Do Not Dump It Out. I Repeat, Do Not Dump It Out.

Homemade Apple WineI’m in the process of making my first batch of wine. I’m making apple wine. When I started, I took a hydrometer reading and it was in between 1.080-1.100. I let it ferment in the bucket for about a week and a half. When I racked it into the carboy I took another hydrometer reading and it was about the same.(this was on the 7th of January.) I just took another hydrometer reading today( Jan 21) and the hydrometer wouldn’t even float inside the wine thief. Did I screw something up or is the wine ready to be filtered and bottled. I also tasted the wine. It had a really good flavor but it also had a little tartness to it. Please tell me that it’s ok, I really don’t want to have to dump it out!
Name: Ben Marquard
State: Wisconsin
Hello Ben,
Do not dump it out. I repeat, do not dump it out. Your first hydrometer reading of 1.080 – 1.100 indicates that it was in a reasonable range for starting a fermentation. This reading indicates that your final alcohol level should end up around 10.5% to 12%. Your second reading I can not explain. After a week and a half you should have had a reading around .996 – 1.020 on your gravity hydrometer. You said it did not change.
Now you are saying that you can not get the gravity hydrometer to float. That is good news! This is an indication that your fermentation is almost done, if not done already. The reason the wine hydrometer will not float is because you do not have it in something deep enough to test for the final reading.
You should be expecting a Specific Gravity reading at this point of around 0.994 to 0.998. This is at the very tip-top of the hydrometer’s scale, so you need something deep enough to get it to float and get the reading. Find something taller to test the apple wine in, or you can put the gravity hydrometer directly into the batch of apple wine to get the reading.
What I suspect you will find is that the fermentation has completed and all that needs to be done now is to give the wine time to clear up and then eventually bottle. You have the option of back-sweetening the wine with sugar before bottling, but you must also add Potassium Sorbate or the wine will start fermenting again in the bottle.
You should also be using sulfites such as sodium metabisulfite or Campden tablets in your wine. At minimum, you should be adding either of these right before bottling. If you plan on bulk-storing the wine before bottling then you should add a dose sooner and then again at bottling time.
One thing I might suggest for future batches is to get a hydrometer jar. This is basically a tall tube that allows you to take accurate readings. You might also want to take a look at the following article on our website: “How To Make Homemade Wine“.
Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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.