Every adult has this “why do we have four opened bottles of vinegar?” moment probably every couple of years. That’s when we wonder: does vinegar go bad?
Sometimes it’s during spring cleaning that you notice that’s a bottle of apple cider vinegar on the bottom shelf, two bottles of balsamic on the middle shelf, and you keep the leftovers on the top.
Other times you organize a cabinet in the kitchen because you can’t find products that you put there a few days ago anymore. In such times we usually find out that we still have some leftovers of kitchen staples such as vinegar.
So if you’ve got a few half-open bottles of this acidic condiment, you probably started to think how long does it last. Or how to tell if it has gone bad. Or if those slimy jelly-like discs at the bottom of the bottle mean the liquid is spoiled.
Either way, in this article you can find answers to any of those questions, and then some. We go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of vinegar in general. And even though there are quite a few variations of the condiment out there, the general rules apply to all of them just the same.
If learning more about these topics sounds interesting to you, read on.
How To Store Vinegar
Vinegar is a shelf-stable food additive. You should store it in a cool and dark environment, away from heat sources. The pantry is probably the best place for an unopened bottle of vinegar, while a dark cupboard in the kitchen is the perfect spot for an opened bottle.
When it comes to an opened bottle, remember to keep it sealed tightly when not in use. That’s about it when it comes to storage guidelines
One important thing about vinegar you should know about is the so-called “mother” of vinegar. The mother is a natural byproduct of making vinegar.
Some vinegars are sold with the mother in, and they are usually labeled as unfiltered or simply “with mother.” But most of them are filtered or pasteurized. Both processes get rid of the mother and leave a clear liquid that’s ready to use for your salad dressings.
If a filtered vinegar is opened for a prolonged period (think years), the mother may begin to form on its own. And that’s a perfectly natural and safe process.
If you see an opened bottle of vinegar for the first time after a few years of opening, and notice some sediment forming on top, or slimy disc or discs on the bottom, don’t freak out. It’s the mother forming, and your vinegar is still perfectly okay.
If the mother grosses you out, you can always filter it out using a fine mesh strainer or coffee filters, and you’re good to go.
How Long Does Vinegar Last
You got to this point to find out if vinegar lasts indefinitely, right? There isn’t a good answer to this question. What’s sure it that vinegar has a really long shelf life, and if you store it properly, it won’t ever go bad.
But over time, it might lose some of its taste and smell, especially if it’s a fruit vinegar. Obviously, there a couple of factors involved, like how often the vinegar was opened, if it ever sat in sunlight for a prolonged period, and so on. The quality of the vinegar itself plays a significant role too. Especially for balsamic vinegar. But usually, the taste differences between fresh and old vinegar aren’t that pronounced.
Many bottles of vinegar come with a best-by date, but some don’t. There are at least two reasons why that’s the case.
First, as I already mentioned, a few kinds of vinegar are a bit more volatile than others, and you might see some changes in quality over time, hence the date on the label.
The second reason has less to do with vinegar and more with people being people. People tend to trust products with an “expiration” date more than ones without one. So a vinegar with a date is more “trustworthy” than one without. Because of that, assuming that one without a date will hold up better than one with it doesn’t make much sense.
|Vinegar (unopened)||Best-by + 5+ years|
|Vinegar (opened)||2+ years|
Please note that the periods above are only estimates and for the best quality. Vinegar stored properly will stay safe indefinitely.
How To Tell If Vinegar Has Gone Bad
As I already mentioned, vinegar pretty much lasts forever if you take good care of it. The acid in the liquid does a great job of inhibiting any bacterial growth, except the bacteria naturally present in vinegar, of course.
And as you already know, if any sediment, cloudiness, or slimy discs form in the bottle, the liquid is still safe to use, as the mother of vinegar is harmless.
Because of that, the only thing you need to worry about is the quality of the liquid. Some kinds of vinegar retain quality better than others, thus if a dish relies heavily on the taste of the condiment, check its quality before using it.
To do that, give it a whiff and taste a teaspoon to asses the flavor. If everything is as it should be, feel free to use it. Otherwise, it’s probably better to use a fresh one and utilize this one for dishes that just need some acidity.
Does Vinegar Go Bad?
Chances are you probably have a bottle of vinegar sitting in your pantry right now. Vinegar consists of 5-20% acetic acid, water, and various trace chemicals. The main uses of vinegar are cooking or pickling, however, white vinegar is also the key ingredient for excellent general household cleaner recipes.
Whether your pantry only holds distilled white vinegar, or you have every variety of vinegar made, you may be wondering, does vinegar go bad? To start, let’s explore what vinegar is, exactly, and how it is made.
How is Vinegar Made?
The acidic liquid is created through the fermentation of ethanol alcohol. Bacteria are used to break down, or ferment, the ethanol into several byproducts, one of which is acetic acid. The acetic acid is what makes vinegar unique.
