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!
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.
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.
Can you store the mother in the refrigerator?
Yes, you can but it isn’t strictly required as long as it is immersed in vinegar.
Is 2 months of fermenting enough? And how do I stop my ACV from continuously fermentating?
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.
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?
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.
How do we know when the vinegar is ready. Mine had been fermenting for 4 weeks and had formed a nice mother.
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.
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.
I would submerge the mother in the vinegar you poured out or it will likely dry out and mold.
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
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.
“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?
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
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!
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!
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.
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.
If i make viniger but mother is not formed is it viniger
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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 ?
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?
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
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.
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?
They would be fine to compost and will decompose quickly. Giving them as gifts to others is another common option.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
Hi, I have a little hard object in the mother at the bottom. Is that normal?
How hard? If it is malleable it could be mother, sometimes the cellulose can clump pretty tight. Is it visible?
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??
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Thank you for your reassuring reply. I’ll have to buy myself a ph meter! Should be useful for other things, too.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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!!
Hi..Can you explain more about pH and pH? I know the acidity decreases with the higher the pH
I am new to making vinegar, I made batches by mixing apples and water, but mold formed, sometimes mold formed after a month or less, I left it without moving. Now I have vinegar for two months. I used to stir it several times a week during the second month. Once a very thin and very transparent layer formed. Is it musty? I just kept moving it from day to day, and it looks good
Please guide me on the right way
I don’t know whether or not to add sugar, and when to add it? Leaving it without moving will produce mold … What are the steps for making good apple cider vinegar, and are dates?
Are bubbles in date vinegar after two months evidence that the alcohol has not converted to stearic acid? Thanks a lot
Hi Huda, a couple things:
1. Don’t stir vinegar in fermentation. You want a mother of vinegar to form and ferment the alcohol.
2. When using sugar and apples/fruit as a starter, if possible add brewing yeast to get the alcohol fermentation going as quickly as possible. Low alcohol content for a very long time gives mold a chance to take hold. You want the alcoholic and acetic acid fermentations to proceed as quickly as possible.
3. The thin transparent layer is probably the mother of vinegar as long as it is not fuzzy or has a bad odor. Let it grow and it will ferment the vinegar.
4. Don’t add additional sugar. Mix the right proportions in the beginning and then add no more.
5. Additional bubbles aren’t necessarily a sign of alcohol but rather a sign there is still sugar the yeast are converting to alcohol. It also means that your acidity is low since the yeast have not died off.
6. Vinegar is acetic acid–stearic acid is a fatty acid (acetic acid is a carboxylic acid).
This blog post may help: Apple Cider Vinegar / Pineapple Vinegar from Cores & Rinds: Some Notes
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
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!
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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 .
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!!
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.
In my last comment i meant apple cider vinegar specifically.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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) 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.
Reggie, you’re amazing for answering all these questions! I read through them all and have one more- I just finished my first batch of vinegar using a dark sweet stout beer and a bit of raw ACV. The mother that formed is the size of the inner diameter of the half gallon mason jar- about 4.5″ diameter and maybe 3/16 or 1/4″ thick. How much can I cut this mother up to start multiple new batches? Like, what’s your rule of thumb for mother to vinegar stock ratio? I have a kitchen scale so weighing it in grams or ounces is definitely doable. Thank you so much!
A decent sized piece of mother, like a 1/2″ sided square is enough since the bacteria multiply. You don’t need a huge piece. Have enough raw vinegar as well to submerge the mother when you add it to your new batch.
Hello. I have left the apples peels/cores in my jar for 2 months because i forgot to take them away after 3 weeks. Is my vinegar ruined?
No, the cores/peels themselves will not ruin it. If the acidity is there it is still fine.
In submerged production of vinegar the power failure even for 30 secods is often said to seizure of process and death of acetobacteraceti.
My questions are :
1- What kills acitobacter aciti i) temperature or ii) suffocation.
2- How to get rid of this risk.
If submerged fermentation is suddenly halted, the bacteria suffocate since the impeller system and air pump are no longer forcing air to dissolve in the water so the oxygen saturation of the water collapses.
If you are using submerged fermentation (Frings, Cetotec acetators) there is no way to eliminate this possibility. What most firms do is have each acetator connected to a diesel backup generator sized for power needs of the acetator. Depending on the reliability of power in your country though, it would have to possibly work a long time during a brown out or black out.
after you strain the asv from the apples how long you have to wait to start using it>?thank you sence ti is the first time attemting to meke the acv.
If the vinegar is done, you can age it as long as you like to improve flavor but it can be used immediately.
I’ve tried reading all of your advice I’m still a beginner and this is my first time making apple scrap vinegar.
It’s been sitting in a jar for the past month, I’ve been stirring daily and noticed today the mother!
What do I do now besides check the ph? Should I continue to stir daily for a few more months or strain it and store it?
Hi, you don’t need to stir for vinegar formation. Once the mother forms, leave it to grow and ferment the vinegar. No stirring necessary.
