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Elderflower champagne - slight bubbles but no robust ferment

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Hello all,
Complete newbie trying to make some elderflower champagne. Picked the flowers, removed from stalks - made the must according to recipe and added champagne yeast. Hydro reading at 20C was 1056. Put into 5 gallon bin with airlock. Nothing doing after 2 days so I removed the lid and airlock, added a little nutrient (although the yeast packet said it was included!) then covered with several clean cloths and moved to a warmer area. Now I have a few bubbles rising and bursting on the top of the flowers but doesn't look like it is doing very much. Today's (day 4) hydro reading 1042, smells sweet and tastes very watery and sugary.
Should the ferment be this slow? I was expecting lots of froth and bubble action but perhaps this is not the case with elderflower? Any advice very gratefully received - thank you from over the pond!
 

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What yeast did you use? Not all yeasts are "frothy." If it's EC-1118, it may not show much on the surface. I just used it in a chardonnay, and it was foamy for the first 24 hours, then completely sunk below the surface. If you have bubbles and the SG is going down, it is working.

And what temp is your "warmer area'?
 
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mhopkins

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The literature says "Ideal fermentation temperature for champagne yeast: 59-86 F (15-30 C)." Generally speaking, the warmer the temp, the faster the fermentation. Personally, I strive for 72-78 F (abt 22-25 C) when I make wine; and I most always use champagne yeast (EC-1118). All that said, unless you are in a hurry (why be in a hurry?) as long as the SG is dropping, you are fine. BTW elderflower should have little to do with the pace of fermentation, as the sugars being fermented likely came primarily from other ingredients in the recipe you mention in your post.

Let us know how the batch turns out!
 
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Thank you so much! I am not in any sort of hurry and I did use a sparkling wine yeast. I think my temp range now is between 20 and 25c depending on early morning or afternoon temp.
 
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What yeast did you use? Not all yeasts are "frothy." If it's EC-1118, it may not show much on the surface. I just used it in a chardonnay, and it was foam for the first 24 hours, then completely sunk below the surface. If you have bubbles and the SG is going down, it is working.

And what temp is your "warmer area'?
I used a sparkling wine yeast( not sure of the numbers) and I think you are right. When I took the hydro reading earlier today , I noticed tiny bubbles rising to the surface in the container (almost like a fizzy white wine). I will now leave well alone for a few more days and see how it fares. thanks so much for your help.
 
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Whooppeeee - today the reading is 1010 and I have just strained the must and got all the junk out. Still smelling sweet although I didn't taste it this time (too busy!)
I thought I might leave it alone for another few days to see if the reading goes below 1000, then transfer it into some demijohns with a fermentation lock. Or should I leave it in the bin, put the lid on and fit the lock in the lid? Would mean a lot less washing up!!
 

mhopkins

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Thanks for sharing your progress!

A few thoughts:

Rather that straining must, my practice is to rack it to another container (I use carboys) and leave as much of the lees as I can behind. I wonder how much of the lees remains as a result of straining.

"I thought I might leave it alone for another few days to see if the reading goes below 1000 ..." Good. Take SG readings until they are the same for at least three days in a row. In my experience, the ending SG will be in the 0.998 - 0.992 range (usually the upper end of this range).

"... transfer it into some demijohns with a fermentation lock." During primary fermentation a blanket of CO2 forms atop an active fermentation. Though not a solid barrier, this is usually sufficient to protect the must from too much exposure to oxygen. At this point fermentation has slowed, with much less CO2 being produced. Use of an airlock is important at this point. Given that you started: "Put into 5 gallon bin with airlock" you should be just fine until secondary fermentation is done. Do you have a 5-gallon carboy?
 
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Thanks for sharing your progress!

A few thoughts:

Rather that straining must, my practice is to rack it to another container (I use carboys) and leave as much of the lees as I can behind. I wonder how much of the lees remains as a result of straining.

"I thought I might leave it alone for another few days to see if the reading goes below 1000 ..." Good. Take SG readings until they are the same for at least three days in a row. In my experience, the ending SG will be in the 0.998 - 0.992 range (usually the upper end of this range).

