A beautifully light, sparkling summer drink that’s easy to make and requires no specialist equipment. This recipe makes 5 litres – but if you have a large enough bucket, you can make a larger batch simply by multiplying the quantities.
The fizz in elderflower champagne is generated by active yeasts that will continue to work in the bottle for up to four months. If you don’t drink your champagne as soon as it’s ready, bear in mind that it will keep getting fizzier and you’ll need to ‘burp’ the bottles as time goes on (just open the caps every now and then to release any gas that has built up). In the unlikely event that you find yourself with a half-drunk bottle that’s gone flat, just put it back in the fridge for a couple of days to restore its sparkle.
Though plastic bottles are something that we all ought to be avoiding as a rule, we use them here for safety reasons. If you want to use glass, you’ll need to get hold of champagne bottles which have heavyweight glass specially designed to withstand the pressure of the gas that builds up during fermentation, and use special corks and wire cages. Plastic is a safer, more accessible option. Our trick is to buy a batch of supermarket table water, using the water to make the champagne and decanting our brew into the empty plastic bottles.
- 6 large elderflower heads
- 500g granulated sugar (this quantity gives a fairly dry champagne – use more sugar if you’d prefer a sweeter drink)
- 2 medium lemons
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Sterilising powder (you can usually find the Milton brand in chemists and supermarkets)
- A non-reactive (plastic, enamel or stainless steel) bucket, to hold 5 litres of water
- Grater or potato peeler, for zesting the lemons
- Lemon squeezer
- Long-handled spoon
- Large jug
- Slotted spoon
- 5 empty 1-litre plastic bottles (or equivalent volume)
- Sterilise the bucket, spoon, lemon squeezer and grater (or potato peeler) using the sterilising powder by following the instructions on the pack.(The scent of chemicals will disappear once everything has dried).
- Put 5 litres of water into the bucket. Add the sugar and stir vigorously to dissolve (you may need to warm the water a little if the weather is cold – if so, allow the water to cool again before proceeding). Pare or grate the zest from the lemons and squeeze the juice. Add the zest, juice and remains of the lemons to the bucket. Stir in the wine vinegar.
- Pick or snip the flowers from the stalks, handling them as gently as possible to avoid shaking off the aromatic pollen. Add the flowers to the bucket and discard the stalks. Stir the water gently and cover the top of the bucket with a clean tea towel or a large plate – anything that is not airtight will do.
- For the next 3–5 days, stir the contents of the bucket daily, making sure that any sediment of sugar gets dissolved. Quite soon the flowers will become waterlogged and sink, but as the yeast in the mixture becomes active, it will produce gas and the flowers will rise to the surface again. If you listen closely you may hear the sound of fizzing. You may also see a little mould growing on the top, usually starting around the floating lemon shells. Don’t worry, this is quite normal. Along with the floating flowers and the fizzing sound, this is a signal that it’s time to bottle your champagne.
- In preparation for bottling, sterilise the large jug, sieve, funnel, slotted spoon and your plastic bottles. Skim off everything that is floating in the bucket, using the slotted spoon.
- Strain batches of the liquid through the sieve lined with muslin into the jug, then pour the strained liquor through a muslin-lined funnel into the plastic bottles. Leave about 5cm of space at the top of the bottle, and make a small dent in the shoulder of the bottle with your thumb before tightly screwing on the cap. As the champagne starts to get fizzy, the depression will pop out to let you know that the champagne is working. The pop should happen around 3 days after bottling, but might happen sooner if the weather is warm.
- Leave the bottles in a cool dark place, checking them regularly to see if they need ‘burping.’ The champagne should be ready to drink in roughly 2 weeks – you’ll know because the bottles will feel really solid from the build-up of fizz inside. Remember to ‘burp’ the bottles if you keep the champagne for longer – just open the caps every now and then to release some gas.
This drink contains live yeast and will continue to ferment in the bottle so it is best to use it up before October/November.
You can use 10g dried elderflowers instead of fresh ones, but you’ll also need to add ¼ teaspoon wine yeast.
Recipe by Wild Food UK, photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK
Made 20L last summer, froze 10L and defrosted it in the Spring, still tasted good still fizzy, keeps much longer than 4 months.
Hi, Your recipe says 3 lemons for 10 litres and your video says 10 lemons for 20 litres…. Can you advise?
I made this last year, following your video and it was great, but can’t remember if I followed the receipe or the video quantities..
Hi Jenny, we normally use large lemons, hence 3 for 10 litres. In the video, Marlow had small lemons, hence 10 for 20 litres, sorry about the confusion.
Will certainly try this out. It looks amazing. Can I ask if we can use stainless steel containers for the brewing instead of plastic buckets?
I never have, but I don’t see why not. 🙂
Hi Anna, I’ve never tried with Stainless I’m afraid but I can’t see that it would affect the taste.
Can I use dried elderflower and if so what weight instead of fresh
Yes, you can use 20g dried elderflowers instead of fresh ones. You will also need to add 1/4tsp of wine yeast though.
I have elderflower cordial around still.
