Long term storage of mother of vinegar

Reginald SmithAll About Vinegar, Making Vinegar, Mother of Vinegar96 Comments

So you’ve made your first batch of homemade vinegar successfully. It smells good, tastes good, and whether you are using it now or aging it for extra flavor, you have a right to be proud of yourself.

Now after the first and subsequent batches, the layers of mother of vinegar may begin to pile up in the bottom of your jar/crock/vessel. You want to keep some for later. Maybe for a gift, maybe to start a new batch of a different type of vinegar. How do you store it?

It is easy to store mother of vinegar and you can do so almost indefinitely. I have met people who are still using mothers descended from the mother of vinegar their grandfather brought from Italy in the early 1900s. No joke.

But there is a lot of information in books and the Internet that is false. I have made hundreds of mothers and stored some so I have had enough successes and failures to teach you what works for real.

First the “do’s”

Do store your mother in a container completely immersed in vinegar. Glass or food safe HDPE plastic are best

Do store your mother in a closed, airtight container. Some people think the mother needs air to stay alive. That is not true. The mother only needs air for fermentation. In a closed container where fermentation is halted, it just goes dormant. You do not want air for a complex reason. Many species of vinegar bacteria can do a two act show. First they ferment alcohol to acetic acid to make vinegar. Second, once the alcohol is gone, they can ferment acetic acid to carbon dioxide and water. You do not want the latter to happen since it gradually reduces the acidity of your vinegar until mold and bacteria happily take over.

Store the mother in an airtight container, preferably sealed by a twist cap or airtight lid with an o-ring.

Now the “don’ts”

Don’t worry about the temperature. While the mother is fine at room temperature letting it be cold or hot is no big deal. As long as you don’t hit 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) it will be ok. Now, if it freezes you are rolling the dice since while many bacteria are stored in the cold by labs, they are freeze dried, not frozen in liquid. It won’t necessarily hurt it but I have seen mixed results of reviving it. So keep it liquid and not too hot and you will be fine.

Don’t let it “breathe” as stated above. Letting the air in could give you a foul smelling gunk in 6 months when all the acid is gone

Don’t store the mother unless it is fully submerged in vinegar. Even if you have to add some white distilled vinegar to make sure it is covered, this is ok. Mother exposed to air can dry out and develop mold

If you follow these rules, your mother can keep for YEARS. Maybe your grandkids in 2100 will still be using it!

 

96 Comments on “Long term storage of mother of vinegar”

  1. I have just made my first ever batch of ACV. There is a glob at the bottom of the jar and a thin slime on the top of the liquid that is sticking to the side of the jar a little bit. Which is the Mother? I read online that if it is on the bottom of the jar it is dead and that if it is floating it is alive. I have a little of both so I don’t know which to keep.

    1. Hi, both are mothers and both can be used to start new batches. The one floating on top is actively fermented but if you take the one on the bottom along with some of the raw vinegar from your batch it can restart a fermentation just fine. A mother on the bottom isn’t devoid of bacteria and completely “dead”, it just is not active without oxygen.

    1. 2 months could be enough. The only way to know is to check the acidity by titration or send it to a local wine lab. To stop it fermenting, put it in a container that can be closed airtight (like a screw lid) or heat it to 140 degrees for 30 minutes. However the 140 degrees will kill the mother and is essentially pasteurization so a closed container is best for preserving live mother.

  2. Hello. Just got our first batch of ACV done. If we want to start another batch can we just mix some more apples and water in with the mother?

    1. Hi Lee-Anne, thanks for your post. That would be a tough call since the problem with just mixing apples and water with the mother is the acidity of the vinegar may make it too unhospitable for yeast to ferment the sugar from the apples to alcohol. If they can’t, your mother won’t re-form and you will just have diluted vinegar. What I would recommend is in a separate jar fermenting new apples and water to vinegar–preferably with brewers yeast but you can try wild yeast as well–and then mix that new hard cider with your mother to make more vinegar.

  3. How do we know when the vinegar is ready. Mine had been fermenting for 4 weeks and had formed a nice mother.

    1. 4 weeks is typically not enough. Once the mother has formed, it will take about 6-12 weeks for it to slowly ferment the alcohol to acetic acid. Unless you have access to acidity testing (where 4%+ should be your guide with 5% as the normal strength) once the mother falls and never re-forms, your vinegar is typically ready. pH should definitely be 3.5 or below, even below 3 for wine and some fruit vinegars.

