Elder flower champagne - batch guidance required

Help Support The HomeBrew Forum:

ThePhysicist

New Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
0
Hello! I'm new to the forum and brewing in general. So far I've made Elder flower champagne during the previous two springs and I have some Damson wine aging which I began in autumn... I'm really enjoying it, however, with spring on its way I require some help with my Elder flower champagne!

The first time I brewed Elder flower champagne (I'm aware it's not technically champagne) it went incredibly well, in-fact with hindsight it was a complete fluke. I followed a VERY simple recipe and methodology (found here:
), even finding success with the natural yeast present on the flower. I bottled up around 8 liters (in something like 4 or 5 bottles) and after approximately a month I tasted the finest drink which has ever touched my lips! So why was it a fluke? Well: the natural yeast worked, I didn't lose any bottles to explosions and (possibly the most important) I just happened to open them when the sugar level was perfect for the taste. This final point is something which I failed to consider the following year.

For the following season I decided to scale things up, why not? I'd been raving to family and friends about this wonderful drink I'd discovered, and could not wait to pass a few bottles around. I bought two 25 liter buckets, along with a few other pieces of equipment, and bottled up 2x25 litre bottles of the stuff (although I had to add yeast after a few days as nothing was happening). For one bucket I did the same sugar to water ratio as before, however, for the second bucket I decided to experiment and therefore increased the sugar content by 1.5 times. So... what was the result? Well, I lost around 5 bottles to explosions, but they were in the garage so it wasn't too much of an issue (even if it did sound like someone fired a gun outside of the house). the main issue was the unanticipated sugar to ethanol conversion continuing. I managed to drink 3/4 bottles whilst it was in its prime: then it became dry and I realised my error. Now, maybe some people like the drink dry - I personally think a sweetness is required for it to be at its best. Therefore, 15 bottles of so were either disappointing, or a bit of a hassle requiring sugar to be mixed in.

Anyway, this spring I would like to try this project again. So here is my question: how can I freeze the fermentation process at the ideal sugar level? So far I've come across a couple of solutions: 1) after a few weeks keep tasting it and when it's right put it all in a fridge and the fermentation process will be temporarily frozen (this isn't ideal, it requires a new fridge in the garage and I feel like somehow a couple would still blow up!). 2) let it completely ferment in the buckets where its free to get rid of the excess CO2, add a sweetener to the required sweetness level and then add sugar again for bottling to get the fizz back into it (I really hate the idea of using sweeteners).

Are these the only two? Can anyone elaborate on them if so?

I hope someone can help :)
 

johncrobinson

Landlord.
Joined
Sep 13, 2019
Messages
804
Reaction score
214
If there is ANY sugar the yeast will sooner or later find it and start fermenting.
 

ThePhysicist

New Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
0
Thanks for the reply.

I'm aware of this, hence my problem of keeping a consistent sweetness over a period of time whilst maintaining the fizz.

However, there are several options (I metioned a couple in the original post; in addition to these non fermentable sugars would be a further example), and what I'm trying to find out is which approach would be best.

Although I've identified a few, as a novice I will have missed some; furthermore, I have no idea which approach would be best to resolve my issue.

I hope someone can point me in the write direction
 

nige

Regular.
Joined
Nov 23, 2019
Messages
354
Reaction score
63
You could add the non fermenable sugar when you prime and so use a dry bottle to find out how much you need to back sweeten first.
 

johncrobinson

Landlord.
Joined
Sep 13, 2019
Messages
804
Reaction score
214
If you can get them,Proper champagne bottles are the best thing to use they will withstand 100psi +.
It was what i used to use, I used to aim for a pressure of about 50psi.

They can be scrounged from posh resturants especially if you make a donation to the owners favorite charity.

Using glass beer bottles is dangerious simple as that.
If you cant get the proper bottles for some reason buy plastic ones.

Ferment your wine bone dry,Sweeten slightly with non fermentable (I dont) then add sugar at the rate of about 2.50 oz per gallon,and allow to carbonate.
It also best to use a proper champane yeast for this stage.
you can use other yeast for primary fermentation but dont make it stronger than 10%abv.

I havent done this for a few years now about 20yrs infact, but I do recall the results were truly outstanding.
 

ThePhysicist

New Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
0
Thanks for the replies, I'll do some research on non-fermenting sugars and potentially go down that route.