Along with the acetic acid, vinegar contains other substances like minerals, vitamins, and other flavor compounds. It can be created using a variety of different ingredients that lend to each type of unique qualities and flavors. You can even make apple cider vinegar or white vinegar yourself.
What is the pH of Vinegar?
The specific pH of vinegar varies, depending on how much acid it contains. However, the commercial distilled variety that is available at any grocery store has a pH of between 2.40 and 3.40.
You can measure the pH of vinegar with a pH strip, which you can find online or at your local drug store.
What is the “Mother” of Vinegar?
The “mother of vinegar” is the original bacterial culture that is used to begin the fermentation process of the ethanol. It is a slime-like glob of cellulose that forms in the vinegar and is usually killed during the pasteurization process when the vinegar is heat-treated.
Almost every kind of vinegar that you can purchase has been pasteurized to stop the “mother of vinegar” from forming. Those varieties that haven’t been through this process will have a label of “raw.”
Does Vinegar Spoil?
If you look at any container of vinegar, you will see a “best before date,” or expiration date. This can be a bit confusing, since, according to a study conducted by the Vinegar Institute, the shelf life of vinegar is indefinite. While vinegar will not go bad, its acidity level will change over time.
Once you’ve passed the expiration date listed on your container of vinegar, one of two things happens to cause the acidity level to decrease. First, water is absorbed into the vinegar over a period, diluting the concentration.
The dilution of the product causes a reduction in the acidity of the vinegar. The second reason the acidity level of the vinegar may decrease is due to the decomposition of the acetic acid over a period.
Since lemon juice is also acidic, you may wonder does lemon juice go bad, too? Yes, lemon juice can spoil, as well.
Are You Able to Tell if Vinegar is Bad?
While vinegar has an indefinite shelf life, it can still alter in appearance and strength after five to ten years. If you use white distilled vinegar, it will remain unchanged for an extended period and can still be used safely beyond any date.
Other types of vinegar, including apple cider and red wine vinegar, may develop sediment, cloudiness, or change in color after a period, because of the added flavor and coloring that is often added during processing.
This does not mean that the vinegar has become harmful and must be thrown out, it just means that it will be less acidic and may have a slightly different flavor.
It can sometimes be challenging to tell if products in your pantry are “bad.” For example, do you know how to tell if a sweet potato is bad or if your olive oil is rancid? Periodically checking your food goods in the fridge and the pantry ensures that you always have items that are safe to eat and use for cooking.
> More Interesting Vinegar Tips: Using vinegar in the garden – An Extensive Guide
How Should Vinegar Be Stored?
Due to its acidic nature, vinegar does not need to be refrigerated and is self-preserving. It is best to keep it in its original, airtight container and keep it in a cool, dark area, and away from sources of heat.
The best place to keep vinegar is in your pantry. You want to avoid storing it next to your dishwasher or stove as the constant change in temperature can cause the acidity to deteriorate faster.
What are the Different Types of Vinegar?
Most people are familiar with the white distilled vinegar that can is available at any grocery store. Vinegar can be created from a variety of foods that contain ethanol alcohol and natural sugars. There are more than a dozen kinds of vinegar on the market today.
- Apple cider
- Sherry wine
- East Asian black
White or distilled vinegar is the most common type of vinegar, and is made from either, grain-based ethanol, or is produced in a laboratory using acetic acid and water.
The many uses of vinegar include pickling or cleaning around the house. We have also used white vinegar in the laundry to remove any static and neutralize any scent. White vinegar has a shelf life of between five to ten years before it starts to lose its acidity and flavor.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) comes in second, in regards to how common it is in the United States. It is light-tan in color and is produced using apple cider.
The cider gives the vinegar a tart and fruit flavor when used in cooking. It is best in dressings, salads, condiments, and marinades, and most general cooking needs.
This can be either white or red and is made using a blend of wines. It is more common in Europe and is often infused with herbs, both fresh and dried, or fresh berries to bring in extra flavor when cooking. Cooks often flavor red wine with raspberries. Higher quality wines that have aged for several years in wooden casks create better tasting vinegar.
Sherry Wine Vinegar
What is sherry vinegar? This variety of vinegar is produced with sherry wine and is usually manufactured in Spain, and exported around the world.
This kind of vinegar is brown and is often sweeter than the wine vinegar.
Champagne vinegar is a specialty vinegar that is made from champagne. It is much sweeter than white wine vinegar. It has a delicate flavor and is pale in color.
It is more expensive than most vinegar and is perfect for bringing out the sweetness of melons, fruit, and berries.
Born in Modena, Italy, balsamic vinegar can be either traditional or commercial. Traditional balsamic vinegar has a long history and follows well-developed customers for its production.
It is aged in casks made of various woods for at least six years. This process gives it a rich, sweet, subtle, woody flavor.
Commercially made balsamic vinegar is what is typically available in grocery stores. Its production isn’t regulated, and there are no requirements when it comes to how it is aged, making it more affordable and more widely available than the traditional variety. Both kinds of balsamic vinegar are perfect for both salty and sweet foods.