I used my last year’s mother of vinegar on this years apple cider vinegar and when I added it to the apple juice small bubbles appeared. Is this normal or it means something is off? It does not have unpleasant smell. Thanks
Having bubbles appear when you add it isn’t necessarily abnormal. There may have been trapped oxygen in the mother (it acts as an oxygen absorber for the bacteria) that caused the bubbles. It could also be due to alcoholic fermentation haven begun in your apple cider and CO2 was released after adding the mother.
Hello! I made apple cider vinegar by leaving raw pressed apple juice in a glass jug with a cloth over it. I left it for about 2 months or so. It grew a beautiful mother and is the best vinegar I have tasted. I poured out the vinegar and added fresh pressed juice to the Mother. Since then I have read that I should have let the juice turn to alcohol and then add it to the mother. Since I added the juice to the mother before letting it turn to alcohol, will it still turn to vinegar? Since I added the juice, I can see that it’s growing another mother. Thank yuu for your input!
You will still likely be ok. “Double fermentation” which is simultaneous alcoholic and acetic acid fermentation like what occurs in traditional vinegars in Asia/North Africa or in Kombucha is pretty common. The only thing may be that once the acidity hits a certain level (1% or so) the yeast die off and whatever alcohol they produced is what will determine your acidity. The acidity is usually high enough but there is going to be some residual sugar so you will likely have a sweeter vinegar. I would say let it go and see how it turns out. Since it has a mother you should get something and you can always try again.
I’m a ‘newbie’ vinegar brewer and have successfully made a couple of good batches of acv. I’d like to expand my repertoire and try some red wine vinegar. One concern I have is the impact of sulphites on the process. I’ve read that aerating or adding a small amount of hydrogen peroxide (!) will eliminate the preservatives. Curious what you think about this.
Thank you……great support resource you have here!
Both aerating and adding hydrogen peroxide removes the sulfites which is a good first step. Adding 1/2 tsp of hydrogen peroxide per 750 mL bottle of red/white wine usually does the trick. Be sure to add the hydrogen peroxide to the wine before adding the mother or it may kill the mother.
Hello! I’m starting trying to make my own Red wine vinegar. After 4 weeks I had a good Mother but, handling my glass container, the mother has sink and I couldn’t make it float again. I took the opportunity to taste the vinegar and it was not good yet. Then I completed it with more new wine, at 8% alcohol concentration. After 2 days I notice that my first mother is still in the bottom of the pot, and a new one is already appearing on the surface. It’s all right? Or did I ruin my first mother? When I have to spill my pot again to taste it, I’m afraid that the surface mother will sink again. What to do? (I don’t have a barrel yet)
Hi, it is common for the mother to sink during fermentation. Another one will form, no problem. At the end of fermentation remove all the mothers before aging and store them separately. Do not add any more wine until fermentation is done and then remove about 1/2 of the vinegar by volume and replace that volume with new wine. This way, you can keep fermentation going indefinitely.
Thanks for the answer!
As I said, I use a glass jar to make my vinegar. To age vinegar in a barrel, should I pasteurize it first to avoid growing mother in the barrel?
And in the same reasoning, I’ve been thinking about making vinegar inside the barrel, like some people do in Orleans method (I guess). In regular barrels, I should drill a few more holes in order to circulate the oxygen. In addition, the top hole I use to fill the barrel is usually small. In this case, how could I maintain the mother in the barrel, since I would not be able to handle her there? I imagine that the mother would grow a lot with time and then I would have to remove a some mother periodically, but access would be difficult due the small dimension of holes. My idea was to build a barrel like this one: http://cdn.biologydiscussion.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/image_thumb-345.png
What do you recommend? Thanks!
If you are aging in the barrel, the best method is to fill the barrel completely full, with little air, and then plug the barrel. Fermentation will cease due to lack of oxygen. Pasteurization could work if you can’t fill the barrel but bacteria in the barrel may re-colonize the vinegar and form a new mother.
You do not need many holes to circulate air in the barrel. One could suffice and I would not have more than two. In addition, have clothes covering the holes, somewhat stuffed inside, to prevent fruit flies from entering and breeding in the barrels. Removing the mother from barrels can be difficult which is why nowadays many companies ferment using tanks and then age in barrels. The best option to remove mother is some sort of suction since you would otherwise have to break the barrel down.
I put some mother in the blender with fresh apple juice. It appears to be making a new mother after 1 week was that a good idea? On a 2 month old processed cider, I used a baster to collect a taste test and the mother sank. I blended it back into itself just to see what would happen. It quickly reformed on top. Thanks for the info for preserving the mother, I needed help.. Another question what are some good acidity testers? Easy to use, accurate and affordable,? I have looked at some online.
If there are raw yeast in the fresh apple juice to make alcohol for the vinegar to consume, it will end up fine. Usually we recommend fermenting juice or cider completely to alcohol with brewing yeast first but your method can work in most situations as well.
As far as testing acidity, there are two measurements–acidity and pH. See our blog post here. To measure pH is easy and decent pH meters are available on Amazon or at homebrew/hydroponics stores for about $25 or so. You need to buy pH electrode storage solution for safe storage and pH 4 and pH 7 testing solutions for calibration though to keep accuracy. Anything below 3.5 is safe.
