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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