Wonju: the result of fermenting steamed rice, water, and nuruk
Cheongju/Yakju: the yellowish translucent liquid that rises to the top of wonju (distilled, cheongju becomes soju)
Takju: the rice particulate that settles to the bottom of wonju (mixed with water, takju becomes makgeolli)
Danyangju: one-step fermentation process
Iyangju: two-step fermentation process
Samyangju: three-step fermentation process
Sayangju: four-step fermentation process
Oyangju: five-step fermentation process
Mitsul: the base set of ingredients (i.e., rice, water, nuruk) that when combined are necessary to create a danyangju and beyond
Deotsul: a second step of ingredients added to the mitsul in order to create an iyangju and beyond
Deotsul 2 Cha: a third step of ingredients added to the mitsul and deotsul in order to create a samyangju and beyond
Deotsul 3 Cha: a fourth step of ingredients added to the mitsul, deotsul, and saetsul in order to create a sayangju and beyond
I’m proud to say that I first learned how to brew makgeolli from the Susubori Academy in Seoul. Classes are run by a number of people from the Makgeolli Makers, award-winning brewers and the people who put together the makgeolli primer posted on this site, and Makgeolli Mamas & Papas Korea, a group that leads makgeolli-related outings and events in Seoul and elsewhere. I won’t get into the details of the classes suffice it to say that, if you are spending some time in Seoul and would like to learn to make makgeolli, I can’t recommend their courses enough.
Classes consist of a short lecture, tasting, and hands-on experience.
WONJU, CHEONGJU, & TAKJU
Susubori’s introductory course teaches students how to prepare the basic makgeolli recipe. As it turns out, this is not exactly makgeolli! Or, maybe I should say, not just makgeolli. To get the brew we all know and love, you first need to make something called wonju. Wonju consists of two parts that are readily visible after you’ve strained a brew and let it settle for a bit.
See that translucent, yellowish liquid at the top? That’s cheongju (also called yakju), which is what is distilled to make soju. The thick sediment at the bottom is called takju and, once mixed with water, becomes the makgeolli most are familiar with.
DANYANGJU & STRONGER BREWS
This most basic wonju recipe is referred to as danyangju, which simply means that it is a one-step brew. Basically what we’re talking about is mixing all the ingredients together—chapssal (sticky/glutinous rice), water, nuruk, and optionally yeast—in one stage and letting them go to work to make your brew. This mixture of ingredients is the first stage, or mitsul. Now, if you later add something (usually more rice, and possibly other ingredients, like water, herbs, fruit, etc.) you have an iyangju, or two-step brew. For an iyangju, you start with a mitsul, and a few days later add a deotsul, or second stage. You can continue adding stages at different intervals: a saetsul to make a samyangju (three-step), a naetsul to make a sayangju (four-step), or daseotsul to make an oyangju (five-step). Brewers don’t typically go beyond five-steps due to diminishing returns. Regardless, with each step that you add, you are making your brew more complex by enhancing the flavor profile with a higher ABV and sugar content. Below is a picture of an iyangju I made at Susubori Academy called Baekhwaju (or, Hundred Flowers Wine)
For a more in-depth explanation and analysis, I would once again encourage you to check out A Primer on Brewing Makgeolli, which is posted on this site.