However, acidity as in percent acidity is measured differently in vinegar and can only be measured by a process called titration. There are wine testing kits to measure titratable acidity one can use but you can also send it to a wine lab for about $15-20. Vinegar should be above 4% before use and above 5% for use in canning.
Hello Mr Smith! Just over a month after restarting my mother’s development, it is currently 3 cm thick. One question that has arisen is whether this can prevent contact with oxygen and then slow fermentation. Well, I believe that in another 2 months I should have my vinegar ready.
Regarding grape variety, do you know what grape variety is most used to make red wine vinegar?
And another question is: how to start fermentation in a white wine having my Red wine in progress? I have thought about using a little bit of my current vinegar plus a little bit of mother in a container with white wine. It’s possible?
My ACV fermented about 3 weeks. I strained the fruit, and covered it with a coffee filter. The next day or so I had a mother forming which wasn’t completely solid across the top. It tastes pretty acidic right now, and I’m scared I’ll lose the acidity the longer it has access to oxygen. Are there any characteristics I should be looking for when trying to determine when to bottle it and stop the fermentation with the mother? My apologies if you’ve already answered this somewhere.
The only way to be sure is to measure acidity using titration (like a wine acidity kit) and making sure it is between 4-5% acidity. You could monitor the pH and bottle it once the pH stops decreasing but that would disturb the mother too often. Unfortunately there is no other reliable way like smell etc. A quick rule of thumb is a pH below 3.5 means it is usable but it cannot guarantee what acidity it is.
Hello, I have a bottle of braggs acv purchased a few years ago that grew a large disc shaped mother. I have never had a bottle of braggs do that before. I am interested in making more acv and creating a new mother using some of this vinegar. I have seen recipes on line using a certain amount of vinegar with the mother and a certain amount of hard cider or unfiltered, unpasteurized acv. Here is a recipe I found online using cider:
3 cups apple juice (pressed, not from concentrate)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (with mother) or 1 piece of mother
The recipe says to combine it in a jar with a tight fitting breathable cloth over the top and put it in a dark place for several months. My question is, will this really work with unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider or do I need to use hard cider?
This is a somewhat controversial topic amongst apple cider vinegar makers. The question is whether you combine vinegar and regular apple cider or first ferment the apple cider to hard cider then add raw vinegar and mother of vinegar.
I prefer the second process. I would add brewing yeast to the apple cider and in 5-7 days it should ferment to dry hard cider (no sugar) and then add the mother per the directions.
The reason is two-fold. First, by getting the alcohol content up, it prevents unwanted bacteria from taking over. Such a small ratio of ACV (1/4 cup to 3 cups or basically 1/12) may have too low an acid to prevent bad bacterial growth. It also inhibits many yeast since yeast action starts slowing around 0.5% acidity and stops above 1%. Some people add too much vinegar to apple cider and kill the yeast. No yeast, no alcohol. No alcohol, no vinegar.
I have a “mother” from balsamic vinegar which I have kept in a sealed bottle in the fridge for more than 5 years now and it is my first time to use it. I tried to make 2 types of vinegars. One with banana peels and one with apple peels and cores. Tomorrow is the 14th day where I have to strain the vinegar I have made but I already checked and they both smell good. The banana one smells like banana though so I was wondering if that smell will remain once I have strained the banana peels from the liquid.
I also made apple cider vinegar from apple peels and cores and I have separated the “mother” and kept it in a sealed jar which I have kept in the overhead cabinet. Should I keep it in the fridge, or a bottom cabinet where it is colder? It is submerged in the vinegar which I made.
Hi, for the first question, the banana smell will probably remain after removing the peels since flavor chemicals from the peels have seeped into the vinegar.
As far as storing the mother from your apple cider vinegar, as long as the jar is sealed air tight and the mother is submerged in vinegar, no refrigeration is necessary.
My own apple cider vinegar ‘mother’ is floating at the bottom is it stil ok
Hi, the mother sinking is not an issue. A new mother should re-form on the surface. If one does not, it may be done and you should test the acidity/pH to confirm this. See this link on testing vinegar.
How much fun is this! I’m a distiller in Colorado making malt whisky, and as such, I have access to plenty of “wash”. That is, fermented malted barley without hops which is destined to be distilled into whisky. I filled a half gallon mason jar with wash (roughly 9% ABV), and added a bit of water to get it to roughly 6 or 7%. Tossed in maybe a half cup of Braggs ACV, and now I’m just waiting.
After several days, a nice mother has formed, looks appropriately slimy and all I can say is even as a distiller who ages whiskies for years.. well, I’m in a big fat hurry for this to finish so I can taste it!
All of my whisky barrels are 53 gallon (full size). I assume to do a multi-year aging in a wooden barrel I would need to occasionally top off the vinegar to minimize airspace? If I fermented the vinegar in the same barrel is there a need to remove the mother before aging, or just minimize air contact? Maybe a CO2 layer on top of the vinegar would help?
Our distillery did a 53 gallon batch of fermented hot peppers in salt brine, a la Tabasco. A few mistakes were made, and we ended up with a Kahm yeast infection which threw an off flavor and ruined the whole batch. We like to experiment, but a little research is always warranted!
