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My Most Successful Makgeolli Recipe (1) – Mister Makgeolli

Posted in Food and Drink, rice wine (beer) by 노강호 on March 19, 2012

the fruits of my second batch of makgeolli, Nov 2011

This recipe can actually be used to make four different types of rice wine. However, before you get bogged down in the confusing and ambiguous world of rice wine, why not simply try it. The recipe produces was is commonly known as a makgeolli though in essence it isn’t, but that’s another story…

I experimented with this recipe on seven occasions and continue to make improvements to it. The experimentation focused on numerous areas: the ratio of nu-ruk (누룩) and yeast to rice, fermentation temperature and the length of fermentation. Several subsequent minor trials focused on the amount of sugar added in the final process.

The final recipe, based on six cups of rice, (1 cup being 180mls), is now my working recipe and produces a good brew with a slight acidic ‘zing’ reminiscent of grapefruit juice. Environmental conditions always tweak and amend the recipe, especially when fermentation is involved, but these are usually small and are easily compensated.

The best temperature for fermentation is between 20-25 degree centigrade which is about normal room temperature. The level of micro-organic activity at 20-25 degrees means fermentation requires 3-5 days. I trialed 30-32 degrees and while fermentation was quicker, around 3 days, the taste contained more bitterness.


(1 cup = 180ml. T = tablespoon 15ml, d = dessert spoon 10ml and t = teaspoon 5ml)

What type of rice to use? Glutinous rice, chapssal (찹쌀) seems more common for dongdong-ju (동동주) while standard Korean rice, the sort served with most meals, maepssal (맵쌀), and it’s superior relative, haepssal (햅쌀), which is basically the new season’s rice, are used for maekgeolli. However, I am still unclear about the difference between makgeolli and dongdong-ju and even among Koreans there seem to be differing theories – and most can’t taste the difference. Korean rices are short grain and contain more starch than long grain varieties and as yet, I don’t know how successful these would be for making makgeolli. Stick to Korean rice or Japanese sushi rice.

6 cups of rice

2 liters of water at point of inoculation plus a liter if you want to dilute. You will also need water for cooking the rice.

1 cup of wheat yeast (nu-ruk – 누룩). I cup amounts to 100g. For information on obtaining nu-ruk.

1t of yeast (효모). I’ve found instant dried yeast works best

1-2 cups of sugar (or honey or corn syrup) and depending on taste, you may want to add more as fermentation continues.

2 cups of cheap alcohol – soju is best, followed by vodka or gin  or better still, 56% Chinese, Er Gou Tou Chiew (이과두주). However, don’t fret as this is only for sterilizing but don’t using anything with a strong taste – such as whisky or Creme de Menthe.

Milton’s Solution or some other form of baby utensil sterilizing liquid.


Rice cooker or pan, large glass jar (though plastic is useable), large rubber band, a spatula, a small bowl, a spoon, a cloth for covering mash, a muslin bag, an anti insect net (for summer brewing). This looks like a hair net and basically covers top of the jar.

For decanting –  a funnel, about four 2  liter bottles (Coke bottles are the best), a ladle, a large plastic bowl into which you are going to squeeze the mash.

Make sure the cloth you are going to use to cover the jar of mash, and the muslin bag, have not previously been washed in anything noticeably scented – it is likely to taint the mash or makgeolli.


Okay, Koreans love to wash rice in threes, except it is recommended to wash rice for makgeolli 30 times. To be honest, I no longer do this and have found that if you wash the rice while it is in a muslin bag, and you put the base of the bag in a bowl, you can then put your hand in the bag, water running, and aggravate the rice until the water in the bowl is running clear. This probably takes two minutes.

Proceed to cook the rice as you would normally, allowing it to stand in the cooking water, for 30 minutes prior to turning on the cooker. I also allow it to stand for an hour or two after cooking as this allows the rice to fully absorb water so your mash doesn’t become too stogy.

When cooked, allow the rice to cool to temperature where it won’t scold your hand. Now, if you are cooking the rice the European way, in a pot on the cooker, you will need to drain off any excess water before letting it cool.