  4. My very old wine barrel started leaking at the spigot. I have emptied most of the vinegar out of the barrel so that I can remove then repair or install a new spigot. Will the mother dry out without much vinegar left in the barrel? I hope to have it repaired within a week or two.
    Thank you.

    1. I would submerge the mother in the vinegar you poured out or it will likely dry out and mold.

  5. I have prepared alcohol from watermelon using KTP strain of yeast . I have added mother after 24 hours of yeast innoculation. Alcohol percent was more than 10% before adding mother . After 2-3 weeks of addition of mother , no growth observed . I have also added old concentrated vinegar having acidity 8 and maintained the watermelon alcohol pH 4. But still no growth observed. Please reply

    1. Hi Suman. The alcohol percent was too high and is probably inhibiting the growth of vinegar. I would cut it in half with water to get 4-5% alcohol by volume which is the best growth range. There is no telling if the mother is dead or reactivate due to the high alcohol it was exposed to. Let me know if this helps.

  6. “First they ferment alcohol to acetic acid to make vinegar. Second, once the alcohol is gone, they can ferment acetic acid to carbon dioxide and water. You do not want the latter to happen since it gradually reduces the acidity of your vinegar until mold and bacteria happily take over.”

    I think this may have happened to my vinegar although I did not see any mold – just a strong smell. I added new wine to the mixture and it does not smell any longer and there is a white cap on top. Is it still ok to use?

    1. Yes, by adding the alcohol you have reversed their metabolism back to the normal alcohol->acetic acid. If the smell is still strong and vinegary then it was not degraded enough to become spoiled. It would smell rancid or have mold if that happened.

      The white cap should be a new mother. Is it fuzzy or slimy? If fuzzy, it could be mold.

  7. I left vinegar fermenting for several months but accidentally lost track of how long. The smell is strong, but the flavor doesn’t seem particularly intense. Is it possible that I let it ferment too long? How could I tell? If I have, can I still save the mother? There is no fuzzy or moldy growth at all that I can tell.

    1. It is hard to tell without titrating for acidity or measuring the pH. The flavor does not have to be intense–keeping it fermenting longer can have a combined effect of fermentation and aging so that the aging reduces the sharpness of taste. If you are unsure, I would take pH to make sure it is at 3.5 or below, or you can send a small sample 2-4 oz to me and I can measure acidity for you. Please email me at vinegarmaking@supremevinegar.com for info.

  8. Hi there – this is such a useful post, thank you! I just stored 6 mothers as directed (completely submerged in vinegar, airtight and in the fridge – though realise that last bit is optional). Until now I’ve mainly been topping up my vinegar making jars with new liquid (booze/fruit juice) for the mother to chew on. If a friend wants to start a fresh with one of the stored mothers, what’s the best way of doing this? I’d assume 10% alcohol or less + at least 25% live vinegar plus the mother – is that correct? Weird question, but would you ever divide up a mother to put into two different jars? Any help gratefully appreciated. Your fruit vinegars look fantastic – I’m not in the states, but will order some next time I am!

    1. Yes, I agree at least 25% live vinegar plus the mother combined with alcohol of 10% or less is the way to start. Assuming your vinegar is at least 4% acidity, you should use alcohol of 5% or greater to make sure you hit at least 4.5% or so acidity. If your friend wants standard 5% vinegar the alcohol should be 6% ABV that way the dilution by the vinegar works out.

      You can definitely divide the mother up into various different jars. Just submerge in vinegar and leave as little air possible above them in the jar. The jar itself won’t contain enough oxygen to over-ferment the vinegar if there is air space but the usage of the oxygen over time by the vinegar could create a lower pressure in the jar that can make it harder to open latter. If the jar is plastic it may also buckle due to the higher air pressure outside.

      Thanks and I hope you eventually get to enjoy our fruit vinegars!

  9. Thank you so much for all your vinegar information !
    This is a general question about organic cider vinegars. I recently had a fire that reached a few hundred degrees.
    My vinegars were on the floor in an area that did not get burned and we’re covered with a towel. Just about ready to use them for my essences…….. would love your expert opinion.
    My sense is they are ok…….. also thought to put a couple oz. of good cider vinegar in the other bottles to revive.
    What do you think ?
    Thank you for your reply.

    1. I would say try them out, they should be fine. If the caps are not melted or distorted or there was no evidence of a steam pressure release from the caps, I assume the heat didn’t get hot enough to kill the cultures. It only takes 150 F though to kill vinegar bacteria.