Your site is great, and your willingness to share is even greater, keep up the good work!
Hi, sounds pretty cool! Yeah, typically when you age you remove the mother and store it in a wooden cask filled to the brim.
In craft vinegar, the usual process is fermentation in a steel or HDPE tank and then transferring (minus the mother) the vinegar to wooden casks for aging only. You should top it off if you can. You could try CO2 in the headspace since there will be no fermentation but I don’t know what the effect of dissolved CO2 will be. Perhaps some carbonic or other type of acid. Hard to tell.
Let me know if this helps.
Hi! Thank you so much for the tips. I was wondering if it’s okay to leave the mother in my vinegar or will it go bad?
As long as the vinegar is stored air tight, it won’t go bad. It is fine to leave the mother in.
Fantastic thread, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!
There are a lot of references to not disturbing the floating mother, positing that if it falls it will ‘rot’. I have a lot of jugs with a layer at the bottom and I was worried I had screwed up – im glad your experience proves otherwise.
So just two questions –
First, if the mother falls and does not reform, or barely reforms, is this a good indication that you should rack and cap off the vinegar?
Secondly, what would be the negative effects of underpitching (using less than 20-25%) AVC into a new large batch ?
I’ve once or twice split up one of your smaller starter jars into 2 or 3 one-gallon jugs of hard cider ( 3/4 full) and the mother on the surface seems to grow fast and evenly in all of them, and I am just wondering if its similar to having an idea pitch rate as they do for wines, beers and ciders – based on sugar content and temperature – so did I just get lucky?
Hi William, thanks for your comment. No the mothers don’t ‘rot’, there are ideas that they may slow fermentation due to absorbing some dissolved oxygen from the liquid but I have never had huge issues with this.
If the mother falls and does not re-form, it could be an indication it is done but you can never be sure unless you measure acidity. There are some cases where strains of bacteria continue fermentation without a mother.
Underpitching does not have any negative effects really. To be honest, the reason for the guidance of 20-25% raw vinegar for new batches is three-fold:
1) You have a large enough colony of bacteria to ensure that you should get success reasonably quickly under a wider variety of conditions (i.e. non-optimal temperature, etc.)
2) The vinegar raises the acidity (and lowers pH) of the starting mash and this helps prevent any contamination by rogue lactic acid bacteria or mold forming on the new mother
3) It gets the acidity to at least 1% initially which kills off any yeast and halts alcoholic fermentation
Honestly, if you can get it to work at less of a ratio, there is nothing wrong. I would be happy to advertise my mothers as making a gallon of vinegar but I know it is too much of a stretch to do so. I have seen people try to stretch it too far (8 oz mother for 5 gallons of wine) and it generally isn’t successful.
I have a mother of vinegar that I received from a relative about 10 years ago. The disc is about 1/2″ thick and 8″ in diameter. It came from a very old mother that my relative carried over 20 some years ago from France. It has done well until lately I’ve noticed the disc is hard and not pliable. The vinegar smells good and tastes good. Has she died?
Do you mean the original mother disc? It will probably get less useful over time. Once you create new mothers of vinegars you should store and use those. There isn’t any reason to continue to use the oldest mother. You could keep it for nostalgia purposes or toss it if you have new mothers you can use to start new cultures.
I have HUGE amounts of thick, beautiful Sicilian vinegar mother from over 150 years ago, passed to me by a friend, and traveling with me to France now from Los Angeles. I can keep it easily as I have been doing, under vinegar, but I can’t seem to give away enough vinegar to keep up with what is produced from our leftover good wines, etc. I have NEVER used a California wine in my vinegar, only French, Italian and Spanish and it’s the best vinegar you’ll ever taste–everyone I give it to raves. A salad with only this vinegar and good olive oil is enough to get raves! I adore my “mother” but do not wish to lose her. I’m decanting today and covering the mother with aging wine. Is that okay????
Hi, yes that is ok, but the wine will eventually ferment to vinegar unless it is sealed airtight.
I inherited my dads vinegar from the 1950’s Since bringing it home, my mother of vinegar got huge! It’s about an inch thick. What would cause it to get so big? Should I remove some? The vinegar is so strong. You only need a few drops to dress a salad. Is there anything I could do to make it flavourful but not so strong?
Hi, you can dilute the vinegar with water to make it less strong but you need to know its acidity first. Send it to a wine lab (telling them to adjust calculations for only acetic acid in titratable acidity) or you can send it to us. The mother will continuously grow at times to become huge and it is not an issue. You can definitely use pieces to start new batches of vinegar or throw out depending on how you feel.
Hi! I’m making ACV for the first time, from apple-cider pulp inoculated with Bragg’s, and after 3.5 weeks, 3 of the jars have mothers bubbling away, but the 4th, under slightly thicker fabric-with-O-ring, ahs stopped, no mother on the top anymore. It had stopped about a week ago, I gave it a stir, and it started fermenting furiously — a mother reformed, the crud at the bottom was blooping away. Now I see no evidence of further fermentation — a thin ring of bubbles clinging along the top, but that’s it. Mother has sunk.
