My Homemade Wine Has No Alcohol

My Homemade Wine Has No AlcoholWhen I check the alcohol level of my wine before bottling, it is less than 1%. What am I doing wrong? Is there a reason why my homemade wine has no alcohol?…

Name: Larry J.
State: Iowa
Hello Larry,

I am assuming that you are coming up with this info by taking a reading with your wine hydrometer.

The 1% you are seeing on the wine hydrometer is not telling you how much alcohol is in the wine. It is telling you how much more alcohol can be made with the sugars that are still left in the wine. It is a potential alcohol scale, not an alcohol scale. In other words, there is still enough sugar left in your wine to ferment one more percent of alcohol.

So when you say my homemade wine has no alcohol, this is not so much an issue of no alcohol being in the wine as it is knowing how to use the wine hydrometer or following any wine hydrometer instructions that might have came with it.Shop Hydrometers

To tell how much alcohol is currently in the wine, you have to know what the potential alcohol reading was on the hydrometer at the beginning of fermentation – how much potential for alcohol was there at the beginning… 10%, 11%, 12%? By knowing how much potential alcohol could be made at the beginning of fermentation, and knowing how much alcohol can potentially be made now, currently, you can determine how much alcohol is in the wine.

Here’s an example. Let’s assume your wine started with a hydrometer reading of 13%, and you now have a reading of 1% on the potential alcohol scale. This would mean that your wine currently has an alcohol percentage of 12%. This is the 13% less the 1%.

There is no way that any wine hydrometer can tell you how much alcohol you have with a single reading. You have to know what the wine hydrometer reading was before the wine started fermenting and compare that to an ending reading. If you did not take a beginning reading with your wine hydrometer, there is no way for you to determine the alcohol level of that wine with any hydrometer.

I hope this information helps you out. You are not the first person to say, my homemade wine has no alcohol, because of misinterpretations with the hydrometer. For that reason I’m glad you brought it up so I can share some clarity with other home winemakers.

Happy Winemaking,
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.

7 thoughts on “My Homemade Wine Has No Alcohol

  1. If I add sugar in 2 steps, what is the proper way to tell % Alcohol? For example:

    My beginning SG was 1.100.
    I fermented to SG of 1.070.
    I added sugar to SG 1.085
    I fermented to .098
    I then added sugar to 1.020
    I am still fermenting and expect to stop at about S.G of .098

    Do I just add the drops?


  2. If I forget to take a potential alcohol reading but I took specific gravity. I just look on my hydrometer at my specific gravity and go from there. For example if my Specific Gravity at the beginning was 1.100 and it ends up being 0 when I bottle it. I look what the potential alcohol would have been at the 1.100 mark of the Specific Gravity and subtract from there.

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