    1. If it is acidic enough it is vinegar. Some strains of vinegar bacteria do not form cellulose (make a mother), particularly some industrial strains. If the pH is below 3.5 and the acidity is above 4% it is good vinegar!

  10. I have this apple cider vinegar that keeps making the mother and I have added various times new vinegar to it but now the bottle had more mother discs (of various sizes and colors – from white on top to darker on bottom). So I moved it to a jar and added some more vinegar to it and notices that it smelled different (almost strong beer like but still vinegary). My questions are: why was it making so much mother even though in a bottle that was closed and opened occasionally? if left in the new jar will it keep and how long? Can I use the mother to make more apple cider vinegar? Do I need to keep adding vinegar to it? Thank you.

    1. Were you adding more hard cider over time or just more vinegar? Adding more vinegar does not provide the alcohol that is needed and will stop, and possibly reverse, fermentation eventually. The bottle must have not been sealed tightly since the mother could only form with an air supply. However, if it was opened frequently (even only once per week) the air could replenish and provide enough it the headspace of the bottle to continue fermentation. The mother can definitely be used to make more apple cider vinegar but you must add hard cider around 5-6% alcohol, not more vinegar.

      1. This mother discs also appeared in some of my bottles.
        Can I still use them in another brewing that is starting the process of fermentation?
        How do I know if this mother discs are decomponsing instead of active and alive?

        Thanks!!

        1. You can use these mother discs to start new batches. Unless you want to culture them on a petri dish, the only way to know they are alive is to try and use them.

  11. Hello,
    How do I know there’s no alcohol left in my
    apple cider vinegar and is ready to consume? I left one batch for 2 months.
    Another batch started to grow brownish color stuff on top of its mother. What should I do?

    1. The only way sure is to do a measure of acidity and get an alcohol measure. Local wine labs do this but we can do it as well. 2 months is about 2/3 of the way for most batches which take 3-4 months.

      Is the brownish color fuzzy? It may be a discoloration on the mother. Most mold growing on mothers is white, green, or purple but if it is fuzzy and not slimy it is mold and you want to dump that batch, sterilize, and try again.

  12. Hey there !
    This is my first time making my own vinegar,
    And I was doing pretty good , everything looked like it was going as planed
    But now I have left the apples in the jars for quite a while – haven’t been stirring them either .. Is the batch ruined ? Can I save it ?
    Thanks

    1. Hi, thanks for your question. First, you do not need to stir vinegar while it is fermenting. In fact, you should not as it would disturb the mother. How long has it been in the jars? Has a mother formed?

  13. Hello, I have just made a 15% alcohol sour cherry wine whose pH is 9 ( that surprised me as the start pH was 3.2). As I added sugar to get a high-grade mash will I need to rest this wine before acetic fermentation? As I understood, the mashes above 16%alc must be stored? I cannot get hold of mother of vinegar so I was thinking of breeding my own. How would you advise on that, considering that I have around 70lt of the wine at the moment? Should I take let’s say 1liter of that wine, dilute it with water(or is it better with fresh juice) to 7%alc and let it in an open container covered with gauze? My cellar temperature is almost constant 19-20C. And what do I do with this low acidity of the wine? Thank you

    1. Hi, you do not need to “rest” the alcohol if it is done fermenting. All you need to do is cut it with a combination of raw vinegar with mother and water to get the final mixture below 10% alcohol for acetic acid fermentation to occur. Acetic acid fermentation is inhibited above 10% ABV.

      To make your own mother, you can dilute the wine down to 7% with added water as you suggest. If it has added sulfites, I would remove them using 2.5 mL of 3% hydrogen peroxide (store bought is fine if no other additives besides hydrogen peroxide) for every 750 mL of wine. Add this before diluting with water. If hydrogen peroxide is not available, stir it for about 15 minutes and that should help. If there is no raw or unpasteurized vinegar available at your local store, you can add a small piece of fresh fruit (like a slice of apple) or raisins to the diluted wine and they that should contain bacteria to help start the process.

  14. I made apple cider vinegar last fall and left it to ferment and age until now. I am wondering what uses there might be for all the mothers, besides starting new batches. I would like to bottle it and the large mushrooms would not readily go in. Would they be good to compost?

    1. They would be fine to compost and will decompose quickly. Giving them as gifts to others is another common option.

  15. What is the mold that forms on dried out mother of vinegar? I accidentally let this happen and when I attempted to throw it out a fine mist almost like smoke went everywhere in my kitchen. Should I worry and disinfect the entire room. What about my lungs? Thank you for your help.

