Introduction: Elderflower Champagne! a Cool Crisp BBQ Booze !!!

Picture of Elderflower Champagne! a Cool Crisp BBQ Booze !!!

After seeing this done on a UK cookery programme i gave it a go! couldnt be easier and this instructible will show you how me and my brother went about it step by step making 6 Litres of lovely bubbly booze!

Not only is this my first published instructible but im also entering it in the Summer BBQ competition so lots of feedback and lots of votes please :) What better for your summer BBQ but some home made seasonal, summery, chilled fragrant elderflower champagne!

so as not to be accused of plagiarism the recipe was from here. hats off to Hugh and check out his site for more recipies, cookery books and to read up on his campain ' chicken out' to increase public awareness on battery reared chicken living conditions!

im in the last stage of the process at the mo and will update with pics of the grand opening!

to cover my back... a few obvious points:
-this makes an acoholic brew of unknown strength (probably around 4%) so no underage drinkers!
-the pressurised bottles may well explode so be careful and use common sense

-WARNING- I have just been informed by a much wiser instructabler that elderflowers look very similar to the VERY POISONOUS hemlock plant! make sure you know what you are picking!!! As far as i know the main difference is that elderflowers smell amazing and grow from larger bushes and hemlock (apparently used as an execution method in times BC and added to a brew by the Macbeth witches) has red spotts and marks on its stems. More to come!

Step 1: What You Will Need :

Picture of What You Will Need :

ok first things first... things you will need. gather em up before picking the elderflowers!

-a Big ol' bucket, (bigger than 6 litres) nice and clean, the one i got was marked safe for food products for extra safety but its up to you.
-lemon juicer and zester
-strainer and a clean tea towel or cheese cloth (for straining)
-enough bottles to fit it all in. make sure they are good thick bottles ideally with a latch type lid. this is gonna be under a lot of pressure and ive heard horror stories of this stuf exploding with messy and potentially dangerous consequenses!
-a way of getting the stuff into the bottles, i used a tube as a syphon but a jug or funnel would do.

ingredients (in UK measurements):
2kg sugar (i know i said 2KG but its actually supposed to be 1)
4 litres hot water and 2 litres of cold
Juice and zest of four lemons (make sure u get unwaxed lemons or ull get waxy scuzz on the top of ur brew)
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
A pinch of dried yeast (you may not need this)
About 24-30 elderflower heads, in full bloom

All in all, pretty cheap ingredients!

Step 2: Mix It Up!

Picture of Mix It Up!

ok go pick a load of elderflowers (25 - 30 heads, this is no exact science). They're reaching the end of their season at the mo but there may be a few left still. i have some growing at the bottom of my garden but generally go for a walk and find a big elderflower bush in hedges). They are all over the UK but im not sure you get these elsewhere in the world so lemme know :)

the beauty of this recipe is the simplicity. elderflowers have a natural yeast on them and its best to pick the flowers on a dry sunny day so the yeast hasnt been washed off by rain.

-ok click on the kettle and boil up 4 litres of water - chuck it in the bucket!
-add 2KG* of sugar, sounds a lot but this is turned into alcohol - chuck it in the bucket!
-zest 4 lemons then juice em - chuck the zest and juice in the bucket! (are you sensing a trend here?)
-add the white wine vinegar (any light tasting light coloured vinagre would probably do) - Chuck it in the bucket!
-add 2 litres of cold water to cool the potion down a bit so as not to kill the flower's natural yeast - Chuck it in the bucket!
-check the flower heads for creepy crawlies but dont wash them or ull loose the yeast - Chuck 'em in the bucket

How easy was that! now cover ur bucket up with a thin cloth so it can breath and leave it for 2 days in a cool dry fairly airy place!

*i know i said 2KG but further research suggests its actually supposed to be 1KG, ill try this nxt spring and let u know how it fared.

Step 3: Take a Cheeky Peek.

