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Testing The Alcohol Level Of A Finished Wine

Posted on July 18, 2011 by Ed Kraus There have been 8 comment(s)

Vinometer, Refractometer, Gravity HydrometerHi Kraus,

What kind of alcohol tester other the vinometer can I buy to measure the alcohol of my finished homemade wine?

Thanks Joshua
Dear Joshua,

Of all the wine making products that exist, the vinometer is the only one that home winemakers can practically use to test the final alcohol level of a finished wine. It is somewhat accurate when testing a dry wine, but if your wine has any residual sugars, the reading will be thrown way off.

Most wineries rely on a refractometer and/or a gravity hydrometer to determine the alcohol level of a wine. They are both very accurate and easy to use. The drawback is they both require that you take two readings, one before the fermentation and another after.

If you forget or miss taking the first reading, you will not be able to determine the finished alcohol level. The two readings of either the refractometer or gravity hydrometer need to be compared to determine the alcohol level.

There are other ways of testing the alcohol in a wine beside using the vinometer, refractometer or gravity hydrometer, however this brings us into the realm of laboratory equipment and is left for only the larger wineries to practically afford.

Best Wishes,
Customer Service
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

This post was posted in Wine Making Blog

8 thoughts on “Testing The Alcohol Level Of A Finished Wine”

  • Kathy

    My homemade plum wine is delicious! I started it in August 2012 with a 1.08 reading and I'm at 1.0 now in January 2013. It has a wonderful sweetness and bouquet of red plum and I want to bottle it now but when I removed the airlock, it was a little fizzy. This wine tastes perfect and I want to keep the sparkle, so should I go ahead and use champagne bottles and caps to preserve this slight fizz or add the finishing agents and cork it?

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service January 30, 2013 at 6:12 am

    Kathy, I completely understand you wanting to keep the carbonation or sparkle in the wine, but bottling based on the specific gravity can get you into trouble with exploding bottles. It sounds like you don't necessarily want the full sparkling experience, but rather just some fizzy in the wine. What I strongly recommend doing is to let the fermentation completely finish and be given time to clear. Then add to the wine between 1 and 2 ounces of sugar for each gallon of wine, and a packet of Champagne yeast for each 6 gallons of wine and bottle in Champagne bottles. DO NOT bottle in ordinary wine bottles. They will not even begin to hold the pressure.

  • Al

    If you have to add sugar after first hydrometer reading when should you check it again so your reading is accurate

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service August 11, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Al, the best way to add sugar to a wine must is in the form of a syrup. Heat on the stove a mixture of 50% water, 50% sugar until it becomes a clear liquid. Allow it to cool and then add. If you use this mixture to raise the gravity reading of your hydrometer, you can take your reading once it is blended evenly through out the wine must. If you add sugar directly to the wine must then you need to make sure it is dissolved before taking a reading, otherwise it will simply settle to the bottom of the fermenting and give you a false hydrometer reading.

  • agacalilung

    If I have to add more sugar after after the 1st fermentation, because I wanted to increase it's alcohol content, should I disregard the first reading taken before the 1st fermentation and use only the 2nd reading that is before the 2nd fermentation?

    • Ed Kraus

      agacalilung, no you do not want to disregard the first hydrometer reading. Below you will find the link to an article on making high alcohol wines. In the article it will discuss how to take the readings to determine the final alcohol content.

      Making High Alcohol Wine

  • Andygee

    Hi - am I able to mix two batches of fermenting blackberry wine together? They were both started about three days apart?

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