It smells vinegary, tastes…not quite tangy enough, or like much of anything, so I’ve capped it till I can get a pH meter and check the acidity. 3.5 weeks seems like not enough time, though. Would having a lot of surface area to work on with the apple pulp have speeded things? Thanks —
Hi, any bubbling you see is evidence of yeast fermentation converting sugar to alcohol. The vinegar fermentation by the mother won’t show any outward signs besides a mother forming. I would not expect serious vinegar fermentation to commence until the bubbling stops and the alcohol content is high enough to make a relatively strong vinegar. I would give it time, at least a couple weeks after bubbling stops, for the mother to form and grow.
Hi there. What a fabulous resource you are providing here! Thank you.
Entirely by accident, I have grown a rather significant scoba hotel ; or at least this is what I’ve been told. I’ve read here, that I can store my mother in a glass jar full of vinegar. What type of vinegar(s) can I use?. And how do I know if she is ready to sleep when placing her in the jar?
You can use any vinegar and there is no “ready” time, you can store it whenever you want.
I’m in the position of “Adrian 07.05.2019 AT 3:48 AM,” having over-oxidized my batch. I read your reply above, “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.” I’m assuming that I should give it air in order to form though, correct? Thanks!
Yes, definitely, it needs air to ferment.
Hi, another novice question: I now have a semi-hard thin disc at the bottom of my jar. Is that a mother, or something else that I don’t want and shouldn’t keep? (It doesn’t smell bad, doesn’t smell delicious.)
It is probably a mother of vinegar that formed on the surface and then sank for some reason. It shouldn’t be an issue and a new one will hopefully form soon on the surface if you are still continuing fermentation.
Reginald, Great, I’ll fill fill the container and see what happens.
Hi! I used the Sandor Katz recipe for 2 batches of fruit scrap vinegar with no mother starter (fruit scraps, 1 qt water, 1/4 c sugar in glass jar covered with cheesecloth) — 1 is mixed berries and the other is peacotum (peachXapricotXplum fruit cross). After 1 week I drained the fruit out and continued fruitless fermentation for 4 weeks. I have very thick scobys in both jars.
1) Is it only alcoholic base vinegars that you’re saying need to ferment longer than 4 weeks?
2) I plan to store the scobys in a jar with some of it’s vinegar covering it. Should I store the scobys separately or in the same jar since they are mothers of different fruit types, or is that irrelevant? And then can they be used to jump start any type of fruit vinegar?
3) Can these fruit scobys be used to convert commercial champagne into vinegar, or does that require a wine scoby? I have some good champagne that’s gone flat, so trying to figure out if I can make good vinegar from it.
Thanks! I’m a newbie!
Hi, thanks for your your comment. To address the questions one by one:
1) Vinegars made from fruit scraps should ferment as long or longer than alcoholic base vinegars since some alcoholic and acetic acid fermentation occurs simultaneously. You could check repeatedly but unless you are in warm weather it could take anywhere from 4-8 weeks to finish.
2) You can store the mothers together, the only reason people use different mothers is if they are worried about maintaining a taste profile. They can start any type of vinegar.
3) Yes, these should start commercial champagne fine but make sure you dilute it below 10% ABV since that level of alcohol will inhibit the bacteria that will do the fermentation.
How do I later use the mother that I store (per your instructions) to make new vinegar?
Sorry if this is such an obvious question, but I’m brand new at this and my both my fruit scrap berry and fruit scrap pluot vinegars produced a big scoby gel (actually one of them even produced 2 discs). When I want to make new vinegar, how, when and how much of it do I add the new mother to the fruit in water and sugar?
Thanks for helping this newbie!
Hi, you could just add a piece of the mother (1/4″ length is fine) to the new vinegar batch. Granted, if you are doing it starting with fruit in water and sugar I would recommend letting the yeast fermentation (wild yeast or brewing yeast packets) proceed to completion where the bubbling stops before adding the mother. Then a new mother should form and fermentation will proceed.
I was given some organic apples and decided to make some ACV. I’ve not made it before but many years ago I use to make wine. I washed and cored the apples, chopped them up placed them in a mash bin and drenched in boiling water to kill any wild yeast. I dropped the temperature of the mash to 20c, made up a culture of Champagne yeast and started the fermentation, the bin was fitted with an airlock. After fermentation I strained the mash and transferred the liquor to 3 Lt jars and added some raw organic unfiltered ACV with the mother, covered with cloth and stored for two months. each jar had a mother disc on top of the vinegar. White, slimy and rubbery. Tonight I bottled the vinegar. I’ve saved the mothers to use again. The vinegar tastes fine. I’m very happy with it but in one of the previous comments I noted it mentioned letting the mother fall to the bottom. Have I bottled too soon ?? and would there be consequences. Thanks,
Hi, measuring acidity (see this article) is the only way to know it is “done” but the mother may or may not fall when it is complete so I wouldn’t worry about that alone. You can use it if it tastes fine for you but definitely get it tested if you want to use it for canning and/or preserving.
Hi Im Scott from Australia , being this seems an American site ,I thought i’d distinguish.