Picture of Take a Cheeky Peek.

after 2 days in the bucket give the brew a little peek. if the natural yeast is doing its job there shuold be bubbles on the top, maybe some foam and possibly even some fuzzy mould - dont panic this just means the yeast is doin its fermenting job and turning the sugar into alcohol!

if there are none of these signs add a little pinch of dried yeast. if you have a brewers yeast thats great if not go to your local bakery and ask nicely for a pinch of live yeast and they might give you some paste looking gunk. im sure you can guess what to do with it now ....Chuck it in the bucket and stir it all up!

after this, whether u added the yeast or not, put the bucket back in the cool dry place for another 4 days

Step 4: Sterilise and Strain

Picture of Sterilise and Strain

ok 6 days or so have passed now its time to bottle it up!

its best to clean the bottles and sterilise em as best u can.

you can do this chemically but i just put them all in the dishwasher (at 65oC) and then dried them by putting them in an oven on the lowest possible heat. i washed the lids seperately because the rubebr seals may have melted in the oven.

ok thats done let them cool down while doing the next bit.

mix the brew and give it a lil *sniff sniff*! smells good huh?

now get another squeaky clean container (at least 6 litres big or a 2 smaller containers) and put in the strainer with the thin cloth on top.

ok now pour the whole of the bucket's contents through the cloth and strainer into the other container

Step 5: Have You Got the Bottle!

Picture of Have You Got the Bottle!

ok bottling time!

i used the old fashioned siphoning technique of put the bucket high with a tube in. suck the tube till the liquids nearly out then put the end into the bottle. this may seem slightly counterproductive after all the sterilising you did but on the plus side u may be lucky and get a lil taste he he.

now me and my bro could only find ten 500ml bottles untill we cleaned out the store.... massive preserving jar to the rescue!

box em up and put them back in the cool dry place. like i said i have heard stories of bottles exploding so best to put em in a box somewhere where out of the way that you wont mind cleaning up. Not by your bed, not by your pets bed , not on top of the £5000 LCD TV etc.

right now leave em for another 8 days in the bottles (and jars) for the rest of the sweet sugars to be turned into alcohol and the gasses to buil up some pressure.

ive heard this brew, if done correctly, can last up to 2 years but im not gonna wait that long.


JorgeG52 (author)2017-04-18

Poderia mencionar o nome científico da planta? Penso que seria uma boa forma de evitar equivocos para identificar a planta correta...

MelanieK2 (author)2015-06-08

rosina.east (author)2014-12-16

we have elders in Australia. We make the elderflower cordial and the elderberry syrup. now having a go at the champagne...

rosina.east (author)2014-12-16

we have elders in Australia. We make the elderflower cordial and the elderberry syrup. now having a go at the champagne...

telephoneguru (author)2014-07-17

hi its a fantastic post and actually i have need of champagne for my party of hubby b'day thanks for showing this post now.

telephoneguru (author)2014-07-17

hi its a fantastic post and actually i have need of champagne for my party of hubby b'day thanks for showing this post now.

blauschmetterling (author)2010-11-27

I would think you would want to keep the potion in an airtight container while its fermenting (that is actually the definition of fermentation, it requires an anaerobic environment). In order to keep it from 'splodin' I suggest using an airlock. You can either get one from a gourmet/homebrew store (they're about $1 here in Richmond, VA, so they shouldn't be much more in the UK) or fashion one using a balloon (there are several instructables on this).

I checked with a local brewer and if you follow the recipe as described in this instructable, you apparently need oxygen for the wild yeast. He recommended an airlock with a cotton ball jammed in the end to act as a coarse filter.

I currently have two containers fermenting: one which I added the elderflowers to hot water (to kill the wild yeast), added all ingredients and then added champagne yeast with a (water containing) air lock, the other container is being fermented using the method described above.