Originating in Japan, rice vinegar is essential to the preparation of sushi. It is clear or pale yellow and made from the sugars that are in rice. It has a clean, mild, and delicate flavor that is ideal for foods that need additional sugar.
East Asian Black Vinegar
East Asian Black Vinegar is a type of rice vinegar that is popular in China. They make it from rice, millet, wheat, sorghum, or a combination of the four. Some contain spices, added sugar, and caramel color. It has a malty flavor and is inky black in appearance.
Malt vinegar is a favorite in Britain and is dark-brown in color, reminiscent of a deep-brown ale. They produce it by allowing barley kernels to germinate, which allows enzymes to break down the starch.
The collapse of the proteins produces sugar. They then brew the kernels into a malt beverage that contains alcohol. Bacteria is then added, converting the ale into vinegar, which is then aged. It is excellent for pickling and is often used to accompany fish and chips.
They produced cane vinegar from sugar cane and is used primarily in the Philippines. It is light yellow and is similar to rice vinegar in flavor.
Beer vinegar is popular in the Netherlands, Austria, Bavaria, and Germany. It has a light golden color and is produced from beer, giving it a sharp, malty flavor. The flavor of the vinegar depends on the brew that is used to produce the vinegar.
A staple of Southeast Asian cooking, coconut vinegar is created using the sap from the coconut palm. It is a white vinegar that has a sharp, slightly yeasty flavor. Thai and Indian dishes rely heavily on coconut vinegar for its flavor.
Raisin vinegar is typically produced in Turkey and used in a variety of Middle Eastern dishes. It is made from raisins, and it is cloudy and medium brown in color. The raisins give it a mild flavor.
This type of vinegar is produced in the Philippines, and they make it by fermenting the sap of flower clusters from the Nipa palm. It is citrusy in flavor and has a distinct, musty smell.
Its pH levels are slightly higher than distilled white vinegar and sit between five and six.
This vinegar is becoming more popular due to its claim of promoting a healthy digestive tract. They make kombucha from the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast known as kombucha, which produces a complex group of nutrients. You can flavor it by adding blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, or mint when it first begins the fermentation process.
Is Vinegar Good for You?
Due to its acidic nature, vinegar can provide you with some benefits. However, if taken in large amounts, it can be harmful. You can damage your intestines and stomach if you drink significant amounts of vinegar, eventually burning a hole in your belly.
Typically, you can consume about two tablespoons of vinegar, diluted in a quart of water, lowering the chances of damaging your stomach.
For a relatively inexpensive product, vinegar has numerous benefits, from adding flavor to your food to cleaning your home. The great news is that vinegar will never go bad, allowing you to store the product for years.
Whether you plan on making delicious meals or cleaning your house, vinegar in all of its beautiful forms is the perfect product to have on hand.
Does Vinegar Go Bad? Because That Bottle Has Been Sitting in the Cupboard for Eons
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Vinegar is a key component in our favorite condiments (i.e., ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise) and a go-to ingredient in marinades, dressings and sauces (not to mention, a divine addition to deviled eggs). In fact, we try to use this magical fermented liquid whenever possible to wake up the palate and add nuance to dishes that would otherwise taste one-dimensional. That said, we sometimes accumulate more vinegar than we can make use of in a short time (and even have a few bottles that have been lurking in the back of the cupboard for months, if not years). So, does vinegar go bad or expire? We have the answer, friends, and it’s all good news.
Does vinegar go bad?
Many of the items in your kitchen (like yogurt and olive oil) are prone to spoiling or, at the very least, declining in quality over time...but vinegar isn’t one of them. That’s right, vinegar does not go bad—so that bottle of balsamic you bought a bajillion years ago is still totally safe for dressing a salad. According to The Vinegar Institute, “vinegar’s shelf life is almost indefinite” and due to the high acidity of the product, it is also “self-preserving and does not need refrigeration.” Phew. This infinite shelf life applies to unopened and opened bottles of vinegar of all kinds. That said, white distilled vinegar is the only type that will remain “virtually unchanged” over a period of time, while the other varieties of vinegar are likely to experience some subtle changes in appearance (more on that below), none of which affect the safety, flavor or quality of this kitchen staple.
Ok, but what’s that weird sediment forming in my bottle of vinegar?
If your bottle of vinegar has been hanging around for a considerable amount of time, sediment may form which will in turn give the liquid a hazy appearance. This is completely harmless and has no effect on the flavor of the vinegar. You may also see some slimy discs at the bottom, called a “mother.” This substance may look freaky but is also totally harmless and can even be used to make a new batch of vinegar if you’re so inclined. If any of these changes in appearance bother you, you can simply strain them out by passing the vinegar through a coffee filter.
