Making vinegar was something I have been interested in for some time; however, I thought it was difficult. Turns out I was wrong.
Making vinegar is just a simple (if not more so) than making wine. Just as yeast eat sugar and excrete alcohol. Acectobacter eats alcohol and excretes acetic acid (vinegar). They both need a warm dark place to do their work. However, yeast works in an anaerobic environment, vinegar is formed in a aerobic environment. So keep your alcohol away from air, or it may turn to vinegar.
All you really need is a warm dark place, a jug, some sort of alcoholic beverage. Fortified wines, ports, and liquors don’t work as well as the wine and beers around 6% alcohol. You will also need cheesecloth or other means of keeping out debris while allowing airflow, and a mother (a starter culture of acetobacter).
You can order a mother from several places online for 16 to 20 dollars. Generally they will be listed as either a red, white, or malt mother. The bacteria is the same, its just in a different liquid. The reason for this is so you don’t add a red wine based mother in your pretty white wine and discolor it.
Now, if you have followed this site for any amount of time you will realize that ordering a mother and dumping it a jug with some of my homemade wine is just too simple. I had to find a more DIY way of doing things. I noticed that the apple cider vinegar I bought for another project said “raw and unpasteurized” and down at the bottom of the label it said “with mother”… a furry of internet queries later I saw that several people have made vinegar using the mother from “Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar”.
Here is the procedure:
- Dump any leftover wine or beer (not both) into a crock, jug, or other stainless steel, ceramic, or glass container. (Aluminum, cast iron, or plastic containers will not work)
- Dilute with a little water, no more than 50/50, and you want to leave room in the container for air to get in. The more surface area the faster your mother will grow. Also don’t use tap water unless you give it time for the chlorine to evaporate (it will kill your mother).
- Dump in the mother – I made sure to get some of the chunks from the bottom of the Bragg’s jar, but I don’t think it is necessary. – About one cup per gallon should work.
- Cap with a piece of cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band.
- Shake a little (again probably not necessary)
- Store in a dark closet and come back in about 2 months.
You should have a leathery growth floating at the top of the liquid – that’s a good thing – it’s a health mother. If you don’t then you may need to feed your vinegar with some fresh wine and a teaspoon or so of more raw vinegar.
If you have a vinegar crock with a tap near the bottom, once your vinegar has aged a couple months you can continually use it by tapping it as needed, and topping it off with whatever wine you have around as you open a bottle and don’t finish all off it (If your someone that does that – If I open something I tend to use it… LOL).
As one last caveat – If you plan on using this vinegar for canning, PLEASE invest in some acid test strips to ensure you have enough acetic acid to ensure safe food preservation. It may taste like vinegar, but not be strong enough vinegar to kill the bad bacteria.