Elderberry moonshine has a barely perceptible berry aroma and unique light flavor characteristic of this variety of berry. If the correct wort making and distillation procedures are followed, the distillate turns out not bitter and absolutely safe to drink. You’ll need ripe elderberries, picked in August through September. The berries should show no signs of spoilage or mold.
Theory. The Sugar content of ripe elderberries reaches up to %11.4. This means that in theory, you’ll need 1 kilo of elderberries to obtain 120 ml of moonshine that has 40% ABV. In practice, the yield is somewhat smaller—about 15-20% since elderberries usually don’t reach their max sugar content and some part of the distillate is lost during the distillation process.
To increase the yield, you can add sugar to the mash—1 additional kilo of sugar gives another 1.1-1.2 liters of a 40-degree distillate. But adding too much sugar will neutralize the aroma and flavor of the elderberry moonshine. That’s why you should seek a balance between the amount and quality. The optimum ratio is 1 kilo of sugar per 5 kilos of elderberries.
Elderberry wort achieves the highest quality possible when the mash is fermented using wine yeast, be it store-bought, wild or pre-mix raisin fermentation starter. The flaw of this method is that the fermentation lasts for up to 50 days. Mash made with distiller’s, baker’s or pressed yeast ferments in just 4-10 days. But this way significantly impacts the fragrance and taste of the wort. If you’re not on the clock, using wine yeast is preferable.
- Elderberries – 5 kilos
- Water – 1 liter plus 4 liters per each kilo of sugar
- Sugar – 1-2 kilos (optional)
- Yeast – 10 grams of dry yeast or 40 grams of baker’s\wine yeast per 10 liters of the mash
Making Elderberry Wort
Remove the stems. If you don’t use wild yeast, cover the elderberries with water, stir for a bit, leave for 10-15 minutes, then remove the emerged junk, and pour off the berries.
Carefully squash the berries without crushing the seeds, which contain harmful substances. Put the obtained pulp in a fermentation vessel. Add water and sugar, stir till sugar is fully dissolved. Add the pre-activated yeast or fermentation starter.
Stir the mixture once again. Fill the vessel up to 75-80% to leave enough space for foam and carbon dioxide. Attach an airlock or a medical glove with a pierced finger. Move the mash to a dark place with a temperature of 20-28°C.
A wide variety of fermentation locks can be used for home brewing
Depending on the chosen yeast, amount of sugar, and fermentation temperature the elderberry mash ferments for 4-50 days. The fermented wort is not sweet and has hints of bitterness. The airlock should no longer bubble (the glove deflates), there is a layer of sediment at the bottom, and the wort itself becomes lighter.
Elderberry Moonshine Recipe
Strain the fermented wort through 2-3 layers of cheesecloth, squeeze the pulp dry and get rid of it, as it’s no longer required.
Distill for the first time at max speed without separating into fractions. Stop collecting the main product when ABV drops below 20%.
Determine the potency of the obtained distillate and calculate the volume of pure alcohol—multiply the volume in liters by ABV percentage and divide by 100. Water down the elderberry moonshine and distill it once again. Gather the first 14-15% of the pure alcohol separately. This harmful fraction is called “heads” and can only be used for technical purposes.
Stop drawing the main product when ABV drops below 45%. After this, you can stop the distillation or gather the last fraction called “tails,” which should be collected in a separate vessel.
Water down the elderberry moonshine (“the hearts”) to the desired proof (about 80-90 proof). Bottle and cork the homemade alcoholic drink. Keep it in a cool dark place for 2-3 days to let the taste stabilize.
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