I will post again with a comparison after they have been bottled and tested.

djsc (author)2010-07-22

I had a go at this lately, using Hugh Fearnley-wotsit's recipe. It hadn't fermented out enough when it went into bottles and I now have 'bottle bombs', where fermentation has continued in the bottle, pressurising it to a dangerous level. The smell that comes off them when you open the bottles is amazing, but the unfermented sugar left in mine makes it far too sweet. I would leave it a bit longer than the 6 days he stipulates, or rack it into a demijon first to settle the yeast.

daithiocoinnigh (author)djsc2010-07-31

Indeed, as long as the fermentation keeps out nasties and lets out air, 2-3 weeks will produce a more crisp flavour. additionally a hydrometer will provide a scientific method to find out when fermentation has stopped.

nieks (author)2010-07-16

I seems interesting, but what was the result? From my, not verylarge, knowledge of winemaking and beer brewing it seems that you are bottling this way to fast. It normally takes some time for wild yeast, or normal yeast, to settle in and convert all the sugars, and if you bottle it so soon you might have to watch out for your bottles, indeed, exploding from high pressure. In my opinion, it would be better to wait until all the sugars have been fermented, then bottle it with a few ml's of sugar syrup (1:1 sugar:water) to make sure the gas production won't be over the top.

dan moulton (author)2008-11-09

Its early summer here in New Zealand and there are heaps of elder flowers out. So i've just brewed up a batch of this. I thought it wasn't going to ferment but its just started bubbling away in my brew barrel. Very exciting! Should be able to bottle in a week or so. If it works out i might have time to do another brew before all the flowers are gone.

pfiddle (author)dan moulton2010-05-02

 Pick the flowers and freeze 'em. DO NOT under any circumstances pick flowers that are dying. You'll end up with a very acidic gloup.

If you can get J.J.Berry's (Bible) on The Home Brewer.
Making mead with ANYthing other than just honey is called melomeal and takes months rather than many many years to be drinkable.

Chard (author)dan moulton2008-11-12

good work! ill actually be in new zealand as of 16th Jan (5 weeks from auckland to dunedin) so ill come and judge your efforts personally ha ha!

dan moulton (author)Chard2008-11-12

Nice one, international elderflower wine judge! i'm in Christchurch in the South Island. Feel free to message me if you're passing through.

RedneckAsian (author)2009-11-02

You need to write how to distinguish elderflowers from the fatally poisonous hemlock

Chard (author)RedneckAsian2009-11-06

Thats an excellent point! i didnt even know the difference myself or infact that we had such a poisonus plant in the UK. all i knew was that elderflower smelt amazing and went by my mums word that the bush in our backgarden was indeed elderflower.

as far as i can tell the best way to tell the difference is elderflower smells great and hemlock has sinister looking red blotched on its stems. if you know any other ways of telling please email me ansd ill add a step asap!

AmyLuthien (author)Chard2010-04-30

If it's any help . . .

This is Elder:
This is Hemlock:

Note the difference in the leaf shape, the Hemlock is more "fern-like"

ll.13 (author)Chard2010-01-03

Hemlock is a ground plant/weed whereas Elder bushes are small tree / large bush like.

I don't think there's easily confused... if at all. ;)

Chard (author)2010-04-08

nearly ready! im keeping a close eye on this plant!

if you liked this check out my new brewery build here!

Chard (author)2010-03-28

For anyone in the UK wishing to try out this lovely recipe, start getting in the spirit because my massive elderflower tree in the back garden is starting to sprout leaves! Spring had sprung and elderflower champagne will definately follow.  im already getting requests from friends and falimy for bottles and now im a much more accomplished homebrewer and i have a zillion bottles, i plan on making a LOT of this!

RamDragon (author)2010-03-23

Bakers Yeast tends to be several strains of yeast. Different brands give different flavors, and it's hard to control your outcome even using the same brand! But campaign yeast or some other brewers yeast is generally cheap and easy to find.

Looks good! Can't wait for the update.

Chard (author)RamDragon2010-03-24

i know that now but didnt at the time! infact i knew nothing at all about brewing. now i am a fairly accomplished beer and cider homebrewer so this year as soon as them flowers appear im gonna go nuts with them. elderflower beer, elderflower champagne, cordial (for the non alcoholics) and maybe some elderflower ice cream!

blodefood (author)2010-03-16

I am challenged to come up with a family friendly non-alcoholic version.  I guess if you reduce the sugar considerably (say 25 to 50 mL for every finished L?), boil everything in a quarter of the water and then when cool, strain and add one part brew to three parts club soda.  You could put it in a punch bowl for a party and float elder leaves for decoration or you could bottle it that way, but it would need to be used up within a couple of weeks and might be a lot less bubbly.

