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Makgeolli is a raw, unfiltered alcoholic beverage, traditionally made from rice, water, and a fermentation starter called nuruk. The Korean drink consists of two distinct layers that can be seen when the strained alcohol settles. The top, transparent layer, which is known as yakju or cheongju, can either be served separately or distilled into soju. The lower sedimentary layer is called takju.

When making makgeolli at home, try to maintain a room temperature between 65°F and 78°F. (If the room is cooler, the brew may take up to 14 days to ferment; if the room is warmer, it will speed up the process).

An instant-read thermometer is useful when preparing this recipe; the ingredients may be purchased in bulk from Brew Chatter where you can also buy everything you need in a premeasured kit. For the best results, sanitize your equipment before you begin, either in the hottest setting of your dishwasher, or with a homebrewing sanitizer, such as Star San. If you are unsure as to whether or not the makgeolli is fermented, give it a sniff and taste: it should smell of alcohol and have a lightly sweet taste.

Featured in: “Makgeolli Magnate Alice Jun Is Spreading Korean Culture, One Bottle at a Time.”

Makgeolli
A simple home-brew method for the fermented Korean beverage.
Yield: makes about 6 cups
Time: 10 days

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (1 lb.) short-grain (chapssal) rice
  • ½ cups (2 oz.) nuruk starter

Instructions

  1. To a medium bowl, add the rice and rinse with cool water. Using your hands to agitate the rice, continue to rinse and drain until the water runs clear, 3–5 times. Cover the rice with at least two inches fresh water and set it aside to soak for 2 hours.
  2. Set a fine mesh strainer in the sink and drain the rice; set aside for 30 minutes to thoroughly drip-dry.
  3. To a medium pot over medium-high heat, add the drained rice and 2½ cups of cool water. Cover, bring to a boil, then cook for 8 minutes. Lower the heat to simmer and continue cooking for 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered, until the remaining water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Uncover and set aside until cool to the touch (77°F).
  4. To a 2-quart glass jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, add the reserved rice, nuruk, and 3 cups of cool water. Mix thoroughly with a or gloved hand, then wipe down the sides of the vessel to remove any residue. Place the lid slightly ajar on the container to allow gasses to escape during fermentation, then set aside at room temperature.
  5. After the first 24 hours, start stirring the mixture well 3 times per day for 3 days.
  6. On the fourth day, tighten the lid of the container completely, then set aside, without mixing, until the bubbling slows, the rice breaks down easily between your fingers,and the mixture separates into 3 distinct layers (cloudy liquid, soft grains of rice, and disintegrated rice), 10–14 days. Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a mesh bag and place into a large bowl. Strain the brew, firmly but gently squeezing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids, then transfer liquid to an airtight bottle or clean jar and refrigerate until chilled. Stir gently to incorporate any settled sediment before serving, either diluted with water, over ice, or in cocktails. Store in the fridge for up to 30 days.

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