Question: can I use champagne yeast from the beginning, then when You add the priming sugar the champagne yeast will just be reactivated?

Ill post some updates if anyone is interested?

Cheers.
 

ThePhysicist

New Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
0
Is there any way I can do this without adding sweetners? For example, maybe using a specific yeast with an alcohol tolerance of, say, 10% ABV. I'd really like to keep everything as natural as possible... I'm worried adding sweetner will ruin the flavor which I experienced with that first batch.
 

Drunkula

Landlord.
Joined
Nov 30, 2017
Messages
1,643
Reaction score
1,093
Apart from making a syrup and adding it at drinking time there's two ways I can think of and they're both a real faff, one potentially dangerous.

You let it carbonate when it's still sweet, have one lot in a plastic pop bottle to test the carbonation level by squeezing it, then you've got to pasteurise the bottles in a pan of water so that it kills the yeast. It's dangerous and the carbonation level isn't reliable.

You could force carbonate after adding campden and sorbate. I'm guessing you don't have a keg but you can link two pop bottles together with schrader valves that have had the stems taken out and a length of pipe. You use a sugar and yeast solution in the one to carbonate the other. You have to use over twice the amount of sugar as you'll also be carbonating the sugar water - in fact you can start making an actual real drink in the other bottle.**

Again, this is a complete faff as you'll be carbonating about 2 litres at a time and I won't add details for the right amount of sugar to use as it's unlikely it'll be used.

I really would look into using sweetner. I tried loads of different kinds with a turbo cider - saccharin, stevia, aspartame. I can't remember which I liked the most. If you're already making a toxin whose breakdown products mess with neurotransmitters for our delight then using a sweetner really doesn't seem the real thing to be questioning.


** I've used a pop bottle to fully carbonate an entire keg and it worked incredibly well, as fast as having it on set-and-forget.
 
Last edited:

johncrobinson

Landlord.
Joined
Sep 13, 2019
Messages
804
Reaction score
214
Commercial champagne is sweetened with sugar PLUS neat alcohol which prevents refermentation
the combination is known as "Liqueur d`expedition"
However Its not easy to get hold of high proof spirit in Britain,Moreover it would attract very heavy duty.

I dont backsweeten at all,Dry as a bone is my taste, So I cant reccomend any particular type other than to say glycerine will
take the edge off the dryness and inprove mouthfeel,It is also a natural fermentation product.

I think Drunkulas advice of trying different sweetners until you find one you like is your best option.
 

ThePhysicist

New Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
0
Thanks for the informative replies!

I think at this point using a sweetner is the thing to test this spring, however, I did have a thought today... I've read most yeast will be killed once the alcohol percentage reaches a certain threshold: different types of yeast will die at different percentages... Is it possible to use a yeast that will die at, say, 10% alcohol? This would eliminate the need for sweetners.

Thanks again for the information so far!
 

Drunkula

Landlord.
Joined
Nov 30, 2017
Messages
1,643
Reaction score
1,093
Is it possible to use a yeast that will die at, say, 10% alcohol? This would eliminate the need for sweetners.
If you're doing this you've got to brew out a test batch and get the precise abv it dies at. You can do a force ferment, do it on a stir plate to speed things up if you can.

Then you've got to use the same yeast to brew with and bottle it when it's exactly at the right gravity above where it'll finished that'll product the carbonation you want. There are calculations for this. Or you can add all the sugar that would lead to it stalling minus what would be needed to carbonate it and let it brew out fully then lash in as much sugar as you wanted to make the carbonation and sweetness at bottling.

I'd definitely do a force ferment and not go by the tolerance on the packet.
 
Last edited:

johncrobinson

Landlord.
Joined
Sep 13, 2019
Messages
804
Reaction score
214
I dont think its a practical proposition
Yeast dont just go atish you, atish you we all fall down dead.

I doubt no one has ever brewed wine with a pure yeast culture in the whole history of home winemaking
you only need one tiny survior just one, And hey look at me !! Ive made a bottle bomb.!!!!!!!
What you are proposing is not safe to do with a still wine let alone a sparkling one.

you have 3 SAFE options
(1)drink it dry
(2)use the method the french use (with the proper bottles.)
(3) Use a non fermentable sweetmer.
 
Last edited:

ThePhysicist

New Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
0
Johncrobinson, to confirm, is option (2) the pasteurization technique?

