My Wine Hydrometer Is Reading No Alcohol Content

Zero Percent With HydrometerMy hydrometer says my wine has no, what can I do? …and what did I do wrong? It’s a cab, I let it ferment and it’s clear but when I checked the alcohol level it said 0%, what can I do?

Thanks Mike A.
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Hello Mike,

We get your question a lot: My wine is done fermenting, but the hydrometer is reading no alcohol content. What happened?

Well, I’ve got some great news. It is extremely likely that there is not a problem with the wine. It fermented just fine, and it does have plenty of alcohol in it.

It is much more likely that you are interpreting the hydrometer readings incorrectly. It happens all the time and stems from the fact that the wine hydrometer is a backwards instrument when it comes to reading alcohol content. All that’s needed is a little clarification, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

To determine the alcohol content of any wine you must take more than just one reading with the hydrometer. You must take two readings and compare them – one before the fermentation begins and another one after. For example, a typical beginning reading on the wine hydrometer’s alcohol scale would be 13%. The typical ending reading might be 0%. If this were the case, the wine would have 13% alcohol.

Shop HydrometersIt is the beginning reading minus the ending reading. Or, another way to look at it: it is the distance that the fermentation travels along the alcohol scale, not its current reading.

Another point is that the scale is actually not call an alcohol scale. It is called a Potential Alcohol scale. At any given time this scale can tell you how much alcohol can be made with the sugars that are still currently available in the wine must. What it cannot tell you is how much alcohol is in the wine with just that one reading.

In your case, the potential alcohol scale is reading close 0% alcohol content because there is no sugar left to make more alcohol. The sugar has already been consumed by the wine yeast and fermented into alcohol.

If you would liked to read more about why your wine hydrometer is reading no alcohol content, the link will take you to some more detailed information about this: Hydrometer Scales And What They Mean.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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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.

17 thoughts on “My Wine Hydrometer Is Reading No Alcohol Content

  1. I bought a pail about a month and a half ago. Sanitized all my stuff…stirred it like crazy to get it going. I then transferred it into my glass carboy. Went to take reading in my graduated cylinder and my hydrometer went straight to the bottom, no buoyancy or anything, it just stayed at bottom. I put air lock on it that had sanitizer liquid, wrapped it up with a towel and put in dark room. Our house temp is about 23 degrees (we are in Canada). After a month I transferred it into secondary glass carboy, let it sit for about 2 weeks. I went to take a reading as the airlock water levels were even. Again the hydrometer dropped in and sank to the bottom. It does not taste anything like a wine. Pail I got was suppose to be a Grenache. Did I do something wrong due to the fact on how it tastes and the readings I was unable to obtain? Is this batch dead?….Thanks

    • Darrin,

      You may want to keep adding wine until the hydrometer does float. The lowest reading ever physically possible by a wine is .990. If this, for example was the actual SG your wine was at, then you should be able to get a reading on the hydrometer, by adding sufficient wine.

      Beyond this, it sounds like there is a possibility that the wine fermented out before you received it, or it fermented very quickly after you got it. This in itself would not ruin the wine, so beyond that I’m not sure what you have going on.

  2. I have been making wines (kits & fruits) for 12 years now, but this article about the alcohol scale was very educational. Thank you very much.

  3. Alcohol readings. I use the hydrometer for potential alcohol before and after fermentation. After fermentation and before bottling, i get an alcohol reading on my vinometer. This sort of double checks the results of fermentation conversion of sugar to alcohol and the completness by the specific yeast I’ve used.

  4. Question…I have done everything according to the directions in the catalog as it pertains to making raspberry wine. Right now it has a strong vinegar taste and smell, what if anything has gone wrong?

  5. I like the answer given. It’s good to know that my wine isn’t somehow poisoned due to a bad chemical in place of the alcohol or something, ya know?

  6. Hi
    Very nice and interesting text
    i have a question . ill appreciate it if you answer
    Ive measure it by hydrometer first and it was 1.065 and right now its around 1 and below the 1 , but the alcohol meter shows below the zero !!
    what is the problem?

    • Arshia, as the article states the alcohol scale on your hydrometer is potential alcohol, meaning how much alcohol you can make, not how much alcohol is in the wine. When it reads 0 that means the yeast has consumed all of the alcohol available. To determine how much alcohol is currently in the wine, as the article instructs, you subtract the ending potential alcohol reading from the beginning reading. A starting specific gravity reading is approximately 6.5% alcohol.

  7. Hello,

    My wine/juice finished all the sugars in a week and the specific gravity reading went down BELOW zero (gained about 11% alcohol). So I added more sugar and got a new SG reading of 1.04.

    After about 2 weeks, the SG reading went back down to EXACTLY zero; and after an additional 2 weeks, it still stayed at zero. Shouldn’t this have dropped below zero?? Is it ready? I can taste the alcohol but it also had a little bitterness to it. I added Campden tablets to my Welch’s juice, both before (0 weeks) and after (5 weeks), as well as Potassium Bicarbonate after 5 weeks to remove acidity.

    I was hoping to obtain a stronger alcohol content but I guess its not happening anymore. Should I add Sparkolloid powder and let it clear up? It tastes very decent and strong but with a little bitterness. Anything I can do to remove bitterness?

    Thank you so much!

  8. I have a gallon of wine that is done original ABV 12% and finish zero but its sweet and my hydrometer says zero alcohol as a matter of fact it pushes the hydrometer up out of the juice yet I can swear I can taste alcohol content of about 10%. Im using the actual alcohol hydrometer not the ABV multi-scale.

  9. Loving this site! So very helpful! Re leveraging the magic that is the hydrometer — if I take an initial reading of 1.09 / Potential ABV ~12.8% and a reading at a later date (midway through the process) of 1.06 / Potential ABV ~7.8%, would that also mean that at that point in time, the concoction/brew/magic beverage is sitting at around 5% ABV? Essentially, can I use multiple measurements to track the increasing ABV?

    • Cyn, yes that is correct, at that time it would mean there is approximately 5% alcohol. Subtracting the current or ending reading from the beginning reading is how you determine the approximate current alcohol content.

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