Everyone’s first step down the road of makgeolli brewing is the danyangju. If you don’t know what that is, check the post on Makgeolli Brewing Terms. Suffice it to say, it’s a single-step fermentation process that is the easiest, simplest recipe a homebrewer can make. If you’re interested in getting an exact explanation of the recipe, check out the Primer on Brewing Makgeolli here.
I was more excited than usual because I knew it was time to break in my beautiful, new hangari. I steamed 2kg of glutinous rice and, after it cooled, I mixed it with 180g of nuruk, 6g of yeast, and 2L of water. And then I looked in the hangari: I had probably used up a little more than 10% of its 33-liter capacity… Now, my equipment for steaming rice only allows me to steam two kilos of rice, give or take. So, doing a bigger batch, while possible, is a giant pain in the ass. I’d have to have a factory line of rice that was being washed, drained, steamed, and cooled pretty much all day long.
And then a light went off: Why not try the double danyangju recipe I had heard about at Susubori Academy? It works like an iyangju in that you’re adding a deotsul (or second stage of ingredients) but none of the ingredients (or typically measurements) change.
So, for the first few days, I stirred my brew as it important to aerate it once or twice, every day, for the first three days. On the fourth day, I added the deotsul: I steamed 1.5kg of glutinous rice, let it cool, and added it along with 1.5L of water. Since I was doubling down on the ingredients, I decided to take some artistic license and call this brew a Double Down-yangju.
Now, I’ve heard that other double danyangju recipes add the same amounts of nuruk and yeast, but I decided to pass as the yeast colony should have already been established. Furthermore, this is actually my second time trying this—full disclosure—and the previous Double Down brew came out great without extra nuruk or yeast.
I don’t have many notes between Day 4 and 14; the brew seemed to be getting along fine. I was just waiting for the tell-tale signs fermentation was done, which as I mentioned is a bit harder when you’re working with a hangari. When the brew hit the ten day mark, I did a match test, but no success. I tried every day after that but it seemed the brew was not ready.
It was probably on the thirteenth day that I noticed the scent: Something alcoholic but in a bad way. Sharp, acetone-like—plain off. I learned that this may be a result of pichia yeast, which forms on the top layer of the mash and can be harmful to your final brew. The easiest way to kill this yeast is to give your brew a stir. Ideally you do this as gently as possible to keep the anaerobic fermentation process going without too much interruption.
On the sixteenth day, I wasn’t getting a match to stay lit but I was seeing a top layer of liquid and the bubbling seemed to have significantly decreased. Time to strain. All in all, I came away with about six liters of wonju—my biggest haul to date.
This is my sixth stab at brewing makgeolli and I haven’t had such an unmitigated failure as this Double Down-yangju. What made it so bad? The acetone I picked up in the scent was just as present in the flavor, making this brew bitterly harsh and astringent. Now, mind you, it wasn’t just that this was a dry brew; I had encountered that in The Makgeolli, the makgeolli-making kit from Win Win Farm, and easily fixed the flavor with a bit of simple syrup. What I was experiencing in the Double Down was clearly something off.
I decided to let it sit in the fridge a bit. I watered it down. I added simple syrup. I tried to persuade myself that it wasn’t that bad. But, yet, it really was that bad, and I’m sorry to say that most of what you see in that picture was dumped down the drain. I can’t really say what happened here other than perhaps the pichia yeast went too long unchecked and worked its way into the whole brew. It’ll be necessary going forward to pay closer attention to the smell of the brew so as to avoid this problem. There is also the possibility that some of the equipment, including the hangari, was not sanitized properly. However, I feel I was extra careful to make sure everything was sanitized and then sanitized again.
|Name:||Double Down-yangju Hangari Style|
|Notes:||Day 2: When I checked the rice in the morning, the water had been completely absorbed, leaving very puffy, water heavy grains of rice. It almost looked too dry to do anything. At this point, I think a first time brewer might get concerned about the lack of moisture and think more water is needed. However, this is not the case. By the time I gave it a stir in the evening, a big gush of liquid burst up from the bottom of the hangari.
Day 3: The smell of fermenting was really coming off the brew. The mixture looked like it was in that in-between stage of not quite grains of rice and not pure mash. By the evening stir, the grains of rice looked very mushy and liquid was present even on top of the mash.
Day 4: Decided to add a deotsul. After talking to Becca, she said that Dan (Lenaghan) adds the same ratio of all ingredients, including the nuruk and yeast, to the mitsul. Brian Romasky said this is probably unnecessary and possibly even counterproductive as a new strain of yeast will need to establish itself and create extra CO2. In the end, I decided just to add chapssal and water. The problem was that I realized I had incorrectly measured out the mitsul ingredients. I thought I had added 2kg chapssal but I had only done 1.5kg. Because I had added 2L water in the mitsul, I decided that, for the deotsul, I would add 2kg chapssal and 1.5L water. It was very, very liquidy after I incorporated everything.
Day 5: Smell is good. Gotta be careful not to burn the nosehairs off when I stick my face in the hangari. Bubbling along as well. Perhaps my inaccurate ratios will not cause a serious problem.
Day 14: Noticed an acetone scent, which could indicate pichia yeast forming on the cap. I gave the whole brew a thorough stirring. Additionally, it seems as if the bubbling has diminished. Probably ready to bottle in the next couple of days.
Day 16: Acetone is still lingering. Bubbling has almost stopped completely. A layer of liquid forming at the top. Time to strain. The brew tastes boozy and sharp like acetone. The pichia might have had its way with this brew. I’ll bottle and fridge, and then report.
|Results:||Disaster. Unlike the previous Double Down, this one came out too bitter and off-tasting to drink. I tried watering it down and adding simple syrup but to no avail. As I mentioned when I bottled, the only thing I can point to is the pichia. Sad that this happened on my first run in the hangari.|
|After settling, a very thin layer of takju, and a lot of milky-yellow cheongju.||Chemical. Antiseptic. Boozy.||Thick. Umami. Acetone.||Harsh blast of something boozy in a chemical way with a slight sweet tinge.||Bitter flavor really lingers.|