Chard (author)blodefood2010-03-17

id say follow the recipe (with the 2kg sugar) but like you said boil a load of water in a big pan till you get a good rolling boil. then turn off the heat and steep the elderflowers in this for 5-10 mins and this will kill any natural yeasts on the flowers). then dissolve the sugar and add the lemon etc but dont add any yeast.

let it infuse for a while then bottle in sterile bottles and keep cool. would be great in a virgin cocktail with cranberry juice, lime, soda/tonic water and lots of ice :)

blodefood (author)Chard2010-03-20

That's helpful, but I am trying not to make it too sweet.

I like your cocktail suggestions.

mannyisdead (author)2010-01-08

Nice. I'll try it with mexican sambucus or saúco... hope it works.

davin_x (author)2009-10-12

Ok, lets have more info on the box mod (box holder for the bottles)

Chard (author)davin_x2009-10-14

Heh. This was just a little joke. we only added a D on to the end of'waste' under the recycle image (wasted being an english colloquialismfor drunk encase ur not from the UK).

davin_x (author)Chard2009-10-14

Oh yeah I totally got your waste -> wasted comment.

I was however quite interested in the cardboard box bottle holders. Didthose come with the bottle purchase? Any chance you can open it allout and have the drawings so we can reverse engineer it on some waste cardboard?

No Elderflowers here in Asia though!

Chard (author)davin_x2009-10-19

reverse engineering carboard carriers eh? ill get on that ASAP and make an instructable for you !

interestingly i found dried elderflowers at my local homebrew shop so may try making a brew with them and compare to the real flowers. i found some for sale from a quick google which lead me here. £1.90 for 50g so maybe you would need 3 or 4 bags to get the same batch as me.

davin_x (author)Chard2009-10-19

Sweet, cant wait for that cardboard carrier instruk-tu-bal (instructables).

I'm looking at making cider here first, at least apples is something we can get easily :D

tunneler (author)2009-09-20

A few notes which may help out if you're doing this again this year (and I hope you do, this looks AWESOME, wish I had elderflowers in my area). 1. To transfer in a more sanitary way you can rinse your mouth with vodka or other strong spirits beffore sucking BUT the best way is to fill the transfer tube with clean (sanitary) water and keep your thumb over one end so the water doesn't come back out. Put the other end in the bucket, release your thumb and the water will draw the other liquid through the sucking required. (Catch the water in a third small vessel to aviod watering down our brew) 2. Please be careful using glass bottles given your method of carbonation. The gas pressure WILL shatter glass (or at the very least pop the stoppers and make a huge mess). Put the bottles in the fridge after a week to drastically slow the carbonation process and increase safety.. Better yet, ferment to dry then add a touch of sugar for carbonation as mentioned below

Pazzerz (author)2009-07-01

We used to have deep fried elder flowers. NO, really its delicious! Dipped in a sweet batter and cooked til browned. The flowers themselves have such a sweet taste, you haven't tasted anything like it.

Brames (author)2008-09-13

We have elderberry bushes here in the states too! Also don't use bakers yeast for brewing, it will give all sorts of off flavors.

Esmagamus (author)2008-08-05

Does this actually taste good or just green? :P

Chard (author)Esmagamus2008-08-06

It tastes amazing! i wouldnt complain if i was served this in a restaurant or fancy cocktail bar. obviously a floral taste to it but the citrus adds an edge. id suggest it drunk with desserts due to the sweetness or over ice. next year im gonna make a LOT more and possibly sell it at the local market! a few weeks on now and the champagne has cleared up quite a lot in the bottles too.

Chard (author)2008-07-17

Just added this sexy instructible to the Book Contest - so all those lovelies that voted for me for the BBQ PDQ contest vote again and get this baby published!

whiteoakart (author)2008-07-16

Wow, I think we have loads of these growing wild here in our back woods place. I have been wondering what they were and if they were edible. Time for a definitive ID. For an extra bonus, the University of Michigan Health Services lists elderberry (black or blue varieties) as beneficial to relieving influenza symptoms and as an excellent source of antioxidants. So, drink to your health!

whiteoakart (author)whiteoakart2008-07-16

Woo hoo, I just found some. Too bad most of the flowers are gone. But now I know where to find it next Spring.

