Elderflower champagne problems from mould, no fizz to exploding bottles

Elderflower by Stephen Studd

Elderflower photo courtesy of Stephen Studd

For more recipes including an elderflower champagne recipe plus more problem solving have a look at my book, Booze for free.  Or if you are a lovely person perhaps you want to share that loveliness by helping to fund my 3rd book – Wild Booze and Hedgerow Cocktails)

If you are put off by all the problems you might have making this, then perhaps you might want to try making Elderflower Liquor and an Elderflower Tom Collins.

Over the last few years I have shared a few elderflower champagne recipes. It is a very popular drink it and at some point many people will have a go at making some. Now that I’ve written Booze for Free I feel that I should help people a little more in their elderflower woes as even my Mum who’s been making elderflower champagne since before I was born is calling me up for advice! The thing is, and this is something not many will share, the traditional recipe is not without its flaws and things can easily go wrong. I’ll try to address the most common elderflower champagne problems below, if I don’t cover your problem please leave a comment and I’ll update the post.

Exploding bottles

Essentially elderflower champagne is still fermenting. The bubbles are formed when the yeast “eats” the sugar forming alcohol and carbon dioxide. This gas can build up in the bottle and as it has nowhere to go the build up of pressure can cause an explosion. You can deal with this in three ways, firstly return to the bottles every day and “burp” them by loosening the tops and allowing air to escape.

Secondly, you can put the “champagne” into a demijohn (secondary) with an airlock on it until you need it. The downside of this approach is that you may forget about it and the champagne will fully ferment, meaning no bubbles it is also more alcoholic. But don’t fear, you can treat it the same as you would with beer and add some sugar solution afterwards to get it fizzy again. About 8g of sugar dissolved in a cup of boiling water per 1L of champagne is a perfect amount.

Lastly, the fermentation process can be slowed by putting the bottles in the fridge. No fermentation, no build up of gas. Don’t worry you can take them out of the fridge an hour or so before you need them for the fizz to return.

For more recipes and problem solving have a look at my book, Booze for free.

No fizz and mould

As I said in the exploding bottles bit, essentially the elderflower is still fermenting. Most recipes call for wild yeast however, this can be a bit of a Russian roulette way of brewing. Some areas are wild yeast deserts and there won’t be any floating about. Some areas will have the wrong type of wild yeast which might get to work momentarily and then die off. If you get this problem you might have to consider adding some yeast, I find champagne yeast works very well.

If you want to save a mouldy batch, well then I don’t rate your chances but you could try siphoning into a sterilized demijohn, leaving the mouldy top behind, adding a campden tablet. Leaving for a day or so then restarting with a champagne yeast.  Once something has fermented you won’t kill anyone with it (other than alcohol poisoning), so don’t worry about that.

Booze for free front cover

For more problem solving see Andy’s book Booze for Free

It helps if you make a yeast starter first. You can do this by putting warm water in a clean cup, adding half a teaspoon of sugar then sprinkling in the dried yeast. Make this a few hours before then pitch it (add it) to the must (champagne liquid).

Cat pee or cabbage smells

Always pick your elderflowers in the morning when the pollen is rich, before it gets deteriorated by the heat of the sun we’ve been getting it or the bees nick it or whatever it is that happens! After about noon they can start to smell of cat pee or some say cabbage, this is apparently due to the cyanide in the wood but I’m happy to be corrected on this as I can only find anecdotal evidence.

Whilst we are on the subject of smells, don’t shake your elderflowers to get rid of the insects as you will be shaking off the pollen and therefore the floral flavour. Instead put them to one on newspaper and let the bugs walk off by themselves, don’t worry they will!

When to use boiling water

As Russel has quite rightly pointed out in the comments below adding boiling water onto the flowers will indeed kill off the wild yeast. This is exactly what you are looking for when  you are adding yeast as you don’t want two yeasts competing. If you plan to let your champagne spontaniously ferment then do not add boiling water over the flowers. Hot water firstly disolves the sugar but then you need to add cold water before adding the elderflowers.

Alcoholic Elderflower champagne problems

If you have come here via my Guardian blog post about Alcoholic Elderflower Champagne as you are having problems I have to say that I have now tweaked the recipe here making it much more fool proof.

Solid jelly like


Bacterial infection, no cure. Wash and sterilize everything and start again.

Mousey flavours

A horrible smell not unlike the smell of hemlock or mice. It means your champagne is off and there is no cure, sorry! It happens due to unsanitary equipment.

Elderflower Cordial Problems

Elderflower cordial can often suffer the same problems as elderflower champagne. The biggest problems happen when there is little or no sterilization of equipment. See above for jelly like and mousey flavours/smells. Also see above for mould on your elderflower cordial.

Why would elderflower cordial blow up?

If you are worried that your elderflower cordial has blown up or started to overfizz it is because it has started to ferment. I remember making some elderflower cordial once, bottling it and leaving it out of the fridge. A friend opened it and got covered in half fermenting elderflower wine wine.

Wild cordials can start to spontaneously ferment when wild yeasts get to work on them. The fermentation process causes carbon dioxide gas. Left with nowhere to go in a bottle this can build up and cause explosions.

If you suspect that your has started to ferment you could put it in a demijohn and let it ferment out and see what you end up with. Or you could put it in the fridge. Yeast activity is suspended at low temperatures (well most yeasts) and bottles in the fridge are much less likely to explode.

For more recipes and problem solving have a look at my book, Booze for free.

Turning a different (darker) colour

Is this due to oxidation? A rusty colour and sherry like taste after fermentation is a sure sign that air has got into your champagne. Enjoy your elderflower sherry or kick yourself and tip it away. Next time ensure that there everything is sealed throughout the process or add a crushed campden tablet and see if that helps.

