve made it several times now (how I love Makgeolli) and love it so much! I live in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and can not get it here, make my own!!!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,710 comments

      I found when the cooked rice is a little dry, the liquor will turn out stronger. I’ve been experimenting for years. A few years ago, I made makgeolli with a little dried cooked rice and I felt a huge difference in the level of alcohol. I felt drunk once I tasted it just a little! : ) I’m still experimenting!

      • Kevin Miguel Hawaii joined 7/16 & has 5 comments

        Maangchi, I tasted a small sample of my makgeolli when I bottled it this morning and yes it seems a lot stronger than the bottles I used to buy from the market! When I opened my fermenting container this morning to strain it, the smell of the alcohol made me dizzy! Thank you for doing the experiments and teaching us how to make stronger makgeolli! :)

  5. kcgirl Canada joined 2/16 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi!

    I followed your recipe and this is what I have after 5 days of fermentation… (I started it last Wednesday) no bubbles coming up anymore… do you think this is done? Or should I wait a bit longer? I need your help!!


    See full size image

  6. Dutch joined 1/16 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi, Received your book for Christmas and we love it! I haven’t had Makgeolli since I lived in Sokcho and I am very excited to try it. However I am on day 10 and it is still very bubbly and is just starting to seperate. Should I wait until the bubbles stop and it separates completely, or should I try to bottle it now?

  7. Mochi111 joined 1/16 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    Thanks to your Recipe and some help from my girlfriend, my first batch of Makgeolli is done today! I can’t wait to share it with everyone!


    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,710 comments

      It looks great! How was the taste? Did it make you drunk? You think it was about 7-8 % alcohol?

      • Mochi111 joined 1/16 & has 2 comments

        It has a taste that is very different than what I am used to, I’m not sure how to describe it. However it is good! It definitely got me tipsy so I would say that is about the correct level of alcohol.

        • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,710 comments

          Homemade makgeolli tastes much better than store-sold makgeolli. “It definitely got me tipsy” haha! When I visited Korea a few months ago, I had a meetup with my readers living in Korea. We did a potluck party. One of them brought her homemade makgeolli. She said she didn’t add water to dilute the level of alcohol. I definitely felt it contained strong alcohol. When I made my homemade makgeolli recently, I followed her method. I didn’t dilute my makgeolli and kept it in the fridge for a while. It tastes much stronger and is really delicious. You can try out this method when you make it next time.

  8. EvilGrin joined 6/15 & has 33 comments

    Have you ever used rice syrup to sweeten instead of sugar?

  9. laramis TX joined 3/09 & has 6 comments

    Maangchi- I have the makgeolli drinking cups but I really want that large tin bowl. I’ve looked at all the Korean stores and no one has them that large. Is there a place online I can try to buy one? Cant wait to make this! Thank you!

  10. na_eun_ki joined 8/15 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,

    I made this and the result looks really good, but I am a little nervous about drinking a full “glass” as I’m unsure about the methanol level. In the video you said the fermentation process makes the alcohol about 15%. For home brewed/ fermented alcohol as long as it stays under 10% during the fermentation process, the methanol level should be safe for consumption.
    But as it is higher than 10%, is there a way I can test for methanol or do you know the methanol level (before and after dilution)?
    Also what is the effect of nuruk on the production of methanol?
    And do you know how much methanol is produced in commercially produced makgeolli vs. home brewed?

    Sorry for so many questions, but I am having a party this weekend and (as Methanol poisoning is a very serious matter, especially when it comes to home-brew/fermentation f alcohol) I want to make sure this is safe for my guests and myself to drink.

    Thanks,
    Na Eun

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,710 comments

      Hello Na Eun,
      As part of my research in developing this recipe, I had a sample of my makgeolli tested at EMSL Analytical to make sure it was safe. They gave me a full report and said it was completely safe to drink (in moderation) so if you follow my instructions you should be fine.

    • mattcmaddox joined 12/15 & has 1 comment

      @na_eun_ki I know you’ve already had your party, but I hope your concern will not dissuade anyone in the future for trying out this recipe.
      Makgeolli produces very little methanol and is safe to drink. Methanol content is more of a concern for distilled beverages.

  11. waleria002 Russia joined 1/15 & has 4 comments

    Hello. I live in Russia. and we didn’t perhaps get Nuruk . And I have a question. can I use green wheat malt . if not, do you know cooking Nuruk at home?

    • Oxide California joined 2/15 & has 47 comments

      No, wheat malt will not produce the same results. I guess you could use it with some brewer’s yeast and get something drinkable containing alcohol, but it will bot be makgeolli.