Ive made ACV and now pineapple vinegar , they certainly taste better than the bought ones. I’ve kept the mothers and wonder why? If it makes them every time why keep the mothers? They can only be used in the process of turning alcohol into vinegar , or am I missing something? The bottles all continue to make their own mother with out requiring more via chopping up the orginal mother . I used my original mother in making the pineapple vinegar , now i have two and both are healthy and laying in a bath together of vinegar in a sealed container in the fridge.
Think I’ve missed something maybe one of you kind souls can put me right. Thankyou scott
Hi Scott, thanks for your comment. Many people keep the mothers to start new batches of vinegar from alcohol for a new batch. If the vinegar is done and you don’t need to use it to produce new vinegars, you have no need to keep the mother. It just helps jump start any new batch you might consider.
Hi Reginald, I have a small batch of red wine vinegar which has never formed a mother, but smells and tastes like a weak vinegar. A lot of the liquid has evaporated ( more than half ) and this has been in a period of three months. ( summer time here in south africa ). Am i on the right track, or has something gone wrong? Regards, John.
Hi, if it has a weak vinegar smell, fermentation is happening. Not every type of bacteria forms a mother. The evaporation issue can be a big deal with low humidity and high heat. Try to cover it in a way that still allows air in but limits evaporation. For example, cover the jar with cheesecloth and then a lid with a small hole to allow air exchange but limit evaporation.
Hi Reginald 🙂
Wow I am thrilled that I found your site!
I’ve been making simple vinegar for a while now … vinegar mother + 1/2 wine+1/2 water and let it sit. So far that turned out pretty well and I have a white and a red one. In both jars, the mothers keep growing.
Now all of a sudden I found little white gritty clots (like semolina) on top of the white jar, that I have no clue what it is. I was wondering if you ever experienced that and if that means I have to throw away the whole jar.
Thanks a lot in advance for your reply!
It could be mold or it could be just different mother colonies from other types of bacteria. The key questions: are the dots fuzzy and is there a bad odor? If either of the latter it is mold and you would have to toss the batch and sterilize the jar. I would wait a week though. If it is mold, it will grow quick. If it doesn’t grow, it is just part of the mother and don’t worry about it.
Can i use the mother of one kind of vinegar in the making of another kind? Or will it affect the final taste and flavour?
Thanks in advance.
Any mother can make any type of vinegar. The starting mother will impart some of the flavor of the liquid it was grown in though.
Hi Reginald! I found a 2 or 3 year old bottle of french acv in the back of my top kitchen cupboard. It’s a 0,75 liter bottle with only ⅓ used, so it still has 0.5 liter (= 1 pint) in it. I opened the airtight bottle once to smell it. It still smells like normal ACV, maybe a tiny bit weaker. On the bottom it has 4 thick white mothers in it now! Together they are 5cm thick (about 2 inches).
The top one seems to have a few round white spots on it. Does this mean it grew mold on it before it sunk to the bottom or has it always been on the bottom? The sides of the top and bottom mother also seem to have grown a little upward (very thin, uneven collar) The middle 2 are perfect disks. Underneath there is a little bit of brown/reddish sediment.
Can I still use these mothers to make my own batch of acv after 3 years? Should I butcher them poking a knife through the bottleneck to get them out or shake them in pieces? How can I test if the top one ever had mold, since it was submerged in vinegar for so long? Should I add some fresh acv or something to help the mothers until I figure out how to brew my own (never done anything like this before) and get the supplies I need.
Thank you so much for sharing all your valuable knowledge with us!!!
Hi, I don’t know if you have a pH tester or pH strips but the best strategy would be to test the pH of the ACV. If it is lower than 4, I doubt mold formed and it is perfectly fine to use as-is to start a new batch. If the pH is above 4 or worse, is near neutral (around 7) then it is contaminated by mold spores and bacteria and should be tossed.
What do you think of using an active ginger bug to kickstart alcohol fermentation when one doesn’t have access to commercial yeast.
It might work but regular fruit often has yeast as well that can be used.
I have loads of good mother. Can I store it in my pasteurized vinegar or must it be stored in the unpasteurized vinegar.
Either can work. Unpasteurized vinegar doesn’t harm the bugs.
Hi there I have a large bottle of apple cider vinegar with a large mother in the pantry. I have been using it on going and when it gets down to the dregs I add more water. Is this a viable way to continue? What should I add in to keep it an everlasting supply? Many thanks Rachel
Hi, please don’t do this. By just adding water you are successively diluting it and it really has no acidity left. Do not use it for any sort of canning or preserving. If you want to make more vinegar, add hard (alcoholic) cider and wait for a new mother to form and ferment that. You can then use a wine kit or wine lab to test for when it is at least 4% acidity.
I started a crock of red wine vinegar about a year ago. I’d like to just keep adding wine and just bottling what vinegar I use as I go. I have a couple of questions. First, the vinegar is VERY acidic, which I love, but it’s not for everyone. Will aging it help or should I add water? My husband makes wine so he can probably check the ph for me, but too much chemistry for me! Second, I have a TON of mother, I just took seven layers out of my crock and have them stored, covered in vinegar in the fridge. It’s all sealed in airtight containers. My second question is, how long can I store it like this and can I make other types of vinegar with some of this mother? So glad I found this page! Thanks in advance.
