Elderflower Champagne Recipe and problem solving flat Champagne
Updated: Jul 15
Elderflower champagne is a sparkling, mildly-alcoholic beverage made from elderflowers, sugar, lemons, and water. It is a traditional and popular drink, particularly in UK, where elderflowers are abundant during the late spring and early summer.
To make elderflower champagne, the elderflower heads are harvested when they are fully open and fragrant. The flowers are then steeped in a mixture of water, sugar, and lemons for several days to extract their flavour and aroma. The mixture is usually left to ferment naturally with the help of wild yeasts present in the environment, creating a slight fizz. After the fermentation process is complete, the liquid is strained and bottled. It can be stored in a cool place for a few weeks to develop more flavour before being consumed.
Elderflower champagne is known for its delicate floral taste and refreshing qualities. It is often enjoyed as a summertime beverage, served chilled and garnished with fresh lemon slices or mint leaves. It can also be used as a mixer in cocktails or as a base for other fruity beverages.
It is the small white or cream-coloured flowers that appear in late spring that are used to make this fizzy elderflower wine or as it is more commonly known as elderflower champagne. Let's dive into how to make elderflower champagne and learn a little about its history as a drink.
You are going to need some kit for this including a large and very clean container to mix and store the champagne in its early stages as well as those pop top bottles that you can seal similar to those on Grolsch beer bottles or my favourite olive oil! But first a little about its origins.
History of Elderflower Champagne
Elderflower champagne dates back centuries and is deeply rooted in European traditions. Elderflowers have long been used for their aromatic and delicious properties, and the practice of making elderflower-based beverages can be traced back to medieval times.
Elderflower champagne, also known as elderflower wine or elderflower cordial, was a popular homemade beverage in rural communities across Europe. It was especially prevalent in the UK, where elder trees grew abundantly. Elderflowers were gathered in the late spring or early summer when they were in full bloom and carried a distinct floral fragrance.
The process of making elderflower champagne involves collecting elderflower heads and combining them with sugar, water, and sometimes additional ingredients such as lemons or citrus zest. The mixture is left to steep for a few days to infuse the flavours. Yeast is then added to initiate fermentation, converting the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, creating the effervescence associated with champagne.
Traditionally, elderflower champagne was made in small batches by families or communities, and the recipe was often passed down through generations. It was a refreshing and celebratory drink enjoyed during festive occasions or as a homemade alternative to commercially available alcoholic beverages.
In recent years, elderflower champagne has gained popularity beyond its traditional cultural origins. It is now widely appreciated as a unique and refreshing beverage, often served during summer gatherings, garden parties, or as a cocktail ingredient. The use of elderflower in various culinary applications, including beverages, has also been popularised by the introduction of commercial elderflower-flavoured products.
Overall, elderflower champagne has a rich history as a homemade beverage deeply ingrained in European traditions, and its appeal continues to grow as people appreciate its delicate floral flavors and effervescent nature.
Is Elderflower Champagne Alcoholic?
Yes, elderflower champagne is typically alcoholic. While it is referred to as "champagne," it is not true champagne produced in the Champagne region of France. Instead, elderflower champagne is a type of sparkling beverage made from elderflowers, sugar, water, and yeast. The yeast ferments the natural sugars in the elderflower mixture, resulting in the production of alcohol. The alcohol content can vary, but it is generally low, similar to other light alcoholic beverages such as beer or wine. It is important to note that the fermentation process can take several days or weeks, so the elderflower champagne needs to be properly stored and monitored during that time to achieve the desired alcohol content.
Elderflower Champagne Recipe
4 litres hot water
2 litres of cold water
Juice and zest of four unwaxed lemons
2 tbsp’s of good white wine vinegar
About 18 elderflower heads (completely open)
A small pinch of dried yeast
Start by checking your container is very clean, pour the hot water into it and add the sugar stirring until the sugar dissolves, then top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total, stir again. Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently. Now, cover the container with a clean muslin or a large tea towel (as long as it can seal the top completely) secure the cloth top and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a 6 days (the garage is great as long as you don’t keep the car in there or anything that might affect the champagne with its smell.
Quick note, check it after a couple of days and if there is no signs of fermentation add your pinch of yeast and stir (I used bakers yeast although champagne yeast is available).
How long before you bottle Elderflower Champagne?
Once 6 days has passed your mixture would have really begun to ferment and that sugar started to turn to the all important alcohol - you can tell by the odour and the fizz on the surface of the champagne. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve (making sure that nothing passes through it). Once you are sure your mix is completely filtered and clear pass it into the clean (sterilised) bottles and seal.
Making Elderflower Champagne? Get your Champagnes bottles from our shop.
How do you know when Elderflower Champagne is ready?
Knowing when elderflower champagne is ready for bottling requires a combination of observation and understanding the fermentation process. Here are some indicators to look for:
Bubbling activity: Initially, during the fermentation process, you will notice vigorous bubbling in the airlock or the formation of a frothy layer on top of the liquid. As fermentation progresses, the bubbling activity will gradually slow down. When you observe very minimal or no bubbling for a consecutive period of time (usually several hours or more), it is an indication that fermentation is nearing completion.
Gravity readings: Using a hydrometer, you can take gravity readings of the liquid. At the beginning of fermentation, the gravity reading will be higher, indicating a higher sugar content. As fermentation progresses, the gravity reading will drop. When the gravity reading stabilises at a specific level over a few consecutive days, it suggests that fermentation is complete. Typically, the final gravity reading should be close to 1.000 or lower, indicating that most of the sugar has been converted into alcohol.
