Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

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The Count
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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 260939Post The Count »

Reading this discussion, half the participants seem to be experts and the other complete beginners. I’m a bit of both being a keen country wine maker but never elderflower till this year. I have just tried out Andy Hamilton’s recipe, but with 5 pints of elderflowers and a 5 gallon bucket and this morning it is bubbling away quite merrily. I thought I’d add a few observations from my previous experience, some of which have been touched on by other contributors. The hedgerows here in West Sussex are laden with elderflowers right now so there’s still time to start.
Flowers.
The first batch I picked during the recent rain had next to no fragrance. The next lot picked on a sunny afternoon 2 days later were quite pungent. Logically this must strongly determine the final flavour.
Hygiene
Absent from Andy’s Grauniad article was the golden rule of winemaking – absolute cleanliness. Your perfect environment for microbial life is just as attractive to every other mould, fungus and bacterium. Traditional cider makers and country wine makers simply rely on the natural wild yeast on the fruit or on the walls and old equipment and so can’t sterilise. Because Andy’s recipe uses introduced yeast, you can. So no more ropiiness/slime/mousiness.
Clean everything before you use it with VWP Cleaner Steriliser at a pound a pot from ebay, it’s the stuff designed for professional food preparation.
Add 1 campden tablet per gallon. Basically this creates a sulphur dioxide which kills the bacteria and wild yeast from your elderflowers. (It also neutralises any chlorine in your water). It adds no flavour and is dissipated well before the wine is ready. Some green folk think adding any chemical to be a bad thing, but using sulphur in winemaking is as old as the craft itself. Historically a sulphur candle was burned inside each wine-barrel before its use each year.
Hydrometer
Basically a glass tube with a weight at the bottom which you drop in your wine to see where it floats. About £3 from ebay. It measures how ‘thick’ or ‘heavy’ is your mix – in the jargon, its ‘specific gravity’. Really what it measures is how much sugar is in your solution. As the sugar turns to alcohol, it gets thinner and your hydrometer sinks a bit lower every day. When it stops sinking, fermentation has stopped – either because all the sugar is now converted, or something’s gone wrong.
At the start of my fermentation the s.g. reading is ‘1080’: that is purely a product of Andy’s sugar to water ratio and nothing to do with the elderflowers. In my experience that will create 12-15% alcohol. When all the sugar is gone it will read about 1000 or 998 or so.
Yeast
I always make a starter bottle of fermenting yeast at the same time as adding the yeast to the bucket. It jusy means boiling up some of the sugar in half a bottle of water and adding some yeast to it when cool. The super sugary solution kicks off quicker, however my elderflower mix got bubbling on its own this time.
Different yeasts die off at different strengths of alcohol; this is why Andy recommends champagne yeast. Baker’s / beer/ cider yeast will be killed off below or well below 8% alcohol – leaving you with a sickly sweet wine on Andy’s recipe. Champagne yeast survives up to 12-15%. This is the other reason not to rely on natural yeast – unless you want a very mild drink of course.
Secondary Fermentation
My ‘fizzy’ cider was a bit of a disaster last year. I added too much sugar and many of my beer bottles exploded. Five of my eight cider bottles too. (Luckily they are stored in old WW2 buildings). I’d say less is more and ½ a teaspoon of sugar probably too much. I’m going to use mineral water PET bottles so I can release excess gas over time, which you can’t with beer and champagne tops.
Stop Fermentation
If you don’t want fizzy, but also cloudy, elderflower wine, you can stop the fermentation at the level of sweetness you prefer by adding campden tablets again. To get it crystal clear you can buy ‘finings’such as Kwik Klear, which clogs together the tiny particles so you can strain them out.
Homebrew Equipment
This is what I’d buy as a beginner to maximise your luck from one of the many ebay shops.
• 2 gallon bucket with lid and a rubber grommet plus ‘bubbler’ (keeps bugs out and tells you how its fermenting)
• Tub of VWP Cleaner Steriliser (also to clean old bottles)
• Tub of campden tablets
• Hydrometer
• Fine muslin
• Champagne yeast plus yeast nutrient

Hope this is useful to someone. Raoul

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 260970Post MKG »

Nice opening post, Raoul.

Just one thing - if you have Campden tablets, you already have have all the sterilisation power you need - so why bother with the VWP steriliser? Plus, VWP has a pretty nasty taint if you don't rinse your equipment several times after use (a bit like Campden tablets, in fact).

Mike
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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 261436Post Skid »

Hello,

First post here, despite being a long-time reader.

I've got Andy's Booze for Free book, and in the book it has a recipe/ingredient list of:

6 large flower heads
1Kg sugar
8 litres of water
4 lemons
3 tbsp mild white wine vinegar.

In the method though, it reads:

Shake the flowers to remove any insects, put the sugar in a sterile bucket, boil up half the water - pour it over the sugar, etc - but then doesn't state what to do with the rest of the water. I assume top it up with the rest? Would I be correct in that?

Sorry for such a basic question, I'm guessing it was just left out accidentally but wanted to check so I can try a few different methods to see which we prefer.

