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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

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