Clearing of the liquid: Initially, the elderflower champagne may appear cloudy due to suspended particles and yeast. As fermentation completes, the liquid will gradually clarify, and the particles will settle at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. You can visually assess the clarity of the liquid by gently shining a light through the vessel. When the liquid appears clear and there is minimal sediment movement, it suggests that fermentation is nearing completion.
Taste test: A taste test is a subjective but valuable method to determine the readiness of elderflower champagne. Take a small sample from the fermentation vessel and taste it. The flavour should have a balanced sweetness, floral notes from the elderflowers, and a slight effervescence. If the taste is pleasing and the sweetness is at the desired level, it indicates that the fermentation process is likely complete.
It's important to note that the fermentation process can vary depending on factors like temperature, yeast activity, and recipe variations. Therefore, it's recommended to observe multiple indicators and ensure stability over a period of time before considering the elderflower champagne ready for bottling. Taking gravity readings and tasting the liquid at different stages can provide valuable information about the progress of fermentation and help determine the appropriate time for bottling.
Like anything alcoholic it gets better with age, so please don’t drink it straight away. Why not leave it for a few weeks and then drink it. It will last for longer and if you wanted to or indeed had the will power to do, you could have a bottle or two left for Christmas morning too!
Problem Solving: Why isn't my Elderflower fizzy?
There are a few potential reasons why your elderflower champagne may not be fizzy:
Insufficient fermentation time:
Carbonation in elderflower champagne is typically a result of the fermentation process, where yeast consumes sugar and produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct. If you bottle the elderflower champagne too early, before fermentation is complete, there may not be enough carbon dioxide produced to create noticeable fizz. Make sure you allow sufficient time for fermentation to finish before bottling.
Inadequate yeast activity: If the yeast used in the fermentation process is not active or viable enough, it may not produce enough carbon dioxide to create fizz. Ensure that you are using fresh and active yeast suitable for fermenting beverages. Using champagne yeast or a specific wine yeast strain can help ensure better carbonation.
Inadequate sugar for carbonation: The fermentation process requires sugar for yeast to convert into alcohol and carbon dioxide. If the elderflower champagne mixture does not have enough sugar, there may not be sufficient carbon dioxide production to create fizz. Double-check that you have used an appropriate amount of sugar in your recipe.
Bottling issue: If the elderflower champagne is not properly sealed in the bottles, carbon dioxide may escape, resulting in a loss of fizz. Ensure that the bottles are securely capped or corked to maintain the carbonation. It is recommended to use bottles specifically designed for carbonated beverages, as they can withstand the pressure generated by the carbon dioxide.
Insufficient temperature control: Yeast activity and fermentation can be influenced by temperature. If the elderflower champagne is fermented at a temperature that is too low, the yeast may become sluggish and produce less carbon dioxide. Conversely, if the fermentation temperature is too high, it can cause excessive yeast activity and result in over-pressurised bottles or potential explosions. Maintaining a suitable and consistent fermentation temperature within the recommended range can help promote carbonation.
If your elderflower champagne is not fizzy, you can try troubleshooting by allowing more fermentation time, checking the yeast viability, ensuring sufficient sugar levels, ensuring proper bottle sealing, and monitoring fermentation temperature. Remember that carbonation can vary depending on various factors, and it may require some experimentation to achieve the desired level of fizziness.
How to use Elderflower Champage
There are several delightful ways to enjoy elderflower champagne. Here are a few popular options:
Classic Elderflower Champagne: Serve elderflower champagne chilled in a flute or wine glass. The delicate floral and bubbly nature of the drink makes it refreshing on its own, allowing you to savor the natural flavors of the elderflowers.
Elderflower Champagne Cocktail: Use elderflower champagne as a base to create delicious cocktails. You can mix it with a splash of your favorite fruit juice like orange, grapefruit, or peach for added sweetness and flavor. Alternatively, combine it with a shot of gin or vodka and a squeeze of lime for a sophisticated and refreshing cocktail.
Elderflower Spritzer: Create a light and refreshing spritzer by mixing elderflower champagne with sparkling water or soda water. Adjust the ratio to your taste preferences, and garnish with a slice of lemon or a sprig of fresh mint.
Elderflower Mimosa: Put a twist on the classic mimosa by substituting the traditional orange juice with elderflower champagne. Combine equal parts elderflower champagne and chilled citrus juice of your choice (such as orange, grapefruit, or blood orange) in a flute or wine glass. It's a delightful and elegant drink for brunch or celebratory occasions.
Elderflower Champagne Sorbet: Get creative and use elderflower champagne to make a refreshing sorbet. Mix equal parts elderflower champagne and simple syrup, then freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. The result is a delightful and light frozen dessert with the subtle flavors of elderflower.
Elderflower Champagne Punch: For larger gatherings or parties, consider making a batch of elderflower champagne punch. Combine elderflower champagne with fruit juices (such as pineapple, cranberry, or passion fruit), sliced fruits, and a touch of sparkling water. Add ice cubes and serve in a punch bowl or a large pitcher. It's a crowd-pleasing and visually appealing drink option.
Remember to adjust the ratios and ingredients according to your personal taste preferences and the occasion. Feel free to experiment with different flavours, fruits, and spirits to create your own unique elderflower champagne concoctions. Enjoy responsibly!
We also have a great selection of Wild Brewing and Fermenting Books.