Chard (author)whiteoakart2008-07-17

in autumn time you will find the actual berries growing on the bushes and you can make excellent wine from them! i have no recipe but a google search should find you something. im planning on making some this autumn and may post an instructible on them too :) i sampled my second bottle of the champagne last sunday. it was still a little too sweet so im saving the next pop for a months time. if its still as sweet i might suggest less sugar in the mix! happy brewing all!

whiteoakart (author)Chard2008-07-17

Drunk all the time, feelin' fine, on elderberry wine... -elton john

whiteoakart (author)2008-07-16

Here is a link to the actual info, if interested:

UM Health Services - Elderberry

Chard (author)2008-07-08

on sunday night i popped the 1st bottle of this. it was wonderful! great pop, lots of bubbles! really tasty but a little too sweet so i poured it over crushed ice and it was amazing! ill leave it another week or so before trying the next bottle and the sugar content should have decreased (and the alcohol increased he he). thanks to all that have voted for me so far! keep it up i want me one of them Tees!

t.rohner (author)2008-07-04

Nice instructable, we just made 60 l of it for a wedding. We bottle it into 750ml champagne bottles, they are tested up to 18 bar and normally burst around 44 bar. (Champagne is pressurized at 3 bar at room temp 20° Celsius) We let it ferment out completely with champagne yeast. We do this, so we can add a defined amount of sugar at bottling time. This way, we have exactly the carbonation(fizz) we want. Since we use crown caps, we can't just open the swing tops to release overpressure. Around here (Switzerland) the elderflower season is during June, if i go up the mountains, i can stretch it another 2 weeks. My sister made it once quite some years ago, her first batch came out delicious, the next were bottle bombs. So i thought, i need some more consistency. Being a homebrewer, i have some knowledge in the field of fermentation. I was able to enhance the process in terms of consistency as outlined above. Regarding alcohol content, i used 8 kg of sugar for 60 liters. I measured around 13° Plato or a gravity of 1.052, this translates to around 5-6% ABV. So it's half the strength of a wine, like strong beer or a cider. Given you drink it from champagne flutes, you need quite some glasses to get yourself pissed.

skeptikool (author)2008-07-01

Dried elderberries are quite popular among many wine makers. When in Austria I recall enjoying a delicious treat of elderberry blossoms that had been dipped in a batter and had then been deep-fried. They may have been topped off with a sprinkling of sugar and fresh lemon juce. Sadly, I don't know of one elderberry tree locally. They were plentiful the U.K. and, as I recall might even be found in the hedgerows - along with the sloes and crab apples - both favorites of those into wines and jellies. Will check with my local nursery. Am tempted to put an elderberry in, if available.

Chard (author)skeptikool2008-07-01

yeh go walking in hedgey areas and you may stuble upon some! if not when the berries form ill dry and send you some to plant :D

ll.13 (author)2008-07-01

Hehe, this is awesome, we made elderflower cordial once, which fermented... 'tis very good.

knarx (author)2008-06-30

The instructable is very good and detailed. I only knew elderflower syrup, which my mom made by herself. So, as an adult I am very interested in the boozy stuff. The only thing is that it is damn too late. In southern Germany the elderflower season is just over or rather had it all been harvested until now. But we have many elderflowers here. I'll try it next year. Thanks for that.

JennyB (author)knarx2008-07-01

A quick non-alcoholic version (from my aunt on County Cork): 2 Iarge flower heads 250 grams sugar 1 lemon 1 tablespoon white vinegar Put flower heads, sugar and vinegar in a large bowl. Add the juice and skin of the lemon and 4.5 to 5 pints of water. Stir occasionally over the next 24 hours, strain and bottle. It might ferment eventually, but we never give it the chance!

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Bio: i love what the comedien Danny Wallace refers to as "Boy Projects" which is pretty much what this site is about!
More by Chard:Build Your Own Brewery for Under £100 ! - STEP 2 - The BoilerBuild Your Own Brewery for Under £100 ! - STEP 1 - Mash TunCider the Hard Way from Press to Pi**ed !
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