Hi thanks for your comment. Aging will help reduce the sharpness but if it is very acidic you probably want to add water once you remove it before use. If you have been constantly adding wine it is probably 7-10% acidity. 7% is the high end for most wine vinegar. You would need to titrate it to tell for sure though.
Second, the way you are storing the mother covered in vinegar and sealed airtight will keep indefinitely. You don’t even need to refrigerate it.
I stored my acv mother in water for a few days in fridge, did I damage it? If it’s ok, how long can I leave in fridge? can I change out water to store bought apple juice or do I have to have raw apple juice to make acc
Hi you can leave the acv mother unrefridgerated as long as it is submerged in vinegar in a container with an airtight lid. In any case, refrigeration does not damage it.
Hi! I have a batch of ACV mothers which I did my fermentation back in 2019, and halted till now (Oct 2021). There are actually quite a number of mother scobies when I stored them in a air tight container, but the top layer(s) aren’t covered with enough vinegar (though there’s no mold or anything found).
Is it ok to continue using them, or probably discard the upper most 1-2 layers of scobies? What do you suggest? Thank you ^^
Hi, they are probably ok but if you are concerned, use ph strips to test if the pH is below 4. If the container is airtight, if the vinegar they are in is still acidic, there is no mold, and there is no off smell, they are probably good to use. If there is an off smell, toss it.
Thanks for replying! I tested the pH and it was 3, I’m not sure how to test the acidity, but there wasn’t any off smell (still smell like ACVish) ^^
My grandfather Had a large wooden barrel in his outdoor shed in southern Ontario. it was there for at least 30 years, it had a square cut out on the top like a pumpkin cap. he would take a bottle of vinegar out of the spout at the bottom of the barrel and pull the lid off to add a bottle then replace the lid.
with everything I’ve been reading about doing vinegar in batches and storing the mother. how was this possible for my grandfather to keep it going for 30 years without all of the maintaining i read about?
If you mean why it didn’t break down, it is probably because he added wine regularly so the alcohol never dropped to zero and overoxidation didn’t kick in. Also fermentation slowed to a crawl in cool weather so helped maintain the batch.
You don’t have to remove mother from the bottom of the barrel. It doesn’t hurt but can clog things over time and slow fermentation. In his case, it probably wasn’t a huge issue so he was able to keep it going.
Are you supposed to store your homemade vinegar without the mother? If so, why does commercial acv make a big thing about it being ‘with the mother’?
Hi you can store it with or without the mother. The mother of vinegar has some benefits like more concentrated antioxidants but is also a bit of marketing. The commercial acv having mother is supposed to provide health benefits and while there are some, the vinegar itself provides the majority of known health benefits.
I started vinegar with fruit peels several months ago. I strained the peels out several weeks ago. The mother seems perfect and is no longer floating. I think it is vinegar but how do I know that it is safe to use? There doesn’t seem to be any mold other than an intact mother…
Hi, the only way to be sure on how “done” vinegar is is by measuring acidity via titration. This can be done at home with the right equipment/chemicals but also wine labs do it for a cost. If you email me I can arrange to help you measure it.
Hello and thank you very much for your wonderful knowledge.
Why have my three vinegar batches come out well but the mother of each has hardly formed, is loose and, while settling on the bottom, has not congealed into anything resembling “slime”?
Don’t I want (forgive me, Mom) a slimy mother? Is yes, what to do?
Hi, mothers can form differently for a variety of reasons including the nutrients in what you are fermenting and the type of bacteria. Typically the thickest mothers come from malt vinegar type ferments while with wine you can get all different types.
Once the mother sinks, it is inactive so if it is not on the surface, it will not congeal or grow any larger.
Thanks so much, Reginald.
So what do you mean when you state that the mother can be “inactive”?
Does an inactive mother of vinegar impart any nutritional value?
Can an inactive mother of vinegar do anything except just sit there?
Hi, an inactive mother is one that is sunk and cannot contribute to fermentation since it has not contact with air. It just sits there are you implied.
An inactive mother has the same nutritional value as a regular mother. This is because acetic acid bacteria are not specifically probiotic (they can’t survive in the gut due to lack of oxygen). The other compounds in the mother are not changed by inactivity.
If “acetic acid bacteria are not specifically probiotic (they can’t survive in the gut due to lack of oxygen),” what, then, is the nutritional benefit of acetic acid vinegar?
What type of vinegar do you recommend we make that is probiotic?
There are a lot of nutritional aspects to acetic acid. For example see this paper. It’s just probiotics and bacterial gut health aren’t among those though vinegar aids in digestion, especially of starchy food.
Can cider vinegar mother be used to make Buttermilk and Creme Fraiche?
Honestly, I don’t think so. These are acetic acid bacteria and different bacteria make those products.
I made apple cider vinegar for my horses (as many, if not more benefits for them, there are for humans) last year. I had put my mothers, in a glass jar with a small amount of the vinegar. I brought it out a few days ago, there was a small amount of mould on top and top mother was slightly darker in colour, so I threw it out.
