Ever since I got into makgeolli, I’ve wanted to get a hangari (항아리) of my very own. A hangari is a traditional Korean earthenware jar used for preserving pickled foods, like soy-bean paste (된장), red pepper paste (고추장), soy sauce (간장), kimchi, and for making booze, like makgeolli. Also known as onggi (옹기), they come in a variety of shapes and sizes but typically have a round, squat body with a flat lid that sort of reminds me of a beer bottle top without the ridges. The glaze on the jar inevitably turns it a dark ochre hue.
Despite all the technological advances made in brewing, many still prefer to make makgeolli in a hangari. This is due to the fact that a properly fired and glazed jar will keep the surface waterproof but retain a porous quality allowing the hangari to “breathe”. This duel effect of protection from the elements and air circulation make them ideal vessels for fermentation.
For my birthday present, I received a gorgeous hangari made by Shinil Earthenware (신일토기). It has a whopping 33-liter capacity!
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN SHOPPING FOR A HANGARI
In the comments below, Lennart asked about what you should look for if you want to get your own hangari. Specifically, how important are size, shape, or glaze in a hangari? Being a novice at this whole homebrewing thing myself, I went to one of the Jedi Master’s of sool brewing, John Frankl. (If you’re interested in reading more about John, check out this summary of his lecture at The Sool Gallery.)
On Size: According to John, you’re looking to use up about 66-75% of the capacity of your hangari. “Too empty and you get oxidation. Too full and you get overflow.” In the end, I had to get a smaller hangari because I just don’t have the facilities to fill my 33-liter beast up to the magic range.
On Shape: It’s kind of hard to go wrong in this department as there aren’t many options to choose from. Sure, you can go for short and fat or tall and slender but most hangari have a teardrop shape. However, “don’t go for a newfangled tubular shape. This defeats the beauty of the “teardrop” shape, which allows cheongju to rise outside a cap that is smaller than the walls.” If you’re not sure why cheongju is a good thing, it’s explained in great detail in John’s lecture.
On Glaze: As one of the main functions of a hangari is to let the vessel “breathe”, potters don’t use glazes that will negatively impact this. Glaze considerations are “important only with some of the older ones that used lead. Doesn’t really happen anymore.”