Vinegar Types, Methods of Making Vinegar
General Directions of Making Vinegar
These directions show how to make vinegar at home using
readily available ingredients and supplies.
In the late 1800s chemists learned to make acetic acid.
Manufacturers added water to reduce its strength to 5%, colored it and
sold it as vinegar. Imitation vinegar is still manufactured and by law the
label must state that it is diluted acetic acid. Diluted acetic acid is
inexpensive and lacks the vitamins, minerals and esters found in fermented
vinegar; its flavour and aroma are also inferior.
It takes good alcohol (wine or beer) to make fermented
vinegar. The hit-or-miss method of making vinegar by allowing sugar and
water to ferment is not wise. The fermentation of sugar to alcohol by wild
yeast is followed by a conversion of the alcohol to acetic acid by wild
bacteria. Chances of failure or undesirable tastes and aromas are high.
Control the process by using great care in cleanliness and introducing
chosen yeast and bacteria to obtain quality vinegar every time.
Winemaking suppliers list acetobacter as "mother" or
vinegar culture. These cultures convert alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar).
Most suppliers sell red and white wine vinegar cultures. Some sell cider,
malt and mead cultures as well. Any culture may be combined with any type
alcohol to produce vinegar.
Vinegar should contain at least 5% acid as required for
preserving or pickling. Specialty vinegar contains acid as high as 7%.
Beer containing 5.5% alcohol will yield about 5% acid. Wine containing 11
to 12% alcohol must be diluted to 5.5 to 7% alcohol before using it to
Acid test kits, sold by winemaking suppliers, are used to
determine the acidity of vinegar. Acid tests are easy to perform and
instructions come with the kit.
Sanitize utensils and containers that will touch the
vinegar by soaking them for 20 minutes in a solution of 2 tablespoons
chlorine laundry bleach to 1 gallon water. Rinse everything well with hop
tap water. Hot tap water is relatively sterile after being held at high
temperatures for several hours in the hot water heating tank.
Vinegar Method I
3 measures beer, ale or vinegar stock (5.5 to 7% alcohol)
1 measure vinegar culture with active bacteria
Vinegar leaches molecules from iron and aluminum. Use
sanitized glass, enamel, stainless steel or stoneware containers less than
two-thirds full. Cover the container with a cloth or stopper it with
cotton to keep insects out, while allowing air to freely reach the stock.
Store the mixture in a dark place.
Temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees are ideal. Low or
fluctuating temperatures slow the process. At 75 to 85 degrees F, it will
take 6 to 8 weeks for conversion. At 85 to 90 degrees F, it can take 4 to
6 weeks for conversion. Temperatures over 95 degrees F slow conversion;
above 140 degrees F, the bacteria die.
An acetic film called "mother" will form. This smooth,
leathery, grayish film becomes quite thick and heavy. It should not be
disturbed. It often becomes heavy enough to fall and is succeeded by
another formation. If the mother falls, remove and discard it. An acid
test will indicate when all of the alcohol is converted to vinegar. Part
of the vinegar may be withdrawn and pasteurized. The remaining
unpasteurized vinegar may be used as a culture to start another batch.
Living bacteria are in the liquid. A piece of the mother is not necessary
to start a new batch.
Add beer or diluted wine to the culture every 4 to 8 weeks,
depending on the temperature maintained and when most of the alcohol is
converted to vinegar. Adding more alcohol to the culture keeps it alive,
prevents spoilage and increases the quality of vinegar. If unpasteurized
vinegar is exposed to oxygen without alcohol present, bacteria can convert
the vinegar to carbon dioxide and water.
Vinegar Method II
2 measures dry wine (11 to 12% alcohol)
1 measure water (boiled 15 minutes and allowed to cool)
1 measure vinegar culture with active bacteria
Follow the directions in Method I. Purchased wine can be
used, but somecommercial wines contain sulfites or preservatives that
could kill thevinegar bacteria.
Vinegar Method III
(For winemakers only)
Wine containing less than 10% alcohol is subject to
spoilage. This formula to make 7% alcohol is an ideal vinegar stock.
Follow good winemaking procedures.
When the fermentation is complete (specific gravity 1.000
or below) this low-alcohol wine can be converted to vinegar as directed in
1 1/2 pounds weight honey (or any sugar source to obtain a
specific gravity of 1.050)
2 teaspoons yeast nutrient or energizer
4 teaspoons acid blend (7.5 ppt tartaric acid with an acid
1/4 teaspoon tannin
add water to equal 1 gallon
Dry wine containing 11 to 12% alcohol can be diluted after
fermentation (specific gravity 1.000 or below). It's important that the
wine contain no excess sugar. Excess sugar increases the chance of
spoilage and formation of a slime-like substance in the vinegar. The wine
does not have to be clear as this is accomplished when the vinegar ages.
At the last racking, do not add campden tablets or
potassium sorbate. Dilute the mead as directed in Method II and follow the
directions in Method I.
To preserve vinegar, add 3 campden tablets per gallon of
vinegar or Heat the vinegar to 155 degrees F and hold the temperature for
30 minutes. After pasteurizing vinegar add one tablespoon 80-proof vodka
to each gallon and age it. If desired to enhance the bouquet, up to one
cup oak or beech chips may also be added. Pasteurized or sulphited vinegar
can no longer produce more vinegar. Pasteurizing kills vinegar baceria and
prevents the formation of "mother" which could lead to spoilage.
Pasteurized vinegar keeps indefinitely when tightly capped and stored in a
dark place at room temperature. Temperatures above 160 degrees F cause a
loss of acidity, flavor and aroma.
Vinegar has a strong, sharp bite when first made. It
becomes mellow when aged. The esters formed during aging, like those in
wine, develop after a period of six months or more when stored at a cool,
steady temperature (50 to 60 degrees F is ideal). This undisturbed rest
also allows suspended solids to fall, making the vinegar clear and bright.
Siphon the clear, aged vinegar off the deposit of solids into sanitized
bottles. Introduce as little oxygen as possible. Winemaking suppliers sell
attractive vinegar bottles. Use corks or plastic caps to avoid vinegar
contact with metal. If corks are used, the necks of the vinegar bottles
should be dipped several times into melted wax to form an air-tight seal.
The quality of vinegar improves for up to two years and then gradually
declines. Fermented vinegar can be sold without the special permits or
licenses required for alcoholic beverages. It costs the same as a good
bottle of wine.
Next Types of Vinegar