Elderflower Flop

You may recall I recently started a batch of elderflower “champagne”, a fizzy fermented drink that leverages the natural yeast in elderflowers to make the beverage bubbly.

Unfortunately, our erratic rain patterns this year meant the flowers had been washed clean of their yeasty occupants. After several days of waiting, on a heat mat, with no bubbling to speak of, I finally broke down and added a packet of wine yeast.

Adding wine yeast to the elderflower champagne
Adding wine yeast to the elderflower champagne

While I felt like this was “cheating”, it finally produced the result I was looking for – happy little microbes slurping on the sugar water mixed in with the flowers.

Finally - fermentation!
Finally – fermentation!

After 48 hours, we strained out the solids using a strainer and bottled the remaining liquid. Sort of. We didn’t have the individual bottles like the original recipe used, so we put it in the 2-gallon food-grade bucket we normally use for fermenting wine. This meant we didn’t need to “burb” the bottles daily – the gasses could escape on their own via the airlock.

The fermentation vessel
The fermentation vessel

The photo below shows the elderflower champagne after a week on the counter. You can see active fermentation still a-bubbling. Also, a lot of dead bugs. They had been living on the flowers when this process started, and you aren’t supposed to wash the flowers because it also washes away the yeast. (Which, in retrospect, didn’t matter since my flowers lacked sufficient yeast in the first place…) We re-strained the liquid through a wire mesh coffee filter before moving it to the next stage – a week in the fridge.

I bet those bugs died happy...
I bet those bugs died happy…

Well. We still didn’t have individual bottles, so back into the air-locked bucket it went, where the flavors rested or mellowed or matured or whatever it is they were doing for another week. Or so. I had ordered bottles so I would be ready as soon as the champagne was!

Except… it wasn’t bubbly anymore.

Bottling the elderflower champagne
Bottling the elderflower champagne

As we poured the elderflower “champagne” into the waiting bottles, there was no trace of bubbles or fizz to be found anywhere.

Six bottles of elderflower flop!
Six bottles of elderflower flop!

The beverage – I’m not sure what to call it at this point – isn’t bad. It’s just not … fizzy. I’m guessing there was so much room for the gas to escape in the fermentation bucket, it went flat faster than the few remaining yeast could make new bubbles.

At least now we have bottles on hand when it’s time to try again next year!

What foraging successes (or failures) are you encountering in early summer?


  1. I once heard a loud explosion from my garage and walked in to a very yeasty elderflower smell. The bottles had shattered under pressure. I found huge lumps of glass 2-3 meters away, thankful I was not in range when it went!

    • Yikes! We’ve kept one bottle on the counter at room temperature hoping it comes back to life, but no luck so far.

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