    1. Typically the mold (at least initially) is of either the Penicillum (green/white) or Aspergillus (black) variety since they can tolerate low pH most easily. The spores aren’t strictly harmful unless you have a mold allergy and disinfecting the entire room would be excessive. Cleaning off the contact surfaces of the mist with dilute bleach or Lysol wipes is fine. Just make sure all perishables such as bread are tightly closed or in the fridge so the spores don’t have anywhere to go and grow.

  16. Hi, I’m making first Pineapple vinegar and almost done, soon ready for 2nd batch.
    When I start new batch next time with mother, it should be on top of pineapples or bottom? I’m wondering that bubbles push pineapples and mother up during fermentation, so mother wouldn’t stay in the liquid and it might take chance to get mold on mother?

    1. Place the mother on the top of the pineapples so it has air contact. That way it can grow and ferment the alcohol below it.

      1. Thanks for your advice!
        I stirred pineapples everyday for the first week of fermentation, do you think I need to do same way even mother is on top of pineapples? Or I shouldn’t bother pineapples and mother? Thanks!

  17. I have a jar of vinegar mother from my earlier experiences with melon,apple and grapes vinegars. All were delicious. In spring I tried strawberries to make vinegar. But I could not decide about the quantity of mother I should put in the jar. I used a tablespoonful.Everything was going fine and after the sweet and sour taste and smell,it went bad. Moldy,brownish looking top and disgusting smell and taste. So I had to throw them away. Now I’ll try my mixture apple- grapes vinegar. How much mother should I add?
    Thank you for all the information shared here.

    1. Sometimes if there is not enough alcohol or acidity in the mash, the mother can easily turn to mold. Raw vinegar and mother combined should be about 1/4 of the volume of what you are fermenting so the acidity will help keep mold and other forms of spoilage from happening.

    1. How hard? If it is malleable it could be mother, sometimes the cellulose can clump pretty tight. Is it visible?

  18. I started my first batch of mixed fruit vinegar several months ago, using my MIL’s recipe which has been used for generations. It looked and smelled fabulous the first 2 months and developed a thin film which eventually sank. I was advised to just let it sit longer, since I was going on vacation for a month. I checked it today and the film that originally formed is still at the bottom, sitting on top of the fruit. At the top is a thick, white-ish pad that resembles and feels like a SCOBY. I pulled it out and it tastes like a SCOBY, just more acidic. Is my vinegar batch ruined? is it possible that I made kombucha from scratch instead??

    1. Hi, the thick pad is actually another mother of vinegar that formed. A SCOBY only forms in Kombucha and does so at much lower acidities. The new mother formed and continued the vinegar fermentation making your vinegar more acidic. It is still good and is vinegar, definitely not Kombucha. Kombucha is lower acidity and has a much shorter fermentation time than 3 months. If you like the taste, you should seal it in an air tight jar to allow it to age without additional fermentation.

  19. Hello,
    I inherited my grandfather’s red wine vinegar barrel a few years back.

    Is there such thing as producing too much mother ? I’ve taken out over 12 mason jars of mother and now it cant even flow out of the spigot because the mother gets stuck. I’ve even tried a larger spigot with no luck. This batch is at the 3 month mark.

    Is there a way to manipulate where the mother goes within the barrel ? Currently it is tilted in hope that the mother will drift away from the spigot.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Frank, thanks for your comment. Yes, some bacteria species (Komagataeibacte Xylinum being one notorious one) can produce copious amounts of mother and clog up everything. The best thing to do is try to remove the mother as it sinks. How full is the barrel? If the liquid level is low this exacerbates the problem.

      If it really is a nuisance, as a last ditch effort you can also save a couple of mason jars of mother as starter and clean/sanitize the barrel and start over using that mother and new (sulfite removed) wine once this batch is done. That might make it less of a problem though it is a pity to do that to a legacy vinegar barrel.

  20. Hi, I am just completing my first two batches of vinegar; an orange persimmon from garden fruit and a red wine. For both, I started them both with a bit of organic commercial ACV. I am about to store the mother(s). Can I store them together? Are they essentially the same, or different now having “fed” on different fruit base. A silly question I am sure.

    Q2. I did two batches of R wine vinegar. One has a mother, one doesn’t appear to. But both taste fine? Should I be concerned that one doesn’t have a mother.

    Thanks!

    1. Not a silly question and in fact, a very common one. The mothers are essentially the same (besides flavor) and the same, or closely related, bacteria make both. They can be used for any other kind of vinegar as required. So yes, you can store them together.