That is made with 2 of everything. 2 dozen heads, 2 lb of sugar, 2 lemons, 2 pints of water… ish, very “ish”
so i will line a large aluminium stock pan with a bin bag to stop the metallic taste, add 10 litres of water to “ a bit” of the cordial. (Probably a mug or 1/2 pint), throw in a chopped up lemon, a bag of sugar and …
I have some cider vinegar with the mother? Or just bakers yeast? Or some grapes?
Any advice welcome…
Hi Stephanie, We don’t use any yeast unless we are in a rush to make the champagne, half a teaspoon of brewers yeast per 20 litres will usually have the champagne ready in just over a week. Left without the addition of yeast it takes about three weeks.
Thank you for a lovely instructive day in Linton Ross on Wye. We just got it in in time I think!
Can glass bottles be used for the Champagne?
Hi Wayne, you can use proper champagne bottles with the correct corks otherwise I would use plastic in case of explosions.
Can I use cider vinegar instead of wine vinegar and brewing sugar instead of normal household sugar?
It should work and it’s good to experiment, it doesn’t always work but new things are discovered by experimenting.
Hi, we’ve just bottled our first 20l batch today. What’s best for storing the bottles for the next couple of weeks – somewhere cool & dark or just on the windowsill?
Cool and dark is best, warm and dark will work quicker.
Hi there, I just made some elderflower cordial for the first time but it’s horribly sweet and so I’m wondering about leaving it to ferment a bit so it’s less sweet and more boozy. What do you think? Would that work out? I also am making some kombucha so another option could be to save it to splash into my second booch ferment. What do you think? I don’t want to waste what I’ve done so your thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you!
Sorry for the late reply, I wouldn’t know about the Kombucha but you could water the mix down and rebottle it, it never seems to take long to re-fizz, allowing it to ferment more could help but I have had some turn to a not very pleasant vinegar.
Hey, this is a great recipe and works really well.
Do we need to keep these bottles in the fridge once bottled or wait until they have been opened again?
It’s best to keep them dark and cool until you want to drink some, then refridgerate.
Hello – I made my 20L batch on June 1, bottled it June 5 (there was mould as indicated). Absolutely no fizz so far (as of June 10). Should I wait, or put it back into the fermentation bin and add yeast?
Be patient, it can take longer sometimes. I add a tiny pinch of yeast to bottles that don’t react after three weeks and that usually does the trick.
Tried your recipe. There was only one problem. The natural yeast didn’t work so I had to use some universal wine yeast because nothing was happening after 7 days. With the wine yeast the fermentation was complete in 4 days (starting gravity 1.032, final gravity 0.998). It is bottle now so I will patiently wait 2 weeks to know the final result. A quick taste when bottling confirmed that all was OK, despite no yeast protection for the first week.
I have got some sediment in my fizz which is now on its second week of brewing in old lemonade plastic bottles. Every time I burp the bottles a little rises to the top. Also the fizz is still looking like cloudy lemonade too. Will it go clear, and what to I do about the sediment.
Sometimes there is more sediment than others and although it doesn’t look very appetising it is not harmful in any way. I only burp bottles if they are looking explosive and I want them to last a bit longer otherwise they are ready and can be consumed.
I diligently followed your recipe, and bottled ten litres of Elderflower Champagne on the 3rd of June. They wouldn’t wait two weeks and I’m currently finding that I have to ‘burp’ the bottles twice or three times every day, as the bottles become round bottomed! Is this a good thing or am I doing something wrong?
All the best,
There are always different amounts and different strains of natural yeast on the flowers, it sounds like you have a lot of yeast in your batch. If you are burping the bottles it is ready for drinking.
Thank you for your reply Eric, and for the reassurance to get drinking! 😁👍🏼
Does the end product have much (if any) alcohol content?? Asking for a friend!
There may be 1% if you are lucky, you can add champagne yeast to bring the strength up but it also becomes more explosive. I find it makes a great vodka or gin mixer if you prefer a stronger drink.
Can you use the flowers from the purple leaved garden variety?
It is hard to get the facts but we have heard that other varieties of elder other than Sambucus nigra, the common UK variety, have more toxins so are not as safe to use. However, fermentation is supposed to kill off the glycocides but there is not a lot of fermentation involved in making the champagne. You could heat up the mixture and then add yeast, that way it would safe to use other varieties.
I used this recipe to make a batch of champagne this year (2020) and it was delicious! I’ve actually made a little video about the burping bottles as I didn’t think there was enough out there, so if you’re interested then maybe you’d like to watch this. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLUCJex0VGgu0_bp02sxDuq_ASBAq6Mor&fbclid=IwAR1g1KW_mnzwSQAJdw2nDchTRZX4xzWW1CnCBc74dG08-pBftu-OnlKIbEM
Just bottled my first batch of 20 litres.
I added some fresh garden mint too to increase the flavour & left it for 2 + weeks before bottling today so fingers crossed it will be ready for our family get together celebrations after july 4th!
I am just going to bottle my 1st batch but was stumped by your ” depression ” comment could you explain please.
We fill the bottles leaving about a couple of centimetres of air at the top, we then squeeze the bottle until the liquid is at the top of the neck and put the cap on. This just removes the oxygen and allows a bit more expansion.
