Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How to brew Elderflower Champagne

Ooh, so nervous about guest-blogging on my wife’s blog. She’s far funnier and eloquenter (see!?) than me. Thanks Middy for letting me have a go!

When one becomes confident enough in one’s own brewing legendarity to decide to guest-blog about how ‘quick and easy’ a simple springtime champagne is… yup - you guessed - it all almost goes belly-up.

But don’t let that daunt you - this delicious Elderflower Champagne really IS easy to make, now that I’ve made the mistakes for you…

And the end result - enough summery booze to float a small ship at a tidy 7% ABV, or thereabouts…

Before starting, you’ll need a few things. I’ll divide this into two lists - Equipment, and Ingredients. Actually, no, I’ll waffle a little, and divide this by places you buy stuff from.


1 bucket to ferment in. Assuming you don’t have a fermenting barrel, Payless Plastics sell 20l food-grade pails with lids.

An airlock for your bucket, and a holey-bung to hold your airlock. Here you’ll need a trip to the home brew store - perfect if you really want to ensure you feel like an old piss-head, booze-hag, or master-craft-brewer, depending on your gender and zen on the day.

While you’re there…


Pick up a decent champagne yeast and some wine nutrient (not having this was my own big mistake).

Plastic Bucket with Lid ~ $15
Airlock ~ $6
Sparkly yeast sachet ~ $6.50
Wine nutrient ~ $6ish

Then, off to the Supermarket for

3kg white sugar
White wine vinegar
6 lemons


Step one - pick elderflowers from the side of the road. I never realised how abundant and everywhere they were until we did this.

You need about 35 decent heads of Elderflower.

Dissolve sugar in boiled water. Pour into fermenter/bucket. Zest and juice lemons and add to barrel. Add 2 Tbsp of white wine vinegar. Check Elderflower for any brown manky bits. Remove mank. Add to syrup. Fill barrel two thirds with cool water. Stir like a mad thing to aerate. Fill barrel to 19-ish litres.

^^ DO NOT use this yeast, pictured. More on this in a mo.


You’re aiming for not-cold, but not warm. 20-28 deg should be fine. Assuming you started with a few litres of boiling water, just add the rest as cool tap-water.


The official story is that Elderflower should have enough wild yeast on it to start the fermentation. Obviously the yeast-fairy didn’t shake her thang over our bush of choice though. And don’t even think about using the generically specified ‘Brewer’s yeast’ in other recipes. My fermentation didn’t kick for more than a week, and this made me very nervous, as this lag-time is where things get whiffy and forked.

Basically just follow the steps on the yeast sachet - a half tsp of sugar in 50ml of warm water, add yeast AND yeast nutrient. Wait half an hour. Stir, and add to your barrel. Don’t stir the barrel. At least, that’s my advice. Let the yeast you added start fishing at its feet, and spread out from there. Other more advanced brewers may tell me this is bullocks.

Fit your barrel lid and airlock. First time, this involves drilling a tight hole for your rubber bung. Put some *boiled* water in your airlock, to about half-way up the chambers. The purpose of the airlock is to stop your brew getting infected by letting the CO2 out, but no air in.

The CO2 is the yeast eating the sugar and converting it to alcohol.

After 24 hours or so, the lid of your barrel should be tight and puffed up a bit, and hopefully your airlock should be bubbling away, anywhere from a blurp every few seconds to just a few times a minute.

Assuming your fermentation kicks good, it should be done in a week. Leave it two, till the lid goes slack, and the airlock water-levels go even (I’m trying not to mention ‘Hydrometer’, as I don’t want to over-complicate this for you).


Using sterilized (fresh from dishwasher) equipment, add 1 level Tbsp of sugar to each 1.5 litre bottle. Scoop elderflower from the top of your brew with a sieve (sterilized!). Line a funnel with muslin. Scoop out a pitcher-full of your soon-to-be champers, and pour it into bottles. Leave a bit of space at the top.

As you get to the bottom of the barrel, try not to disturb the yeast-cake that has formed on the bottom too much. You’ll see it clouding as you do. It’s a bit tricky to scoop the last little bit out. You’ll probably waste a wee bit.

Cap bottles tightly. Invert and shake a bit to get the sugar mixed up. Place somewhere even-temperatured-ish (spare room wardrobe here).

Watch those suckers like hawks to make sure they don’t chain-reaction explode all over your wife’s lovely new carpet.

When bottles are fully tight, chill and enjoy. You’ve got about 3 months - 5 and she’s getting pretty tart and dry.

One 1.5l equals about 9 standard drinks, which seems like a fair challenge.

Any probs, flick me a message at facebook.com/stevebells.

1 comment:

  1. awesome. I'm totally going to make this. And you're eloquenter enough.