      Q2: some species of acetic acid bacteria do not form mothers well or at all. They still ferment vinegar all the same but the cellular machinery to make cellulose (vinegar mother) is missing or inactive. I think that the one that didn’t have a mother but tastes fine had one of these bugs and if the vinegar is good, no mother no problem.

  21. Last autumn I made cider from my cider apples. When it had been fermenting for a few days I took some of the juice and put it in a five litre (a gallon) jar and left the top of the jar open so that air-borne vinegar spores could get at it. It’s now three months later and there is a nice mother on top but it doesn’t seem to smell of vinegar. However this morning I tasted it and it is very acidic. Have I got vinegar?

    1. It can be difficult to tell since smell can be very deceiving in my experience. Check the pH first. If it is at 3.5 or below it is probably done for apple cider vinegar. More accurate is to send it to a wine lab and have the acidity measured. It should be at least 4%. Three months is a good time for it to be done but testing is the only way to verify.

      1. Thank you for your reassuring reply. I’ll have to buy myself a ph meter! Should be useful for other things, too.

  22. I forgot my ACV while it was being made using peels and cores. It sat for 3 months. Is it ruined? The very top layer was dried out but the rest seemed fine. One jar had a mother but the other 2 did not. It smells OK but I was afraid to taste it. How long for it to sit before straining is too long?

    1. 3 months is standard for vinegar fermentation so it is probably fine. If there is no mold on the mother and if the liquid smells vinegary it should be ok but you probably want to check pH to see if it is 3.5 or below. A pH meter is best (cheap ones are at the homebrew store) but strips can work too.

  23. I’ve been searching for what purple slime in one of my whiskey barrels is (used for beer / cider fermentation). Is the purple tint a common occurrence, because the slime I just poured out looks almost identical to the picture at the top of this article?

    I’ve had a difficult time tracking down any possible causes for this until now. I put boiling water into the barrel and re-filled with water and campden tablets for a few months and again had some of this purple slime inside the barrel. Very odd, as I wouldn’t expect much to be able to grow in the water alone.

    1. Yes, I am nearly 100% sure that is mother of vinegar. A purple tint is not uncommon for mothers of vinegar though it is usually colors with the liquid it forms on. The alcohol that evaporated/seeped into the wood will still feed the bacteria which are also likely deep in the wood so boiling water and campden tablets may not be as effective. If it won’t destroy the barrel, I would use a bleach solution (1 Tbsp bleach per gallon of water) to soak in the barrel for several days. That should penetrate the wood and kill everything. Then dump it and let it dry and the chlorine should evaporate out as well.

  24. Your information is so interesting. I made a bucket of vinegar with grated apples, cooled boiled water, Stirred once a day for a week ( covered it with a tea towel to keep any bugs out) After a week when it was fermenting nicely i strained it and added 3 cups of sugar then popped it in a wardrobe where i left it for 8-10 weeks and it had the best mother on it. I had not grown such a good mother ever before and for me what changed it was a friend gave me unsprayed proper cooking apples and i had just been using the ones from the store before that. I have stored the mother correctly and i want to ask – Can i make my vinegar the same way as above and would i slip the mother into the bucket after the fermenting apples have been strained and sugar added before storing it to turn into vinegar? Thank you. Karen- New Zealand

    1. Hi Karen, yes you can do that and the hope is the yeast will ferment the sugar to alcohol which your mother’s bacteria will rapidly ferment to vinegar and form another hopefully thick mother.

  25. My jars have been disturbed (husband kept moving them) now one of them has four white discs floating in various stages of thickness., which I’m assuming are mothers. What should I do with them?

    1. Are the white discs fuzzy or slimy? If slimy they are mothers, if fuzzy they are mold. If mother, leave them alone and they will eventually grow and join together. If mold, unfortunately the batch has to be restarted and the jar sterilized. Usually a mother should form easily after one is disturbed.

  26. Hi..I have a gallon jug of ACV that i bought (Braggs brand). I have just continued to buy ACV to refill the gallon jug. I was opening it and drinking it daily. I stopped for 2 months and went to retrieve it to start again and it has a HUGE mother on the top of the jug covering the top and its about 1/4 inch thick!! I shook it and it went to the bottom. First of all… do i need to take it out of the jug..it also has a lot of thick sediment in the bottom of the jug also. If so how do i get it out since the openings is so small and the mother is so large and thick. Also do i need to “strain” the ACV of all the thick sediment? Please give me info on what I need to do..this has never happen to me before. I’m clueless as to what to do about this situation!! Thank you so much in advance..can you please email me and let me know what to do…thanks again

    1. Hi thanks for your comment. It is your choice on what to do with the mother. It is even more of the natural mother of vinegar I assume you bought Bragg’s for so it is a good thing. You don’t have to remove it but make sure the cap is twisted on the jug tight if you do not want it to re-grow.