It could also be a problem with the recipe (I put my hands up here too), if it is suggested that you leave it to stand for a number of days before adding the yeast then ignore. The yeast should be added when the water has cooled to below 20°c.

Brown liquid It could also be a sign that you have not used any acid, squeeze in the juice of a lemon per (5L/1 gallon) demijohn full or half a teaspoon of citric acid.

 

Andy Hamilton

Brewer, forager, broadcaster, spaceman occasional liar

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122 Responses

  1. HannahKing says:

    Hello,

    I wonder whether you have any ideas as to why my elderflower wine, started to your recipe, goes black within a few hours? I am picking elderflowers from a pretty common, taking them off with a sterilised fork and clean hands, into a sterilised bowl, into a sterilised bucket, grating on lemon rind with a sterilised grater (!) all very well rinsed, and pouring on boiling water. Overnight it becomes black, like the colour of coke, but not fizzy, and smells a bit like bog water. This is the second time I have tried, putting the first down to probably having done something silly, but on second attempt it would seem I did everything right… !? I didn’t pick them on the sunniest day, as, here in Norfolk, we have been pressed for any at all, but I made elderflower champagne with flowers that had been picked in very damp weather and that is turning out lovely and clear. I am disappointed, but mostly thoroughly intrigued as to how this could happen – I mean really black (greenish), so very quickly – where is this colour coming from?

    Any light on this would be much appreciated.

    THanks, Hannah

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      I know when I pick Sumac in London it always turns water black, I put it down to pollution levels. Are you picking from near a road?

  2. Kate says:

    In Booze for Free you have several recipes for flower champagnes. In each one you say boil up half the amount of water, then (more or less) dissolve teh sugar in it and then add the other ingredients. But you never say what to do with the other half of the water! On your website the recipe for Elderflower champagne says boil up all the water and pour it over the sugar, etc. I’m guessing that that’s the right thing to do, but just thought you should know about the missing info in the book.

  3. Tessa says:

    I made elderflower champagne a few years ago and experienced all the usual problems with exploding glass and re-bottling etc. We only used half of it at a summer party and the rest has been sitting in our garage fridge ever since. It seems to still be pretty drinkable and so I was planning on using it for my mother’s 70th birthday. However, this is my query: four of them are in glass bottles (various types of lids) and apart from some sediment, are lovely and bright, fizzy and clear pale yellow. The rest are in plastic bottles (bought especially for the job after all the recycled ones were exploding!) and are also fizzy, but they are brownish and cloudy (still tastes OKish, doesn’t taste bad or off) and wondered if there’s anything I can do to get these ones to go clear? (They have sediment too.) I don’t understand why there is such a difference between the glass ones and the plastic ones. The professional plastic ones have a very tight seal on the lid.
    Any ideas?

    • It sounds like the sediment is not collecting at the bottom of the plastic ones and so is floating about, making the drink look cloudy. Suggest you siphon into more glass bottles, leaving as much sediment as possible behind and keep in the fridge too.

  4. Karen says:

    Hi
    I have made a batch of Elderflower champagne and as far as I can tell I followed the recipe and the instructions to the letter. I have a cloudy yellow liquid, with a lovely fizz, a pleasant smell of elderflower, BUT it tastes so sour/bitter/tasteless. I am struggling to describe it, but the nearest I can come up with is like when the syrup has run out on the pumped fizzy drinks in bars and all you are getting is the fizz. It was left for a week to ferment and then another week in the bottle, then chilled for 24hrs before opening. (I did used dried elderflower?) Any ideas, your comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • Hello Karen

      It could be a bacterial infection. Did you observe good hygine when making it? Steralizing everthing that came into contact with the must? You could try adding a campden tablet to kill it off, try it again after 24 hours. If needs be then adding a rehydrated pack of champagne yeast just to finish off any fermentation that might be left and see how you get on.

      Otherwise it could be less than satisfactory wild yeast that has got to work in which case you could try the above and let me know how you get on.

  5. Tom says:

    Quick question – if the elderflowers have the cat’s pee aroma, can they still be made into champagne? Or will the champagne also smell/taste of cat’s pee?
    Cheers
    Tom

    • It’s much better to pick early in the morning when high in pollen so that there is no cat pee aroma! It is the pollen that gives the elderflower that lovely flavour.

  6. Liz says:

    Hi! Thanks for this post! I am going to try my first batch of elderflower champagne and am wondering about the exploding bottles. Is there ever a point at which they are safe to cap and store? I was hoping to make this and give as a gift, but i dont’ want to tell them they have to keep it outside in case it explodes! Thank you! (i don’t have a demijohn, just glass bottles with screw top lids)

    thanks!

    • If you look at the alcoholic elderflower champagne and use that instead. The trouble with elderflower champers is that it is still fermenting. You could also make the cordial and put it through a soda stream or just add carbonated water if you wanted to cheat!

  7. Alex says:

    Hi Andy,

    I followed one of your recipes that said to leave the elderflowers to stand in water for 4 days before adding the fermentation ingredients. However my liquid is now a rusty brown colour, what can I do prevent this in the future?

    Thanks!

    Alex

  8. Alex says:

    Hi Andy,

    thanks for getting in touch so quickly. I was using this recipe http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gardening-blog/2011/may/12/gardeningadvice-gardens wouldn’t the boiling water have killed off the wild yeast? Because it says to add the champagne yeast after 4 days, by which point my mixture was rather brown!

