Makgeolli, the Korean fermented beverage

Do you know about the Korean drink Makgeolli? This fermented alcoholic beverage finds its origin in Korea and consists of two distinct layers that can be seen when the strained alcohol settles.

Makgeolli is a very nutritious fermented drink, containing 80% water and 6 to 8% alcohol. Because of its fermented properties, Makgeolli contains high levels of lactic acid and lactobacillus bacteria, similar to the level found in yogurt. It also contains dietary fiber. This facilitates digestion, improves immune function and slows the aging process.

This alcoholic beverage is divided into two distinct layers that can be seen when the strained alcohol settles. The upper, clear layer, which is known as yakju or cheongju, can be served separately or distilled into soju. The lower, sedimentary layer is called takju. Fermentation is driven by nuruk, a dried cake of wheat, barley and rice that harbors a variety of wild yeasts, bacteria and koji mold spores.

Photo: Makgeolli HANA, created by Alice Jun – Juliana Sohn

Very often Makgeolli is compared to Soju, but it has a sweet taste and a milky texture with a light alcoholic taste. Once the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the country, it gradually lost popularity as younger generations of Koreans turned away from the “peasant’s drink” in favor of foreign specialties such as beer.

But in the early part of this decade, Makgeolli came back into fashion: bars serving this drink have sprung up all over South Korea, rappers shake plastic bottles in their music videos, and celebrities drink boutique versions. Plus, it’s still cheap, which is sometimes unfashionable, but always appealing.


You can make Makgeolli at home, here is the recipe by

You have to be very patient as it takes 10 days to get the final product.


Yield: about 6 cups

Time: 10 days


2 cups (1 pound) of short grain rice (chapssal)

½ cup (60 ml) nuruk ferment


1. In a medium bowl, add the rice and rinse with cold water. Using your hands to agitate the rice, continue rinsing and draining until the water runs clear, 3 to 5 times. Cover the rice with at least 2 inches of fresh water and let it soak for 2 hours.

2. Place a fine-mesh strainer in the sink and drain the rice; set aside for 30 minutes to dry thoroughly.

3. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the drained rice and 2½ cups cold water. Cover, bring to a boil and cook for 8 minutes. Lower the heat to a 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. In a 2-quart glass jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, add the reserved rice, nuruk, and 3 cups cold water. Mix well with a hand or glove, then wipe down the sides of the container to remove any residue. Place the lid slightly ajar on the container to allow gases to escape during fermentation, then leave it at room temperature.

5. After the first 24 hours, start stirring the mixture well 3 times a day for 3 days.

6. On the fourth day, completely close the lid of the container and set aside, without stirring, until the bubbling subsides, the rice breaks apart easily between the fingers, and the mixture separates into 3 distinct layers (cloudy liquid, soft rice grains, and disintegrated rice), 10 to 14 days. Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a mesh bag and place in a large bowl.

Strain the infusion, firmly but gently squeezing the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids, then transfer the liquid to an airtight bottle or clean jar and refrigerate until cool. Stir gently to incorporate any settled sediment before serving, either diluted with water, over ice or in cocktails. Store in the refrigerator for up to 30 days.


Don’t drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly.


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