How to store vinegar
The truth is that vinegar is unlikely to expire no matter how you store it. Still, for optimal flavor, it’s best to keep vinegar in the glass bottle it came in (or plastic, as is often the case with white distilled vinegar) and find a storage spot that is removed from intense, direct sunlight. There’s no need to stick your vinegar in the fridge (though you’re welcome to) because it will keep just the same in the pantry or any other place where it isn’t cooking in the sun. Finally, remember to always tightly close your vinegar after each use to prevent excessive exposure to air.
Creative ways to use up your vinegar
Now that you know that vinegar basically lasts forever, you might be tempted to bring home the biggest bottle of the stuff you can find...and you’re not wrong to do so. Vinegar is beloved for its tart, acidic taste, which can be used in an array of dishes to achieve a more balanced flavor. (Bonus: This liquid gold also does a bang-up job of deglazing a pan.) You might already be familiar with the flavor boost this basic item provides, but it turns out vinegar can do quite a lot outside the kitchen, too. Apple cider vinegar, for example, might just be the missing ingredient from your beauty routine: Fans of the stuff swear it delivers luscious locks when used as a hair rinse as well as glowing skin when applied to the face—and a quick soak in the stuff can even leave your feet fungus-free and silky-smooth. White distilled vinegar, on the other hand, is a widely-used cleaning agent that boasts the ability to remove stains, disinfect surfaces, remove build-up from showerheads and clean almost any appliance, from coffee-makers to washing machines. Yep, this humble pantry item is actually an all-purpose product that never goes bad. In other words, by all means, buy in bulk.
RELATED: Does Almond Milk Go Bad? Here’s How to Tell If Your Favorite Drink Has Gone Off
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Does vinegar go bad? Everything you need to know about the shelf life, changes, and storage tips for the most common five types of vinegar.
Vinegar usually does not expire and can last indefinitely. However, if not stored properly, vinegar will decline in quality and lose its acidity and flavor.
In many home kitchens, vinegar is one of the most useful condiment. If you like the sour flavor of vinegar, it could be a great dipping sauce or you can use it to enhance the flavor of your dishes. In some cases, the acidity of vinegar can take the edge off of some bitter ingredients and balance the overall taste of your dish.
Aside from its ability to enhance flavor, vinegar can also alter the color and texture of foods. The aromatic and sharp sour, sometimes a little sweet or salty flavor is perfect for a salad dressing, a sauce, or a marinade.
The most common types of vinegar used in the United States are distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and rice vinegar.
Distilled white vinegar is known for its bold flavor and is good for pickling. The subtle fruity flavor of apple cider vinegar is best for dressings, marinades, and for cooking bone broth. The rich flavor of red wine vinegar is also great for marinades. Balsamic vinegar brings out the best in savory recipes and desserts. Rice vinegar is less harsh than white vinegar and famously used for sushi, salad dressings, and stir-fries.
You see, the wide selection of vinegar types can give you the opportunity to experiment with different recipes. However, the quality of vinegar deteriorates over time, so you might wonder – how long can vinegar keep its quality?
SHELF LIFE OF VINEGAR
As mentioned, vinegar does not expire. Like other condiments, vinegar may have a best before date but not an expiration date. This means vinegar is still safe and usable after the best before date has lapsed.
According to the Vinegar Institute, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration because of its acid nature. It can keep for a long time. However, if not stored properly, the quality of vinegar will decline. The acetic acid in vinegar can be affected by water absorbed from the air. This will affect the flavor of your vinegar. Let’s take a look at the shelf life of different kinds of vinegar.
FOR BEST QUALITY
SAFE AND USABLE
1. Distilled White Vinegar
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
3. Red & White Wine Vinegar
4. Balsamic Vinegar
|2 to 3 years||indefinitely|
5. Rice Vinegar
CHANGES IN VINEGAR
While vinegar’s shelf life is almost indefinite, exposure to air and direct sunlight will affect its quality over time. Improperly stored vinegar will show changes in appearance and taste. Although these changes are normal and harmless, it’s important to be aware of them.
Change in Color
The color of vinegar depends on the type. It is available in white, pale yellow, red and black. If your vinegar’s color changes, then it has lost its best quality.
Development of Haze and Sediment
If your vinegar has stuff floating on it or sediments, then it is not on its peak quality anymore. Cloudy vinegar can be filtered to get rid of sediments.
The Mother of Vinegar
The mother of vinegar is the slimy jelly-like substance that forms commonly in apple cider vinegar and other vinegar variety. While it’s not exactly appealing in appearance, the mother is completely harmless. You can easily filter it out using a coffee filter.
Change in Taste
Water absorbed from the air can weaken the acidity of the vinegar. It will lose its flavor if the acidity declines. Though it’s safe to use, vinegar with an off taste will affect your recipes.
VINEGAR STORAGE TIPS
Proper food storage usually helps maximize the quality of the foods. It’s the same with vinegar. Here are four tips on how to properly store vinegar for an extended period.
- Keep your unopened bottle of vinegar away from direct sunlight.
- Store your vinegar in a cool dark place such as your pantry or a kitchen cabinet.
