Does Elderberry Wine Need Yeast?

Discussion in 'Country Fruit Winemaking' started by paulo, Aug 26, 2018.

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  1. paulo

    paulo Junior

    Aug 26, 2018
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    My wife and I are beginners and did not follow the recipe exactly as it called for yeast to be added on the first day and we are in day two so I don't know if it is too late to add it now? I was also told by a local wine maker at a "you brew it" place that yeast is not required to be added to the batch as it is already naturally present in the grapes he uses, he assumed this was also true for elderberries. Do elderberries have yeast in it naturally so I don't have to add it to my batch?

    Please help as we don't know what we're doing! :)
  2. BernardSmith

    BernardSmith Senior Member

    Dec 27, 2011
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    Saratoga Springs
    Most fruit will contain some indigenous yeast but there are a couple or three issues for new wine makers:
    1. The indigenous yeast may not produce a wine whose flavor you like - Yeast, after all, are not simply catalysts but they impart flavors, enhance flavors and mask flavors and wild yeasts are not the same as lab cultured yeasts where we know the characteristics of the yeast (see spec sheets).
    2. Indigenous yeast may not have the tolerance for alcohol that lab cultured yeast has so you may find that your batch quits fermenting with very little of the sugars fermented out.
    3. The number of viable yeast in the fruit may be tiny (relatively speaking) and so other spoilage organisms (mold, for example) may do their work before the yeast has a chance to ferment the sugars.
    What I tend to do is take off a small sample of fruit and see what any indigenous population of yeast can do with it while treating the larger batch to cultured yeast. If I like the effect that the indigenous yeast bring I simply buy or obtain more of the fruit and use the sample as my "starter" for this second batch. Typically, I do this with raw honey (mead making)- sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2018
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  3. salcoco

    salcoco Veteran Wine Maker Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2007
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    you will need to add yeast asap.
  4. Venatorscribe

    Venatorscribe bucket chemist

    Oct 1, 2016
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    Out of curiosity I let 10 litres of pear juice ( out of 60 lts I had) ferment naturally last year. Frankly it produced a thoroughly gutless cider. I ended up blending it off with some stronger pear wines ( where I had added sugar). I don't think I’ll try that again. Go with a good commercially cultured yeast. At least you can anticipate what it is that will come out the other end.
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  5. Scooter68

    Scooter68 Old Enough to know better but....

    Aug 30, 2015
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    Using a prepared/cultured yeast or not is up to you. The key question is - Are you both risk takers.
    As beginners there are a variety of beginner mistakes you could make that could spoil the experience for you. Using a prepared yeast significantly reduces some of those risks (As mentioned by BenardSmith.) Permitting a "natural fermentation with 'wild' yeast is a significantly higher risk route especially just starting out.
    After you have done a few batches OR if you have the steady hand of an experienced wine maker now, then using natural yeasts is something you might want to try.
    For now I would do yourselves a favor and use a commercially produced yeast for a few batches.

    This is a really fun, and addictive hobby, you should have plenty of opportunities to experiment in the future.
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  6. Masbustelo

    Masbustelo Junior Member

    Jul 19, 2015
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    Elderberry lends itself to acetobacter as well, because it ripens uneven. Some of the fruits will have insect damage, bird damage and contamination. It's a good idea to sulfate them and start the fermentation with a known yeast.
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  7. winemaker81

    winemaker81 Junior Member

    Nov 6, 2006
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    When using wild yeast you're rolling the dice .. and you have no idea what dice you're rolling nor what the target is. Buy a commercial wine yeast -- it's typically less than a buck in the USA.

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