Mellow Yellow: How to Make Dandelion Wine

Today on Root Simple we welcome another guest post from our Midwest correspondent Nancy Klehm:

In the past week, we Midwesterners have experienced three hard frosts – killing back the growth, that emerged too early of my grapes and hardy kiwis and zapping peach blossoms. We will see if there is any fruit onset and if my vines recover.

Meanwhile, it is dandelion wine time!

I first tasted dandelion wine when I bought a bottle of it at a folksy gift shop in the Amana Colonies (yes, Amana of the appliance fame). I had wanted something to drink at my campsite that evening. When I opened the bottle, I anticipated something more magic than what met my tongue. It was cloying yellow syrupy stuff, which resembled soft drink concentrate. I poured it out next to my tent, returning it to the earth where she could compost it. I was sure that I’d never get close to it again.

That was fifteen years ago, and now I have been drinking dandelion wine for about two years. The new stuff is stuff I’ve made myself from dandelion blossoms gathered in Chicago. I’m happy to say that it is divine. I am sure now that the colonists actually keep the good stuff in their private cabinets.

Upon mentioning “dandelion wine”, Ray Bradbury usually comes to mind. However, after I heard a radio interview with him a few years back when he passionately made a case to colonize the moon so we can ditch this trashed planet and survive as a race, I got confused. Enough said.

So the point is, I am going to tell you how to make dandelion wine. I encourage you to do this because dandelions pop up everywhere and every place. They are nearly ubiquitous pioneers in our landscapes of disturbed and deprived soils. Consumed, they are a magnificent digestive, aiding the heath and cleansing of the kidneys and liver. Amongst vitamins A, B, C and D, they have a huge amount of potassium.

As a beyond-perfect diuretic, dandelion has so much potassium that when you digest the plant, no matter how much fluid you lose, your body actually experiences a net gain of the nutrient. In other words, folks – dandelion wine is one alcohol that actually helps your liver and kidneys! Generous, sweet, overlooked dandelion…

When you notice lawns and parks spotting yellow, it’s time to gather. The general rule of thumb is to collect one gallon of flowers for each gallon of wine you want to make.

Enjoy your wandering. People will think you quaintly eccentric for foraging blossoms on your hands and knees. Note: collect blossoms (without the stem) that have just opened and are out of the path of insecticides and pesticides.

So here’s how I make dandelion wine…

I pour one gallon boiling water over one gallon dandelion flowers in a large bowl. When the blossoms rise (wait about twenty-four to forty-eight hours), I strain the yellow liquid out, squeezing the remaining liquid out of the flowers, into a larger ceramic or glass bowl. I compost the spent flowers (thanks dandelion!).

Then I add juice and zest from four lemons and four oranges, and four pounds of sugar (4-4-4 = E.Z.). Okay, now here’s what I think is the best part: I float a piece of stale bread, sprinkled with bread yeast, in the mixture. This technique is used in Appalachian and some European recipes.

Then I toss a dishtowel over it so the mixture can both breathe and the crud floating around my house stays out. I continue stirring the wine several times a day until it stops fermenting. This takes about two weeks or so.

When I am certain it has stopped “working”, I strain, bottle and cork it up and bid it farewell until months later. In fact I wait until the winter solstice, when I can revisit that sunny spring day by drinking it in.

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  1. i’ve never really tried dandelion wine, but am very found of making mead infused with dandelions. i’ve found that during the fermenting, much of the delicate flavors and nose of the flowers can be lost. i ferment the mead first, and then pour the mead over flower blossoms – a cup of flower petals per gallon seems more than enough for me using this method. i allow them to sit on the mead for a few weeks, and then pour it off, and bottle.

  2. oh this is awesome! questions:
    1. it sounds like you collect the flowers over time – do you leave them to dry until you have enough? or do you just go for the 1 gallon of flowers all at once?
    2. what happens if you drink it right away? does time in the bottle change it much?
    3. warm room? will the cold basement be okay or is that too cold for the yeast? i’m having trouble imagining where I’ll keep a giant bowl of dandelion fermenting for two weeks…
    nonetheless, I am determined to try at least a half batch. the dandelions are certainly up.

  3. I made 5 gallons of wine on about a gallon or gallon and a half of flowers. I also added ginger and citrus peels, and a little cloves to the brew. You can make it sweet or dry, depending on how much sugar you put in.

    It’s really hard work getting the green part off the bottom of the flowers, and you will want to set aside time on the same day that you pick the flowers to process them, because they go bad quickly.

    Essentially what you’re doing is making a sweet tea out of dandelion blossoms and fermenting it. You can also do this with elderberry flowers.

    Happy drinking!

  4. I collect the flowers daily (mid-day is best, when they’re fully open), pull off as much green as possible (I don’t get obsessive about it) and then freeze in big ziplock bags until I have as much as I want or the blooming time is over. Last year I didn’t pull off the green until after I thawed them out, and that was a big messy job. I’m going to try this recipe this year–it looks different from what I used in the past, and I want to see how it works out. Thanks for posting this!!

