How to Make Vinegar 


Survival food is immensely vital. What also matters for successful survival is a sufficiency in water supplies. Besides, one has to be able to adjust to the situation have well-built survival skills to maximize one’s survival chances. When you have some proper survival gear, it is one thing. Another thing is your ability to use it properly. As to the food, if one is able to grow food in quantities matching the survival demands, one is awfully fortunate. To create substantial food storage means to sustain oneself while homesteading, which can also be the case. Knowledge is priceless. So let us do not stop where we are and keep expanding it.

To the point

We know something about vinegar from our grandmothers or some elderly folks. But what is vinegar? How does vinegar production look like? Is it possible to make apple cider or red wine vinegar at home? What is a vinegar starter, and how is it connected to motherhood? Surely, we know how to use vinegar as salad dressings or dish soap, but have you ever thought that you can turn fruit juice from your grocery store into a finished vinegar?

If you want to know the answers – stay with us and get involved!

What is Fermentation

Hardly one has ever assumed the connection between vinegar and alcohol. However, there is a direct dependency: both of these products are made by the fermentation process. If you want to produce some alcohol – apple cider or red wine, for instance – follow your recipe accurately and hold the fermentation process for no longer than a month, so you will never get apple vinegar, but why do you need this article?

Well, fermentation is a food preservation technique that can be called an art as the approaches and secrets of this tricky process are inherited through generations of masters. If you want to get to know this method better, you may visit the following resources: Wild Fermentation (Sandor Katz), Fermentation Factor, and Nourishing Traditions (Sally Fallon) from Solutions from Science. There you can find various ways of fermenting products and getting such foods as alcoholic drinks, fermented milk products, and so on.

According to dictionaries, vinegar making is associated mostly with acetous fermentation of alcohol fluids (wine, cider, etc.) and its combination with flavoring. Technically, it comes out that vinegar is a further stage of alcoholic beverage. However, the most cautious cook should know the exact timing of the fermentation process, as the essential thing is catching Acetobacter (the bacteria which produces acetic acid from alcohol).

Some professionals use natural yeasts to create vinegar (for example, champagne yeast or wild yeasts).

Own Vinegar

If you got that far with us, you may be interested in creating homemade vinegar. Nicely, this article will provide all the needed information: from the ingredients to the perfect timing and technique of fermentation. We want to assure you that it is possible to make vinegar just at home from numerous types of products: fruits and fruit juice, wine, apple cider, so in case of the disappearance of vinegar enterprises, you will be able to provide your neighborhood with homemade vinegar! Here you will find vinegar-making instructions without any elaborated tricks. Moreover, the majority of used supplies can be found in an average kitchen, so to make vinegar, you do not have to buy any winemaking equipment, which makes it all a very similar process.

What You Need to Know

1. Don’t be Miserly on Sugar

Be prepared to contribute kilos of sugar to the production process. Even though the needed amount of sugar may vary from case to case, as in the simplest products, it is believed that the more sugar you add, the stronger (thus, better) finished vinegar will emerge. But don’t forget to correlate the amount of sugar with the type of vinegar you are going to make. For instance, fruit vinegar needs less sugar, wine vinegar (especially making red wine vinegar requires twice more sugar).

2. Remember about Neatness

Respecting tidiness and hygiene rules during the production process is an essential notion, as it affects the result directly: the wrong bacteria may get into the fluid with dirty hands or environmental dust. Hence, thoroughly watch what cooperates with the product while making vinegar. You may even use bleach to prevent extra smut.

3. Forget about Metal Containers

Most unfamiliar people assume that making vinegar implies using metal containers, as it may be confused with red wine production. Aluminum or even enameled cast iron can spoil and even poison the product from its very starting point. Nevertheless, if you have a stainless steel container or barrel, you still may use it!

4. Always Keep on Trying

There is a great chance your first attempt to make vinegar will fail. But don’t limit yourself with only one try! Imagine what would be if the pioneer would give up seeking to repeat the perfect vinegar recipe. After all, you can always ask for someone’s expert point of view or use cheap supplies and a smaller volume for the first time. Anyways, practice makes perfect, so try to catch the right bacteria as many times as the ingredients remain.

