Today was my turn to take home the rice mash and ferment makgeolli at home.

What is makgeolli?  Good question.  Only 3 months ago I would have had no clue.

Mak-geol-li is a traditional Korean alcohol with a milky white appearance, about 6-7% alcohol content.  It is made from rice and a yeast and mold culture called nu-ruk.  The fermentation process takes place in a sterilized clay earthenware where the rice starch converts into sugar enzymatically, and then into alcohol and CO2 by the microorganisms in the nuruk.  The process can take as short as 7 days in the hot summer or as long as 14 days in the winter due to varying temperatures, though the ideal temperature for fermentation is between 23-25’C.  The fermented product is then roughly filtered resulting in a non-homogenous liquid that upon sitting, it naturally separates into a white sludgy sediment.  The flavour is sweet and tangy with cereal notes and is naturally slightly carbonated.   It is a good accompaniment to many Korean foods, and this is one of the few alcohols that is actually good for you as it’s a probiotic and a source of vitamins and minerals.

Below is the recipe and the basic preparation steps from class. I’ll update the post regularly with pictures on how the fermentation is progressing at home.


  • 1kg glutinous rice (chap-saal)
  • 250g nuruk, broken into small clumps
  • 1.5L water
  • 150g sweet potato, steamed, with skin on (this is optional)

1.   Clean the rice well by rinsing in water several times, until water becomes clear.  Soak rice in water for 8 hrs.  Drain well on a strainer, at least for 1 hr to remove the excess water.  In a big steamer lined with cloth, spread the rice evenly.  Steam for 40 minutes, or until the rice grain is fully cooked through.  Transfer the steamed rice to a large tray to cool completely.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the go-du-bap (steamed rice) and water.  With your fingers, gently squeeze the rice to separate the grains.  Add the crumbled nuruk and massage gently to create a mash.  Add sweet potato chunks and crush it gently with the hands.

3.  Continue to gently massage the mash for about 10 minutes, at which point the starches will have picked up some of the water.  Place the mash in a sterilized container that can hold 4L (ideally a clay pot should be used but glass or plastic containers can work as well).

4.  Cover with cloth, and place in area where temperature is controlled between 23-25’C, though a temperature range of 20-28’C is still acceptable.  It is best to maintain steady temperature.

5.  After the first 8 hrs, give it a good stir with sterilized large spoon.  This is important to help spread contact of enzymes evenly and also to maintain even temperature of the mash.  For the first 4 days, the mash should be mixed at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

6.  On day 5, cover with clay lid if using clay pot.  Continue to monitor temperature daily.

7.  When most of the rice grains have fallen to the bottom and you can see some carbonated bubbles floating to the top, this signals that the fermentation process is complete.  If your temperature is in the cooler end of the range, then fermentation will take longer, and vice versa.

8.  Strain the liquid.  Add sweetener to taste (eg. oligosaccharide, sugar, syrup, etc.).  Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.