Six Days Of Fermentation, And I Only Have 1% Alcohol…

Gravity HydrometerDoing the 7 easy steps from your website – did before – did everything the way it said.  With the must, put campden tablets in, etc…  day 6 discarded the pulp, put in secondary fermentor, put airlock on, wine brewing very slow, airlock hardly bubbling.  Took a test with hydrometer, almost no alcohol. The alcohol scale says about 1% content, not really bubbling the way it should, what should I do?? 
Thank you, Bill R.__________
Hello Bill,
It actually sounds like everything is going good. I just think there may be some confusion going on in terms of understanding the gravity hydrometer. Out of all the wine making materials and equipment we offer, the hydrometer seems to throw people for a loop more than any other.
At this stage of the fermentation it is normal to expect the fermentation to be slowing down. As the fermentation progresses and the alcohol level rises the fermentation becomes slower and slower. Don’t worry about this.
This real issue is with your gravity hydrometer’s reading of 1% alcohol content. What has to be understood is that the hydrometer can not read alcohol, it can only read the sugar that is to be fermented into alcohol. The alcohol scale you are referring to is actually called potential alcohol on the  gravity hydrometer. What it is telling you is how much more alcohol can be made by the wine brewing, not how much alcohol is currently in the wine must.
This is the reason we tell people that they need a beginning hydrometer reading — one taken before the fermentation starts — to determine how much alcohol their wine will have later on.
Going back to your 1% reading on your hydrometer, what it is telling you is that almost all of the sugars that were originally in the wine must have been turned into alcohol. The wine must now has only enough sugar left to produce one more percent of alcohol.
If you want to know how much alcohol your wine currently has, you need to have an initial reading. If your must started with a potential alcohol reading of 12% and and it is currently at 1%, this means the must currently has 11% alcohol [12% – 1%=11%].
If you need more information about the use of the gravity hydrometer, the book First Steps In Wine Making has a great section on this subject.
Happy Wine Making,
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.