Does Apple Cider Vinegar Go Bad

It’s scientifically proven that as time goes by, the number of bottles of vinegar in your pantry increases. It started with a single bottle, then you’ve bought another one for different purposes, and somehow you now have 5 bottles, 3 of which are half-open.

Does apple cider vinegar go bad? That’s the question many people come up with while cleaning the pantry. And fortunately for you, your vinegar is probably perfectly fine to use.

If you’d like to learn more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of apple cider vinegar, read on.

Biona organic cider vinegar
(credit: Andy Roberts)

How to Store Apple Cider Vinegar

Storing apple cider vinegar is no different than storing balsamic vinegar, or any other vinegar for that matter.

You should keep it in a cool and dark place, away from sunlight and sources of heat. Bragg Live Foods recommends exactly that for their apple cider vinegar. Most people store it in the pantry, but a cabinet in the kitchen works too, especially if you use it often.

Once you open the bottle, make sure it’s always sealed tightly when not in use.

Aspall cider vinegar
(credit: Andy Roberts)

How Long Does Apple Cider Vinegar Last

Vinegar is one of the few liquids that stays safe to consume indefinitely. Similarly to sweeteners like honey, or hard liquors like whiskey, vinegar isn’t a liquid where bacteria or fungi can live and grow.

The basic composition of this vinegar is acidic. PH (Hydrogen Ion Concentration) of undiluted cider vinegar is in between 4.25 to 5.0. This PH inhibits the bacterial or microbial growth inside the cider vinegar. The presence of malic acid and acetic acid also makes vinegar a powerful disinfectant and antibacterial qualities. Because of that, apple cider vinegar can last for years without deteriorating.

Of course, in many cases, the manufacturer puts the good old best-by date on the label. Often it’s there because people trust the food more if it comes with a date on the label. That date is merely information for how long the apple cider vinegar will retain quality. And because of all the reasons outlined earlier, the liquid should easily last years past that date.

Once you open the bottle, not much really changes in terms of the shelf life of this condiment.

Apple cider vinegar (unopened or opened)Stays fine indefinitely
Bragg organic apple cider vinegar
(credit: Andy Roberts)

How to Tell if Apple Cider Vinegar Is Bad

Let’s start with something called vinegar mother. The mother is a result of vinegar bacteria and occurs in vinegar naturally. The mother is actually cellulose and it’s harmless, plus it’s the most nutritious part of the vinegar. It’s a dark and cloudy (some prefer to call it slimy) substance (or sediment) that is usually found near the bottom of the bottle.

If the label of your apple cider vinegar says it’s pasteurized or filtered, the liquid won’t contain the mother. If it says “raw,” the mother should be there. Once you open the bottle, even if it’s the filtered variety, the mother can form over time. To get rid of it, you can run the vinegar through a coffee filter before using it.

A bottle of Martlet cider vinegar.
Image used under Creative Commons from Andy Roberts

Now to the going bad of apple cider vinegar. Vinegar spoilage is something that almost never happens. But, if you noticed that it changed color, there’s some sediment in the bottle (that’s not the mother), or it smells off, get rid of it. Same thing if its taste has changed.

Generally, if you think something is wrong with the liquid, it’s better to cut your losses and throw it out. Again, it’s a sporadic occurrence that vinegar spoils.