If you’re reading this, you’ve probably just come across a bottle of apple cider vinegar that has been collecting dust in the pantry and you’re wondering if it’s expired. Oh, wait! That vinegar seems to have slightly changed too. So, is it still good? Will consuming it make you sick? Keep reading and you’ll find out.
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Go Bad?
No, apple cider vinegar technically never expires or goes sour. But if stored incorrectly or for way too long past its best-by date, the condiment can lose its quality especially if the bottle is opened. An unopened bottle can keep indefinitely.
The reason why apple cider vinegar is able to stay for an extended period without going bad or losing its potency is that the product itself is acidic, which makes it self-preserving in nature.
Acetic acid, the main component of apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, with a PH value of 2 to3. This provides the vinegar with natural antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of bacteria, enabling it to have a long shelf life.
How Long Does Apple Cider Vinegar Last?
According to WebMD, apple cider vinegar retains its quality for two years if the bottle is unopened. Once the seal is broken, the quality starts to deteriorate and the shelf life of the vinegar reduces by half. But this period is only an estimate. As we just mentioned, apple cider vinegar can stay good for a really long time.
Each manufacturer will print a best-by date on the bottle to show how long their product will maintain its quality. But keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that the condiment will become unsafe to use after this period. It only starts to age, and you might notice a change in its appearance, taste, or texture.
Because the product is self-preserving, you don’t need to refrigerate it. An opened bottle of apple cider vinegar will keep good at room temperature provided it is stored away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
Note that every time you twist the cap open, air sneaks into the bottle, causing the liquid to oxidize little by little. Over time, you could notice some cloudiness, separation, or even sediments settling at the bottom. But these are just aesthetic changes; your vinegar is still totally safe to use. So basically, it is correct to say that apple cider vinegar never actually goes bad.
Here is a simple chart that summarizes apple cider vinegar’s shelf life.
|Apple Cider Vinegar||Pantry|
|Unopened bottle||2 years|
|Opened bottle||1 year|
How to Tell if Apple Cider Vinegar Has Gone Bad
As stated, the ‘going bad’ of apple cider vinegar doesn’t mean that the product becomes unusable or unsafe for consumption. Although there may be a slight change in the way the liquid appears, smells, or tastes, it will still be safe to use.
However, keep in mind that these little alterations can change the goodness of the food the product is used with. For example, depending on how long the vinegar has been in storage, it may get more acidic. Yes, there will be no risk of ingesting the vinegar, but the increased acidity may sometimes make the resulting recipes taste a bit bitter.
Perhaps you have made a recipe that tasted a little too sour despite having all the ratios of your apple cider vinegar right? That’s probably because of those little changes in quality resulting from maybe keeping the liquid for too long or just not using the right storage techniques (which we will be discussing in a moment).
Well, the slight changes don’t necessarily mean your vinegar is done for, but if you don’t like how your recipes taste, it’s best to get a new bottle.
How About That Sediment at the Bottom?
Over time, you may see brown or cloudy sediment settled at the bottom of the bottle. That slimy substance is called the mother of vinegar and it’s nothing but cellulose.
If your bottle is marked as filtered or pasteurized, it will not contain the mother. The substance is only found in raw vinegar and is actually the most nutritious part of the liquid.
Once a bottle of vinegar is opened, even if it is the pasteurized variety, the mother sediment can form over time due to oxidation. Again, this doesn’t mean the vinegar is spoiled. But if you don’t like the way it looks, you can always get rid of the sedimentation by running the liquid through the coffee filter.
Also, if your bottle has sediments at the bottom that don’t look anything like vinegar mother and you are not sure about its integrity, do not use it.
4 Tips to Store Apple Cider Vinegar
While apple cider vinegar is a shelf-stable ingredient that can keep indefinitely, if not stored right, its quality can deteriorate quickly stripping the products of its health benefits. Here are some tips that can help you with your vinegar’s storage to keep it in peak condition for as long as it lasts.
1. Keep the Cap Tight
Sure, apple cider vinegar will not really spoil, per se. But if you leave the bottle open or the cap not completely screwed on, bugs and bacteria will creep in and contaminate the liquid. So, always check to see your vinegar is tightly sealed before putting it away.
2. Place the Vinegar Away From Sunlight
Leaving your vinegar exposed to sunlight or the natural light for too long can cause it to oxidize and degrade in quality prematurely. That said, stick the bottle in the pantry, a cupboard, or any other place where it’s not hit by direct sunlight.
If you wish to store apple cider vinegar on the counter, cover it with a dark piece of clothing or transfer it into a dark glass bottle to keep it from the natural light.
3. Keep it Cool
Apple cider vinegar is sensitive to extreme temperatures. So, to ensure it stays in good shape, avoid storing it near the stove or any other heat source. The best place would be the pantry.
4. Store Diluted Vinegar in the Fridge
The main reason why apple cider vinegar does not spoil is the low PH that prevents the growth of microbes. When vinegar is diluted, it becomes less acidic, and its shelf life is reduced significantly. If you have diluted your bottle, make sure it stays in the refrigerator at all times, tightly sealed.
For more insights on how to properly store apple cider vinegar, check out this video:
The Risk of Consuming Apple Cider Vinegar
If you ingest apple cider vinegar that has allegedly ‘gone bad’, well, do not panic because nothing will happen. As we have stated over and over, apple cider vinegar can last indefinitely, which means, it doesn’t really expire.
Sure, there will be a date on the package that probably says the product should be used within a certain period, but even if you use the vinegar after that date, chances are you will still be okay. The quality of the vinegar may be lower than when you first used the bottle and the liquid may look or taste a little different, but you will certainly not get sick from consuming the product.
You may, however, not like the look of the murky, stingy mother sediment that forms over time as the vinegar goes through fermentation. While it doesn’t mean that the vinegar is spoiled, if you prefer to use the liquid without the sediment, just get a new bottle.
Similarly, if that bottle has been in storage for a suspiciously long time or tastes funny, it would probably not be a bad idea to just toss it out.
Can You Freeze Apple Cider Vinegar?
Yes, you can, but really, there is no point in storing apple cider vinegar in the freezer, as the product is built to be completely shelf-stable. Also, it’s important to note that freezing apple cider vinegar will not help retain the product’s flavor; it will actually degrade it. After thawing, your vinegar will not taste as good as a bottle sitting in the pantry.
But if that’s really not an issue for you or you just want to experiment, freezing apple cider vinegar is pretty easy. The first thing you need to do is get an empty ice cube tray and an airtight container. Fill the tray slots with the vinegar, then place it in the freezer. Give the vinegar a few hours to completely solidify. You may wrap the tray to keep the vinegar protected but it’s not necessary.
Once everything is nicely frozen, pop the cubes into an airtight container or Ziplock and place back in the freezer for long-term storage.
Apple cider vinegar is self-preserving, which enables it to have an extremely long shelf life. If stored correctly, it can last indefinitely. But over time, the product may look or taste differently due to chemical changes. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has gone bad, and consuming it will not make you sick.