Vinegar Types

Let us consider the most popular methods of producing vinegar that survivalists and preppers should know about.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

The most frequently made type of vinegar is apple cider vinegar. The settlers prefer it for two simple reasons: the availability of apples (especially near the countryside), the familiarity of the taste, and the innocence of the production technique. However, do not forget that fermentation is a natural process, so for every particular producer, the recipe will vary accordingly to the exact conditions in which it is being made.

2. Apple Scrap Vinegar

No matter how unusual it may sound, but one of the popular methods to make vinegar is to use fruit scraps (leading details are apple scraps – peels and cores). For other sorts of fruit vinegar, you can also practice using peels and cores of apricots, peaches, pears, or even cherries with stones. This method helps to utilize an overripe garden harvest or the leftovers after making other dishes and transform it into the raw material for fruit vinegar.

How to make it

Step 1: Making Alcohol

Ingredients and equipment:

  • Fruit scraps
  • Sugar water (dilute 1 quart of water with the 1/4 cup of favored sweetener – sugar, honey, stevia, etc. – according to the sweetness of chosen fruit)
  • Big container (can be a large glass jar, stainless steel pot, or barrel)
  • Tissue (can be cheesecloth or a paper towel or a paper tablet)
  • Elastic lacings, such as twine or rubber band

The way to go

  • Firstly, you need to put prepared fruits into the container and pour the sugar water so that it will cover all the scraps.
  • Secondly, to prevent the mixture from the outdoor smut (such as fruit flies), cover the container with a tissue and densely tie it with an elastic band.
  • Place the container into a warm place (65º-80ºF). The warmer the temperature, the faster the fermentation will happen. Be attentive with not missing the right moment; check your mixture every day.

You can understand that the process is going correctly by the occurrence of bubbles. You can move on to the second stage when the bubbling settled and the fluid darkened.

Step 2: Creating Acetic Acid (Pure Vinegar):

Ingredients and equipment:

  • Cheesecloth
  • Sieve
  • Tissue (can be cheesecloth or a paper towel)
  • Wide-topped tank (there is an option to reuse a previous container or to use a wide-mouth glass jar with a tap in the bottom to convenient further employment)

To round off

Filter the obtained liquid from the fruits in the wide-topped tank applying cheesecloth and sieve (you also may use a coffee filter). It is crucial to use a ‘breathing’ container because acetic acid bacteria need a nutritious oxygen saturation.

Wrap the container with a cheesecloth as you did it before. Now place the tank into a dark place with warm room temperature. Direct sunlight can violate the making vinegar rules.

Now the only thing to do is to believe in nature’s will. Only it can make an exact bacteria turn alcohol into vinegar. On the one hand, this bacteria is pretty widespread in the air (and among fruit flies, too).

On the other hand, if your local air is similar to tropical, there may occur other harmful bacteria, and the only way to prevent it is to have a hard-alcohol starter liquid.

A Few Words About Vinegar Mother

The process of transformation may take up to a week or even half a year. An important thing here is not to forget about the pre-vinegar liquid: give it a try every couple of days if you can rely on your taste buds to feel how far your liquid has gone. Another way not to miss the right moment is to watch the appearance of a surface shell called vinegar mother or vinegar starter. You can detect it by a disturbing brown or grey shade and viscous texture. But don’t touch it! Vinegar Mother is a protective surface, which in addition will help you to indicate the proper moment of fermentation end. Since vinegar mother contains the acetic acid bacteria, you may use it for further attempts to make vinegar by adding it to the container o the second step of the process. This is how you can produce a whole vinegar batch after just one successful experiment!

How to Store Homemade Vinegar

For durable storage, you should filter the liquid through a cheesecloth and pour it into any glass container. Choose a refreshing, dry room, and remember that vinegar must not interact with metal supplies at any stage of the process, even while being stored. If you decided to save vinegar mother for future batches, you can rather store it in the glass jars with liquid or add it to another starter vinegar.

Want to Try Other Varieties?


Again by using the method of fruit scraps, you can undertake to make even pineapple vinegar – as you understand, there are numerous kinds of recipes depending on your desired flavor.