      Honestly I would buy a pack of hard cider from the liquor store, pour it into a jug and add the mother to make your own apple cider vinegar. I would make 3-5 gallons at once since you have such a big mother and you can make it much more cheaply.

      To get it out you can try turning the jug upside down over a large bowl or stainless steel pot (to catch the escaping vinegar) and once the mother clogs the opening, grab it and then begin to pull it out slowly so it won’t break. You can also try shaking the bottle until the mother comes apart but if it is 1/4 inch thick this is unlikely.

      1. Ok..thank you sooo much!!! I just didn’t understand how it grew and the cap was on tightly…its a metal top. Ok..how much of the hard vinegar do I buy and what are the steps to make it please. And what kind of 3 gallon container does it need to be or will just a plastic one work. After I get the mother out..do I just leave the sediment in with the vinegar or add it in the 3 gallon one I’m making? Thank you again!!

  27. Hi i have a 12 month old balsamic mother of vinegar i have kept it feed with wine now how long can u keep it in a wine barrel for i read 12 years and do i cap it and leave it be thanks kerrie

    1. You can leave it in a barrel indefinitely if you fill the barrel all the way and leave no air space. Age it for 12 years, 25 years, or even more!

  28. Hello. Two bottles of my last batch of ACV have become sweet syrupy and very delicious. Have no idea what has happened but would love to repeat this. Any ideas pleasr.

    1. I assume that the yeast did not ferment all the sugar before the bacteria took over to make vinegar. It is not easy to repeat but first measure the specific gravity of the current ACV you have. You can use a hydrometer from a homebrew store. Next start a new batch with cider and brewing yeast. Monitor the specific gravity daily and once it is near where your current batch is, mix the new batch 2 parts fermenting cider to 1 part previously finished vinegar. The vinegar should kill the yeast and complete the alcoholic fermentation. However, there is a concern if there is this much sugar left in your ACV that the acidity is quite low so you may want to check the pH to make sure it is at least under 3.7 and don’t use it for canning.

  29. Hi,

    I have had a home made batch for many years now and it has recently gone flat or not acidic, it almost smells sweet and has zero bite.

    Any idea what i could have done and what i can do to remedy it?!

    1. I think it “overoxidized” so repeated air exposure allowed the bacteria to metabolize acetic acid to water and CO2 after their man food source, alcohol, was depleted. This can be prevented by keeping the storage jar airtight. As long as it isn’t rotten or moldy, add about 1/2 volume of wine/cider or whatever you made it from to restart fermentation. You have to wait for the mother to form and finish etc. but you will have a new good batch.

  30. I have vinegar stored in an old 10 gallon beer keg which is stainless is that ok ? Also I have added wine to it a few months ago n it still tastes winey instead of vinegar. I also committed the sin of letting air in instead of sealing as that’s what I was always told but after reading your article have sealed now . I was told by my cousin in Italy that now and again the mother should be taken out and washed and put back in what your thoughts on that .

    1. The stainless steel keg material is ok but I hope you sterilized the keg well since they are known to harbor mold spores at time and that could affect your vinegar mother if you are using it to ferment.

      If you want to ferment it, leave it open to air and a new mother should form on top and begin fermentation. If no mother forms, you need to add some kind of live vinegar to get it going. Washing the mother is something I am not familiar with and honestly it seems more like a folk tale. If it is live, it is live, if not, you usually can’t do much but perhaps washing it releases some bacteria into the mix that start fermentation.

  31. I made a quart of mead vinegar with honey from my bees and one of your honey vinegar mothers about 8 months ago. I poured off and pasteurized 2/3 of it, and left the mother that had formed (a nice white disk) in the other 1/3 quart on the back of the shelf. At first it had kind of a musty smell, as did the vingar before I pateurized it, buut now the mother and its solution smells a lot like, well, urine. Ick. Should I feed it? What do you feed honey mothers–more honey?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi, if you didn’t feed the 1/3 leftover mother after removing the first batch of vinegar, it may have overoxidized and begun to spoil, especially if it is cloudy. Try measuring the pH. If it is above 4, unfortunately bacteria have probably taken hold and you have to dump that and start over with raw vinegar. If you don’t want to feed the mother for a while, keep it in an airtight jar or vessel and it will keep for a very long time.