I left the other mothers, that had no discolouration or anything of that nature, in the jar for a few days, no new mould growth or new discolouration. Definitely had a strong smell though, but not sure if that is normal though or not.
I decided to start 2 small batches and see how it goes. It’s at the 24 hr mark and bubbling really well- seems to really have helped the growing process. But is there anything I should be concerned about, in terms of the mother being questionable?
Hi, if there was no mold then it should be ok but if the strong smell is foul and not acidic that could signify bacterial contamination. It is hard to tell though if there is no discoloration or any other issues. One good quick check is to test the pH of stored mothers. If the pH is 4 or higher (it shouldn’t be if it was covered in finished vinegar) it is likely that somehow air got in and overoxidation has raised the pH to the point where bacteria can take over.
Hi. I made a batch of ACV last year with our own organic apples. We have consumed two of the one litre bottles and it was excellent. Today I went into our cold room to retrieve another bottle and the three left have each separated. There’s a very clear liquid layer at the top, no color, about 2/3 of the bottle and the last 1/3 has a layer that looks like dough that has proofed, sort of bubbly looking. I expect it’s yeast. Is the vinegar still ok to consume?
The vinegar is ok as long as the acidity has not changed. The dough stuff is likely a mix of yeast lees and sediment. If the acidity has weakened though, don’t use it. Make sure it was sealed air tight while stored.
Which vinegar provides the nutritional benefits such as “probiotics and bacterial gut health” that acetic acid vinegar does not?
Which vinegars do you think are beneficial to use simultaneously for the benefits that they each provide?
Thank you so much for all your efforts!
Hi, there is no vinegar that provides probiotic or bacterial gut benefits to my knowledge. As far as which vinegars are better, it is hard to tell and studies conflict. Some say blueberry vinegar helps memory, others say other vinegars help blood sugar more, etc. The best is to find a fruit vinegar you like best since most of the benefits are with the acetic acid that we know of. Fruit vinegars (brewed from fruit, not flavored) are likely superior in health benefits to malt or white vinegars.
Okay, thanks, Reginald.
What do you recommend I do now? (I thought adding new ingredients to a small volume of ACV would jump-start the process.)
What’s my best course of action? Can I save my previous-current (dead) batch (that bubbled weakly for two days and then stopped)?
The yeast are likely dead so starting over is the easiest thing to do since dilution could save the batch but give a weaker vinegar in the end.
Hello! I have been making red wine vinegar for a couple of years, but my problem is the mother. I have SO much! I’d like to get enough vinegar in my crock to put in a wooden barrel to age, but the mother is voracious and there’s more mother than vinegar. I keep feeding it, and taking out layers of mother, which I have stored and have no idea what to do with, is there a way to slow her growth?
Well, vinegar mother grows at its own rate depending on the wine and the bacteria. It is good to remove it but there is no way to slow the growth unless you low the temperature. If you are using wine with heavy sugar content use dryer wines since sugar can help promote mother formation.
I’ve been keeping wine vinegar in a barrel and feeding it regularly. I checked it today and it has gone flat and brown, with a basement-like taste. I’ve dumped it along with the mother and went to start a new batch, but found the mother in the glass jar covered with mold. I’m wondering what went wrong. 1. I have to use several layers of cheesecloth to keep out the fruit flues 2. We had several weeks of 100° plus temps in September, I keep the barrel in my barn. Could any of this affected it?
Hi, let me try to handle the two issues separately:
1. If the mother in the glass jar has mold it was not completely submerged in vinegar OR if there was no airtight seal above the cheesecloth, the vinegar overoxidized, losing acidity, and allowed mold growth to happen. Next time store a mother in an airtight jar completely submerged in vinegar and it should be fine indefinitely.
2. As far as the barrel, you should only feed vinegar between batches. For example, take out 1/2 of finished vinegar and replace that 1/2 volume with wine (sulfites removed). Now why it went bad is a difficult question. How often do you feed it? If it is left for many weeks or months between feedings the high temperature may have sped fermentation and then overoxidation. Another possibility is if there is an acetone smell, the alcohol content was too high and fermentation was stalled (and bad tasting). Next time that happens add 1/4 by volume water to see if this lowers alcohol enough to kickstart it again.
The information is so much interesting first time , this year . I decided to make a home made Vinager , when I saw a-lots of apple on my apples trees the second year leaving in our new home , i decided to look for a vinegar recipe And I cut a lots Organic apples and I put in a big far , with a apple cider Organic vinegar and balsamic vinegar , passing days it have being fermented and becoming beautiful I had the opportunity to to see 3 layers of the mother vinegar as time passing I have learning the process like today on your site, as I Learned that my daughter can keep the recipe for her new generation To coming and this is super awesome .
Hi, Reginald. I hope all’s well.
What does it mean if an apple vinegar is almost completely clear with a beautiful golden tint but almost all the sediment is sitting by its lonesome on the bottle’s bottom?
Most sediment tends to settle over time. If the vinegar is finished and has the right acidity, it is not a bad sign, just natural clearing.