Apple cider vinegar recipe involves usage of cider press but still is many times simpler and quicker than apple scraps vinegar one. Another way to use apple cider is to leave a bottle with cider open for some time, so it turns firstly into the alcohol and then into the vinegar. However, there is a severe limitation: the wrong bacteria may ruin the new batch. The same technique is usually applied to a leftover wine. As there are several answers to the ‘How to make vinegar’ question, we will also provide you with a more extended description of another apple cider vinegar recipe.

1 – Hard Cider Converting into Vinegar Recipe

Step 1: Producing Hard Cider

Ingredients and equipment:

  • Cheesecloth
  • Sieve
  • Airlock (you can buy it or do it yourself – the instruction is below)
  • Glass jar or gallon
  • Crushed apples (free from juice)

Pour apple juice into a large pitcher and shut it tightly with an airlock.

How to make an airlock

Make a hole in a corn cob (it should match the size of the jar’s top) and implant a piece of the hollowed vine through it. Insert corn into the jar so that one ending of a vine is in the jar with apple juice, and another is outside the corn. Attach a rubber or plastic tubing to that part and place it in a bottle of clean water. Such a construction will let carbon dioxide migrate from the fermented juice to the container with water and limit oxygen or bacteria moving into the pitcher. A simpler method of locking the container is to drag over its top a rubber balloon or a glove. The crucial moment in both cases is to prevent carbon dioxide from getting into the liquid.

Leave the pitcher for no more than six weeks at room temperature. Bubbles and froth on the top of the solution indicate that the vinegar is in progress. When you notice the residue on the bottom and no bubbles on the top of the jar, it is time to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Transforming Hard Cider into Apple Cider Vinegar

Ingredients and equipment:

  • Tissue (can be cheesecloth or a paper towel)
  • Elastic lacings, such as twine or rubber band
  • Wide-topped jars (the bigger the open surface, the faster the vinegar making will be)

Pour the hard cider into distinct containers. If you saved some vinegar mother from previous batches, use it at this stage by placing a piece on the top of the liquid. Then cover each jar with a cheesecloth and a lacing. Now the oxygen is needed to sustain the acetic bacteria, so accommodate good air circulation.

Leave the jars at a warm room temperature for some time until the acetic bacteria will attack your hard cider and create a new protective layer – ‘mother.’ To catch the finishing moment, give your product a try. Unless you feel the taste is vinegary enough – wait, but remember not to interrupt the mother too often.

You can use red wine instead of cider to obtain red wine vinegar.

How to store apple cider vinegar

Use a cheesecloth to filter the leftovers of alcoholic fermentation. Always remember not to use metal containers or metal lids for interaction with vinegar. Also, it is optional to save a vinegar mother.

2 – Berry Vinegars

Using berries for homemade vinegar is a great idea, especially if you have your harvest. The following recipe is created for raspberry vinegar, but you can substitute it with your desired berries.

Step 1: Producing Berry Alcohol

Ingredients and equipment:

  • Cheesecloth
  • Elastic lacings, such as twine or rubber band
  • 6 cups of water
  • 9 cups of berries (you will need every 3 cups during three following days)
  • Suitable containers

Day 1 – flood 3 cups of berries with 6 cups of water and cover it with a cheesecloth, binding with a lacing, then leave it for a day.

Day 2 – pour the juice through a cheesecloth into a new container, get rid of used berries. Clean the first container, fill it with the other 3 cups of berries, add the obtained juice inside. Cover it again with a cheesecloth and a lacing, leave for a day.

Day 3 – repeat the Day 2 instructions and let to sit for another day.

Step 2: From a Berry Alcohol to a Berry Vinegar

Ingredients and equipment:

  • Sieve
  • Cheesecloth
  • Elastic lacings, such as twine or rubber band
  • 1 pound of sugar

Make sure it is Day 4 of your production process. Filter the berry alcohol from berry scraps and tidy the container so you can use it further. Add a pound of sugar, stirring it into the liquid.

Coat the container with a cheesecloth and secure its position with a lacing. Leave the container for 4-6 weeks at a place with a warm temperature until it turns into vinegar.