Thoroughly wash all utensils such as spatula, bowl, spoon in side the jar in Milton’s Solution or other baby utensil sterilizer. Make sure you clean around the rim of the jar. Put the rubber band on your wrist throughout to sterilise it as well. Thoroughly rinse off the solution, drain out water, add the clean cloth which you are going to cover the top of the jar with and then pour in around a cup of alcohol. Save a little to wash your hands in later. Swish everything with the alcohol and then pour off.


the inoculate

‘Amazing’ because the seemingly boring yeasts are going to create an organic frenzy that will transform rice and water into a refreshing alcohol.

If your nu-ruk is in a block, you will need to break shards off and using a blender, turn out a cupful. Alternatively, you can soak it in luke warm water for an hour before either mashing it or putting it in a blender. Do not soak it in hot water as the enzymes will be killed.  Put the nu-ruk in a small, sterilized bowl, add the yeast add a little water and thoroughly mix it into a paste.

Now put the cloth in a pot and boil it vigorously for five minutes.Take the cloth off the boil and hang it somewhere to drain off and cool.

Now fill you jar with 2 liters of water and add the rice to this. I use this method as it is better if you are using plastic and it minimizes the chances of the glass breaking. Re-sterilize your hands with some alcohol, then, being careful of pockets of heat in the rice, begin to break up any ‘clots.’  When the temperature of the mix has equalized, it should be luke warm to warm, get someone to pour the inoculate into the mix. You could do this with your free hand but there will be residue in the bowl that needs scrapping out and having someone do it for you saves you having to re-sterilize.

Some of my Korean friends recommend adding a cup of alcohol at this stage – they use Korean soju, but vodka will suffice. I believe this inhibits the growth of any unwanted micro-organic populations.

Now mix the solution until the inoculate is thoroughly and evenly dispersed.

Wash your hands and then, using a tissue soaked in alcohol, clean any residue from the rim off the jar. Then place the boiled cloth over the top and secure with an elastic band.

Your mash is now ready to place in a little hidey-hole, preferably out of direct sunlight and away from draughts, where you can occasionally peak at it to enjoy  the micro-organic activity.


Stir the mash with a sterilized ladle once in the morning and again in the evening. You will know if the mash has initialised as you will both see rice particles floating up and down in the jar and see and hear the exchange of gases. A rice cap will form on the top of the mash and over peak fermentation these will gradually start falling to the bottom of the jar until on a handful of grains remain floating on the surface.



How many days should you wait? When you decant the mash will depend on the room temperature during the fermentation period. Once the peak of fermentation has been passed it needs decanting. If there is still considerable activity in the mash, wait a little longer, when activity has calmed you should begin the next process. A little experience will guide you in this matter. As a rough guide, at 20-25 degrees centigrade this will be between 3-5th day. At 25-30 degrees 2-3 days.

Equipment etc – a large bowl, a muslin bag, anti insect cover if needed, a funnel, sugar (or honey, corn syrup) and optional water (l liter)

Once passed peak fermentation you can pour the mash into a sterilised muslin bag and then proceed to squeeze liquid out of the rice into a clean bowl.The mushy rice, once squeezed out, can be discarded. The lovely white liquid in your bowl is makgeolli, (to be more precise, it’s a blend of makgeolli and dongdong-ju).

How much sugar (honey, corn syrup) you add, and whether you want to add any additional water, depends on your taste. However, 2 cups of sugar, while initially seeming sweet, will decline in a few days time and you might want to add more. Makgeolli varies between 5-10% ABV with dongdong-ju being closer to 16% ABV. I estimate this recipe to be at the stronger end of the scale and you could probably add another liter of water to take it down to about 7% ABV. Commercial makgeolli is around 6% ABV. Once again, this is a matter of personal preference but you can add water at anytime should you wish a weaker drink.

