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Elderflower champagne recipe

Elderflower champagne is easy to make, and you don’t need any special equipment: just a clean saucepan and some empty lemonade bottles. Elderflower champagne is similar to lemonade but with a beautiful floral taste, and is mildly alcoholic (drinkable from about 1.5% alcohol by volume). You only need 5 or 6 “heads” of flowers to make one gallon of champagne so it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to gather them, and the finished champagne is ready to drink in two or three weeks. If you prefer a version without alcohol, try making our elderflower cordial recipe.
heads of elderflower are used in making elderflower champagne, image

Ingredients

For 4.5L (one gallon) you will need:

  • five or six heads of elderflower
  • two lemons
  • 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar
  • two tablespoons of vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)
  • enough plastic fizzy drinks bottles to hold the elderflower champagne.

Plastic bottles are better than glass because you can give them a squeeze to see how much pressure has built up, and if you forget them for a few days they won’t explode – the crimp at the bottom will pop out instead, and the noise of the bottle falling over will alert you.

Note that there is no added yeast in this recipe. The flowers are not scalded or sterilised, which leaves the wild yeasts naturally present on the blooms to do the fermentation for you.

How to make elderflower champagne

  1. Pick nice young flower heads, where the flowers have not yet started to drop petals or turn brown. You’ll get pollen on you, but don’t worry – it doesn’t stain. Use the flowers promptly or the aroma will change and become unpleasant.
  2. Put 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of water in a large lidded saucepan.
  3. Add the elderflower heads (having shaken any bugs off them first) and two sliced lemons. Put the lid on, and leave it for a 24 to 36 hours.
  4. Strain the liquid through a clean cloth. A seive will do fine if you don’t mind a few petals or tiny bugs in the drink, and it won’t alter the taste one bit.
  5. Add 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar and two tablespoons of cider vinegar, and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
  6. Pour into fizzy drinks bottles. Put the tops on to keep fruit flies out, but don’t screw them on tight yet – just stand the bottles in a corner and keep an eye on them. After a few days they will start to make tiny bubbles as the wild yeasts get to work on the sugar.
  7. After one or two weeks the bubbles will gradually slow down. When they look like they have pretty much stopped, screw the lids down and put the bottles somewhere fairly cool. Give them another few days to generate enough gas to carbonate themselves, and you’re set – just refrigerate the bottle before you need it, and serve over ice with lemon.

The elderflower champagne is still ‘live’ and continuing to ferment, so the longer it is stored the more alcoholic (and drier) it will become. Keep a note of how long it takes to be perfect for your taste, and bear that in mind for following years: by three months old it will be too dry for most tastes, but unless you make large quantities it’s unlikely to last that long.

The trick with this method is to keep checking the pressure in the bottles, particularly for the first few weeks. Just give each bottle a good squeeze – if you can’t squeeze the sides in at all, then the pressure is getting too high. When this happens very gently loosen the cap until you hear gas releasing, and wait until the noise dies down (be careful of the froth) before tightening up again.

If fermentation won’t start

Wild yeast gives the best results for elderflower champagne, but it isn’t 100% reliable. if fermentation doesn’t start within ten days (tiny bubbles at stage 6) then add a tiny pinch of yeast to each bottle. Leave to stand for five minutes, then give it a gentle shake to disperse the yeast. There’s no need to use fancy yeast because we’re not trying to produce a high-alcohol drink: bread yeast is fine, as is general purpose beer or wine yeast. If you ‘rescue’ a batch this way it will tend to end up too dry unless you intervene. Taste a little from time to time and, when it’s just right, screw the lids down and move it to the fridge.

Next steps

Elderflower champagne is a great way to get into home brew, but it’s only the start. Check out our articles on how to get started in home brew, what home brew equipment you really need, and learn to make professional-quality elderflower wine that’s practically free!

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202 Responses to “Elderflower champagne recipe”

  1. Rose says:

    Hello, stumbled upon your recipe and it looks great so am attempting now. Just wondering if I can let it ferment in a big bucket at stage 6 above and then put in glass bottles at stage 7? Thank you.

  2. Mike says:

    Have made this in the past ,my daughters just loved it do be careful however if glass is used that it is drunk before the pressure gets too great

  3. kerryann says:

    Hi there,
    I’ve being making elderflower flower champagne for a few years now and we have ad great success. This years batch is unexplainably jelly like, it can’t even be strained it’s so gloopy. We will have to start again. Do you have any words of wisdom as to what happened?

    • Andy McKee says:

      Just two words – ‘bacterial’ and ‘infection’. Just bad luck I’m afraid, and the origin of the phrase ‘a bit ropey’ (as the jelly seems to form in ‘ropes’). If you catch this early on with a wine you can boil and restart, but with this brew it’s easier to gather some more from a north-facing slope and start again. Just bad luck I’m afraid!

    • hayo says:

      my mother said that that happened when you left it to long to ferment or the flowers where to big.

  4. Gareth says:

    Made this last spring using this recipe and drunk one bottle in the August, it was incredible. Saving the other bottle for a weekend fishing trip next month. Just about to make a load more. Thanks for sharing this recipie

  5. Beverley says:

    I’ve bought a set of glass bottles with the metal and rubber clasps. Do I leave the locks off at the beginning of the process?

  6. Paula says:

    Can you please advise what the cider vinegar does? I forgot to put it in (I made my batch last weekend and bottled it on Monday). Can I put it in now or is it too late? Thanks

  7. Julie says:

    Hi, I’ve left my heads and lemons for 3 days and they have mould on! Should I start again or strain and add my sugar? Thanks

  8. Lucy says:

    Will that amount of Sugar dissolve without heating the liquid? I can’t wait to give this a go!

  9. robert says:

    made 1 gall last year very good andeasy recipe just started 2 gal this year

  10. Ian says:

    Morning,
    I have also been reading this post & decided to have a go at making this.Im at the stage where i am each morning feeling my fizzy pop bottles which are quite hard to squeeze,i then undo the cap to release the gas then do the cap up again untill i do the same untill tomorrow,is this correct ?

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