      You feed honey mothers more mead, not raw honey. Any alcohol can work including wine or cider though the taste will change.

  32. Hi, I had apple cider vinegar in a gallon plastic milk jug stored in a cupboard in the kitchen. It was made from a combo of apple cider and apple cider vinegar from an organic orchard. I had to transfer it to another jug because I had gotten a crack in the first one. There was a smooth disk of slimy mother but also another partial disk that was whiter, thicker in depth and looking sort of like a sponge, or like it had been foam that then sort of became more solid. It all smells fine – like cider vinegar. Is the second mother something that is OK? I had to tear both to pieces to get them into the new jug, poor things. Have I wrecked the whole situation? Thanks!

    1. Mothers can look different for a variety of reasons. If the vinegar smells fine and there is no evidence of mold, etc. you should be ok. Make sure you close the new jug tightly.

  33. Hi. Just found your site and must say I’m loving it. I’m currently infusing a blueberry
    and a dark cherry vinegar and have used raw vinegar for both. I do have 2 questions regarding these, if you don’t mind. When I strain out the fruit and store in clean jars, is the raw vinegar going to make mother in each? And can the strained out fruits be fermented to make a completely new vinegar, or should I just eat the fruits and get fresh fruit to start a new vinegar? Thank you so much for your time.

    1. Strained fruits can be used to start vinegar, however, if you add too much raw vinegar to start, the mix is too acidic to allow yeast to ferment the sugar to alcohol and you don’t get vinegar, just a shrub. The best way is to pitch yeast into the strained fruit juice and after fermentation has completed (fizzing stops), add the raw vinegar.

  34. I’ve been making peach vinegar, and used a mother, in a glass jar and I have a percolator on top . It has been fermenting for about 4 weeks and I strained the fruit back into the jar along with the mother and mother seems alive (floating on top) . But it seems to stop releasing gas Bc the percolator has stoped . But it’s still slightly bubbling . Any thoughts?

    1. Either the yeast have fermented all the sugar to alcohol, but just as likely, the mother has fermented enough acetic acid (vinegar) to kill off the yeast. At this point you should just let it finish fermentation with the mother at the top. It will ferment whatever alcohol is there to vinegar though no new alcohol will be made by the yeasts.

  35. Hi!! i’ve been reading you blog and I find it amazing and really informative.

    I have a question though, I want to produce a vinegar with a 4% of acidity, how can I reach it or better yet, do you know what determines the acidity? i’ve been reading studies and paper but i’m not getting any specific information.

    Thanks in advance!!

    1. The amount of alcohol in the starting liquid determines the ultimate acidity. Theoretically 1% ABV should create 1% acidity but you should actually estimate 1.25% ABV to get 1% acidity to deal with losses inefficiencies, etc. Make sure your hard cider is 5% ABV and that should be fine. If it exceeds 4% acidity (measured by titration) when done, just add water to dilute.

  36. I have Apple cider Vinager in a plastic container with a lid that does not cut the air completely. (I notices only after a while) and thick rings of white mother started appearing in the middle, but on the top a thick layer of something darker that looks like mold, it still smells like vinegar and sometime ago i scrapped the first layer of mold and kept it inthe jar (not knowing that oxygen was causing it to create) but the the mold came back and it’s thicker.

    Would it be salvageable? both the mother and the vinegar?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Once mold invades a mother it cannot be saved since the spores spread everywhere even if you remove the mold. You have to either use the vinegar as is or dump the batch, sterilize the container with chemicals or boiling water, and start over.

  37. Hello, I am a little confused, and was hoping you could help I have made ACV for the last 2 years by cutting up the apples adding the sugar and water and stirring daily, letting it ferment, and apples sink to the bottom (not all of them do). I then strained the apples (not through fine material) away and stood the liquid for a few weeks. All this time i only covered with a tea-towel and band, and I wasn’t too fussy about fruit flies as i thought they helped the vinegar process during the fermenting stage but not sure. They made their own mothers. This year i added the mother at various stages but not sure why. So my question is, if it makes its own mother why do we add a mother and at what stage? Also this year i have something on the top and bottom the thing on top is white and breaks up into little bits easily. I don’t know what you mean by fuzzy versus slimy regarding mould, can you please elaborate? thank you

    1. Hi Gina, your previous method for making ACV can work. I outline the instructions for making vinegar from apples, etc. the way I do since it is the most consistent way to get good results. Many people are able to get mothers to form naturally from acetic acid bacteria in the air or fruit they use. Depending on when the mother takes hold, not all of the sugar may be fermented to alcohol and the final vinegar content could be lower.