When differentiating between makgeolli and dongdong-ju, bear in mind the two are often interchangeable and most Koreans don’t know the difference between the two.


ready to enjoy

Put the filtered makgeolli into plastic bottles. The gas build up can be substantial so have a collection of coke bottle tops, some pierced with a small hole, some not. Ten years ago all makgeolli in Korea had such holes in bottles tops as fermentation will continue for quite a long time. Initially, use the pierced tops and after a day or two, start to use the un-pierced ones however, be vigilant if you add more sugar as this will cause a temporary re-ignition. Keep in a cool place just to make sure no spillage is going to occur, before refrigerating.

The makgeolli is actually ready to drink but leaving it a few days at room temperature will allow some further fermentation and maturation and allow for the best qualities of makgeolli t o develop.  After a few days you may want to add extra sugar or even dilute with more water – it depends on your individual preferences. I’m also told that waiting a couple of days until well past peak fermentation reduces the chances of a hangover should you drink too much. After two days rest put the bottles in the fridge.

Prior to serving, shake the bottle as it contains sediment. Be careful opening the bottle! On more than one occasion I’ve received an invigorating makgeolli shower!

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©Amongst Other Things –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.


Link to in-depth recipe


Mission Makgeolli – Brewing Batches 6-7

Posted in Food and Drink, Kimchi Gone Fusion, My Recipes, rice wine (beer) by 노강호 on December 16, 2011

makgeolli, rice wine, batches 2-5

I’ve been searching for a Korean rice wine (makgeolli / dong dong-ju) recipe for over ten years and it’s only been in the last two years that information has begun to surface on the internet. You can sink  this unique Korean drink with as much ease as glass of milk, especially when the weather is hot or you are thirsty and it is often an accompaniment taken on hikes up the mountain or wherever there is likely to be some physical exertion.

The popular 'well-being' schisandra makgeolli. (오미자 막걸리)

Several of my friends told me it would be difficult to brew either makgeolli (막걸리) or dong dong-ju (동동주) but after one failed attempt, the failure caused by too warm an environment for the mash, a successful batch emerged. Though it was a little weak, it was perfectly enjoyable. My next five batches significantly increased in size but ended up being rather bitter. I could have added a lot more sugar to compensate but didn’t and three weeks later, they are still fermenting. I blended these five batches together and while they are certainly stronger than a strong wine (14%), they are not as potent as soju (around 20%) so I reckon the kick is about 16-17%. I made batches of both makgeolli and dong dong-ju though to be honest there seemed to be little difference between them and I ended up mixing both types.

The nu-ruk (누룩) after being 'pounded' in the blender

The recipe below is based on my sixth batch (11th December 2011) though I suspect I might have to reduce the amount of wheat yeast to curb a tendency towards bitterness and sourness.

I am not yet fully sure what nu-rook yeast (누룩) is though I do have a Korean recipe for it. Some sources define it as wheat yeast, others as blend of wheat and barley yeast. I do have a makgeolli recipe that uses wheat and barley grains along with the rice, boiling them together and simply adding standard yeast to make the mash. This I will try in the future. If you are in Korea, you can buy nu-rook in markets – I’ve not yet found it in any super-markets.

the 'inoculate' puree comprising nu-ruk (누룩) and yeast (효모)

I’ve discovered the yeast that looks like small seeds, as opposed fine powder, is not effective. Stick to very fine yeast, preferably dried.

Sources I researched varied in the temperatures they recommended in which to sit the mash. My first batch, perched on top of a rice cooker, was too warm and the mash failed to initialise and by the third day a mold contaminant had spoiled the batch. The next five batches sat in a warm corner of my room with the ondol floor heating on for around five days. The room temperature was around 27 degrees centigrade and uncomfortable but jars were very active. I’ve subsequently found that fermentation will occur at 20 degrees (centigrade) and even at ten it continues.

batch 6, technically dong dong ju as it uses glutinous rice, about to be 'bottled'

