For the first Takjoo Journals post on homebrewing, it’s best to start with the basics. And there’s nothing more basic than Win Win Farm & Co.’s makgeolli homebrewing kit that goes by the preposterously perfect name The Makgeolli (or, in Korean, 더 막걸리).
Several big breweries sell their makgeollis to an international market but The Makgeolli may very well be the first homebrewer’s kit. The box and instructions come with text and explanations in four languages: Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and, of course, English. I don’t know about the other languages but the English instructions are clear and easy to understand.
What’s more the kit comes with everything you need ingredient-wise, making for a very simple brewing process. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for the complete instructions.) Homebrewers need only have a brewing vessel, a liter of water, a whisk, a sieve, and a storage bottle. I’m guessing you could do that all for under $10 easy.
Another benefit is that the brew is ready in less than a week. The instructions say that the fermentation process will end in three to four days but I found that my brew was ready after five. Regardless, this incredibly short brewing time is very satisfying, especially for first-time homebrewers.
On the negative side, the final product is really lacking. The instructions make a point of talking up The Makgeolli’s use of natural ingredients: the rice is 100% organic, and no artificial sweeteners are included. Despite this, my brew had a very thin (sometimes grainy) body, and a watery flavor that was faintly sour. To be fair, Win Win Farm states that your makgeolli “could be tart since it’s free of any artificial sweeteners” so brewers are encouraged to add honey, sugar, or syrup to taste. The other option suggested is to make a makgeolli cocktail by mixing your brew with blended bananas, strawberry syrup, sodas like 7-Up or Sprite, or… beer? (I gotta say the combination of beer and makgeolli sounds pretty weird.) And yet, even with these options to spice up your brew, I think consumers are only experiencing a fraction of what real, homebrewed makgeolli can actually taste like.
I can’t say for sure why The Makgeolli has such a thin mouthfeel and underwhelming flavor, but one possibility is that the nuruk isn’t that great. In a product like this, it’s hard to tell how the nuruk is prepared or what quality it is. The other culprit might be the fact that the kit uses rice powder, not rice grains. I also suspect that the kit’s rice powder is made from regular rice, not the sticky rice (chapssal, in Korean) typically used for making makgeolli.
The Makgeolli is an easy introduction to the world of makgeolli homebrewing. Like I mentioned earlier, you throw the ingredients in a bottle, let them ferment for a few days, and—boom!—you have makgeolli. What’s lacking is the fact that you don’t get experience doing the more involved parts of homebrewing (the main one I’m thinking of is rice steaming). And, more importantly, the final product is a mere facsimile of the wonderful richness and depth of flavors you get when you brew your own makgeolli from soup to nuts.
WHERE TO BUY
The Makgeolli is sold in three sizes: individual 200g box (₩7,000 – this is what I used); six pack of 200g boxes (₩42,000); and 1kg box (₩30,000).
- Win Win Farm & Co.
- The Sool Gallery (Seoul) – Last time I visited, they were only selling the individual 200g boxes.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE MAKGEOLLI
Ingredients: The Makgeolli kit and 1 liter of mineral water
Equipment: 2 liter container, whisk, sieve
- Pour 1 liter of water into the container, then add leaven (read: nuruk) and yeast. Mix well until the yeast and leaven have dissolved.
- After the leaven and yeast have dissolved, add 200g of rice powder. (Stir well to ensure that no lumps of rice powder remain.)
- After placing the lid on the container, ferment at room temperature (25-28°C) for 3-4 days.
- Stir it morning and night for two days.
- After 3-4 days you should see two distinct layers. The top layer should be a translucent yellow liquid and the bottom a heavy white. This means the fermentation process is complete. Strain the liquor through a sieve to sift out leaven.
- After putting the liquor in a proper container, keep it refrigerated. (The yeast is alive so therefore it is still fermenting. Please keep the lid loose.)
*Homebrew makgeolli’s taste could be tart since it’s free of any artificial sweeteners. You can therefore enjoy a healthy and delicious drink by adjusting the sweetness and flavor with honey, sugar, or syrup to suit your taste.
|Name||더 막걸리 Brew Kit from Win Win Farm & Co.|
|Measurements||200g rice powder
4g of nuruk
1g of yeast
|Amount Produced||1 L (1.05 qt)|
|Notes||This was my first time making makgeolli from a kit. Because the grain used was rice powder, the brew was very liquid from the very beginning. Despite this, I still stirred twice a day for about three days. The brew separated into an opaque yellow cheongju layer fairly quickly. Having a brew without rice grains meant that I could see and hear a lot more bubble action. According to the instructions, the brew is ready to be filtered in 3-4 days. I tried a match test. (If you light a match in your brewing vessel and it is extinguished, the makgeolli is still producing gas and, hence, brewing. If it stays lit, there is a high oxygen count and the brew is ready to be filtered.)|
|Results||What made this brew so thin, sour, and lacking in booze? The only reasonable guess is that A) rice powder was used instead of real rice, and B) the nuruk was of low quality.|
|Water. Cloudy. Separates easily.||After a shake, it has a sharp, somewhat unpleasant funk. After settling, scent of walnuts and something floral or sweetly rooty.||Filmy but not much thickness. Some grainy sediment.||A thin sourness that zings the tongue. Anise. Pepper.||Sour-bitter flavor fades quickly. The alcohol percentage seems low (perhaps lower than the expected 7%) so there is little to no alcohol burn.|