  9. charlene vincent says:

    Hi Andy

    Please help! So happy to find you here.
    First time making elderflower champagne and in the fermenting stage it has mould on it.
    I think I left it for too long.
    I had to add a pinch of yeast after 3 days because no foaming happened, now I discover mould. I have scooped the mould off the top (though some must have mixed in the water or be present) – the liquid smells wonderful though, champagne already with good colour- no fizz yet though.
    Will I kill anyone if I continue with it and strain and put into sterile plastic/glass bottles ?? we are not keeping the champagne for a long time, maybe 3/4 weeks… can keep in fridge to slow the ferment as i read here.
    Hope to hear from you soon, thanks!
    Charlene

  10. Emma says:

    I bottled my champagne in flip top bottles, after seven days in a bucket. I left them over night and started to burp them the next morning, which was fine. I went back in the evening to burp them a second time and one bottle had already exploded. The bottles seem to be differing in fizz levels, is this normal? Also, how long do I keep burping them? Do I continue until drinking or is there a point where it becomes stable and I can stop? Finally, should I continue to burp more than once day?

  11. I’ve updated some of the text folks, hope that answers you questions!

  12. Russell says:

    Hi

    I have just filtered my elderflower mash into the sterilised second stage fermentation tank after 1 week, and there was some jelly like residue on my muslin after filtering.

    the air lock is bubbling away nicely.

    but my question is should I ditch this batch and start again ?

    as I read your article it says jelly is bacteria,
    I am now worried that i may be wasting my time with a contaminated batch

    Thank you

  13. Russell says:

    my father suggested exactly the same thing to me this afternoon
    he said let it brew and see what happens 🙂

    I think I may just be ok, I guess I will find out in a few weeks time.

    I did scrub the bucket with an anti bacterial washing liquid, but it was not properly sterilised, as I was panicking to get the last of the good elderflowers from my tree before they went brown.

    the stage 2 tank was properly washed and then sterilised with milton

    I am going to get another batch of elderflower going in the next few days using dry instead of fresh (just in case), as my tree is now making berries for autumn. I will also be making a batch of rose petal wine after the elderflowers, and next year I plan to give a dandelion brew a try in the spring.

    if this first batch does go bad, I can chalk it down to experience, but the gas coming from the airlock smells lovely, so I still have some hope it will work out good in the end 🙂

  14. Louisa says:

    Hi Andy, began our first attempt at elderflower champagne yesterday following the recipe published in the guardian. Almost immediately after adding the boiling water the flowers turned dark brown and liquid has become darker overnight. Is this and good to continue with or should we discard and start again? Really appreciate any advice you have! Thanks, Louisa

  15. Naomi says:

    Hi Andy, novice brewer here but massive fan of elderflower.
    Your site and recipes are great thanku.

    We have made the elderflower champagne 5/6 days ago and even though it looks and smells good there is no fizz in my glass bottles… Is this a problem, what will it be? How long should I leave it?

    Also the elderflower wine is fermenting nicely but this did go a little bown before adding the yeast with a couple of mould spots on top… I took these off and strained, added yeast etc…currently at the bubbling away stage I think, so any tips and do I skim off all the froth etc before putting in the demijohn?

    Our whole road is full of elderflower trees here in rural somerset so hoping its a good batch!
    Many thanks
    Naomi 😉

  16. Russell says:

    Hi Louisa

    I am no expert, but i would not have put boiling water on the flowers.

    if you watch some youtube videos you will see that the boiling water is used to help dissolve the sugar, and is added to cold water before the flowers are added

    not sure about your situation, but I don’t think brown is good, I would get some more advice from someone with experience.

    I have also read that the pith from the citrus can also make the flowers brown, I did not use any pith only the juice and i have a lovely golden yellow brew.

    Andy,

    on further thought about my circumstances, I am not sure that jelly is the right way to describe the residue on the muslin, I would say more like slime, with the consistency of mucus.

    my stage 2 fermentation vestal is a 30 litre drum with about 23 litres of brew, last night I added about half a kilo of sugar and the brew fizzed to the top, I scooped out the troth and it was big bubbles with a very light brown colour and settled to a mucus in the bowl that I put all the removed scum into.

    I did the same tonight but just a fraction of the sugar and the bubbles were white more akin to champagne bubbles and no mucus, I guess i was able to separate out and remove the contamination with this process 🙂

    Thanks for your advice to not discard the batch,
    I am sure now it will be lovely when ready !

  17. Russell says:

    Hi Andy

    sorry to keep posting here, but i would like to share my story 🙂

    so today I had a nasty feeling that when i dumped the half kilo of sugar, the mucus was lifted from the bottom of the barrel. so tonight i took my sterilised syphon and drew a sample from the bottom of the barrel, the sample has tested clear, no mucus !

    I do have some campden tablets on order (they should have arrived today), and will be adding a few just for good measure as soon as they turn up, but I am more sure now than before that my sugar shock treatment has rid my champagne of the slime and whatever infection it had.

    still over a week (maybe 2) to go before the hydrometer will reach the golden 1010 and I can bottle up 🙂

    so Andy, I plan to use 29mm crown caps when I bottle up as that is what they use in champagne production, before they degorge and cork.

    I have been collecting champagne bottles from bars and restaurants, making sure they are over 800 gram and no chips or scratches. ( not sure where i read the 800 gram thing, but most bottles I have are over 850 gram )

    do you think i will be ok with this method of bottling ? as you don’t mention this method in your article. perhaps it is in your book, I really must get myself a copy 😛

    • Don’t worry too much about the golden 1010, basically it needs to be stable so just ensure that you are getting consitant readings over a 3 or 4 days. Seems like it has fermented rather quickly though if you are ready to bottle? I can’t see why a crown cap wouldn’t work, I’ve had beers made using champagne yeast in champagne bottles with crown caps on them. I guess you might want to make sure you leave less ulage than you would.