Most of my sources suggest leaving the mash to ferment for 3 days to a week before filtering it. They also said to bottle the final alcohol but since I’ve had two bottles come close to exploding, I’ve used a large plastic screw jar, which probably hold a gallon and I’ve left the top loosely screwed in place. It is quite amazing the amount of gas that occurs during fermentation. One source said not to open bottles for two weeks! One of my bottles exploded like a champagne bottle after only 9 hours, so be cautious! I have recently started punching a small hole in the tops of the plastic bottles I store rice wine. (Ten years ago, before you could buy canned or bottled rice wine in which the fermentation process had been terminated by boiling and subsequently, often carbonated, the plastic bottles in which you bought the wine had a small hole in the cap).

straining the wine through a muslin bag

Make sure all utensils are boiled or washed in the sort of solution with which you sterilise a baby’s feeding bottle. I also swish out the jar with some soju or vodka prior to filling it with the mash.

The most tiresome part of the entire process is washing the rice. I’ve discovered using a plastic ‘muslin’ bag, or a muslin bag makes this process much easier.

the bottled dong dong-ju, ready to drink

Ingredients used for batches 6 and 7 (seven is in brackets and although seemingly of smaller proportions, I used a standard size cup rather than a rice type cup – the standard size cup probably contains twice the content))

Glutinous rice (찹쌀)                               5 cups (3)   Glutinous rice for dong dong-ju (동동주)

or standard rice (햅쌀)                           5 cups (3)  Standard rice for makgeolli (만널리)

Water                                                              2 liters spring water (2)

Wheat Yeast (누룩)                                    1 cup (.5)

Yeast (효모)                                                  1 teaspoon (.5 teaspoon)

Sugar, honey or corn syrup (물엿)      as required


rice cooker, large glass container, large rubber band, boiled cloth which can cover jar, muslin.

Wash the rice 20-30 times – until the water in which you swish it remains clear.

Let the rice stand in water for 30 mins after which give it a final rinse and drain. Be careful not to rub the rice too much between the palms as it will start to grind. Add 1.5  cups of water for every cup of rice and then cook this in the rice cooker. (other methods can be used – pot boiling, steaming, etc.)

When the rice is cooked let it stand for several hours before turning off the rice cooker to let it cool.

In a sterilised bowl and the ground nu-rook and yeast and mix it with a little warm water until it is a paste. Do not be tempted to do this in a blender as it might explode.

Put the rice into the glass jar and add about 1 liter of water. Mix the ingredients before adding the blended yeast  inoculate and then mix together.

You should now put a sterilised cloth over the jar and secure it with an elastic band.

Stir the mixture once in the morning and in the evening being sure to do so with a sterilised ladle.

You will know if the mash as initialised as you will both see rice particles floating up and down in the jar and see and hear the exchange of gases. From the third day, though I might possibly wait until the fifth, you can pour the mash into a sterilised muslin bag and then proceed to squeeze liquid out of the rice into  a storage vessel. Sugar, or corn syrup etc, can be added at this stage and the brew diluted to taste with spring water. In batches 6 and 7 I used about a liter of water. Both types of rice wine are commercially sold at about 5% alcohol and supposedly the undiluted brew from this recipe is around 16%. At an estimate it is probably about 7% if diluted with a liter of water.

It is often mixed with Sprite or Chilsung Cider and also drinking yogurt and this is especially useful if the brew is a little bitter or sour.

Fermentation will continue after this process but the brew is now ready to drink but give the contents a stir or shake before pouring.

NOTES ON BATCH 6 (removed from fermentation jar on December 16th after 6 days at around 22 degrees centigrade). As I mentioned earlier, I added 1 liter of spring water to the wine and about half a cup of corn syrup. There is only a touch of sourness with no bitterness. This is the best batch I’ve made so far in terms of balance.

Batch 7, prepared on December 16th, uses slightly less yeast – update to follow.

batch 7 at the start of fermentation

I have used several sources in the quest for the best recipe but I am indebted to Max from Zedomax.com. This was the first decent recipe I found and without his help I’d still be floundering. Cheers, Max!