Mine turned out to have quite a pong is this still ok
It can sometimes have quite an unpleasant smell but usually tastes good.
I made a large batch, but didn’t get to the bottling stage because have been so busy. It’s been sitting in the brewing bin for a month. Can I salvage it for anything?
It should still be ok as long as it hasn’t completely turned mouldy throughout. A layer on the surface won’t harm the brew and is easily removed.
I have successfully made my 2020 elderflower champagne and bottled in recycled sparkling water plastic bottles.
I was burping them daily and all was good. I have been on holiday and now that I have returned the remaining bottles are rock solid and look like they are under explosive pressure. Previously when I opened a bottle that washed been regularly burped and didn’t seem so pressurised the plastic cap flew off and burnt my hand with the explosion. I have moved the bottles into the garden as I am concerned they might explode… Anyone any ideas how to safely release the pressure… pliers? goggles???
Ha bit late reply Too much pressure but if recycling plastic bottles, should be fine outside. Always good to burp them daily for first few weeks but just keep bottle still with cloth round top & release v slowly. I’ve made similar recipe for nearly 50 years & always works. Made loads last year for 70th so just finishing last bottles now as make this year’s. Imoho nature ferments for herself, so needs nothing but acid & daily stir for few days before drain & bottle – only 2/3 full 🙂
Hi there, I bottled up my Elderflower Champagne yesterday, but i only had the swing top clear IKEA bottles (with similar tops to a Grolsch beer bottles but thinner glass) I’m concerned they’re not strong enough, plus I’ve been burping them twice a day, and they’re extremely explosive, I’m getting sprayed with fizz, but I smell amazing 😂
I don’t want to fridge them yet because I’d like them to have more fermentation time (would like them to be more alcoholic tbh😂) should I continue to burp them for 2 weeks to ensure full fermentation has happened, should I rebottle them all into proper beer bottles with proper tops fitted (I found a brewing friend who has proper bottles) or should I put them in the fridge to stop fermentation and just drink them all as low alcohol fizz?
I would very much appreciated your advice 😘
I always put my champagne in plastic bottles as it not dangerous if they explode. If your batch is fizzy, it’s probably best to drink it as a mixer with gin or vodka as even if you leave it for a long time it won’t get much stronger and will eventually spoil.
Hey, I bottled mine around lunch one day in glass beer bottles 😅 I burped them 3 times during the day, last time at 1130pm, and the next morning I had an exploded glass!. I decided to dump the wine back into the bucket and every bottle I opened shot out like a rocket. Any advice should I rebottle it in plastic? should I leave it in the bucket to calm down?
The natural yeast must have been quite high on the flowers unless you added yeast. With added yeast it must be stored in proper champagne bottles with corks. I only use plastic bottles due to occasional explosions and don’t add any yeast or burp the bottles. I do store them outside in a tool chest though, just in case.
I made elderflower champagne and over the last few years, the first fermentation is fine and the during the second fermentation in the bottle, I lose some bottles from explosions, following this the remaining contents are always flat, alcoholic, flat. Even the bottles which remain intact are flat.
Please help so I know how or why I am getting wrong and could enjoy a completely sparkling drink.
Hi Mandy, I’m not sure what is going wrong, I also get the odd explosion but I make a lot of bottles and keep them for a few months. It’s a late Spring, early Summer drink that is best drunk fairly fresh in Summer as it is a live, even if weak, alcohol, it keeps fermenting in the bottle and becomes more explosive.
Hi! I made this 5 days ago and still no mound or fizzing sound! Maybe I have been stirring the mound away? Wondering whether to bottle up yet? Thank you. Love the easy method!!!
I bottle the Champagne after three days although some leave it for up to five but I never see or hear a reaction, this happens in the bottle.
Hi, we’ve just found a 2ltr screw top plastic bottle of elderflower fizz at the back of our fridge. It’s still cloudy and has a little bit of sediment. We did the go through the burping process before putting it in the fridge. The bottle seems to have bloated a little, despite being refrigerated.
Our main concern is that it’s dated 14.06.21. So it’s been there for a while.
A. No problem. Worse scenario is it will taste horrid, but it’s safe.
B. Open with caution and ditch if it tastes funky.
C. Hold at arms length and dispose as a biohazard.
Genuinely asking advice, despite the flippant delivery.
It won’t do you any harm but might taste rank, it usually only lasts about six months. The other possible danger is the bottle exploding, not dangerous but quite startling and very messy.
When and how is the best time to pick the elder flower for champange? I would like to make some ready to drink for my wedding anniversary mid April and my birthday in August.
The flowers are ready late May to June so you have them in time for your birthday but you will have to get some dried flowers, which work quite well but make a darker champagne, for your anniversary.
I have been making Elderflower champagne for years but have always found it far too sweet to drink at six weeks as recommended. Mostly I make it this year for next year. Recently we drank some of a 3 yr old batch and it was perfect in pour, fizz and taste. I was really surprised as I expected it to be off. I bottle in glass 330ml brown beer bottles with press on caps.