  18. Russell says:

    Hi Andy

    can you tell me if there is much difference between the 2011 and 2013 edition of the book

    apart from basic corrections, has anything been removed from the old version ?

    or is the new version got extra content and ALL the original content

    or should I get both editions.

    Thanks.

    • 2013 edition is the American version and the 2011 is the UK version. Depending on where you live I’d suggest you buy appropriately. There is an extra recipe in the American edition, a few things have been tweaked and the weights and measures are to different standards.

  19. Russell says:

    Thanks Andy !

    I have purchased 2 hard copies of the UK version (one for a friend) I purchased from an online vendor, but did not see your preferred vendor as I would have purchased from them.

    http://www.beetrootbooks.com/product/5942/0/booze-for-free

    the tip about stabilisation is brilliant, I was not aware of this method and will use that as my measure of timing and bottling up.

    I had guessed that i needed less ullage form the videos on youtube of degorgement.
    this one is a good one of the traditional method, with no freezing as they do in the modern technique is the method I intend to use.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pH9CF756ZM

    I am certainly looking forward to experimenting and tweaking the many recipes in your book to our own taste over the years to come.

    as my book has not arrived yet, and I have seen you posted the recipe for dandelion on the blog, is there a nice recipe for rose petal sparkling wine in the book ? I see the recipe for elderflower and dandelion are similar, so I guess rose petal will be much the same.

    • Thanks for buying my book, twice! I don’t have a recipe for rose petal sparkling wine, but you could use the alcoholic elderflower recipe and swap the petals for elderflowers. Might need some experimentation first. There is a recipe for rose petal vodka that you might like!

  20. Charlie says:

    Hi Andy,

    Having read your above advice it looks like I’ve succumbed to ‘not adding lemon juice/citric acid soon enough brownness’! Unfortunately just ran out of time and the elderflower infusion was left for almost 2 days without the lemons – it had turned that lovely dark brown colour…now that the lemon juice has been added is there any chance that the mixture will clear and lighten over time? Is it a reaction with oxygen that causes it? Any light you could shed would be wonderful, thanks!

  21. jo says:

    Hi Andy,

    I started my first batch of Elderflower Champagne a week ago. I added wine yeast 4 days ago as couldn’t see any signs of it fermenting, and that got it going. There is a couple of small blue spots on the top, but the rest is a lovely yellow colour and seems to smell OK. I haven’t stirred it at all. Could this be why there’s a bit of mould on top? I sterilised everything apart from the cutters I used to snip them off the tree. My plan is to siphon into a demijohn to ferment for 3 weeks or so, and then add a half teaspoon of sugar to the bottles when I transfer, to kick-start fermentation again. I read this on another forum as the best way to avoid explosions! I am wondering what is the best way to siphon? Is it better to get a second bucket with muslim and siphon into there first, and then siphon again into demijohn?Would it be OK to tip one bucket into the other using the muslim in a sieve, or would sediment be transferred. I am worried that if I siphon it some bits may get stuck in the pipe . I’ve read lots about the making part but not the siphoning and bottling part. Any help would be much appreciated.

    • If the mould is on the top you can syphon without disturbing it, just leave the last bit. Mould due to there still being bits of elderflower on it perhaps? Don’t put sugar in each bottle, instead make up a sugar solution in 50ml of boiling water and add that. Type in carbon calculator in search engine and use that. want a carbonation of about 2.0-2.5

  22. Russell says:

    I have a theory about the brown problem

    I have just started my second batch of elderflower this time using dry instead of fresh (the first batch with fresh flowers is bottled and progressing perfectly)

    I have also upgraded my stage 1 fermentation tank, the new tank is much shorter with a bigger diameter

    my brew now is brown, not sure if it is due to the tank or the dry elderflowers or both

    but when I draw a sample with my syphon the brew is about the right colour that I expect

    I hope this will help some with concerns.

  23. Charlie says:

    Will do, I’ve kept it going as it has no ‘off’ flavour, and you never know how the colour might change as it undergoes fermentation. Thanks for getting back to me and happy elder flowering!

  24. Russell says:

    just a quick update on my dark brown mash

    now it has been filtered into the stage 2 tank it is lovely golden yellow

    I forgot to mention also in my previous that I also used an unrefined sugar
    that has also made this batch a little darker than the first.
    but I am more than happy with the batch

  25. Tim says:

    Hi Andy,
    As a first time elderflower champagne brewer I am perplexed and unsure what to do!
    My brew has been going for two weeks and my hydrometer reading is falling slowly but not got below 1.050. I understand that I shouldn’t bottle until the figure is approx 1.003? I added a small pinch of champagne yeast after 10 days as the figure was 1.080 and not showing any signs of bubbles etc so I guessed that no natural yeast was present in the flowers? The brew smells nice but am I right in thinking that the brew has stopped fermenting? Should I add more yeast or am I resigned to the fact that I’ve failed miserably? Heelllppp!!

  26. Clare says:

    Hi

    I’m a novice brewer and my elderflower champagne seems to have fermented ok and I left it for 6 weeks in plastic pop bottles. Just opened a bottle and it smells lovely and has a nice fizz, lovely first taste but then a really sour, yeasty aftertaste – bad enough to make it it undrinkable. Is there anything I can do to save it or will I have to dump it? If I open the bottles to add more sugar will I lose the fizz completely now?

    Thanks

    • Did you add any acid or yeast? Adding sugar to them will resart the yeast so it will add more fizz. I’d suggest putting it all into a demijohn, adding an airlock and letting it ferment completely out. Even adding some chapagne yeast if you haven’t already added yeast. Once fully fermented (no bubbles coming through the airlock), bottle and add 5g cane sugar per litre.

