I have a love-hate relationship with fermenting and preserving food at home. On one hand, I love, love, loooove the idea of doing it (and eating fermented foods!) but on the other, I never know if I’m doing it right/ whether the resulting food is edible! I think the first time I actually had the courage to try one of my home ferments was when I made maesil-cheong (which was just last week LOL To be fair, I would have tried the miso I made if I could have brought it back to Singapore to me. Alas, mid-ferment, I moved back from London to Singapore for good and there was no way to carry the half-done miso on the plane!) I tasted the maesil-cheong on the 8th day of the ferment, and it tasted soooo good that I was encouraged to do a 2nd home fermentation project: making makgeolli at home with a kit!
What is makgeolli?
Makgeolli is a traditional Korean sparkling rice wine made from only 3 ingredients (rice, water and Nuruk)- in fact, it’s the oldest alcoholic Korean beverage. Every home used to brew their own makgeolli but makgeolli declined in popularity due to competition from imported alcohol. (I’ve also heard other theories behind its decline e.g. makgeolli was made from wheat flour instead of rice for a period of time, resulting in an inferior tasting drink.) It’s popular amongst farmers, and is even called “nongju” or farmer’s drink.
Makgeolli is cloudy, fizzy, high in calories and best served cold. It goes very well with Korean food and has been making a comeback in recent years- in fact, Michelin even published a post recommending what Korean dishes to pair with makgeolli!
I’ve toyed with the idea of making my own Makgeolli before, but never got round to it till I came across this Make-Makgeolli-at-Home kit which seems, well, pretty much idiot-proof.
Why make makgeolli at home?
A lot of shopbought makgeolli contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, whilst homemade obviously doesn’t! In addition, home made makgeolli contains live cultures which are good for your health. In comparison, other than Draft ‘Saeng makgeolli (생막걸리), shop bought makgeolli may not have any live cultures in them. (Unpasteurised makgeolli has a short shelf life, hence most commercial makgeolli is pasteurised.) Maangchi, a famous Korean food blogger in the US, actually sent her homemade makgeolli to a lab for testing and the report stated that the makgeolli contained vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6 as well as lactobacillus (at a count of 375,500 CFU/mL. The link also takes you to Maangchi’s recipe for homemade makgeolli, made from scratch and not a box kit!) Not bad for a home made alcohol!
Note: according to the website I bought this kit from, if you use this Makgeolli Damda kit, your 1 litre of makgeolli will have 100x good bacteria (100 billion CFU) than 1 litre of yoghurt (1 billion CFU)! I’m almost convinced to make this on a weekly basis as a health drink now!
What does the makgeolli kit include?
The Makgeolli Damda kit comes with:
- a translucent plastic bottle
- cling film (to cover the mouth of the bottle when fermenting the makgeolli- you need to poke a few holes in the cling film)
- 2 packets of makgeolli powder which is a mixture of
- Korean rice (grown in Jangheung, Jeolla-do)
- Stevia (a natural sugar substitute)
- Fructooligosaccharides (high lactic acid content)
Making makgeolli from scratch would take 7-10 days for fermentation. However, my kit only takes 24-36 hours! I’m really curious how the manufacturer of the kit expedites the fermentation- it reminds me of how box mix hotteok ferments instantly whilst made-from-scratch hotteok needs an hour or so. (Click the link for instructions on how to make hotteok from premix.)
How to store homemade makgeolli
Homemade makgeolli needs to be refrigerated and tastes best chilled. It will continue ageing in the fridge and improving in taste and fragrance.
The economics of making makgeolli at home with a kit
You use 1 packet per batch of makgeolli (which is 1 litre), so each kit can produce 2 litres of makgeolli. The kit costs $19.90 from blue basket (click on the link to purchase- note this isn’t sponsored. I bought the kit with my hard-earned money!)
On the other hand, a quick google search shows that a 750ml bottle of makgeolli costs $8.90 on Amazon.sg/ Lazada which works out to $23.73 for 2 litres. In other words, you actually save $3.83 (excluding the cost of the water :P) making makgeolli at home with a kit! And you have fun in the process, bargain! I was originally expecting the homemade makgeolli to cost more (paying for the experience and all that!)
Note: If blue basket doesn’t deliver to your country, I did a quick search on Amazon.com and it seems there are quite a few makgeolli making kits available! A common complaint is that the English instructions are sparse so luckily you have my post to help you 🙂
How to make makgeolli at home from a kit
- 1 bottle included in the pack
- 1 packet makgeolli powder included in the pack
- 1 litre water
- Cling film included in the pack
- Wash the bottle that comes with the makgeolli home kit and dry it well.
- Pour 1 litre of water (27-30C or 80.6-86F) into the bottle first then add 1 packet of the makgeolli powder. (I used boiled tap water that had cooled down to room temperature. Please refer to notes for more details ont he type of water to use for fermenting makgeolli. Note the order of pouring is important as if you add the powder first, you won't be able to use the markings on the bottle to guide you to add 1 litre of water (you'll need to weigh the water out then, although the bottle has markings for 0.8 (min)- 1.2 (max) litres of water, so I'm guessing you don't have to be super duper precise.)
- Shake the bottle 5 times or so, till the powder and water are well-mixed. You may see clumping of the powder but it will dissolve naturally in the water.
- Cover the bottle with the cling film included, poke a few holes in it then leave it in a dark and cool place.The kit says that the mixture will ferment in 36 hours (summer, room temperature of 27C or 80.6F)- 48 hours (winter)- since Singapore's room temeprature is much higher than 27C, I suggest checking the bottle from the 24hour mark onwards.
- Once the drink is fermented to your liking, keep it in the refrigerature. Tastes best when chilled. The makgeolli will become more fragrant in tastier in the fridge. The kit does not say how long the makgeolli can be kept for, but homemade makgeolli normally doesn't last that long, so consume within a few days' time.
Have you tried makgeolli before and would you make it at home? If you’re curious about how to ferment makgeolli the traditional way, here’s a video starring a Korean master fermenter of rice wine!