- Once opened, keep your vinegar in its original container.
- Put back the lid or cap of your vinegar immediately after using.
With its indefinite shelf life, feel free to stock on different types of vinegar for all your cooking needs. In need of some inspirations? Check out these recipes below.
Strawberry Cucumber Salad | Slow Cooker French Onion Soup | Chimichurri Sauce Recipe | Hot and Sour Soup | One-Pan Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Vegetables | Spicy Chinese Noodles | Pork over Warm Kale and Asparagus Salad | Vegan Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms | Stuffed Jalapeños
There’s a half-open vinegar bottle sitting in your pantry. It’s expired for quite some time already, but it looks okay. Does vinegar ever go bad?
Or, let’s be real, you have three such bottles.
You bought each one with the best intentions of using them in cooking, used each in a recipe or two, and they sit in the back of the cupboard ever since.
Here’s the good news:
Vinegar doesn’t really expire or go bad. It lasts pretty much forever, assuming that you store it properly.
The worst that can really happen is that its quality might not be that great after a few years of storage. But in almost all cases, it will be safe to use, or at least test if its quality is still good enough.
And all of the above applies to pretty much all types of vinegar, including:
Image used under Creative Commons from WordRidden
Want to learn a thing or two about the shelf life, spoilage, and storing vinegar?
If so, this article is for you. Read on.
Does Vinegar Go Bad or Expire?
Vinegar is a natural preservative with a pretty much indefinite shelf life. It’s highly acidic, and thanks to that, it stays safe to use for years.
But even though it doesn’t go bad in the usual meaning of the word, most kinds of vinegar lose quality over time. Except for the plain distilled vinegar, pretty much every other one suffers from gradual quality loss.
And that means that while your 5-year-old apple cider vinegar will most likely be safe to use, it might no longer taste good enough. And it’s up to you to decide if yours is still okay in terms of quality.
That said, the way vinegar looks in the bottle changes over time. And some of those changes might make you think that yours has gone bad. Rest assured, 99 out of 100 times, these changes are fine.
Let’s talk about how vinegar changes over time and what is okay and what is not.
Here’s a list of things that are normal for vinegar but might make you think it’s spoiled:
- Sediment on the bottom of the bottle. Some vinegars are sold unfiltered (the label always informs about it), but the vast majority is filtered. That means there shouldn’t be any sediment in the bottle at the time of bottling. But even in a filtered vinegar, sediment might form if it’s stored long enough, and that’s okay. You can leave it be or filter it out using a coffee filter if it bothers you.
- Cloudiness. Vinegar can become cloudy after being open for a prolonged period. Again, you can pour it through a coffee filter to make the liquid more clear.
- Slight change of color. If you store your vinegar for a prolonged period, its color might change a bit, and that’s normal. While the liquid is still okay to use, a change of color usually means the taste alters as well. If yours have taken on a different tinge, check its flavor before using it.
- Gross gel-like disc floating in the liquid. Or sometimes, when it’s only starting to form, a bunch of strands floating near the bottom. That’s the mother of vinegar, and it’s harmless. You can drink it, leave it be, or strain it using coffee filters or a cheesecloth. You can see something similar in kombucha (read my article on kombucha to see how that looks like). Some vinegars are sold with the mother on purpose (apple cider most often), but it might form even in a filtered vinegar. Again, it’s okay for it to be there – it only looks gross.
Knowing that, if something else about your vinegar has changed, and you’re not sure that the condiment is still safe to use, discard it. Better safe than sorry.
How Long Does Vinegar Last?
Vinegar is a self-preserving condiment, and its shelf life is pretty much indefinite. But besides white distilled vinegar, which stays good forever, other types retain good quality only for a limited period of about 2 to 5 years.
Those two to five years are only a very rough estimate, though, and there are many people with varying opinions on the topic. Plus, the better quality vinegar you buy, the longer it keeps quality.
In other words, giving an exact storage time for various types of vinegar is pretty much impossible. What’s pretty certain is that white distilled vinegar lasts basically forever, while the other types taste best for at least 2 to 3 years of bottling (often more) and stay safe for years.
(Those guidelines apply to the less popular varieties like sherry vinegar, honey vinegar, or beer vinegar too. Vinegar is vinegar.)
But many bottles of vinegar come with a printed date, you say. That’s true; let’s talk about those dates.
Most vinegars come with a best-by date printed on the label. That date is about quality, not safety. So it’s not an expiration date by any means.
The printed date is the manufacturer saying how long they guarantee the product will keep top quality. That, of course, doesn’t mean that the quality will start to quickly degrade soon after. And in most cases, it stays just fine for even a couple more years.
In other words, relying on dates for vinegar storage doesn’t work particularly well.
Instead, rely on quality and taste: if the condiment is not good enough, toss it. And if you’re not sure if the flavor is there, use it in a marinade or anything else you use it for and check if it does its job. Simple, yet effective.
