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How long does vinegar last? Can it go bad?

Sour, acidic, and strong. That’s the taste of vinegar. It’s an acidic liquid that comes from ethanol fermentation with the involvement of acetic acid bacteria. Vinegar is a common condiment that you can find in a kitchen. It gives a dish a sour and tart flavor and vibrancy.


Vinegar is best used in mixing dipping sauce, salad dressing, marinades, and even adding flavor to different kinds of sour cuisines. The vinegar’s acidity helps neutralize the bitterness of other ingredients and balances the dish’s overall taste. Also, some vinegar varieties can change the color and texture of foods.


How to store vinegar?

Storing your vinegar at the right storage condition will help you maintain its best quality. Here are some tips on how to store your vinegar correctly for an extended period.

  • Keep your vinegar away from direct sunlight. Remember, the vinegar’s fermentation is dependent on bacteria. Bacteria are naturally sensitive to the ultraviolet of the sun. Direct exposure to sunlight will only stop their reproduction and metabolism. 
  • Make sure you store your vinegar in a cool dark place. You can keep it in your pantry or kitchen cabinet.
  • Once you open a bottle of vinegar, just keep it in its original container.
  • Make sure to close the lid or cap properly after using it.


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You can collect and stock different varieties of vinegar for all your cooking needs. After all, it doesn’t go bad as long as you store it properly.


Storing the vinegar with its “mother vinegar.”

vinegar mother

You might have heard about people preferring to buy a bottle of vinegar with the “mother vinegar.” This is common, especially when it comes to apple cider vinegar (ACV) and other vinegar varieties.


The mother vinegar consists of a slimy jelly-like ball of a substance containing protein strands, enzymes, and good bacteria. This is why some kinds of vinegar appear murky, making it less appealing to  the eyes for some. However, this is something that you should not worry about because it’s totally harmless. If the mother vinegar’s appearance bothers you so much, you can filter it out using a coffee filter.


In apple cider vinegar, its mother vinegar is known for carrying most of the health benefits. That’s why health conscious people love to have it.


To preserve the vinegar with its mother vinegar, here are the things you should remember:

  • Make sure that you have the mother completely immersed in vinegar. 
  • Use glass or food-safe High-density polyethylene (HDPE) container or an airtight container to store your vinegar
  • Reduce its chances of oxygen exposure to help slow down the fermentation process and make it more stable. 
  • Close the bottle of vinegar properly. An opened bottle of vinegar that has its mother vinegar will continuously ferment. This means that the colony of bacteria will continue to grow until it dominates and dries up the entire bottle, leaving you without any liquid vinegar to use. And, once the alcohol has dried up, the bacteria will ferment the acetic acid to carbon dioxide and water. Over time, it reduces the acidity of your vinegar. 
  • As much as possible, try to use the product quickly to avoid flavor and consistency changes.
  • If the ball of mother vinegar has grown bigger, you can remove a part of the colony and transfer it to a new bottle. Then, fill the bottle with that fresh alcoholic vinegar. This way, you can have another bottle of vinegar!


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Note that the mother only needs air to ferment. When you keep it in a closed container, it will help stop the fermentation and stay dormant. 


Does vinegar expire?

balsamic vinegar

You’ll see that it has a “best before date in the food label on any bottle of vinegar.” Or, manufacturers mark it a year or two for the vinegar to expire. But actually, vinegar can last indefinitely as long as you store it properly to maintain its freshness, acidity, and flavor. 


But wait. Why would they even put an expiration date on vinegar when it doesn’t even expire? Well, to increase vinegar sales for sure!


There are many varieties of vinegar from different sources, allowing people to experiment with other dishes. We have distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar (ACV), balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, cane vinegar, coconut vinegar, rice vinegar, malt vinegar, and more! 


Although it was mentioned that vinegar can be lost for an infinite period, its quality can deteriorate over time due to certain conditions. 


How long does vinegar last?

vinegar 3

Like other condiments, vinegar has “best before date” labels and no expiration date. In other words, you can still use this condiment even if it is already way passed its best before date.

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You can keep your vinegar for as long as you wish, but its best quality only lasts for several years. And that depends on the variety of vinegar. Here’s a table on the shelf life of different kinds of vinegar.


Apple Cider vinegar 5 years
Balsamic vinegar 2 – 3 years
Cane vinegar 1.5 years
Distilled white vinegar indefinite
Rice vinegar 2 years

Vinegar is naturally acidic. Foods that are high in acid can last for a long time, and it does not require refrigeration. However, if you keep vinegar in the wrong storage conditions, it can go bad. Water absorbed from the air can affect the vinegar’s acetic acid, influencing the taste. 

How to know if vinegar has gone bad?

You will notice the change of the vinegar’s quality if exposed to air and direct sunlight. Bad storage conditions will slowly change vinegar’s quality in terms of taste and appearance. These changes are not necessarily harmful, but we should know if it is in its best state for consumption. Here are the signs that you should look for in checking the quality of your vinegar:

Taste changes. The acetic acid is responsible for the vinegar’s sour and acidic taste. It may deteriorate if it has absorbed water from the air. Though it is still okay to use it, it won’t give you the same kick of sourness as you expect.


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How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last? Can it go bad?

Color changes. The color of vinegar varies. You must be aware of what it should look like. Vinegar comes in white, black, pale yellow, and red. Apple cider vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, and other colored kinds of vinegar can lose its luster as it gets old. If you notice that your vinegar’s color has changed, that also indicates a change in taste, and it’s not in its best quality anymore. 


Hazy with floating sediments. This refers to cloudy-looking vinegar. If you notice that there is floating stuff or sediments inside its container, that means that it’s quality is not at its best anymore. You can still use this, though. Just filter your cloudy vinegar to remove the sediments, but it won’t taste as good as the fresher ones.


What should I do with the “expired” vinegar?

You can now tell if the vinegar has lost acidity and fresh color, it will affect the dish’s overall taste. That leaves you no choice but to not use it anymore. 


But there’s good news! You don’t have to necessarily throw away a bottle of vinegar that has gone bad or expired. If your bottle of vinegar is already cloudy, dull, or less acidic vinegar, even vinegar past its best quality, you can still use it to clean or add it to your fruit and vegetable wash, for weed control, or use a fabric softener. 


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See how useful it is? You can make the most from your purchased vinegar even if it is already expired!

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