KOOKSOONDANG vows to protect the precious traditional Korean wines and culture.

How to Brew Korean Wine

The process of brewing traditional Korean wine starts from the brewer’s sincere intent of coming up with the best brew, as well as from the act of brewing itself.

Traditional Korean wine, which has a beautiful color and a glorious fragrance, is considered a noble food imbued with the brewer’s love. The whole process of brewing, from the brewer’s sincere intent of coming up with the best brew to the act of brewing with sincerity, is as follows:

Looking into the brewer’s mind and heartLooking into the brewer’s mind and heart

How did our ancestors brew?

At first, people practiced ancestor worship with clean minds and bodies, which shows that they considered the state of one’s mind very important for the act of brewing. There must have been no contamination by various germs because the brewers had humble and sincere minds and hearts and observed the most exacting hygiene standards in the process of brewing. If one is in awe of and cherishes nature, nature will reward him for such attitude. The Korean ancestors believe that and lived in accordance with such belief.

Treading nurukTreading nuruk

The first step in brewing traditional Korean wine is making nuruk for alcohol fermentation.

Nuruk for brewing is made from wheat powder and fungi, which is fermented and propagated.
The process of making nuruk is as follows:
(1) kneading the unhusked wheat powder with water until it becomes hard
(2) putting the dough into the nuruk frame and pressing the dough within the mold firmly with one’s heel
(3) putting the nuruk frame at a well-ventilated place with fungus and yeast, for fermentation.

The well-fermented nuruk is one with the fungus evenly and thoroughly distributed in it, and smells sweet. The nuruk that is made from unhusked wheat is called maknuruk. It is used to brew wine. Nuruk is very diverse, depending on its ingredients, brewing time, shape, grinding, color, the province where it was made, etc., and the tastes of wines are very different from one another.

The various ways of handling the ingredientsThe various ways of handling the ingredients

The major ingredient of traditional Korean wines is rice harvested with the hands and heart.

The major ingredient of traditional Korean wines is rice harvested with the hands and heart.
According to [Koryo Dokyung], travel sketches written by Seogeung, an envoy from Song (one of the dynasties in China 800 years ago), “The wine of Koryo is made from nonglutinous rice, which makes it different from that of China.” There are various ways of handling the rice. The tastes of the wine and the period of fermentation differ depending on the ways of handling the rice, such as raw rice, hard-boiled rice, rice cake, steamed rice cake, gu meong-tteok (a kind of rice cake made from nonglutinous rice), mulsongpyeon (a kind of rice cake steamed on a layer of pine needles), beom beok (a pudding prepared with rice), gae tteok (bran cake), juk (rice gruel), and dough kneaded with hot water.


Rice handled for wines and nuruk should be prepared, preventing them from being contaminated by various germs.

After mixing the rice for wine and nuruk powder with the water that was boiled and cooled to prevent contamination, or taken from the spring immediately before mixing, pour the mixture into the liquor jar. At this point, the liquor jar should be used for making wine and not for making kimchi or for other usages, which would help prevent contamination.
The liquor jar should be stored in a place that is not too warm or too cold. Once the wine starts to ferment, ventilate it so it would not become too warm. When the fermentation is completed and the ground sinks, put rice for wine and nuruk in it again, and repeat the whole process. This way of brewing is called jungyang. The wine that is processed through three-time jungyang is called chunchu. It is considered the best wine. If the jar sounds clear when one knocks on it, or when the fire cannot be extinguished when the neck of the jar is set aflame, the brewing has been completed.

Filtering the wineFiltering the wine

1) Ladling out yakju, the clear strained rice wine

The way to ladle out clear rice wine is by putting a rice wine strainer in the middle of the jar and then ladling out the wine that penetrates the strainer. This is the real cheongju and yakju. Very strong and tasty yakju can be made this way. If one intends to make more yakju, though, he can put all the contents of the jar in a bag made with loose clothes and squeeze the bag from the beginning.

2) Filtering takju (unrefined wine)

After ladling out the yakju, brewers mix and mash the ground with water and screen the mix. This is called makkoli. Suntakju is high-grade takju that is brewed only for the purpose of making makkoli, which includes wines like ewhaju, which is so thick that it can be eaten with a spoon.

Distilling sojuDistilling soju

Soju is is made from gathering the steam that evaporates by pouring all the contents of the liquor jar into an iron pot and then boiling the pot.

This is called distillation, which was derived from Arabia’s perfume-making skills through Mongolia. When the pot is boiled, the alcoholic steam that boils at a temperature under the boiling point of water, and the scents, vaporize and accumulate on the upper inside cover of soju gori (a special pot for distilling traditional Korean wine, which looks like two pots connected to each other). Then, when the steam hits the cover with water poured into it, due to the temperature gap, drops of wine are formed and are sent to the nozzle, which become soju. If one wants a high alcohol percentage, he can repeat the process that was explained earlier. The alcohol percentage can be made as high as 45%.

Container, glass, and bottleContainer, glass, and bottle

There are various tools and containers for storing and drinking traditional Korean wines.

The containers for storing the wines are daedok, dok, keun hangari, hangari, and danji. (These are arranged according to size. Daedok is the largest, and danji is the smallest.) The different sizes and shapes of the jar make the taste of wines diverse. The vessels that can be used to drink wines are bae, jan, and sabal, depending on the shape and size (sabal is the largest). The different bottles that can be used to store wines are ubyung, oribyung, horibyung, gakbyung, jarabyung, and pyunbyung, depending on the shape.
The wisdom and stylishness of the Koreans’ ancestors permeate the entire Korean culture. The containers that are used for storage, and the tools that are used for brewing the traditional Korean wines seem rustic, but they have a natural style and a practical function that make them deserving of being cherished, while for the bottles and cups of China and Japan, their function or style are considered more important. While getting to know and getting a feel of the traditional Korean wines created with harmony between nature and human beings, you can find their true character.
The traditional Korean wines are our friends who are secluded but are united with nature, the food that helps a person maintain his good health, and medicines that are useful for human beings in relation with other human beings, for human beings in relation with themselves, and for human beings in relation with God. The Korean ancestors thought that medicine, food, and wine have the same origin. Shouldn’t we start looking into their origin then?

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