White distilled vinegar sometimes comes without a printed date. That’s okay, as it basically keeps forever.
Last, you might be wondering if opening a vinegar bottle changes anything about how long it lasts. Let’s talk about that.
An open bottle of vinegar usually loses quality a bit faster than unopened vinegar, but the difference isn’t that big if you store your vinegar properly.
So if you have an out-of-date bottle of vinegar, you should still check if it’s okay to use, no matter if it’s unopened or not. Even if it’s half-empty, the remaining liquid is likely just fine.
How to Store Vinegar
Store vinegar in a cool and dry place, sealed tight. Both the pantry and the kitchen are perfectly fine, so go with what makes the most sense for you.
For storage, use the glass or plastic bottle that the condiment comes in (plastic bottles are popular for white distilled vinegar), and make sure you seal the cap well before you put the bottle back in storage.
Last but not least, there’s no need to refrigerate vinegar, but you can do that if you want to. It might keep the liquid’s flavor for a bit longer, but don’t expect miracles here.
Does Vinegar Go Bad? and Other Vinegar Questions
Does Vinegar Go Bad? I Took an Unopened Bottle of Distilled White Vinegar From the Pantry the Other Day, and Realized That It Has an Expiration Date – 3 Years Ago!
I have several gallons of vinegar in storage. It’s generally inexpensive and pretty versatile.
I use distilled white vinegar for cleaning, laundry, and canning pickles in the summer. I also have Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar on hand for salad dressings and various medicinal purposes. I have a few bottles of white wine vinegar that I infused with fresh rosemary and garlic. It’s pretty tasty.
Longing for a simpler life? The Back to Basics Living Summit has FREE presentations from over 25 experts on all aspects of gardening, food storage, and self-reliance. See if it’s for you!
I found a fresh bottle of distilled vinegar the other day and realized that it had an expiration date – three years ago, actually. Hence the reason for this post. Does vinegar go bad?
How Is Vinegar Made?
Vinegar is made by fermentation of the natural sugars found in either grains or fruit, which are converted to alcohol. The alcohol is then fermented a second time and it turns into vinegar. You might say wine is to grapes what vinegar is to wine.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to a deliciously simple beginner fermenting project: My First Ferment: Sauerkraut
The mainstays of the category – white distilled, cider, wine, and malt have recently been joined by balsamic, rice, rice wine, raspberry, pineapple, Chardonnay, flavored, and seasoned vinegar.
There Are Different Kinds of Vinegar. What Type Are You Most Likely to Find in the USA?
1. Authentic balsamic vinegar is aged for 12 to 25 years (the more expensive, the older) and must be made from the juice of a grape product, not from wine. It usually has about 4% acidity.
2.Apple cider vinegar is made from the juice or “must” of apples and is often sold unpasteurized with the “mother” still in the bottle. Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as a health ingredient. It has 5% acidity.
Distilled white vinegar is not produced by distillation at all, but by fermentation of distilled alcohol. The most common starting material is malt, because of the low cost. In the United States, corn is most commonly used.
This is the vinegar used for canning and has 5% acidity. Heinz also makes a “cleaning vinegar” with 10% acidity. It should not be used for canning or for making salad dressings!
The good news is that you can make apple cider vinegar at home. Preparedness Mama has already posted a step-by-step tutorial: Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar. It is a time-consuming process but it is well worth the wait.
3. Wine vinegar is made from red or white wine (grapes) and tends to have a lower acidity than white vinegar’s or cider vinegar’s, at 4%.
4. Rice or rice wine vinegar is made through the two-fold fermentation of sugars directly from rice or a concentrate of rice without distillation. Various flavors are becoming increasingly popular and easy to find in the grocery store.
It has a milder flavor than both cider vinegar and distilled vinegar. Acidity ranges from 4% to 7%. Check out this link to A Gardener’s Table for tips on canning with rice vinegar.
Does the Acidity of Vinegar Change Over Time?
Yes, it decreases. According to Dr. V, a chemistry teacher, there are two possible reasons. First, over time the vinegar absorbs water from the air and this dilutes the concentration thereby lowering the acidity. The second reason is related to stability. Over time the acetic acid (vinegar) slowly decomposes. This may also decrease the acidity.
Therefore, I would use only fresh vinegar for canning and pickling purposes, but that’s up to you. Older vinegar may have changed its acidity level and I won’t take the change using the three years (past expiration) vinegar for canning.
Expired vinegar still works fabulously for cleaning and other household purposes.
10 Semi-Common Vinegar Uses
- Clean your windows with vinegar and newspaper
- Preserve cucumbers
- Clean countertops
- Add it to laundry as a fabric softener
- Color Easter eggs
- Wart removal
- Stop itching – apply a paste made from vinegar and cornstarch. Keep on until itch disappears.