  27. Clare says:

    Thanks for the quick reply! Yes, I added lemon juice and yeast at the beginning and a tablespoon of sugar in each bottle when I bottled it. Thanks for the advice, I will try with the demijohn. I made about 18 litres so really don’t want to throw it away!

  28. Jackie says:

    Hi

    I made some Elderflower Champagne from your book, which was bottled on 25 July 2013. I tried one of the bottles last night but it tasted soapy (cannot find any other posts regarding this problem), no other problems with the look etc. Where have I gone wrong and is it recoverable?

    • Soapy tastes is often due to….. SOAP…. sorry to say but you might not have rinsed either the bottles or the fermentation vessel completely of soap residue. Irreversable I’m afriad. Hope it doesn’t put you off next year Jackie!

  29. Gavin says:

    My champagne is fizzing nicely BUT I’ve also got bits of mould – what should I do? Abandon and start again? Or filter into bottles and hope for the best?

  30. Ashleigh says:

    Hi Andy,

    I am hoping to make Elderflower champagne and have bought two demi johns to use. I live in an apartment block and thought demi johns would be the safest way to make the champagne in order to reduce the chances of any explosions occurring. I have been reading your recipe in my copy of Booze for Free although you do not mention using this method. Is it possible for me to do so and if so, can you advise as to how best to go about it?

    Many thanks!

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      Should be fine, you have airlocks on them right? The reason for doing a bucket first is that the fermentation in the first few days is very vigorous and in a demijohn you are likely to get a lot of the champagne going out through the airlock and onto the floor. So perhaps put them in the empty bath or bottom of the show for the first 3 days/ I’d add some of your own yeast too, some champagne yeast rather than rely on wild as you will be putting them into sealed units.

  31. Matthew says:

    Hello All/Anyone,

    A pointer would be greatly appreciated…
    We have strained our brew in to 8 demijohns with airlocks. Some are not bubbling at all, some are very very slowly. However one is going mental and bubbling a lot. All from the same brew.

    I’m wondering if some have more of the sediment than others.

    Should I be adding anything to help the others bubble or trying to stop the one that is??

    Hope to hear from someone.

    Matthew

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      Strained in? The one that was bubbling like mad, is that the first of the last? If worried you could pour it all back together and stir it about about a bit before syphoning back into demijohns. But I’d be interested in the experiment to see who they all taste.

  32. Claire Higgins says:

    Hi Andy

    I’m in the process of making my first ever batch of Elderflower Champagne. The recipe that I used involved cold water. After 3 days, I can’t see any signs of fermentation but then I don’t really know what I’m looking for. How obvious will it be?

    The recipe says to add yeast if after 3 days there are no signs of fermentation, so is it best to add it just to be on the safe side?

    Also, there a few little blobs of mould, hardly noticeably but is this going to become a problem?

    Unfortunately I have only just read this post and as I had read somewhere else that you should harvest the flowers in the evening, this is what I did!

    Any help would be much appreciated!

    Thanks

    Claire

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      To reply in turn to your questions Claire

      Add yeast yes, but I’d syphon first as mould will grow. Don’t worry about harvesting the flowers when you did, should be fine.

      Andy

  33. Sue says:

    Hi. I have made elder champagne for the last five years or so, apart from the first 2 years there has been something wrong with each batch, this years however I used your recipe of cutting thin slices of lemon. (not juiced and zest). I used Hugh FW recipe before. I bottled after 2 days, (Hughs 4 days). it was not that sweet so added a pinch of sugar in each bottle as some of your posts suggest. This years problem is after 2 days in bottles sediment is floating in and on top of the brew. it does not look like mould at the moment. should I strain or syphon it. its only been in bottles for 2 days. Any advise welcome. thank Sue

  34. Lucy says:

    Hi, I first started making elderflower champagne last year (successfully) and am having another go this year. You suggest releasing the gas every day or so, but how long should I do this for ? Every day until its ready to drink or just for the first 2 weeks or so ? Don’t want to overdo it and ‘burp’ all the gas out!

  35. Ashleigh says:

    Me again!

    Haven’t quite managed to get to the demi john stage yet. I’ve had the champagne fermenting in a large bucket covered in muslin. After the 4th day I still had no sign of fermentation so added a few small pinches of sparkling yeast. I’m on the fifth day now and still nothing spectacular is occurring. How long do I keep in the bucket now before I transfer into the demi johns? Once in the demi johns how long should they stay there before I put into grolsch style bottles?

    Many thanks again.

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      You need more than a few pinches! Add the whole packet of yeast. Then let this do its stuff for about 10 days to 2 weeks before putting into a demijohn, check to see if it has fully fermented using a hydrometer. If it reads the same for 3 days its done. Then put into bottles adding the priming sugar at a rate of about 40g per 4.5 litres… so mix the 40g of sugar in about 100ml boiling water, cool then pour into your demijohn. Mix well and bottle up… job done.

  36. Suze Green says:

    Hi Andy, I’ve just made my batch of elderflower champagne -it smells wonderful, plenty if fizz, tastes lovely BUT it must be very acidic because I felt like it ‘burnt’ me (like acid reflux) after drinking – can I save it?
    Suze

  37. Sue says:

    Hello Andy. still have some sediment on the top of the brew after 9 days. it does not look mouldy but more like scum. is this still ok. thanks for your advise. Sue

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      I am a little disturbed by the sediment on the top, did you use ale yeast? I think perhaps it is an infection, I’d suggest syphoning into demijohns, leaving the scum (sediment) behind and seeing if you can rescue.