For my perfected recipe on making makgeolli, visit: Makgeolli Mania at Kimchi Gone Fusion

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©박민수 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Mission Makgeolli

Posted in Food and Drink, rice wine (beer) by 노강호 on November 27, 2011

my first batch of dong-dong ju, light, fizzy and refreshing

I often mention how a mere twelve years ago, even 8 years ago, there was very little information on the internet about Korea. Indeed, my attempts at making kimchi and various other recipes as well as learning Korean and hanja, all began with books rather than internet sources. Until recently, there was little available in English in relation to Korean culture. I’m being cynical, but now you don’t really need to come to Korea to discover its secrets because they’ve been exposed to the entire world.

nu-ruk (누룩), a type of yeast made from wheat

I’ve been searching for a makgeolli recipe for over ten years. With the price of a bottle so cheap it’s pointless making your own brew in Korea but back in the UK kimchi is difficult to buy and makgeolli next to impossible. Every six months or so, I’d do a web search and it has only been in the last few years that information has began to emerge. I am now fairly confident at brewing Korean rice wine  but my next quest is to learn how to make the wheat and barley type yeast, known as nu-rook (누룩), which is essential both for this recipe and that of the rice drink, shik-hye (식혜). Nu-ruk is not available in the UK. The problem is compounded because a good number of Koreans, especially younger Koreans, have as much knowledge about the purpose of nu-ruk in the production of makgeolli as a British youngster might have about rennet in the process of making junket. Indeed, I’ve met Koreans who had no idea what nu-ruk is.

my first successful batch of dong-dong ju mash sitting fermenting on top of my rice cooker

Anyone who has lived in Korea will be aware of the variations in rice wine, namely between makgeolli and dong-dong ju (동동주). Learning the difference has taken a long time and I’m still not a hundred percent sure my understanding is correct. Misinformation abounds on the internet and even Koreans can be unsure of the difference. Some sources will tell you both versions are different strains of the same mash but the most plausible is that dong-dong ju is produced with sticky rice and makgeolli from standard rice. One source I recently read, western in origin, claimed the name dong-dong ju referred to the small bits of rice that float on the surface, like ‘shit.’  Of course, this is incorrect because ‘shit’ in Korean is ‘ddong’ (똥) and not ‘dong.’ (동). Sometimes, dong-dong ju is known as nong-ju (농주) because of its association with farmers (nong-sa 농사, farming).

3 cups of rice produced nearly two litres of ,wine’ though I may have over diluted it

The process of making rice wine is quite simple, despite being told by numerous friends that it was both difficult and time-consuming. With only five ingredients, rice, water, nu-ruk, yeast and syrup, the most laborious part of the process was washing the rice, around twenty times, and sterilizing equipment. Apart from a jar and some muslin, all other equipment is basic though a coffee type grinder is needed if the nu-rook hasn’t been previously ground.

subsequent batches of mash – both from glutinous rice and standard rice

Once again, information on temperature varies. I originally put my jar on the top of my rice cooker, set to ‘keep warm’ mode. However, this was too warm and I think the active enzymes were killed and mould quickly formed. I was originally aiming for a temperature of around 82 degrees and had read that over 97 is detrimental.  For my second attempt (dong-dong ju), I then placed a few plates between the top of the metal rice cooker bowl and the jar of mash and this brewed successfully. The process took 4.5 days and my initial batch consisted of 3 cups of rice which when further diluted produced about 1.5 liters of drink. The alcohol content was probably around 4% and a little weaker than I like and I only added about 2 table spoons of syrup. Unlike my first batch, the activity in the mash was high with plenty of bubbles and if you put your ear close to the jar, a constant busy fizzle.

I have now gone on to start five other brews using both glutinous rice and standard rice. The jars of mash are kept in a heat trap under my TV and at a point on the floor over the ondol heating pipes. Currently, I’ve set my room temperature to around 25 degrees (around 68 degrees Fahrenheit) but as I find this uncomfortable, I want to test a brew at around 21 degrees.

When I have perfected my technique and have discovered the secrets of nu-ruk, I will post details.

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©박민수 2011 Creative Commons Licence.