For makgeolli enthusiasts living outside of Korea, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to find fresh unpasteurized makgeolli (“saeng makgeolli”). As frustrating as it may be, there is a simple approach to solve this problem: If you can’t find it, just brew it! Brewing makgeolli at home is an easy undertaking and much easier than brewing other alcoholic beverages like beer or wine. This post serves a beginner’s guide on how to quickly get started brewing makgeolli at home for the first time.
1. Download the ebook “A Primer on Brewing Makgeolli” and follow the Danyangju recipe
“A Primer on Brewing Makgeolli” is a free ebook written by Becca Baldwin and Daniel Lenaghan aka Makgeolli Makers and published by Korea’s Rural Development Administration (click here to download the ebook). It’s a fantastic resource in learning more about makgeolli and its brewing process. While I strongly recommend to read the entire ebook, you can directly jump to the Danyangju makgeolli recipe on page 37-54 to immediately get started brewing makgeolli at home. The recipe provides detailed instructions with photos throughout the brewing process.
2. Watch a video tutorial on makgeolli homebrewing
I recommend strictly sticking to the Danyangju recipe for your first makgeolli brew, but it would help a lot if you spend some time watching someone else actually brewing. This typically gives you more confidence and removes any final doubts when approaching your first brew.
I like The Sool Company’s homebrewing videos best as they strictly apply the Danyangju recipe. Simply signup to their online “Homebrewing Introduction Crash Course” and watch their videos. It’s free to sign up.
Also, check out Makgeolli Lab’s time-lapse video (7 min) of preparing the Danyangju recipe:
I also like Max Lee’s extensive video tutorial (44 min) to get another perspective. Please note that he is not specifically applying the Danyangju recipe, but it’s still interesting to see how Max is approaching makgeolli homebrewing in general.
3. Get the ingredients ready and get fully equipped
With all the knowledge gained from the ebook and the videos, now it’s time to make sure you have the right ingredients and equipment to start your first makgeolli batch.
As ingredients, you will need:
- glutinous rice (chapssal – 찹쌀)
- nuruk (누룩), i.e. Korean fermentation starter
- clean water
While glutinous rice can be easily found in any Korean or Japanese food store, finding nuruk outside of Korea will be the biggest challenge in makgeolli homebrewing.
Most of the equipment needed for the Danyangju recipe are things you typically already have in your kitchen. You will need:
- Scales for weighing the ingredients and a measuring pitcher
- Large mixing bowl to wash the rice
- Colander to rinse the rice
- Steamer, large pot and hemp cloth for steaming the rice
- A bamboo mat or large plate for cooling the steamed rice
- Sanitizer (e.g. 70% alcohol) to sanitize the fermentation equipment
- Fermentation container (ideally made of glass or lead-free ceramic)
- Large stainless steel scoop for mixing the fermenting rice (I also use plastic gloves for mixing)
- Fine mesh bag to “milk” the fermented rice
- Soup ladle, funnel and plastic bottle for bottling
- Food thermometer (not required, but can be very helpful in making sure you are brewing at the right temperature)
4. Start brewing!
Now you are ready to start brewing and it’s time to get your hands dirty! Remember that you will not become a makgeolli master overnight, so after creating your first batch, keep on brewing and experimenting with new recipes and flavours.
Some final brewing tips:
- Sanitize your equipment properly. It would be a shame if your first brew failed just because your equipment wasn’t cleaned properly.
- Let the brew ferment in colder temperatures (e.g. 18°C) to get a sweeter makgeolli taste. I typically brew in my basement to get the right temperature. Brewing it in room temperature can give the makgeolli too much of an acidic flavour.
- Join the Susubori Makgeolli Brewer’s club Facebook group. It really is the best place to learn from other homebrewers and share your own experience with the community.