"... transfer it into some demijohns with a fermentation lock." During primary fermentation a blanket of CO2 forms atop an active fermentation. Though not a solid barrier, this is usually sufficient to protect the must from too much exposure to oxygen. At this point fermentation has slowed, with much less CO2 being produced. Use of an airlock is important at this point. Given that you started: "Put into 5 gallon bin with airlock" you should be just fine until secondary fermentation is done. Do you have a 5-gallon carboy?
No - just the normal 1 gallon glass ones. I originally put the lid and airlock on my 5 gallon plastic bin when I made it - but took it off and covered with cloths as it really wasn't doing anything. Since then I have used the cloths only and it is fermenting away happily. I think I will leave it in the bin and put the lid + lock on it - should I do that now or wait a few days? I can't thank you guys enough for all your help!
 

Vinobeau

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No - just the normal 1 gallon glass ones. I originally put the lid and airlock on my 5 gallon plastic bin when I made it - but took it off and covered with cloths as it really wasn't doing anything. Since then I have used the cloths only and it is fermenting away happily. I think I will leave it in the bin and put the lid + lock on it - should I do that now or wait a few days? I can't thank you guys enough for all your help!
You really shouldn't use the air lock on your primary - you want some oxygen contact with the must during that primary fermentation. With a starting sg of 1.056, you should wind up at about 9% abv which should be fine for your champagne. How long do you plan on aging it before you add the sugar for carbonation? BTW, Elderflower wine is quite delightful. How much of the flowers did you use per gallon?
 
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Right - no air lock yet awhile then! I will leave it in the bin for 2/3 weeks then see if it has finished fermenting. If it has I will go ahead and bottle it. My recipe says if you are just making wine you can stop there - but as I want champers they recommend putting in 9 grams of sugar to each standard 75cl bottle. I have been collecting Prosecco, Champagne and Cava bottles that are designed for fizzy wine under pressure so I should be safe there. I also have plastic stoppers and wire cages to put on them. They suggest putting in the sugar, corking them and them letting them alone until you want to drink it. They say that after a couple of months it will be crystal clear and kept theirs for 16 months and it is still good.
I used about a pint of tiny flowers (around 10/12 heads then stripped flowers from the stems) as I was reading conflicting suggestions. The flowers were few and far between so it took me a while to pick them. We shall see!
 

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I would not leave the wine under the towel for longer than a few days.If the sg-1010 rack the wine off of the lees into carboys use an airlock. fermentation will continue until it reach .998 or less. from your wording I assume you are in Europe. Sparkling wine bottle of European origin have a lager opening than american sparkling wine bottles. I am not sure where you bought your plastic bottle tops but I would test a few to make sure they donot leak.
 
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| bought the stoppers and wired cages from the local brewers shop - I will try one in a champagne bottle. it didn't occur to me that they would not fit!
I am going to leave the whole lot in the plastic 5 gallon bin under the towels (quite a few of them on top) for another few days to let it settle again - then transfer to 1 gallon demijohns with airlocks hopefully leaving the lees behind. Wish me luck!
 
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Well - hydro reading is now 990 and it does taste very dry. I have not collected enough champagne bottles as yet so would it do any harm to transfer from the plastic fermenting bin into demijohns to get it off the yeast? I will put airlocks on them although I know it's not going to ferment any more. In a way - I want to use it as 'storage' until I can get enough bottles together to bottle it, sugar it and put the stoppers and cages on. Advice would be welcome. Many thanks!
 

sour_grapes

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Yes, that is the right plan. Just make sure not to leave too much headspace in your demijohns.
 

salcoco

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do not add any k-meta or sorbate. because of no bacterial protection your period of storage should be limited
 
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Thank you. Got 4 gallons all told but the last one has about 3" space at the top. Hope that's not too much! I should be able to bottle and seal in about 4 weeks.
 
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OK - got enough bottles now so I will wait a few days to take a final reading to make SURE it's not doing anything and then I will bottle, sugar and seal. At the moment it tastes extremely dry. Will the sugar I add to get the sparkle sweeten it or do I have to put something else in? This is just so exciting!! (I can hear my sister telling me to get a life)
 

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