I've made a lot of batches containing elderberries over the years.
While I haven't made any scientific tests or calibrations, it seems to
me that when there's a significant amount of elderberries in the mix,
the fermentation is very strong and long. Has anyone else noticed
this? Is there some secret ingredient in elderberries that jazzes up
Hi Paul, I can't answer your question, although I've
made beer for years, I am a complete nube' to wine. A
couple of weeks ago, my first attempt was from white
grape juice that the local s/mkt had on offer.
My next door nabe makes a great elderberry port. I
pinched her recipe, from a 'Farmers Weekly'
publication. It's certainly alcoholic, but I was amazed
to see that no yeast was involved. The recipe is 3lb
berries, 3.5 lb sugar, 1 gallon water, half pound
I picked enough fruit on Sunday, to double up on this
recipe, although I reduced the sugar by 30%. After 36
hours, the airlock is just showing some activity. The
recipe requires that you boil the fruit for 15 minutes
then add the sugar and seal up. Well, good luck with
your search Paul. All I can confirm, is the fact that
elderberry yeast, is nigh on indestructible.
I googled up some recipes and the first half dozen, all
required the addition of a yeast, GP or Burgundy etc.
Most of the recipes also required the use of Camden
tablets. So why would they want to kill the EB yeast
with Camden!! the sample from next-door (12 months old)
was fantastic and was the best homemade 'Port' I've
tasted. Good luck.
You will not kill a wine yeast with Camben. You WILL discourgage and
prevent wild yeast, which for the most part will not produce a high alcohol
wine from taking over your fermentation.
Cultured wine yeast is cheap and can tolerate SO2. I see no reason to do a
crap shoot on letting wild yeast do their thing. Some may work in certain
circumstances but others can create low alcohol wines or wines that have
Louis Pasteur became famous by studying this subject. His task was to
figure out why some wines were great and other wines were bad. In certain
areas of Europe where viticulture has been practiced for centuries, there
has built up a good population of the "good" yeast in the vineyard and in
the wine cellar and they can and do in certain vineyards use the "wild
yeast" but you are taking a big gamble by doing this yourself and in a
"Paul E. Lehmann" wrote in
I agree, most of the research has been concentrated on
grape yeast, wild or surface bloom. I would always use
a cultured yeast if fermenting grape.
Next-door has been using this no (added) yeast recipe
for 20+ years and the quality has been good, with
port-like characteristics. I'm inclined to agree with
the OP that elderberry yeast may have some special
characteristics (apart from surviving boiling). The
answer is probably beyond the scope of amateur
I wonder if there's some sort of natural selection going on here. The
elderberries come pre-yeasted with wild yeast that lives on their
skins, so I would assume that an elderberry-specific yeast variety
would thrive and out-reproduce other wild yeast strains that happened
to land on the same berries. If you've ever tasted raw elderberries,
they aren't very sweet, so this yeast strain would have to be able to
get along on minimal sugar.
When I make an elderberry batch, this wild yeast strain is in the
batch and acts along with the cultured wine yeast in the ferment.
Since it's now in a sugar-enriched environment, as opposed to sitting
on the skin of an elderberry, it goes wild. Sort of like putting a
mouse in a bell jar full of pure oxygen.
sort of natural selection going on here. The
elderberries come pre-yeasted with wild yeast that
lives on their
skins, so I would assume that an elderberry-specific
would thrive and out-reproduce other wild yeast strains
to land on the same berries. If you've ever tasted raw
they aren't very sweet, so this yeast strain would have
to be able to
get along on minimal sugar.
When I make an elderberry batch, this wild yeast strain
is in the
batch and acts along with the cultured wine yeast in
Since it's now in a sugar-enriched environment, as
opposed to sitting
on the skin of an elderberry, it goes wild. Sort of
like putting a
mouse in a bell jar full of pure oxygen.
Most of the natural yeast on grape and fruit, is found
on the surface 'bloom'. As you say, there are wild ones
there too and as Paul E.L. states, there are risks
involved in going natural.
Someone I know, when a student, worked on a Muscat
vineyard, near Perpignan. They used only the natural
yeast from the surface bloom and stopped picking if it
started to rain. I don't know whether they still do
this, or have opted for the safer cultured Muscat
OT but years ago, I made 5 gallons of Asti from a
Muscat concentrate. What I didn't realise, was that
commercial Asti Spumante is made from CO2 injection and
not secondary ferment. 25 of my 30 (genuine) Asti
bottles exploded, during the secondary, while I was at
work. I like the taste of both Muscat and elderberry,
so maybe next year, I'll combine the two.
I suspect, what you're experiencing with a powerful
fermentation, is the presence of natural EB yeast,
rather than wild. When I boil the fruit for 15 minutes,
I believe it's the natural yeast that survives - this
would explain the consistent taste that my neighbor is
experiencing, year on year. I'm sure there's loads more
info ref your question on the internet. If I get the
time this Winter ........
I agree completely.
I will add that about every 50 batches I brew I get a
weird infection in my beer that I have come to attribute
to a "house yeast." It drops the final gravity a half dozen
points more than expected and gives a sort of licorice
flavor to the beer. I don't like it at all but my wife
doesn't mind it, so if that batch is suitably hoppy she is
content to drink it. In any case I feel my time, effort,
and ingredients are not worth risking for something that
may or may not turn out well, so I stick to commercial
yeast for my beer, mead, and cider. (Well, except for
the time I did a "natural" sour mash beer... it was
interesting enough that I may do it again someday. ;-)
"New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any
After 15 minutes of boiling, it's then strained onto
the sugar. You stir until sugar dissolved and then seal
fermentation bin and fit airlock. Evidence of
fermentation starts after about 48 hours. The liquid is
still very warm when the lid is sealed. Although I
accept there's not any cell division at high
temperatures, I don't believe the elderberry yeast is
killed by boiling.
In the Country Wines section of the book, this recipe
is called Elderberry Port and I can confirm it does
taste like Port. My neighbor assures me that the
quality is consistent every year. I don't think you
would get taste repeatability with wild yeast. Also,
how does the wild yeast get introduced?
I guess there's something special about EB yeast. It
may be worth going thru google and see if any tests
have been documented. It would be interesting to
collect some wild yeast, make up a starter bottle and
introduce it to some EB must, that has had it's natural
yeast killed by Camden. I bet the wine produced would
be very poor quality.