      The mother pieces are traditionally added to a new batch after alcoholic fermentation. Whether you use store bought brewer’s yeast or wild yeast you should see bubbling or frothing from the mixture indicating alcoholic fermentation. When this stops is a good time to add the mother. This ensures all the alcohol possible is formed and you get the strongest vinegar possible. If you want a sweeter vinegar, you can add a bit of sugar after the vinegar fermentation is done.

      Fruit flies don’t help with the fermentation, that is an old myth. They may carry bacteria to start a vinegar culture but that small good is outweighed by the fact they will lay eggs on your mother and a week later you will see a couple of dozen white maggots feeding on it which will later turn into fruit flies themselves.

      If the mother on the top is white and breaks easily, it could still be a mother just some strains don’t produce a solid blob. If you get green or black fuzz with an odor though you have mold and the batch must be dumped and the jar sterilized. Let me know if this all helps.

  38. I have a fresh batch of red wine at approximately 12.5% abv; not sure about the pH or acidity at this time. No sulfite has been added yet. Can I add straight to my mother or should it be watered back. Also, can I add some of the wine lees? Thank you.

    1. Hi, the best would be to add mother of vinegar+water with a volume equal to the wine to get the ABV down to about 6% for vinegar fermentation. You can add less but should get the final ABV of the mixture below 10%.

      As far as the wine lees, you don’t need to add any and it really won’t help. If you want, you can make vinegar using the lees in a separate container but then you have to deal with straining the vinegar out when you are done.

  39. Hello. I wonder if you could advise me? I sometimes make a sweetened raspberry vinegar, using apple cider vinegar, and a glut of raspberries, plus sugar. In August I submerged a few pounds of raspberries in cider vinegar, covered, for a week or so, then strained off the raspberries. It’s sat, still covered, since then, waiting my attention and the boiling with sugar. But having forgotten all about it, I’ve just noticed that it has a thick skin on top, which half sank when I touched it.
    Is this a mother? Does this usually happen when using Apple cider vinegar and fruit? It still tastes rather vinegary, though without the sugar, isn’t noticeably raspberry flavour. Any suggestions as to what I should do next? Continue and simply add sugar and heat until dissolved? Do I keep the ‘mother’, and place it in vinegar in a sealed container, and if so, how would I use it next? Could I add it to chopped windfall apples to make apple vinegar?
    I’d never heard of a mother until very recently, so I’m a newbie at learning what to do with it.
    Thanks,
    Alison

    1. Hi Alison, let me try to answer each question:

      1) When you steeped the raspberries in the cider vinegar, it added sugar from the fruit. Like most fruit, the raspberries probably had wild yeast that began converting this sugar to alcohol as you left it alone. Vinegar bacteria from the cider vinegar or the raspberries themselves (or both) then began forming a mother to convert this new alcohol to vinegar. So yes, that is a mother of vinegar on top.

      2) What you do next depends on what you want to do. If you want your regular flavor, you boil it to dissolve the sugar, and the vinegar bacteria will be killed but you will still have a raspberry (flavored) vinegar. If you just add the sugar the yeast may convert some more and then the bacteria will convert to vinegar and you may get a stronger vinegar with flavor though still sweet.

      3) You can definitely store the mother per the blog post instructions and use it to make apple vinegar. Use my advice on this blog post to use the chopped apples to make vinegar effectively. You can add extra sugar after vinegar fermentation is done if you want to sweeten it.

  40. Once you have created your vinegar, for which I have a 5 gallon airtight container with a lot of mother now at the bottom, can I continue to pour leftover wine in the top and if so continue keeping it airtight?

    Other questions, if I want to remove that vinegar and put in another airtight container to continue aging and draw from when needed, do I need any mother in there at all? Can I put aged vinegar in wine bottles corked up and leave them indefinitely?

    1. Hi Frank,

      1) If you are keeping it in an airtight container then you are basically aging it or storing it long-term. You should not pour wine in and then seal it since no fermentation will occur without air. The wine will just dilute the vinegar and increase the alcohol which is the opposite of what you want. If you want to pour new wine in, cover it with a tight fitting cloth to keep bugs out but let air in and a new mother will form to ferment new vinegar.

      2) If you are aging vinegar in an airtight container, no mother is needed. You can definitely but it in corked wine bottles and leave it indefinitely.

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