Increasing ABV - kit wines

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Hey Guys,
It seems as though every time I make wine from a kit, the ABV is just too low, usually around 11.5%. I would like it around 13%-13.5%. If I add sugar prior to fermentation to raise the SG, will anything else be thrown off balance? In other words, do I just add the sugar and proceed as usual? Also, how much sugar, roughly, will I have to add? A tablespoon... a pound... 6 pounds?

What is the starting SG of the kits supposed to be? I don't think I've ever seen a red in which the directions specified under 1.090, but then again I've mostly stuck to just a few brands.

If you really want to raise ABV, you could always simply add less water than the directions call for in the kit. That way you maintain balance somewhat. I wouldn't go over 1.100 though, which is close to your 13.5 anyway.
I see, thanks for the advice! Will the yeast that coes with the kit be able to support that level of alcohol?
Probably. By using less water you also increase the nutrient level of the must at the same time, so the wine yeast included should have little problem getting you to 13% to 13.5%. Just make sure your hydrometer is accurate by testing it in plain water at the same temperature you will be testing your must with (if you haven't already).

But since you are modifying the kit, you may consider a bayanus yeast strain like EC-1118 for safety sake.

This is a red wine kit we're talking about, right?

Oh, one other thing. You'll find that with less water, you'll have more head-room than normal in the 6 gallon carboy after you rack. You may want to invest in a 5 gallon carboy (19L) if you don't have one and use that instead of the 6 gallon. Any wine left over you can put into 2L plastic bottle(s) or something and keep under an airlock for topping up when you do your second racking.
Ummm..perhaps a dumb question to some of you...what kit are we talking about here? It makes a huge difference in the 'proper response'.

Yikes that's true cpfan. He could be making a $120 18L CC Showcase kit and just has an inaccurate hydrometer. In that case, don't do it!

But even if it's a cheap $35 kit that's no loss to experiment with, it should be realized that the acid and tannins will also be increased by a percentage equal to the ratio between the starting and adjusted SG. This means that a 4 week kit will not be anywhere near ready for bottling in 4 weeks (at least 8 weeks), and probably not drinkable for many months after bottling. Remember, these cheap 4 week kits are formulated thinner on purpose so that they're ready to bottle and drink young.

I wouldn't even attempt to modify a 6 week kit. Too much money to throw away if I didn't like it, and the starting SG is likely 1.090 at least anyway. Why screw around with it?
If your sg's are only producing 11.5% for a red wine then Im guessing you are doing 10 liter kits and they are thin IMO. If you want a big bold red then get a Cellar Craft Showcaes edition or RJS Cellar Classic Winerey Series, Cru Select or best an En Primeur! these will all produce the higher abv you are looking for and also the big red flavor. They cost more yes but when you break it down to cost per bottle its very little at all but the wine is WAY BETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ken Ridge Classic Merlot (10 litre kit). Started at 1.083, finished at .992. So (1.083 - .992) x 133 is 12.1%.

But I don't really care what the alcohol is. If you really want higher alcohol, add sugar to the primary before pitching the yeast. If you're happy with the result, great. I won't be doing it, but that's my way.

Well, so far I have been using the cheaper $60 Red kits.
I really appreciate the advice! Lot's of good info here. It seems as though I have some options, although I'm really going to consider just getting the better kits!

Thanks guys!

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