Thanks

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 261449Post MKG »

Absolutely right, Skid. It's a bit difficult for most to boil up 8 litres of water and, apart from a bit of sterilisation, the real purpose is simply to make dissolving the sugar easier - and you don't need 8 litres of boiling water to do that.

Mike
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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 261452Post Skid »

Thank you Mike :)

Popped to the allotment last night, to find only 1 flower head on the tree at the side of the site. I'll have to keep my eyes open - have found a small tree *covered* in flower heads, but it's right next to a main, busy road which puts me off somewhat.

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 261486Post Andy Hamilton »

Hmm... sorry we missed that. Yep, Mikes right and you could get away with boiling a couple of litres.
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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 261939Post sheridand »

I was wondering if you could use the flowers from the pink ornamental Elderflowers? I have two massive pink flowered ones in my garden, but they don't really smell. I'm assuming the scent is necessary? I was just thinking they'd make an awfully pretty looking champagne.

I also sneakily tasted my dandelion wine as I racked it off today. Tasting good!

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 262321Post daveyboy »

Hi All,
Firstly, thanks for all the helpful and knowledgeable advice on this thread.
Just a quick question:
I've had a 25l batch of elderflower champagne on for 6 days which has had no added yeast. It is in a fermenting bucket with lid but does not appear to have started fermenting as there are no bubbles - I think the water I added at start was too hot and killed the natural yeast. Also a small amount of mould has appeared on the bits of flower/lemon on the surface of the brew. Could I rack the liquid off into another bin and restart fermentatio with champagne yeast? Or will the mould have ruined it and should I start again?
Would be grateful for your opinions as to whether this batch is salvageable.
Thanks,
Dave

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 262330Post frozenthunderbolt »

you could try racking it and then adding a coupple of campden tablets, then leaving for 24 hours and introducing a yeast starter. If you have more than a few spots of mould though it if probably not worth the risk, + it is fairly likely to taste 'mouldy' sorry.
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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 262341Post daveyboy »

Thanks for the advice, frozenthunderbolt.
There is only a little bit of mould so I'll try what you've suggested and see if I can save it.
Thanks again,
Dave

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 262679Post sheridand »

Just to say I decided against elderflower champagne with my pink elderflowers and went for wine instead, and it's looking pretty good thus far, bubbling away nicely with a beautiful pink colour. Blogged here.
http://fenlandwittering.blogspot.co.uk/ ... ll-of.html

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 262831Post ktibble »

Without meaning to look a bit silly...

I am 90% sure I have elderflowers in part of my hedge, but I am sure I heard something a while back that they can be easily mistaken for a similar flower. Is there anyway of knowing for sure???

Apologies for a silly question but I would really like to give Elderflower champagne a go and wish to avoid poisoning anyone !!! Some are in flower now and others look like they are thinking about it, if that helps (I live in Oxfordshire)

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 262989Post GeorgeSalt »

ktibble wrote:Without meaning to look a bit silly...

I am 90% sure I have elderflowers in part of my hedge, but I am sure I heard something a while back that they can be easily mistaken for a similar flower. Is there anyway of knowing for sure???

Apologies for a silly question but I would really like to give Elderflower champagne a go and wish to avoid poisoning anyone !!! Some are in flower now and others look like they are thinking about it, if that helps (I live in Oxfordshire)
If it's 6 feet up, it's probably elder. I have heard people get confused between rowan and elder, but they're very different. There may be ornamentals that appear similar, but the potential list of ornamentals found in UK gardens is very long.

There's some good identification information here (Woodlands) and here (Natural History Museum) and here (Woodland Trust).

Things to look for:
Leaf-shape - it's compound pinnate (ie. each true leaf is made up of several smaller leaflets), there are an odd number of leaflets (usually 5 or 7) with one on the end and 2 or 3 pairs of leaflets opposite each other along the spine (opposite, they do not alternate). The edges of the leaflets are slightly serrated (toothed).
Flowers - large flattish-topped clusters of creamy white flowers (other colours occur in cultivated varieties) with a distinctive smell on a warm, sunny day. The smell could be described as slightly sweet, slightly vanilla, can be cloying and powerful, sometimes reminiscent of cat pee later in the day. It should be flowering now, and will probably have been flowering for the last couple of weeks (or more).
Stem and branches - older growth is woody, fresh growth is green. The plant is very fast growing, expect a fair amount of new growth to be visible.
General habit - it's a big shrub or a small tree. If undisturbed it's more tree-like, but is very tolerant of pruning. It can grow it's way through a hedge until it pops out the top/sides. We have a couple that grow up through a leylandii hedge.
Curently collecting recipes for The Little Book of Liqueurs..

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 263041Post clare »

Not all elderflower smells like cat pee!!My book says avoid the flowers that do and pick ones that don't.My flowers smell ok but the ones up the lane stink.It varies from plant to plant.I alway use old lemonade bottles as we did have a glass explosion once!!The longer you leave it in the bottle the more alchoholic it is and tastes better in my opinion but I am a dry wine drinker so leave it as long as possible.
Grow it,make it ,eat it, drink it and sleep well!

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Re: Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne

Post: # 263052Post Helsbells »

Haven't read this whole thread, but I will be cracking open the elderflower champagne this evening! Excited! John Seymore's recipe though not Dave's. Will report back on the results.

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