- Fruit and vegetable wash, use 2 T vinegar to 1 pint of water
- Remove lime stains from bathroom faucets
- Use vinegar as a natural deodorizer (many people swear by it)
- Descale an automatic coffee maker (you’ll need white vinegar, water, and two paper filters) – Just “brew” a solution of white vinegar and water (1:1 in a filled reservoir) halfway; let it rest for half an hour and resume the process. Rinse out the reservoir, get a new coffee filter, and turn the machine back on only with plain water.
- Make berry ink by using the directions below: with ½ C. Ripe berries (blueberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, elderberries, raspberries, etc.), ½ Tsp. Vinegar, ½ Tsp. Salt
Fill a strainer with the berries and hold it over a bowl. Using the rounded back of a wooden spoon, crush the berries against the strainer so that the berry juice strains into the bowl. Keep adding berries until most of their juice has been strained out and only pulp remains.
Add the salt and vinegar to the berry juice. The vinegar helps the ink retain its color and the salt keeps it from getting too moldy. If the berry ink is too thick, add a tablespoon of water. Store in a baby food jar.
Only make a small amount of berry ink at a time and, when not in use, keep it in an airtight container.
To find more similar ideas visit the Vinegar Institute’s Cleaning Page.
Is Vinegar as Effective as Bleach on the Germs in the Kitchen?
Yes, according to this Colorado State University publication, once 5% distilled white vinegar is heated to at least 150 degrees F it is as effective as bleach in getting rid of Listeria Monocytogenes, E. Coli, and Salmonella.
Can You Use Vinegar in Combination With Peroxide?
It turns out that you really shouldn’t trust EVERYTHING you read on Pinterest! After I wrote a post about a great natural, citrus rind-based cleaner that I found there, I learned the cold hard truth.
Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide MIXED TOGETHER become caustic, but only when you mix them together in the same bottle.
The proper way to clean with vinegar and peroxide is this:
First, you spray the surface with a straight vinegar solution and let it sit for a minute and wipe it off. THEN you spray with the peroxide and let it sit for one more minute and wipe it off. This Vinegar / Peroxide combination is effective on nearly all surfaces.
The CDC has published related information on this page. “Hydrogen peroxide is active against a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses, and spores. A 0.5% accelerated hydrogen peroxide demonstrated bactericidal and virucidal activity in 1 minute and mycobactericidal and fungicidal activity in 5 minutes.”
BONUS: Today Kitchen Stewardship has a terrific article about Using Hydrogen Peroxide for disinfecting. You really should check it out.
And Here’s the Verdict – Does Vinegar Go Bad?
No, vinegar has an indefinite shelf life and can safely be used for cooking and cleaning, long after its expiration date.
Why do they even give an expiration date? To sell more vinegar, of course!
Studies have been conducted by The Vinegar Institute and confirm that you can store vinegar indefinitely. It does not even require refrigeration. Its acidic nature makes vinegar self-preserving long time.
White distilled vinegar will remain virtually unchanged over an extended period of time. You may observe some color changes in other types of vinegar, but this is only an aesthetic change.
For instance, apple cider vinegar has an indefinite shelf life too, but the older it gets, you might notice changes that can affect its flavor and appearance.
This is especially true if you’ve stored the bottle of apple cider vinegar after opening it. You might also notice sediments on the bottom of the bottle. Those are perfectly normal. The ACV might not look like it did in its prime but it is safe to use.
So, it’s good news. My three-year-old vinegar is still good – which is fantastic because we’ve already used it several times. How about you, how many bottles of vinegar do you have on hand?
Stock up, because it has many uses and it doesn’t go bad!
For more info on food expiration dates lingo (best before, best by, sell by, etc.) and what each term means for you, check out our related post: Expiration Dates on Food Storage – Know When to Throw
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Hi, I’m Gabriela and I’m a prepping freak with a knack for frugal living – as if you could have one without the other. I’m also interested in all things DIY, green living, and homesteading. I’ve been dreaming of a self-sufficient, one-acre organic farm ever since I realized how fragile urban life really is. It takes one push of a button for millions to be left without running water. It takes no more than a four- to seven-day disruption in a city’s food supply for complete mayhem to break out. So, I’m now dutifully working toward keeping my loved ones safe when the brown matter (inevitably) hits the oscillating ceiling device, but I also like to share what I’m learning with fellow likeminded folks as I go.
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It’s been almost impossible to avoid the growing, glowing hubub surrounding apple cider vinegar (ACV) and the many ways it can benefit your health and wellness.
ACV is just of the items in our pantries, in our refrigerators and on our shelves which provide a wealth of health benefits. Most won’t be good forever, but we rarely think about that. Keeping up regular routines can be difficult, whether it’s exercising, vacuuming, or cleaning out the cabinets.
Perhaps you bought a bottle of apple cider vinegar on Amazon a few years ago and forgot about it, leaving it to collect dust in the back of your pantry (next to other vinegar products like white vinegar and balsamic vinegar). And like most of the condiments in your kitchen, the bottle of vinegar may have a printed expiration date indicating that it’s well past its recommended shelf life.