  5. Very cool, I don’t drink alcohol but I love dandelions the bees adore them they are every-ware and they are edible (chipmunks and squirrels like them too) I don’t know why so many folks hate them trying so hard to kill them out of their “dead” green space.

  6. I decided to make dandelion jelly, and it seemed for the first year ever, the yard and fields were not over run. I still collected dandelions, but saved them on the counter. Once I saw their brownness, I threw them out. Elizabeth, I did not know the flowers could be saved up in the freezer. Tomorrow, I have a new, old quest–dandelions.

    One of the Homegrown’s neighbors, Max, buys dandelion seeds from France and grows them for the jelly or wine, forgot which.

  7. Been gathering my dandelion flowers for this year’s wine. Been meaning to taste last year’s wine. I pluck the yellow out of the flowers and leave behind the green, is that what you do, or do the whole flowers go in yours? I save mine in the freezer until I get enough because it takes a long time to process, but if I didn’t have to remove the green stuff…

    • just squeeze the bottom (green part) of the flower twist and pluck takes a couple of seconds and just put the leaves in a baggy.pluck in one big bunch.

  8. Hey, it’s me answering some of Mark’s questions:

    1) I collect them all at once. Search for a great site! You can store them in a cool place or the fridge for a short while, but dandelion flowers wilt quickly and should be used right away.

    2) If you drink the wine young, the alcohol will be very low and it will be very sweet. The sugar serves as the food for the yeast and with time, the wine builds in alcohol and in dryness. And yes, the bottle does change the taste. I have many bottles over 5 years old that are different than when I drank them in other years. It’s wine, afterall!

    3) Atmospheric temperatures effect the rate which yeast eats. At warmer temperatures, they eat faster. I like to ferment my wines when my house ranges between 65-75 degrees.

    • Thanks Nancy! I have more questions, of course.

      4. A whole slice of bread? Or just a little piece? And about how much yeast? This may seem obvious once I’m at this stage, but that bread just gets stirred in, yes?

      5. What do you mean by “when the blossoms rise”? I started making some already (no problem collecting enough flowers) and the flowers were floating when I put them in. Now they are sinking. It’s been about 48 hours so I’m going to take ‘em out.

    • I’m making assumptions here, but as a home brewer I might have some insight.
      I’d think the bread slice provides nutrients for the yeast, because yeast do poorly in sugar water only. If the bread thing icks you out, they sell yeast nutrients at homebrew stores.

      Also, using bread yeast while handy is probably not the best way to go. Bread yeast are bred to make lots of CO2 quickly with little thought to fermentation of sugars to alcohol and off-flavors. You would probably get a better tasting brew using a dedicated wine yeast.

    • thanks. I thought about both wine and beer yeast, but those are just not readily available. this is one experiment that has about a 50% chance of being drinkable. but it’s the first time, so that’s probably pretty good. thanks for your response.

  9. My question is, when do you take the bread out — do you stir it around with the whole thing, or just let it sit there a day or two then take it out before stirring? thanks, Julie

    • Same question… I’ve been stirring it in and all is well. But it will not dissolve completely before my 2 weeks is up… I think I’ll just pull it out before bottling.

  10. I was just wondering about how much yeast you use? A packet of yeast is 2 1/4 tsp, so is it about that?
    My 2 acres of land are sprouting dandelions like crazy, so I thought I’d try making some wine this year, and maybe give it away for Christmas if I can make enough =)

  11. Having made a few batches before I can offer these couple of tips on top of the great advice already given.
    1. Do use a dedicated wine yeast, a baking yeast has a low tolerance for ethanol and will not ferment your wine to a good alcohol level, and it might make it taste a bit off.
    2. Do not use the bread trick, I havn’t tried it myself, but if you let is sit for 9-12 months why are you rushing the start anyway, and it’s not worth the contamination risk.
    Other than that, the advise was generally good. You don’t necessarily need the raisins. Traditional midday Dandelion wine does not have that added, it only provides a little extra body, while covering some of the uniqueness of Dandelion wine. Just add a couple extra Oranges worth of peels and juice instead.

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    • Linda, kombucha mothers ferment tea and sugar. Since there isn’t any true tea here, I don’t think that would work. You could try using dandelions in your second ferment of your kombucha :)

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  15. Does anyone know if light affects the brewing process? I have mine in the kitchen, in a glass container, and am wondering if I need to cover it more completely…

    By the way, my first batch is at the end of week 1 of stirring. It tastes lovely, but more like beer or cider at this stage. I used regular bread yeast when I couldn’t locate anything more specific in local stores, but hope to have the real stuff on the way. Dandelions, beware!

  16. Hi, this last weekend my mom was talking about how her Grandmother from KY would make this wine and it got me thinking. Well, I live in the city of Chicago and was wondering were would be a good place to pick since the parks and parkways are exposed to to many animals I.e dogs. Ew. The suburb forest perserves? Thanks!

