Can You Increase The Alcohol In A Wine Kit?

Person who increased alcohol in his wine kitMost red wine kits give a finished wine with 12.0% to 12.5% alcohol. Is it harmful to add additional sugar to the wine kits (with Sp. Gr. control) to increase the alcohol to about 13.5%?

Name: H. Dalesponaugle MD
State: VA
Hello Dr. Dalesponaugle,

By all means, you can increase the alcohol in a wine kit. It will not harm the wine in anyway.

All you need to do is add sugar to the wine during the fermentation. Make sure it gets dissolved completely and does not end up hanging at the bottom of the fermenter. For each pound of sugar you add to a 6 gallon wine kit, you are increasing the potential alcohol by about 8 tenths of a percent (0.8%).

But before you get all excited and run to the store to buy a few sacks of sugar, there are a couple of things you should know:

  1. There are limits to how much alcohol a wine yeast can ferment. Which means there are limits to how much you can increase the alcohol in a wine kit. As the alcohol level of a wine increases, the more the ability of the yeast to ferment is diminished. The ability of the yeast to ferment at higher alcohol levels is is known as the wine yeasts’ alcohol tolerance. Different wine yeast have different tolerances, so it is important that you do not shoot for an alcohol level that is higher than the wine yeasts’ tolerance. There are yeast profile charts are our website that will list the alcohol tolerance.
    With this in mind, you should have a specific target alcohol level for your wine kit in mind. Definitely use your wine hydrometer to help you do this. Hopefully, the hydrometer has a potential alcohol scale on it. This hydrometer scale will make it easy. You should also be using a wine yeast that can reach that target alcohol level without stalling out. If the wine yeast stalls out you could end up with a finished wine that is too sweet to drink.
  1. Increasing the alcohol in a wine kit will take its flavor out of balance. These winemaking kits are flavor balanced. They are tested and re-tested before ever going to market. One major component of any wine’s flavor balance is its alcohol. If you increase the alcohol in the wine kit by too much, the wine will taste hot and watery. The extra burn from the alcohol Shop Wine Kitswill reduce the tongue’s ability to taste, giving the wine this watery impression. It will also have less body. There’s another blog post that goes into the subject more thoroughly, Keeping Fruit Wines In Fruity Balance, but for now just understand that more alcohol means less flavor.
    Something you could do to experience this for yourself is to take a bottle of wine that you currently have to drink and slowly add measured amounts of grain alcohol to it as you drink it. This should illustrate more clearly what I’m talking about.

So, it is very possible to increase the alcohol in a wine kit. It’s simply a matter of adding sugar to the kit. The bigger question is do you really want to? These win kits are carefully balance. Increasing the alcohol will take it out of balance.

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.

11 thoughts on “Can You Increase The Alcohol In A Wine Kit?

  1. David, so sorry you had such an issue with your batch of mead. I wanted to clear some things up, though. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using store bought honey for making a mead. I can also be pasteurized. All that means is the honey was flashed heated to kill any mold, bacteria, etc. I would suggest that you take a look at "The Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure" that are listed here:

  2. Got your message, checked out reasons for failure. I followed amt. exactly for chemicals,Used Red Star Champaign yeast, date was good,With brew belt heat was steady at 70/72 F. Using 15# Honey brought SG to 1.110, after 5 days dropped to 1.080 just .030. May be SG toohigh using 15 instead of 13# ?? I started another batch with raw honey following your recipe on line. D 47 yeast Same temps, 13# exactly, has been fermenting well for 3 days, covered with just a thin cloth. This batch had just yeast energizer,unlike the first having both y nut. and y. energizer. Thanks for your answers, Hoping batch two comes out? Dave Voigt

  3. Very good Info. I’ve just had one of my winemaking questioned answered. Another I have,why not cover adding water to top up with. My carboys ,glass, as you know hold more than 6 US Gals, considering the waste with racking,doesn’t water dilute alcohol level of wine?

  4. David, yes topping up with water will dilute the alcohol level of the wine. Some people will top-up with another wine or with a vodka/water mix to maintain the alcohol percentage.

  5. I use to make homemade wild grape and concord grape wines and only used the juice of the grapes, water and sugar (no yeast, other than natural yeast) and got as much as 17-18% alcohol! Why is that?

  6. Carl, just as you said, the natural yeast fermented the sugars from the grape and the sugar you added. Apparently, all these sugars were enough to produce at least 17% alcohol.

  7. I like the idea of the vodka water mix to top off. It kills me to add wine that i have already made. What is the correct mixture of vodka to water to add to top off and will it change the taste

  8. I contacted you a short time ago about a recipe difference for mead. I decided to try the catalog one. I purchased 15# Berkley/Jensen honey from BJs Whosale club. Start SG1.110 6 days later 1.180, no life at all. Added another packet yeast, nothing. Should explain using raw honey some time,I wasn’t aware they pasturized it. $60. down the drain. I read afterward on line to use only raw. Perhaps you will pass this on to your readers. I love your news letters, send them to my son in Fairport as well. Thanks,For your answer on topping up. Dave Voigt Geneva,NY

  9. I read your information on pectic enzyme and have been using it for a long time in making wine from the wild “mustang” grapes I have on my property in south Texas. I have good success using pectic enzyme at different addition levels, varying as much as 10 to 1. I have used as much as 16 tablespoons in a 6 gal. batch. I have not noticed any problems but I am a novice wine maker and may not notice a problem when I have one. I use the powdered form. I would like your comments on any problems you know of if you use too much pectic enzyme.

    • David, were are not aware of any ill effects of using too much pectic enzyme. I suppose it is possible, if an extreme amount was used that it may affect the taste, but that would probably be more than you would ever use.

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