Testing The Alcohol Level Of A Finished Wine

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.

0 thoughts on “Testing The Alcohol Level Of A Finished Wine

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

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

    • Can I put my alcohol up more when my wine is finished fermenting I would like it stronger it’s only 6 to 8 percent now can I start it up again ‍♀️

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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

  7. Curious if there is way to account for the un-released sugar in a fruit. The reason for asking is that I have a peach wine batch of 3.6 gallons that was started with 16 lbs of Peaches some frozen, some fresh and some from canned peaches. Along with that I used some 100% Peach, White Grape, Apple juice. My press wasn’t able to do a great job of crushing the peaches so I cut them all up into slices so my fresh, the frozen and the canned were all slices of peach placed into my fermentation bag. The starting SG of the liquid was 1.122 however the body of the peaches was, at the start, at least 1/3 of fermentation bucket contents. I know that the canned peaches probably had a lot more sugar in them than either the frozen or the fresh peaches. Is there any way to get something of an accurate end alcohol content for the batch. I have a vinometer but I know that they are not accurate at all on an unfinished wine but I suppose that after the wine is fermented totally dry and settled to clear I can probably get in the ballpark.
    I can see why some people prefer to steam or otherwise extract all the juice from their fruit before starting the must. Open for ideas. Unfortunately I am not committed enough to this to invest in much more equipment but I am certainly open to idea on low budget methods.

    • Scott, the majority of the sugar in the juice is coming from the sugar that you add according to the recipe. Once the fruit is crushed or cut and in this case canned peaches as well are added to the fermenter and mixed with the remaining ingredients, probably 80 percent of the sugar is already extracted from the fruit before you take your first hydrometer reading. When it is time to remove the pulp and squeeze out all of the juice it will affect the potential alcohol reading by less than half a point. I hope this helps.

  8. Great GREAT site you have Ed.
    Quick question – I have started a bunch of fruit wines and a mead so it is far too late to get initial readings with a hydrometer that I can buy here in Canada but there are lots of European tools ( vinometers 0-18% and spiritometers 20-80%) to test the alcohol content of FINISHED wines along with spirits. Do you think it is worth buying something like this or no? How far off will it be from residual sugars as my mead with not be that dry a wine…
    Thanks ALOT in advance!

    • Filip, the Vinometer will test the alcohol content of a finished dry wine with fairly good accuracy. However, if the is any residual sugar it will throw the reading off. We are not familiar with a spritometer but it sounds like an alcohol hydrometer. The alcohol hydrometer test the alcohol content of distilled spirits only, it does not work on wine or beer. I hope this helps.

  9. This is our second year making wine at home we had a great first Fermentation after a week we pressed and started second fermentation here is were we seems to be having a problem the hydrometer is showing no alcohol.. we did everything the same we don’t add anything to our wine .. what do you think it could be?

    • Brett, I think there might be a little confusion as to what the alcohol scale on the hydrometer means. It is a potential alcohol scale meaning that is how much alcohol you can make with the sugar in the juice. It is not how much alcohol is in the juice. If it is reading 0, that means all of the sugar has been consumed by the yeast and turned into alcohol. The article posted below will discuss this in more detail.
      There Is No Alcohol In My Wine

  10. Hi All, I have my 1st ever batch of Red wine fermenting aprox 40 hours now. I’ve just realised that I never took the first hydrometer reading at the start. Is it too late now to measure something ? How can I determine the alcohol level in the end. I don’t want to poisin myself or anyone else. If I follow the correct timings ect, what’s the worst case scenario with % alcohol level of the finished wine ?!?

    • Joe, since it has been fermenting for a few days now, there is no way to use a hydrometer to determine the finished alcohol content because you need the beginning reading. The only option now is to use a Vinometer when the fermentation is complete. The wine must be completely dry or the reading will be off. If you followed a trusted recipe, the alcohol level should be within the appropriate range.

  11. In general I find the subject of inexpensive alcohol measurement frustrating in that discussion often suggests you are measuring alcohol when you are really only measuring sugar or “potential” alcohol via hydrometer and/or refractory device. In reality only distillation or MG technology shows up in standard methods as accurate analysis. This prevents a consumer in checking finished wine alc. So i was happy to read about your vinometer product. What is/are the physical principles at work that allow this simple device to work?? how accurate is it on table wine with 0-4gr/l sugar?
    thanks for your help

    • Al, The vinometer measures the alcohol instantly by seeing how much of the wine remains in the tube when turned up-side down.The Vinometer is a somewhat accurate way to read alcohol levels in a finished wine. The biggest problem with them, and the reason we prefer the use of a hydrometer, is because they are not accurate at all with wines that have residual sugar left in them. The wine needs to be bone dry for an accurate reading. And for wines that are noticeably sweet, the readings are off the chart.

  12. Hi, I am making blackberry wine and after 3 weeks of fermenting I’ve just transferred it into the second demijohn. The first reading was 110 and before transferring into second demijohn it now reads 990. What does this mean in terms of alcohol. Thanks.

    • Annie, If the beginning reading was 1.100, it means that you have approximately 13-14 percent alcohol in the finished wine.