  38. Sue says:

    Hi Andy, No yeast was used at all, I will syphon it, lets hope its ok. thanks for your help. Sue

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      Hmm….always think if in doubt use some yeast. A pack of dried champagne yeast, one of the Levin strains would be good.

  39. Ali DeMora says:

    Hi Andy, Just made a 20 litre elderflower champagne. It’s in day 2 of fermentation process. The ingredients have all risen to the top of the bin, is this normal?

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      Depends if you are using a top fermenting yeast, is there a blanket of foam? That’ll be the yeast if so and you’ll be fine.

  40. Paul stuhlfelfer says:

    Hi Andy
    After reading your book I made elderflower champagne for the first time following a method on YouTube,adding champagne yeast as I wanted an alchaholic brew,alas all the bottles blew their wired tops in about a week,it was very yeasty in taste,and sprayed about 15 foot in the air,practically emptying the bottle.
    So I’m on my second batch,23 litres water,20 flower heads,3 k sugar,juice and zest of 12 lemons,sachet of champagne yeast.this time after a week I siphoned into demijohns and after 3 weeks it smells fantastic,is clear and sediment at the bottom of the Demi, but is still fermenting be it a little slower,my hydrometer reads dry/ bottle,is there a simple way to know when to bottle,or should I let it finish bubbling and ad a bit of sugar to the bottle when bottling as my neighbour(who knows everything) suggests?
    Thanks
    Paul

  41. Andrea says:

    I made a batch of EF champagne exactly as per the guardian recipe, the cloudy fizzy pale yellow liquid tasted quite passable when I put it into the demijohn after 1week in the bucket. After another week and the bubbles subsiding I tested with the hydrometer and it was at the top end of the ‘bottle wine section’ but didn’t taste as good as when it went in , slightly bitter, although had cleared a bit, what have I done wrong? started a second batch with exactly the same results, cloudy yellow, fizzy and pleasant taste, bubbling away in demijohn, have I left it to ferment too long after 1week. don’t want the 2nd batch to go bitter. Can this bitter brew be rescued?

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      Hmm… bitter can come from the stalks, did you add any green bits or was it just flowers? Bitter could also be as all the sugar has been used up by the yeast, perhaps it just wasn’t sweet? You might want to try adding some non-fermentable sugar, a couple of sweeteners would do the job as a shortcut.

  42. Pamela says:

    Hi, my query is regarding Elderflower cordial so hope you can help? I made it about 2 weeks ago and left in flip top bottles in a cool place. It is clear and settled with sediment in bottom of bottles but on opening the unopened bottles, it pops the top off and immediately starts fizzing out of the bottles bringing all the sediment from the bottom with it, creating slime looking syrupy mixture. I have put the lid back on and put in fridge to see what happens. What I would like to know is it still safe to drink as cordial with water ? I would appreciate any advice.

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      Sounds like it has picked up some wild yeast, you have made elderflower champagne. It’s alcoholic (a bit), just drink it and see its not going to harm you. The worst that could have happened is that its picked up some bacteria casusing it to be “Ropey”, ie all of the molecules have roped together. Either way, it won’t kill you.

  43. Ashleigh says:

    Hi Andy,

    I have had my champagne in demi johns for a few weeks now. It has stopped bubbling so I thought I might transfer the liquid to the grolsch style bottles. How much sugar, and what type should I add to the bottom of each bottle to ensure I gain a little fizz again? Do I use sugar or make up a sugar syrup? Many thanks!

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      I’d go for 7g per litre, which is about an oz per gallon if using cane sugar. Just using normal sugar will do the job. I tend to make a solution in half a cup of boil water, let it cool a bit before adding. This helps even carbonation.

  44. Chris says:

    I’ve made elderflower cordial, wine and champers for a number of years. This year the cordial had very little flavour and the wine has virtually none. Have you had this before?

  45. Anne-Marie says:

    Hi, I have just poured out a glass off my Elderberry Champagne and it was thick, but bubbling like mad, every drop turned to bubbles, which I am afraid I slurped, very tasty.
    I wondered reading about the bacteria whether I should have done that, should I throw it away ? thank you
    Anne-Marie.

  46. Ashleigh says:

    There’s still no bubbles. 🙁

    • Andy Hamilton says:

      You could try and force CO2 into it, either with a soda stream or with beer brewing technoglogy. You did add extra sugar? You might want to read through the rest of the posts and replies here too and see if that helps.

  47. Ali DeMora says:

    Thanks just bottled the champagne from demi-john. It tastes superb, its BBQ time! Thanks this forum has been of great help

  48. Paul Roxborough says:

    I want to make a barrel (23 Ltrs) of alcoholic Alder Flower Champaign, what would be the best recipe to use?

  49. Gill Elliot says:

    I’ve just bottled my elderflower champagne. After 24 hours there is scum/bits floating to the top of each and gathering around the neck of the bottle. Should I try re-filtering or just leave it to settle? Also its in wired stopper glass bottles. Do I need to let off gas or will they be strong enough to withstand the pressue?

    • Filtering should work.

      It will depend on how early you bottled, it is a still fermenting product and so gas can build up. Would suggest putting bottles in the fridge to slow down the rate of fermentation.

  50. Jess Heard says:

    Hi Andy,

    I am currently fermenting elderflower champagne for our wedding next May and I’m just wondering what’s best to store the champagne in afterwards, I have around 25litres on the go at moment and hopefully another 25 this week, I was planning on swing top bottles so then I can relieve the pressure but how many times would I need to do so?

    I hope this makes sense.

