Making Makgeolli

Written by on January 16, 2012 in Lifestyle

While soju (소주) is one of the most popular drinks in Korea today, primarily due to its low cost and clever marketing, another traditional Korean adult beverage has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity as of late. This particular drink is called makgeolli (막걸리) and known as Korean Rice Wine or Drunken Rice. It was originally developed by farmers and appears as a cloudy white liquid. What many don’t know about this traditional drink is that it’s quite easy (and fun) to make at home.

Unlike a lot of other home brews, making makgeolli is quite simple. All that is needed to obtain the delicious final product are the ingredients (which can be found at nearly every market), a funnel, a cheese cloth, a few empty bottles, and a steamer or rice cooker. Here’s exactly what you’ll need:

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg Sweet Rice (찹쌀)
  • 35g Mill Yeast (누룩)
  • 5g Regular Yeast (효모)
  • 2L Water
  • 2tsb Liquid Sugar or sweetener

Items:

  • 3.5L Plastic container
  • Empty 1.5L plastic bottles
  • Steamer (double boiler) or rice cooker
  • Cheese cloth
  • Funnel

After making sure everything is clean (some people even wash containers out with soju to disinfect the surfaces in addition to washing), it’s time to start the process of preparing the makgeolli. The entire process takes a little over a week, so be sure to plan ahead. This isn’t something to do at the last minute.

Let’s put it together!

Step 1 – Take the 1kg of sweet rice and place it in a large bowl. The rice needs to be cleaned. Fill the bowl with water, mixing the rice several times. When the water appears cloudy, pour the water out. This process needs to be repeated several times until the water is clear. While production facilities use purified water for this step, that isn’t needed.

Step 2 – Once the rice has been washed and the water is clear, fill the bowl one last time and allow the rice to soak in the water. In warm environments this step will take about 2 hours; however, if the room is a bit cold, let it soak for 4 hours.

Step 3 – Now drain the water away and let the rice sit on a cheese cloth for one hour.

Step 4 – If you have a steamer, then place a little water in the bottom portion and steam the rice for about 1 hour or until fully cooked. If you do not have a steamer, place the rice and half as much water as usual in a rice cooker. When the rice is cooked thoroughly (slightly hard) it may be removed from the rice cooker.

Step 5 – While the rice is cooking, grind the mill yeast until fine. This can be done with a mortar and pistil or in a coffee grinder.

Step 6 – Combine the ground mill yeast with the regular dry yeast. This will form the basis of your fermentation compound.

Step 7 – Add a little purified water to the yeast mixture. You want just enough to liquefy the yeast and make a paste. Use a fork or spoon to mix thoroughly. Do not add too much water, the mixture should be a little thick.

Step 8 – Remove the cooked rice from the steamer or rice cooker. Allow it to cool to room temperature. There should be no steam rising from the rice. If the rice is too hot, it will kill the yeast and prevent fermentation from occurring.

Step 9 – Combine the cooled rice and yeast paste in a large bowl. Thoroughly combine both.

Step 10 – In the large 3.5L container, pour 2L of purified water (room temperature). Next, add the rice/yeast mixture. Stir it briefly to ensure the water and rice are evenly distributed. You will see that the rice starts to settle on the bottom. Cover the top of the container, but do not close completely. You will want to allow air to enter. For the next 2-3 days, open the container and stir thoroughly once. The process is complete when it stops bubbling.

Step 11 – Place a funnel into the mouth of an empty 1.5L bottle (smaller sizes can be used). Place the cheese cloth in the funnel. Ladle the rice and liquid from the 3.5L container to the funnel. Allow the makgeolli to seep into the plastic bottle. When the cheese cloth/funnel is full, squeeze it to ensure all the liquid from the rice is out.

Step 12 – Fill the bottles about 2/3 full. Then add water until nearly full. Add the liquid sweetener. Be sure to leave a little space for the fermenting process.

Step 13 – Secure the bottle cap tightly and shake to mix all ingredients.

Step 14 – Store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Step 15 – Finished! You are ready now to serve your homemade makgeolli.

This recipe is fairly easy to make and can changed to suit your taste. Sometimes try adding fresh strawberries or other fruits to the fermenting bottles (Step 11) to give it a different flavor. One could even use fresh honey in Step 12 for a different taste.

If you’ve tried making this recipe, please post a comment letting us know how it turned out.

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Steve Miller

Steve Miller, the QiRanger, is Korea’s best-known travel video blogger-journalist. His videos have been viewed by millions and seen on media outlets in throughout the word. In addition to sharing his entertaining and informative videos, he writes about life abroad and releases a popular podcast. Steve appears regularly on international radio stations, talking about travel, Korean culture and East Asian news. He’s also appeared on Arirang Television sharing unique aspects of Korean life. You can follow Steve on Twitter @QiRanger or visit his site QiRanger.com.