Keeping Elderflower Champagne – part three

Elderflower champagneBack in March 2014, I posted a blog about making Elderflower Champagne, giving my recipe and instructions for making your own. This was one of the most popular blog posts we’ve written and we are still getting emails from readers about it now.

Making elderflower champagne

Then I followed that with a post about bottling your creation and making it fizzy. This was quite an important post because there is a lot of poor and downright dangerous information out there.

Bottling your elder flower champagne

That was about 16 months ago now and to be honest, most of the champagne was gone within 8 months. Apart from 2 bottles which Kate and I deliberately put away to be kept for our first wedding  anniversary.

Coincidentally we were contacted by Alison this week asking how long they could keep their champagne once it was bottled and since we drank ours the other night (yup yesterday was our first wedding anniversary), I thought an update blog post may be in order.

So here are some FAQs about elderflower champagne.

 

How long will it keep in the bottles? Do I have to drink it straight away or can I make this for a special occasion and save it?

Elderflower champagne
Our elderflower champagne after 16 months in the bottle. Lovely!

You’ll have heard wine spoken about as having a vintage. This just means how long it’s been in the bottle and some people say that the longer a wine is left in the bottle to mature the better it is.

The alcohol in your elderflower champagne makes it pretty much an inhospitable environment for any nasties that will make it go bad – although it can happen. However if you follow proper sanitising processes for both fermenting and bottling, you should be able to leave your champagne for years.

As we mentioned earlier, ours has been there for 16 months and still tastes great.

How long do I leave the elderflowers in there for?

elderflower champagneThis is one of those things which comes down to personal taste. I’ve found even a shot time gives a lot of flavour but I know other people who have left it there for a week or two.

I guess it’s going to be one of those things which you learn from trial and error. Be warned though, I’ve read that leaving it too long can cause nasty of flavours – so I’d say to be safe, no more than 5 days?

How do I know it’s ready to be bottled?

hydrometer readingThe simplest answer to this is, it’s ready to be bottled when it has finished fermenting.

The most reliable way to know for sure is to take hydrometer readings and when your reading is the same over two or three days, it’s finished fermenting and ready to go in the bottle.

Some people watch for bubbles and when they stop seeing bubbles they assume fermentation has finished. This isn’t a reliable method and can risk bottles exploding.

Do I need to use proper corks or are plastic ok?

plastic champagne corks and cagesYou will find lots of conflicting advice on this over the internet. Some people prefer plastic some prefer natural corks.

I always use plastic, the benefit of these being that you don’t need a special tool to insert them into the bottles and they prevent the wine from “corking”.

Whichever you choose to use, you must always also use cages. Always. Without the cage to lock the cork securely in place, the pressure in the bottle will force the cork out and you have a champagne mess you have to clear up.

How do I stop the bottles exploding, I’ve heard this happens a lot?

bottle bombI wouldn’t say this happens a lot, but it is a potential risk.

The most common reason for bottles exploding (bottle bombs), is too much sugar in the bottle, followed by bad sanitary processes. Explosions are caused when there is too much CO2 in the bottle. This is usually because too much sugar was added at bottling meaning the yeast produced way more CO2 than you planned for. However it can also be caused by wild yeast or bacteria getting into your champagne. Wild yeast are unpredictable and can create way more CO2 than you want so follow a good sanitising process to ensure no nasties get into  your brew.

As a point of reference, I usually add 9g of sugar to a 750ml bottle. I find this gives me champagne fizz but doesn’t cause bottle bombs.

Can I adjust the amount I make or do I have to follow your recipe exactly?

You can make as much or as little as you want.

Double the recipe, half it or tweak it to suit your own tastes.

Most importantly just have fun.

 

I hope this helps but if you have any questions not covered here, please feel free to get in touch.

 

 

 

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