    • It does make sense Jess and it’s not a straightforward answer I’m afraid. It will depend on the yeast and the temperature. You’ll just have to keep checking and work it out, if it is still vigorously fermenting then everyday, a slower ferment you may get away with once a week. I would suggest that you store somewhere cool though as this will slow down the ferment. It could also be worth picking and drying some more elderflower right now just so if needs be you can get some more made nearer the time. Anyway, I once fermented around 5 times that amount and just stored them in jars, plastic bottles or whatever I could lay my hands on, there were some leaks and explosions as I didn’t let any air out but most of it survived.

      You may also want to get one of your generous friends who are looking to get an unusual wedding gift to look at my pledge levels in my new book. One of them is tailored for weddings!

      Anyway, congratulations I hope it all goes well.

  51. Judith Martin says:

    Hi Andy,

    Googling “elderflower champagne failure”, I never expected to find such a comprehensive site! I’m not even sure it’s champagne I tried to make – the recipe said ‘sparkling elderflower drink’. It’s just sugar, lemons, a little vinegar, water – and elderflowers. I thought that if I’d got anything wrong it would be too many elderflowers, as I couldn’t bear not to use what I’d picked. But a couple of weeks later – and just before the party where I wanted it for the odd non-alcohol drinker – I’ve tried a couple of bottles and the texture is most weird. I’m not sure if it’s what you call jelly – it pours more like fresh egg white.
    It could well be that I didn’t sterilise properly – I thought all these processes depended on microbes and it didn’t do to kill everything – although I did wash the bottles and rinse them. Plus I’ve been reading The Diet Myth by Dr Tim Spector, who definitely believes we need more bacteria, not less. Is he wrong in the case of elderflower? Do I throw the whole lot away or will it evolve into something drinkable? The flavour’s not bad but the texture is revolting.
    Many thanks for your help, and an excellent site.

    • Hello Judith, thanks for the post. Well if it was for the non alcohol drinking they might be annoyed as it will have some alcohol in it. Might be a low level but it will be alcoholic, the fizz comes from C02 a by-product of the fermenting process.

      Sounds like ropey bacteria (see above) I’m afraid. The causes of ropiness is most likely because of poor hygiene methods. Yes we do need more bacteria, but your elderflower champagne doesn’t. There was a time when fermentation was thought to be something that the gods blessed us with as sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. We relied on wild yeasts, expecting them to fly into our open fermentation. Sometimes they would but, sometimes bacteria or a yeast that didn’t ferment well would instead. Only a small percentage of brews worked well, many failed and thus we thanked the gods for the ones that worked. You could continue to thank the gods having used many bags of sugar and all the elderflower in the village or you could steralize. From my rather unbiased and non directed response you could possibly work out where I stand on the issue 🙂

      Anyway, good luck with the next batch.

      Personally, I’d start again and sterilize everything.

  52. Michelle says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve just found your site and ordered your book (it looks amazing). Last year I made Elderflower Champagne for the first time and it turned out perfectly and has been a huge hit at parties. I did pick my flowers in the rain so had to add champagne yeast. It fizzed away happily for 2 weeks before I bottled it.

    This year, I have doubled my batch so that I can share more with friends. However, it doesn’t appear to be fizzing as well as it did last year. I picked my flowers in full sun to try and utilise the natural yeast but didn’t realise that mornings are better. It has been brewing in a sterilised tub for approx one week now. There is no mould or gloopyness, however around day 4, I noticed only a tiny bit of natural fizz so, (probably prematurely) added champagne yeast to try and get it fizzing like last year’s batch. The little fizz I had, disappeared and now it now only fizzes when I stir it.

    Could I have too much in one container? I added about 35l of water to three bags of flowers (and appropriate levels of sugar, lemon zest & juice and vinegar).

    It definitely smells ‘boozy’ and now I just want to get the fizz back again. What can I do? I have more champagne yeast on order, and more sugar on stand-by.

    Thank you for providing such a wealth of knowledge!

    • Take a gravity reading with a hyrdrometer, It might be that you have made some elderflower wine. See the recipe for alcoholic elderflower champagne and follow the details there for more information. If you can’t take a reading then drink about a pint of it and see if you feel light headed, if you do you might have very booze elderflower champagne.

  53. sarah says:

    Hi Andy, I started a batch of Elderflower champange just 3 days ago, I don’t thing it is going to ferment so I will add yeast but there are a number of small £2 coin and bigger white jelly like blobs now mixed in with the flower heads floating at the top of my bucket..??
    Another question if I may? What temperature should I keep things at?
    Many thanks,
    Sarah

  54. Linda Williams says:

    Hi Andy. I have just made my first batch of elderflower champagne. I picked in the afternoon, only washed my buckets and bottles in hot water, had a small bit of fluffy white mould on top, added some baking yeast, didn’t syphon but did strain into bottles through muslin (one of my kids old washed ones). Is nice an fizzy, slightly cloudy yellow but tastes great. Will it do me any harm or only good?! Thanks

  55. Jodie says:

    Hi Andy,
    Fantastic blog, and great advice. I am still puzzling over my elderflower champagne however…. I made my first batch a few weeks ago and before bottling noticed a small speck of mould on the top of the liquid which I scooped off. I then filtered and bottled it and today opened the first bottle. Not expecting any fizz I lost a third of the liquid, which shot and fizzed out, and has a taste. It tastes great, but is very cloudy and there is alot of pale sediment at the base of the bottles. I’ve been worried since the mould that I might poison someone – and am concerned about the sediment being not entirely normal for elderflower champagne. Should I be chucking the lot? huge thanks
    Jodie

  56. James says:

    Hi Andy,

    my second year of making Elderflower champagne and it’s been a real pleasure after making every schoolboy error last year. I have 25 bottles in the garage. The first twelve I bottled after 3 days fermenting, the rest I bottled this evening after 10 days fermenting. Absolutely no mould, amazing smell and still a bit fizzy (I went OCD on the sterilisation this year). Do you think the bottles which have been fermented for 10 days will be fizzy? It smelt a lot more alcoholic and tasted a lot less sweet than the 3 day batch. If it isn’t fizzy, I’ll try your advice above – do I need to empty all of the bottles into the vat again to add the sugar solution or just add a little to each bottle?

