Appearances Can be Deceiving: Doburoku vs Makgeolli

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

Have you ever tried doburoku?
Doburoku is instantly recognizable by its opaque white, milky, yogurt-like appearance.
However, it is very easy to mix doburoku up with a similarly milky looking alcoholic beverage from Korea called makgeolli (pronounced ma-kori). Apart from their different country of origin, there are a number of very stark differences between these two beverages.

In this article, we filter out the mystery and get to the bottom of what really sets these two cousins apart.

About Doburoku

In the case of Doburoku, it is fairly easy to produce. In fact, it is regarded as one of the most primitive forms of sake. So much so that in the past it was brewed everywhere from the family household to the farmer’s house. It is made by adding kome-koji (moldy rice) and yeast to cooked rice. The introduction of liquor taxation laws in the Meiji Period saw home-brewing outlawed. Fast forward to the present and the home-brewing of doburoku is in most cases still illegal. Although the origin of doburoku, is like doburoku itself, not clear, it is thought to have traveled over from China as a stowaway with rice cultivation. Just like wine, the earliest alcohol beverages produced through rice fermentation were deeply rooted in religion. People would offer up harvested rice to the gods in return for a bountiful harvest the following year—throwing in a cup of doburoku simply sweetened the deal further. This tradition is still practiced today at shrines throughout Japan.

About Makgeolli

Makgeolli is a traditional sake from the Korean peninsula. It shares the same milky, opaque-white appearance as doburoku, but that is where the similarities end. That is because makgeolli is in fact filtered, albeit very coarsely. The word makgeolli is an amalgamation of the words Ma (meaning coarsely) and koruda (meaning to filter). It is thought to have been discovered by blending the sediments of traditional alcohol beverages with water. In post-war Korea, makgeolli made up 80% of the alcohol consumed in all of Korea. Although doburoku is rarely flavored with anything, modern makgeolli production can infuse a variety of flavors such as mango, apple, pears, matsutake, ginseng, and jujube.

Difference between Production of Doburoku and makgeolli: Production

Doburoku and makgeolli are both brewed alcoholic beverages like beer produced through a multiple fermentation involving the extra step of starch to sugar conversion that is not required to make wine.
But there are some differences in the production method between these two beverages.

Different Ingredients


The ingredients are very different!
Doburoku is made with only rice. However, although the main ingredient of makgeolli is rice, it can also be made with potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn. It is thought that Koreans began the practice of adding other things besides rice during a period of food shortage in the Korean peninsula.

Difference in Taste


Both are very rich with a soft sour-sweetness and an effervescence. Doburoku is perhaps the richest with a very sticky sweetness. Makgeolli tends to be much more sour and fizzier.
Generally, both doburoku and makgeolli are both drunk straight. However, makgeolli is usually only drunk cold. Doboroku, on the other hand, can be enjoyed at a range of different temperatures, just like its descendant sake. Subtle changes in temperature can dramatically alter the flavor and aroma of doburoku and lead to the discovery of new taste experiences.

The difference in Alcohol Strength

Doburoku has more or less the same average alcohol strength as its descendant sake which is around 15-16%. Makgeolli rarely exceeds 6-8%.