      Nuruk is a very complex community of bacterias and yeasts that work together to convert the rice into sugars that are simultaneously converted into alcohol and CO2.

      You can make you own nuruk.

      1. Use whole wheat flour.
      2. Add water to 30-40% moisture content
      3.Wrap in cloth, press in mold to make a cake 5 cm thick; 10-30 cm dia.
      4.Incubate 10-days at 30-45 C.
      5.Incubate 7-days at 30-45 C.
      6. Dry 14-days at 30 C.
      7. Age 1 to 2 months at room temp.

      The source for the above is this document:

      http://www.fao.org/docrep/x2184e/x2184e09.htm

      • waleria002 Russia joined 1/15 & has 4 comments

        Thanks for the explanation. but I do a lot of searching on the Internet. And found this recipe for Nuruk . it looks like yours but is described in more detail. Maybe someone will find it useful.
        Recipe
        Sourdough-nuruk is prepared as follows:
        1. For cooking 500 gr. the leaven of nuruk we need 1 kg of wheat (ratio of proportions: two times larger in volume). The ferment can be done in store, ensuring proper storage conditions.
        2. The cleaned wheat to grind a little bigger than flour.
        3. The milled wheat add water in the ratio of 30% by weight of flour and mix well to make a thick dough.
        4. Spread the dough into a flat wooden tray with low sides. First thoroughly rumple hands, and better heels of the feet, after covering the dough any matter. The dough should be very thick.
        5. Formed leaven of nuruk wrap in plastic bag and leave for 2 weeks at a temperature of 30-35 degrees Celsius.
        6. Ready ferment of nuruk stored in a well ventilated area.

        • Oxide California joined 2/15 & has 47 comments

          Looks like the same except for the part about wrapping it in plastic. I would not do that. Plastic will keep all of the moister in and cause the wheat to rot. Something like a nylon mesh (cheese cloth) might be ok.

          Nuruk has been around for hundreds or thousands of years … well before plastic was invented. The pictures I have seen of nuruk being made in Korea shows the trays of freshly made nuruk being stacked with straw between them. I think that allows the nuruk to “breathe” while maturing.

          Remember, the idea is to grow a culture of bacteria and fungus on the wheat.

          Good luck. Please post back and let us know how it worked out for you.

          • waleria002 Russia joined 1/15 & has 4 comments

            Hello. I stubborn man . and while made from green wheat malt. The appointment of Nuruk and malt is the same, is to break down the rice starch and turn it into alcohol. tomorrow I’m going to have to drain this wine. but while in appearance is the same as in the picture. and today when I tried to drink it was very warm in his chest. And of course I will nuruk as you describe and compare the tastes. about the plastic bag I also doubt.

      • Kimsam NJ joined 4/17 & has 1 comment

        Has anyone tried using straight up sourdough starter? I have sourdough starter already and was hoping to make some makgeolli today. Any ideas about the ratio of sourdough starter to substitute for nuruk?

  12. soju102 joined 7/15 & has 1 comment

    Hey maaangchi. I started my Makgeolli a couple days ago and I noticed little bugs in my Makgeolli. I found out that the bugs are from my nuruk. I’m considering dumping it. Is nuruk supposed to have little bugs in it?

  13. Vinthundar Horseyville joined 4/14 & has 5 comments

    This is my second time making makgeoli. A couple of things I wanted to discuss, that are inconsistent with the results here.

    1) The rice doesn’t seem to break down into a thick goo. Mine keeps its shape.
    2) It never turns an amber color – it is pure milky white.
    3) It tastes lovely! Tart, a little sweet. It is not highly effervescent though.

    Any suggestions?

  14. centeredki69 joined 6/15 & has 3 comments

    Hello Maangchi,

    I made Makgeolli 3 times using a glass jar and they were delicious. I Then tried making some in a new Onggi crock. However the Onggi Makegeolli has a bad taste.
    Could the Onggi I bought not be for food safe but be made for decoration only? I bought it at a local Korean grocery.

    Thank you for your help,

    Donald


    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,710 comments

      Hi Donald, wow! You are very serious about Korean cooking! You bought these onggi! They look good to me!

      What do you mean by a bad taste? What’s it like?

      Onggi is totally safe to use, but maybe yours needs to be well cleaned before you use it. I’d soak it in hot water for a day, empty the water, and then soak it in hot water for one more day. Give it a good rinse and dry it out well.

  15. hawkeye85 joined 7/15 & has 2 comments

    맛잇어요! Thank you Maangchi! I successfully made some DELICIOUS Makkeolli, and had it with pajeon last night!

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