How to Make Vinegar at Home

If you’ve wondered how to make vinegar at home, you’ll find everything you need to know right here. Homemade vinegar lets you control quality at every step of the process.

  • Commercial vinegar starters are available online and give the best results.
    Photo by Tim Nauman
  • The mother of vinegar is a rubbery, slick mass that will work for you again and again.
    Photo by Tim Nauman
  • Strain your newly-made vinegar and reserve the mother of vinegar to use in the next batch.
    Photo by Tim Nauman
  • Vinegars can be made from any alcoholic beverage from wine to beer and hard cider.
    Photo by Tim Nauman

In Ruhlman’s Twenty, food writer Michael Ruhlman asserts that acid is second only to salt for elevating the flavors of your cooking. Just a few drops of acid in the form of citrus or vinegar can make a dish more complex — “brighter,” as Ruhlman says. To explore the power of acid, he suggests making a cream of broccoli soup and tasting it. Then stir in a drop of white wine vinegar and taste it again.

Ruhlman says the kind of vinegar you have doesn’t matter as much as the quality, and one way to ensure high-quality vinegars is to make and age them yourself. The DIY approach also saves money, as top-notch vinegars are pricey.

The options for using homemade vinegar are nearly endless. To make a simple sauce for meat or vegetables, bring vinegar to a rapid boil and reduce by about half. Add vinegar to braising liquids to tenderize meats. Vinegar also preserves foods — think dill pickles. And, of course, vinegar has many uses outside the kitchen. (Read 20 Uses for Vinegar from our sister publication Mother Earth Living.)

What Is Vinegar?

The French word vinaigre means “sour wine.” In Wild Fermentation, author and fermentation expert Sandor Katz writes that his experience with vinegar-making began as winemaking gone awry. “Vinegar is an excellent consolation for your winemaking failure,” he writes. (To avoid getting vinegar instead of wine, you should store your vinegar-making projects far away from your homebrew batches.)

If a liquid has fermentable sugars or alcohol in it, the liquid can be turned into vinegar. Wine makes wine vinegar, cider makes cider vinegar and beer makes malt vinegar. Your kitchen is well-stocked if you have wine, cider, and possibly malt and sherry vinegars.

When alcohol is exposed to oxygen, it is transformed by aerobic (oxygen-loving) acetobacter bacteria into acetic acid, more commonly known as vinegar. The ubiquitous acetobacter bacteria in the air find the alcohol in loosely covered wine, cider or beer and go to work. Katz says the simplest method — albeit sometimes faulty — to make both alcohol and vinegar is to let unpasteurized apple cider sit for a week until it becomes alcoholic, and then let it sit for another couple of weeks until it becomes vinegar.

11/13/2018 1:57:45 AM

Mariposa, Pasteurize the vinegar. Heat will kill the mother and leave you with just the vinegar. Transfer to saucepan and heat until just starting to simmer, and then filter with a cheesecloth and funnel back into decanters. Hope this helps!

11/13/2018 1:57:43 AM

Mariposa, Pasteurize the vinegar. Heating it will kill the mother and leave you with just the vinegar. Heat until just starting to boil, then filter back into your decanters. Hope this helps!

8/6/2018 10:58:12 AM

I make homemade fruit vinegar. It turns out great, but after it's decanted, the mother continues to grow and uses up all my vinegar. How do I keep it from doing that? I would like the vinegar to last longer. I live in a tropical climate and don't refrigerate the vinegar. Temperatures don't go over the upper 80's outside and inside it's usually no warmer than 73 max. Help!



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