Make Your Own Vinegar

Making fermentation work for us is one of the original hacks that allowed humans to make food last longer, and festivities more interesting. [Mike G] has been experimenting with making his own vinegar, and found the end product to be a delicious addition to his cooking.

The first step is similar to making alcoholic beverages. Take something that contains sugar, like fruit, mix it with water and let stand. Wild yeast will feed on the sugar and create alcohol. Once the alcohol content reaches the 6-12% range, the resulting liquid can be separated from the solids and left exposed to the air. This allows Acetobacter bacteria to convert the alcohol into acetic acid, producing vinegar. The entire process takes around 30 days.

[Mike]’s first round of experiments was mainly with fresh fruit, with the addition of raisins. To prevent white mold from forming the mixtures should be stirred daily, but life got in the way and mold got out of control on all the fruits, except for the raisins. This gave [Mike] the to try another round with dried fruit, which was significantly less prone to mold, and produced deliciously flavored vinegar. [Mike] also demonstrated their use in a couple of mouth-watering dishes.

The DIY vinegar production process is just begging for some fermentation monitoring and automation tech. We’ve seen plenty of sourdough and beer production projects, which we suspect could also be applied to vinegar production with some minor changes.

Thanks for the tip [Keith Olson]!

32 thoughts on “Make Your Own Vinegar

    1. No, but making stuff yourself will soon become handy. If things go as they will, energy will become expensive enough that you can’t necessarily afford to run a fridge all the time, or go to the store to buy vinegar, which is why it’s nice to learn how to pickle stuff now when you still have reliable internet access.

  1. Had no idea that vinegar could be ‘deliciously flavoured’.
    I just buy the cheapest available at the supermarket and use it undiluted to strip the rust off old WWII vehicle parts I am restoring.

    1. Obviously never made your own red sauce or a tastey reduction. Dont feel bad though. Even pro chefs dont know the power of a good vinegar/ignoring your ferments until they turn to vinegar.

    1. In the food world it is all acids. No matter the ph. Always referred to as an acid. So the term is technically correct for the profession. So to imply a positive or negative ph, could be the actual intention and not a typo as you suggest.

  2. Making vinegar is stupid easy.

    Step one, try to ferment alcohol
    Step two, have a terrible air lock and/or your dog runs off with the balloon.
    Step three, forget about it for a month
    Step four, find out you made vinegar instead of wine
    Step five, sell it to dumb yupies as “artisan” vinegar

    1. Fresh baked bread dipped in a mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil is delicious. You don’t have to be a food snob to enjoy something. Alas, good balsamic vinegar is really expensive, and the cheap stuff tastes terrible (I think it’s fake). On the other hand, you can get excellent apple cider vinegar for really cheap, so that’s what I put in my salad dressing, and I would never bother to make it myself.

      I’d be interested in making balsamic vinegar myself if the results are good and the ingredients are cheap, the good stuff at the store and online is too expensive for my budget.

      1. Hi !
        Balsamic vinegar is made by letting the vinegar evaporate. Each time the vinegar reduces, it is moved into a smaller barrel, until it became like a syrup. It can take from 12 to 50 years to concentrate. It’s a long process, and explains why it is so expensive…
        Fake balsamic vinegar, was basically reduced / dried artificially. To have a dark syrup appearance, caramel is added. Have a look at the list of ingredients and you’ll see the added sugar.
        Fake balsamic vinegar is good to enhance the color of a tomato sauce. Sometime fresh tomatoes sauce does not look so “red” as expected, and adding some dark vinegar helps to enhance the color and taste.

  3. Great idea to test new flavours, I don’t get however how you can have good vinegar without a film of Mycoderma aceti (“mère de vinaigre”) forming. You would reuse this bacteria to start a new batch … at least since 1862 when Louis Pasteur published a paper about it

  4. “White mold” is an infection, avoidable by sanitising EVERYTHING before you start. And it contributes an unpleasant flavour.

    And use brewer’s yeast, not wild, unless you’ve already got a sourdough culture brewing. Wild yeast is a gamble as to which species you get. If you’ve already got a good sourdough culture, chances are it’s already a high proportion of good yeast species/races.

    There’s nothing sadder to a home beer brewer than the sight of that white film on top of a brew.

  5. It’s fun, because in France it is fairly common to have your homemade vinegar.
    Personally, I cook a lot with wine: I buy cheap wine to do so.
    We also often open some bottles when me meet friends, and there’s always some unfinished wine bottles.
    All these unfinished bottles goes into a bigger one, were lives the “vinegar mother” (word to word translate), and it rapidly becomes vinegar. In other word: we recycle :)
    This way, we never bought vinegar again for cooking. The only vinegar we buy is “crystal vinegar”, which is a clear vinegar we use to fight limestone deposits, and to clean the house.

      1. In short: Yes. I already shared my vinegar with my sister, and other friends, and they start they vinegar with it.
        I think that this viscous part that lives on top of the vinegar is where there are the most bacteria. But giving the fact that this is not a pasteurized product, any glass of this vinegar should have enough bacteria to start a new bottle for a friend.
        In fact it is more difficult to keep your vessel clean enough to don’t spread the bacteria than starting a barrel or vinegar: I brew my beer, so I have to take a lot of precautions because 25 liters of vinegar is far away too much for my family ;)
        PS: here, cheap wines start themselves to turn into vinegar after 10 years, and the wine we can buy directly to the “cooperative wine cellar” starts to turn into vinegar after a year (but it’s not served in bottle, but directly with a pump similar to what you use to fill your car tank, and it’s cheaper that gasoline ;).

    1. As an aside, here in the States, we have White Vinegar, which is actually a clear liquid, I’m thinking it is the same as your crystal vinegar.

  6. You can jump start your vinegar with the contents of a fruit fly’s gut. Bubbling pure oxygen through the brew will probably accelerate things too, as well as holding things around 27 Celcius. In fact you can probably have a combined culture where your ethanol is being produced and then immediately consumed, however when the PH drops below 4 your ethanol production will decline so you’d need to probably introduce the Acetobacter pomorum part way along in the initial fermentation stage. Clearly there is a lot of process hacking and sensor/automation opportunities there.

  7. The automation system you are looking for is called “yeast” – available in most grocery stores. Ferment out to a low strength wine, DON’T add any sulfite and leave exposed to air. The second automation system (acetobacter) that was already on the fruit will then take care of the alcohol to acetic acid conversion.

  8. I have had a vinegar vat for over thirty years . The barrel vat of 5 lts is wooden with a hole in the top and metal tap about 1.5cm from the bottom, this was bough in France specifically for home production of vinegars.
    My method over the years has been to add wine dregs together with an occasional bit of sugar, the mere is now considerable so that every now and then I can syphon some off
    And give to friends . The vinegar excellent for dressings, mayonnaise, some marinade mixes etc. No more than about 200 mls of dregs should be added at time

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