    Just found your blog etc… tonight, love it… shall read more!

  57. Aaron says:

    Hello Andy!

    Thanks for all of the tips and advice. It seems that I’m experiencing a few of the minor issues mentioned on here, but the champagne has fermented well and is producing lots of carbon dioxide in the bottles.

    My only question is if the champagne still tastes ok is bacteria a major worry? Will I still be ok to consume it even if I didn’t sterilises everything? Am I going to die Andy? Ha!

    Many thanks,
    Aaron

  58. Aaron says:

    Haha! Thanks for the honest advice! I’m off to buy your book.

    Hugh Fearnley who? 😉

  59. Chloe says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve made elderflower cordial for a couple of years and am going to try a small 6L batch of champagne this year as a trial run for my friends wedding next November. I have no special equipment and found an easy looking recipe online, but having some of the comments on this I have a few questions.

    My recipe says to ferment in a bucket for 2 days, add yeast if needed and then ferment for a further 4 days before bottling, is this long enough?

    Also, are there any helpful tips to stop bottles exploding? I was going to use 1L glass Grolsch-style bottles that I got from Ikea, but having read a few of the comments here I’m concerned about exploding bottles. It says to keep the bottles somewhere warm (room temperature) and dry so I was going to keep them in the house, but as I have two cats and a dog I don’t want exploding glass bottles in my hall.

    Any advice for a new start?

  60. Alison Fox says:

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve just come across some bottles of Elderflower Champagne that I made in a bucket 4-5 years ago. I just opened one bottle to throw it away ready for my latest batch but it is actually clear, fizzy and doesn’t taste too bad. Is it safe to drink or should I pour it down the sink please?

  61. Sarah says:

    Hi I’ve made elderflower champagne and waited for it to stop fermenting in the demijohn , I’ve tasted it and it taste very strong and slightly bitter . Not sweet like previous batches .i added extra sugar and let its started fermenting again. But it still tastes overpowering of elderflower and a bit bitter . Is there anything I can do to make it taste nicer . Thanks

  62. Steh says:

    Hi Andy

    I have made some EF Champagne for the first time this year. I only made a small batch to see how it went. Out of the 4 bottles 2 were clear and tasted nice but 2 are cloudy and taste yeasty.
    Do I have to get rid of these or can something be done?
    Thanks

  63. Hannah says:

    Hi
    I’ve made elderflower cordial lots of times before. I made a big batch this year. Several of my bottles have had a pop upon opening and have a fair bit of sediment. It smells okay. Just wondering if it’s safe to drink.
    Thanks

  64. Jasmine says:

    Dear Andy, fantastic resource- thank you.
    I’m hoping to make some Elderflower champagne this June and store it until serving it at my wedding on 21st September. I’m afraid I’m a total novice and I’m still confused about storing the champagne.

    At what point should I close the lids on the bottles tight and stop ‘burping’ the champagne?
    Is it possible to burp the champagne too much and let all the fizz out?

  65. Jasmine Pradhan says:

    Dear Andy,
    Thanks for this fantastic resource. I really hope you can spare the time to answer my question!
    I’m clear about how to make the EC up to the fermenting stage, but if I make it in JUNE and want to drink it in SEPTEMBER then what is the process? At what point do I close the lids on tight (and stop burping the bottles)? And am I at risk of the champagne losing all its fizz over such a long storage time?

    Thanks a million and more !

    Jasmine

  66. Ann Graham says:

    What an amazing website. So much information.
    I was interested in your comments about jelly like elderflower cordial.
    I made elderflower cordial this week, but a nebulous/jelly like suspension has appeared. I am now wondering if it is safe to drink.
    I did not sterilize items at the initial steeping stage (2 days), but once the cordial was strained I brought it to a rolling boil and then bottled it in sterilized bottles. I then treated it in a water bath for 15 minutes. I wanted to store my cordial long term at room temperature.
    I didn’t notice the ‘jelly’ before the cordial was bottled, but noticed it whilst it was cooling on coming out of the water bath.
    I made a separate batch the same day from flowers from a different source and which had only steeped for one day. This appeared clear, but now after 3 days a similar suspension is starting to appear.
    The seals on the bottles are still secure (I used the Weck system of bottles).
    Do you think this is bacteria, or something precipitating out as a result of the heating process? Do you think I should dispose of it?
    Thank you.

  1. June 23, 2012

    […] Although we already have an elderflower cordial recipe on our elder article it is one for making it in bulk. I decide that as I have just made a smaller batch of elderflower cordial, some elder flower champagne and our forum is buzzing with talk of elderflower wine it would be good to put up a few recipes here. Elderflower cordial – Elderflower Champagne – Elderflower wine For any problems with elderflower champagne please see Andy’s other site. […]

  2. October 25, 2013

    […] For any problems with elderflower champagne please see Andy’s other site. […]

  3. January 22, 2014

    […] other ingredients without really worrying that what you get will be unedible. I’d been making elderflower champagne for years and understood that although the elderflowers were used for their yeast that other flowers […]

  4. May 29, 2015

    […] & Strawberry Yoghurt Popsicles Gooseberry & Elderflower Fool Elderflower Champagne Elderflower Pâte de Fruit Elderflower, Pistachio & Strawberry Bundt Cakes Elderflower […]

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