Home-Brewed Rice Wine


To make rice wine at home, all you need is rice and one special ingredient: a yeast ball, which is a mixture of microbes, fungi, bacteria, and yeasts, dried out and combined with rice flour into a ball about the size of a Ping-Pong ball.


4 cups uncooked sweet glutinous rice

1 Chinese yeast ball (available in Chinese groceries)

Place the rice in a bowl, add hot water to cover by 1 inch, and soak for 1 hour or as long as overnight. Drain the rice and place it in a large pot. Add 3 cups of water, bring to a boil, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through but not too soft; the grains should remain separate. Set the pot aside.

While the rice is cooling, crumble and sprinkle the yeast ball over the rice, and stir it in. Use a rice paddle to push the rice evenly against the sides of the pot until you have a well in the middle. Cover the pot with plastic wrap, and then place the lid over the plastic wrap. Wrap the pot in a heavy towel and place it in a warm, dark place. Let stand for about 5 days to ferment.

After 5 days, the well in the rice should be full of liquid with some light effervescence. If it’s not, rewrap the pot and let it stand longer, for as long as another week—but keep in mind that as the rice continues to ferment, it will start to lose its effervescence and deepen in alcohol content and flavor. Taste the liquid as it ferments to determine when it’s reached your liking.

To finish, spoon the rice into a square of cheesecloth and squeeze the liquid into a clean jar. (The fermented rice can be eaten or added to dessert soups like the tong yuan.) Pour the liquid remaining in the pot into the jar, screw on a lid, and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to one month.

Note: Depending on how long the rice wine brews, its pungency and proof will vary, moving quickly from a sweet, effervescent wine to a whiskey-like soju. And because it isn’t pasteurized, the liquid will sour and turn into vinegar if it’s left to ferment too long. Unlike wine, where the fermentation is of naturally occurring grape sugars, rice wine is made from rice starch that has been converted to sugar, so it is more akin to the process of making beer and whiskey.


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