    • I’m new to all this, but people are usually happy to have someone pick their dandelions! I would drive to the Suburbs, probably, and then keep your eyes out for a good field… then ask permission and if they use chemicals…

  17. I want to try to make dandelion wine… just need to confirm you really meant to say four POUNDS of sugar. Whoa!

    • A friendly employee (who teaches the wine making class) at my local Midwest Supply said that if you like drier/less sweet wine, then 3 lbs would be plenty.

  18. salut,bonjour,ça va ? Je porte le joli nom de Chantal.

    Je souffle mes 38 bougies dans un mois j’assume totalement mon age .
    Mon boulot, artiste ! On dit souvent de moi que je suis timide.

  19. Hi! I need help! I made my first ever batch of dandelion wine when they first came out at the end of April. I let it all ferment in a stein container (I live in Germany and that’s what I had on hand!), and left it in my kitchen at room temp. I used a “real” piece of bread (not wonderbread) to float in it and bread yeast. After 3 weeks it seemed to stop bubbling in the stein, but when I put it into bottles, I could see lots more bubbles coming to the surface….and are still doing so after another week and there is sludge in the bottom even though I strained it through cheesecloth before putting it into the bottles. So is this normal? is it too cold so the fermentation is taking longer? HELP! I’m not sure what to do now. :-)

    • Hi Jessica,

      This was a guest post by Nancy Klehm – Erik and I have never made dandelion wine before, so we can’t help you with your questions. But we’ll give Nancy and shout and ask her to look at the comments.

      For now, we can say a few general things that we know from beer. First, sludge is pretty normal for any kind of homebrew. Commercial wine and beer are filtered. As far as the bubbles — what sort of caps are on your bottles? If they are screw caps, a little air leakage can cause bubbling. If they are actually corked or sealed and yet still bubbling, that’s not so good because it means those bottles are under pressure and could burst.

  20. thanks! so far, i haven’t capped the bottles, i was afraid they might explode. They are bottles with the hinged closure and rubber seals. I have “closed” them without the rubber seals for now so there is room for gas to escape.

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  22. Pingback: Dandelion Wine - life from the ground up

  23. Hello,

    I tried your recipe as a fun summer activity to do with the dandelions in my yard. I found the toughest part was stemming those hundreds of dandelions. I am not the most organized person and there were some days that I forgot to shake the mixture and I did not bottle it for a good three weeks so I was really not sure if it would work and if it would be drinkable. I tried a bottle with friends last December and everybody was amazed and complemented me on the beautiful whine. I was really surprised I have to say. The alcohol percentage was higher than wine as well I would guess around 17%. Anyway Thank you for this easy to use beautiful recipe that uses such a underestimated flower.

    • I’m really glad this worked well for you. We’ll tell Nancy, who wrote this one as a guest post. There are almost no dandelions growing around here — it’s too dry, even when we’re not in a drought!– so I’ve never been able to give it a try myself.

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  25. HI,I just want to know what dandelion wine would taste like without the dandelions does it have a taste or is it for color only ?

    • This is a guest post–dandelions don’t grow in any quantity around here, so we’ve never made or tasted dandelion wine, so we can’t tell you much, except to say that we’re sure dandelions add flavor, as they are flavorful plants. You can make booze by fermenting straight sugar water, but that would taste pretty nasty, I suspect. All homemade “wines” are a plant extract/juice of some sort plus sugar.

  26. I just started my first batch of dandelion wine using a recipe I found in a book of wine recipes. It called for pouring boiling water over the petals, sugar, and raisins, letting it cool and then adding a yeast starter made with orange juice. Anyway, the mixture with only the dandelions, sugar, and raisins frankly smelled awful. I just pitched the yeast this afternoon so haven’t checked to see if it has improved. Is this normal? Has anyone else experienced this?

    • did you use camden tablets to kill the existing bacteria, etc, before you added the sugar. WHen you pick the dandelions you can see the ants crawling all in them and I am sure camden tablets are essential to make good not off tasting dandelion wine.

    • THis is my second year making dandelion wine and I never have done it with raisins. I always use the orange juice and lemon juice recipe. The citrus flavors compliment the flower flavor of dandelions. I am also using a strong yeast that has eaten up 18 pounds of sugar per 5 gallons of wine, and already it tastes dry. I think I will leave it alone. Last years batch was too sweet, but I think that had to do with the fact that the yeast stopped working when my apartment got too hot. Anyhow, I tasted it all throughout the process, and it was crazy how just one month would mellow the flavors and blend the flavors together. I drank my last bottle two weeks ago, and I’m sure it wasn’t at it’s top potential, being only 10 months old. I made the mistake of giving most of it away as christmas gifts. Not this year, these eleve gallons are mine, and I have three gallons of floweres that I think I’m going to make a tea out of today, probably making a sort of “dandymead.” Good luck, and next time just remmeber that campden tablets are a must.

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  28. I am using your recipe and just squeezed and strained the juice. Instead of yellow, it is dark green. Is that normal?

  29. What is the best method of straining the end product? I tried coffee filters and clean light cloth, but it ‘clogged’ with yeast?

  30. I’m trying this recipe. I think it’s finished fermenting but it is very syrup like. is that usual?

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