How to Measure the Alcohol Content of Wine

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The fermentation is over and you are ready to bottle the wine that you have been carefully nurturing. The taste is right but you cannot tell the alcohol content from taste. For that you need a device called a vinometer, an inexpensive tool found at brewing stores or online.

Things You'll Need

  • Vinometer
  • Withdraw a small sample from the fermentor. To get an accurate reading, especially with sweet wines, mix 1 teaspoon of the wine you are testing with 1 teaspoon of water in a clean container and stir the mixture well. Fill the reservoir of the vinometer with the prepared sample. Continue to fill the reservoir until some wine exits from the other end of the device. Make sure there are no air bubbles in the tube. If they appear tap lightly with your finger until the bubbles disperse.

  • Holding the vinometer upright, rotate it 180 degrees and carefully set it on a flat plate. Watch as the mixture drains and then record the reading when the sample is stabilized in the capillary tube.

  • Multiply the number you have recorded by 2 to give the alcohol content of your wine. For example, if the vinometer shows 4 percent then your wine has an alcohol content of 8 percent.

  • Repeat the process three times, carefully cleaning all the testing equipment between each sampling. Add the results and divide by 3 to reach the final alcohol content figure. You should check the alcohol content of your wine right up to the final bottling.

  • Another way to test for alcohol content is with a winemaker's hydrometer. It requires a larger sample of the wine to be drawn. Since alcohol content needs to be monitored regularly, a hyrdrometer may not be appropriate for the small batch home winemaker.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean the vinometer thoroughly after each use.
  • The vinometer is made of glass and is extremely fragile

References

  • "The Joy of Home Wine Making;” Terry A Garey; 1995
  • “Wine Production Vine to Bottle;” Keith Grainger; 2005
  • “Wine Science;" Ronald Jackson; 2008
  • Photo Credit Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
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