Have you ever done this? I like the idea of it - does this methodology seem reasonable to you: bulk ferment the elderflower solution for a couple of weeks before bottling up. Once bottled, also bottle some in plastic bottles to periodically test carbonation level and sweetness. When I'm happy I have the correct sweetness and carbonation within the bulk batch (all in the correct bottles), go ahead and pasteurize?

A couple of questions:

  1. What bottles are recommended?
  2. Could I potentially have some explosions whilst pasteurizing due to the temperature increase (and therefore pressure increase)?
Cheers
 

johncrobinson

Landlord.
Joined
Sep 13, 2019
Messages
804
Reaction score
214
No I was not refering to pasteurizing,But the method used to make champagne and other sparkling wines.
and you`r right the pressure increase could be disaster

There is an exellent book by two old authers .The book is called "Making Sparkling Wines" the authers are J.Restall & D.Hebbs.
This book will tell you EVERYTHING you should know about sparkling wine.

I was making sparkling wine before i got this book.But its a little goldmine of how to do things and has given me some great ideas.
I got my copy from my local homebrew shop.

Failing even that what i also do is use Sparklets soda syphons.
Fill them up with finished STILL wine,chill in the fridge then carbonate with the co2 bulb.result "Instant champers"
 

ThePhysicist

New Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
0
JCR, thanks for the book reference, that sounds like something I'll definitely enjoy reading - ill be picking up a copy!

Drunkula - that video is PERFECT. It's literally addressed all of my concerns!

Could you (or anyone else) advise on the amount of sugar per litre to add for carbonation AND to add a general sweetness?

Cheers!!
 

Drunkula

Landlord.
Joined
Nov 30, 2017
Messages
1,643
Reaction score
1,093
Could you (or anyone else) advise on the amount of sugar per litre to add for carbonation AND to add a general sweetness?
I couldn't. For the carbonation I like it high for elderflower and other 'sugar' beers. I got 3.5 volumes but you might want to take it easy and go for 2.5 which will still be nicely fizzy. Work it out from the calculator below.

https://www.brewersfriend.com/beer-priming-calculator/

And you'll have to add your sweetening sugar on top of that. Thing is the carbonation will add a little bite you'll have to offset with a little more sugar if you do this for sweetening: recommendations are to take a tester portion of the fermented booze, make up a syrup and sweeten until it's where you want it and then scale that to the rest of the batch. I'm guessing you're not an imbecile from the name, so clearly a fixed amount of sugar in a fixed amount of liquid for the syrup so you can guage it.

But of course you've got no guarantee at all that you'll hit the carbonation you want by squeezing a plastic pop bottle - it's a bit of a crap shoot but just go for it.
 
Last edited:

ThePhysicist

New Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
0
That was what I was after, a priming calculator - thanks. Yeah, that was the plan - after fermentation add sugar, find the 'correct' sweetness, scale it up for the batch and add the additional priming sugar. It's a bit of a rough and ready approach but it should do the job!

Question: if one used a coca-cola bottle for the tester, and the bottom ridges of the bottle began bulging outwards due to the pressure (this happened on my first batch), what volume would this likely be. I ask in-case I accidentally 'over' prime the bottles, risking an explosion during the pasteurization.


I'm guessing you're not an imbecile from the name
- I wouldn't count on that :D but the calculations are no problem...
 
Last edited:

johncrobinson

Landlord.
Joined
Sep 13, 2019
Messages
804
Reaction score
214
The thing is when working with plastic bottles the worst that can happen is a mess,The same cannot be said for glass.
That said real champagne bottles can stand a terrific pressure.When I did it I used a thing called sparkle tops.Basically these were corks (plastic) with a built in safety valve and also a thread one could pull for "disgorgement".I dont know if these are still on the market but they are worth there weight in gold if you can get them.

Wine sparkeled at higher co2 pressures (circa 50psi) the co2 reacts with the alcohol to create ethyl pyrocarbonate which when the pressure is released decomposes back into alcohol and co2 giving a long lasting sparkle.(from the afore mentioned book.).

I was very supprised how good my sparkling wines were.It was really hard to tell the difference between my wine and expensive champagne.
Beer carbonation levels are just not the same.
Pasteurisation is not the best answer either as the taste is changed by the temperature,(not for the better.)also the yeast in the bottle play an important part in conditioning the wine.
Which wont happen after pasteurisation.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS>!!!!
 
Last edited:
2
Group Builder
Top