3 – Vinegar from Honey

Mead – one of the most popular and thus traditional alcoholic beverages. Since it is possible to make alcohol from honey, then there are methods to turn it into vinegar, too. Honey vinegar is used for both medical and culinary purposes, so no surprise it is such a popular kind of vinegar. The following recipe is provided by a recipe book, “The Production of Vinegar from Honey” (1905).

Ingredients and equipment:

  • Tissue (can be cheesecloth or a paper towel)
  • Elastic lacings, such as twine or rubber band
  • Suitable container for fermentation
  • Honey and boiling water (1 part honey for 7 or 8 parts of water, but make sure there will be extra space left at the top of the container)

Fill the container with mixed water and honey. Cover the mixture with a tissue and lace it with a band. Optionally, add the mother or yeast for a quicker process by summoning the right bacteria. Leave the liquid unbothered for a proper time at a warm temperature (70º-80ºF) until the acid bacteria make it deal. After the mixture has gone through the alcohol and vinegar stages, you can filter and store it in a non-metal jar or bottle for as long as you wish.

Acetic Acid and Pasteurization

Pasteurization is a process of bacteria utilization by heating the product. If you pasteurize your vinegar, its further usage for another production is impossible (as the bacteria is absent). Moreover, unpasteurized vinegar (as well as unfiltered vinegar) is much healthier. Nevertheless, pasteurization is helpful if you have several bottles of vinegar but lack suitable conditions for its storage. Pay attention that the mother will continue to ferment the vinegar if the storage conditions are wrong!

How to Pasteurize Vinegar

If you want your vinegar to be clear (without residue), filter it through 3 layers of cheesecloth before pasteurization. However, remember that unfiltered vinegar can produce mother.

Place uncovered bottles of vinegar into a tray with cold water. Add heat in the process of time: the final temperature should be no higher than 145ºF (be wary while heating the glass bottle!). Hold that heat for about 30 minutes, then cool it and seal. Store own vinegar at room temperature.

Using Vinegar for Pickling

Familiar to the majority of us, store-bought vinegar is watered to 5% acidity, which is proper for canning. Homemade vinegar may play a dirty trick with canning. Firstly, it may blow up the cans if they continue fermenting. Secondly, it may not destroy the bad bacteria in the jars. However, if you still want to try your vinegar in canning, acquire an acid titration kit and test your product (follow the instructions of testing).

How to Make Vinegar Stronger

To increase the sturdiness of your vinegar, freeze it and remove ice from the top of it.

After succeeding in making your first batch, save the vinegar mother to continue the initiative and try many other flavors (imagine how many fruits there are waiting to become vinegar). When you know how to make vinegar from cider, there is no doubt you will find a way to make wine vinegar (you can use both red and white wine). Homemade vinegars – not an easy deal, and it is OK not to be lucky from the first scratch. But never give up; there are always thousands of possibilities and raw products to try your best at more vinegar making!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the ingredients to vinegar?

In the case of vinegar, there is always room for a choice of ingredients. For example, if you want to produce fruit vinegar, rely on your region and the prevailing cultures growing there. If you need to produce wine vinegar, think of the sturdiness you got used to in the alcohol (red wine vinegar is stronger but more elegant).

Finally, consider the purpose: if you want to apply vinegar as salad dressings, try producing it with apples, white wine (white vinegar is the best for seasoning). So, it all depends on your taste. In the majority of cases, you will need water, sugar, and sometimes yeasts.

What is live vinegar?

Live vinegar is also known as unpasteurized one. It is called so because it consists of alive bacteria – in other words, the mother is still in there. This Acetobacter turns the juice into an alcoholic beverage, and further, into vinegar. It is also good for our health, so don’t avoid trying live vinegar!

How to make 80% vinegar?

Firstly, you should know that for accurate knowledge of vinegar concentration, it is better to purchase an acid titration kit. It is almost impossible to understand the concentration by tasting the product (even dangerous when talking of such a high acidity). So, the more alcohol you add, the more concentrated vinegar is. Additionally, by boiling vinegar it will also become more acidic, but keep in mind that heating vinegar is a special technique (described in our article above), so follow its rules, and that boiling will pasteurize the product, which will cause its change not only in concentration but also in utility for health.


A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.




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