Your first reaction is probably to throw it away. But wait! That vinegar might still be perfectly fine for you to consume or use.
To properly explain how long apple cider vinegar lasts, we must first understand what it is and how it’s made.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Essentially, apple cider vinegar is vinegar made from fermented apple cider. It’s known to have a highly acidic flavor, and is commonly used as an ingredient in salad dressings, marinades, food preservatives and chutneys. It’s also great for pickling vegetables.
This versatile pantry staple provides an endless assortment of purported health benefits, including stabilizing blood sugar, lowering blood pressure, killing E. coli bacteria and accelerating weight loss.
As an all-natural and cost-effective ingredient, apple-based vinegar has a mild taste that can be mixed with olive oil and maple syrup to create the perfect salad dressing. It can be diluted and incorporated into your self-care routine as a DIY face toner or pH-balancing hair rinse. And apple cider vinegar can make effective all-natural cleaners for just about everything around the house.
Over time, if you forget to use your apple cider vinegar, the liquid becomes cloudy and there’s rust-colored sediment at the bottom of the bottle. But when you open it, it simply smells as pungent as it always has.
Has it gone bad? How can you tell? To answer that question, let’s take a look at how this vinegar is produced.
How Is Apple Cider Vinegar Made?
Apple cider is one of the products that can be created from mashed-up apples. It can be pasteurized and filtered into pure golden apple juice, or left as raw, hazy apple cider. If the cider is allowed to ferment, yeast converts some of its sugars into alcohol. That process can take one to six months, and will produce the boozy cider (or applejack) that many of us revere.
Typically, apple cider contains 1% to 8% alcohol, and it’s transformed into apple cider vinegar via a second fermentation process. That converts the alcohol to vinegar containing acetobacter, a type of good bacteria which turns alcohol into acetic acid; acetic acid is what provides the vinegar with its characteristic sour, acidic quality.
How Long Does Apple Cider Vinegar Last?
While the look, smell, and flavor of ACV can change over time, studies conducted by the Vinegar Institute show that the shelf life of apple cider vinegar is nearly indefinite. Some jars list expiration dates ranging between two and five years, but apple cider vinegar is almost always safe to consume after the expiration date.
Here’s why. According to a 2017 study, fermented foods and beverages are known to be safer than their unfermented counterparts because they’re “self-preserving.” The acidity created by vinegar’s fermentation process creates an environment where common bad bacteria such as salmonella, E. Coli, or staphylococcus aureus can only survive a few hours, not long enough to multiply. In fact, some experts believe that the ongoing fermentation process means that apple cider vinegar could become even safer once it passes its expiration date.
The fermentation process produces a substance called the “mother,” which is included in high-quality bottles of apple cider vinegar. (Bragg ACV is generally considered the best quality product available.) It may looks like a gross, stringy mucus or phlegm has settled at the bottom of an ACV jar, but that’s the “mother,” and it’s actually composed of probiotics – making it one of the healthiest elements of the vinegar. (If you’ve ever looked into the health benefits of kombucha, you know that the “mother” of kombucha is super healthy, too.)
Because the mother grows naturally in a bottle of apple cider vinegar and has a hazy, unpleasant appearance, a lot of apple cider vinegar manufacturers actually pasteurize their vinegar to prevent it from forming. Don’t worry about the mother, though; this change in appearance is perfectly safe. Just give your bottle an occasional shake to redistribute the “mother” evenly throughout the vinegar. That will maintain the ACV’s quality.
When choosing an apple cider vinegar, in fact, skip the pasteurized varieties and go right for the raw ACV that still contains the mother. It’s the one with all the health benefits.
We’ve established that apple cider vinegar remains safe to use even after the expiration date, but it’s still important to properly store it. That allows the ACV to retain its full quality for an extended period of time.
Does Apple Cider Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?
No. You don’t need to worry about putting apple cider vinegar in the refrigerator after opening it, but it should be placed in a cool, dry, dark place and should always be kept away from direct sunlight and heat.
How to Properly Store Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has a relatively indefinite shelf life. However, it’s still important to store it the right way after you’ve opened the bottle.
Make sure you tightly twist the cap closed after using your vinegar. That will not only maintain the effectiveness of the mother, but will prevent contaminants from getting inside. Refrigeration is not necessary, as we’ve mentioned, but you can still keep ACV in the fridge if you prefer your vinegar chilled.
When you store apple cider vinegar in the right conditions, it will retain its quality for years. And it should still be safe to consume even if it’s lost its original taste and aroma.
So, Can I Consume That Years-Old Bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar?
If you have an old bottle of apple cider vinegar collecting dust on your shelf, don’t worry too much. It should be safe to use in the kitchen, although it will probably taste a lot more acidic than it did when you first bought it.
But there’s rarely a reason to toss an old bottle of ACV. If you don’t like the taste of older apple cider vinegar, use it for cleaning purposes instead. It’s still one of the healthiest products on your shelf!
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