DIY Red Wine Vinegar: Questions from a newbie

Yesterday I started my first fermentation project, a homemade red wine vinegar using Bragg’s Cider Vinegar for the starter and using this recipe: I understand the beginning process pretty well, but the article is kind of vague on the timeline, and I have a few questions about the process.

How long should I let the vinegar sit on the counter before moving it to the fridge to arrest the bacteria growth?
How often should I stir it?
Do you pasteurize your vinegar when it’s done fermenting, or just keep it in the fridge?

Any other advice or tips would also be appreciated. Thanks!

I would like to hear also . I heard you can use leftover wine to feed the culture also . That’s all I know .

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I have not made vinegar but I have done lots of other fermentation like sauerkraut. The time for fermentation varies significantly depending on the temperature. That’s probably why they’re vague & means you have to taste it as you go till you get what you want. Refrigeration only slows the bacteria so without pasteurization it will continue to ferment, although slowly, in the fridge. I’m intending to do vinegar this year but haven’t had time yet. From what I read, you have to dilute wine or the alcohol inhibits the bacteria.

Good luck & keep us posted.

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I’m not exactly sure how you are going to make red wine vinegar using apple cider vinegar. I read both recipes and must have missed something. The first referenced apple cider and the second used wine.

I have made - and continue to make - red wine vinegar but have always used an existing mother, which won’t help you at all.

The brags apple cider vinegar is unfiltered and has a mother in it. If you don’t have access to a wine store or other homemade unfiltered vinegar, you can get the process started with braggs, and then use the vinegar you make with it for future batches. (Or so multiple sources online tell me. I’ll let you know if the Internet can be trusted in about 4 weeks.)

That rodale article is not very good.

No stirring. The worst thing you can do. The mother forms on top. If the container gets jostled or stirred the mother sinks, and drowns, and has to start over.

Vinegar should not be on a counter. It likes dark and cool, 60-70F.
Vinegar that is working (fermenting, except it isn’t really a ferment…) should not be put in the fridge. I never keep mine in the fridge. I do keep it in a section of my basement that never gets above 70F, and is usually between 65-70F.

You don’t really need to ever put it in the fridge.

It takes on average several months (2-4) for the vinegar to fully form. Depends upon how much wine, how much starter/mother, the alcoholic percentage of the wine, and whether there are a lot of sulphites in the wine. (White wine can have a lot of sulphites to keep it from going bad, but it can slow down or even kill the mother/starter.)

I know this link is to chowhound, which I haven’t participated in since 2014, but there is a lot of info about what I learned about making vinegar.

Here’s a cut n paste, but see the link for the full thread


Feb 18, 2006 10:01 AM



      There are some very in depth posts about this a year or two

ago. I make all different kinds of vinegars. I have around 20 varieties
going right now. It is a long term process and you should expect to
wait a few months for your first batch to be ready. Also, just like with
cooking wines. The vinegar will only be as good as the ingredients you
start with. If you use a corked wine it will be ruined since a corked
wine is lousy tasting and also gets that way from a bacterial infection.
You don’t have to use your best wines, but don’t use undrinkable
garbage either.

First you need a vinegar “Mother” this is the
bacterial culture that turns alcohol into vinegar. An easy cheap way to
get one is to buy some “live” unfiltered cider vinegar from a health
food store. I think one name is Bragg’s cider vinegar. If you can get a
“Mother” from someone who has a good one it will be better than starting
with a raw vinegar. You can also buy a “Mother” from some wine and
homebrew supply stores.

Pour this into a large, 1 gallon or
larger, wide mouth jar. Then pour in up to the same amount of
wine/alcoholic beverage, never add more wine than you have starter or
the vinegar will take forever to process. If possible shake the wine to
get a lot of air mixed in before adding. This will help give the
bacteria an oxygen boost.

Cover the jar top with a piece of
thin cloth such as a bandana, held on with a large rubber band. This
will keep out fruit flies, also called vinegar flies, but allow air in.
Then stick the jar in a dark place that is around 60-70 degrees and
leave it alone for awhile. A month or so. After this you can gently add
more wine every week or so.

You don’t want to jostle the
vinegar because if you do the “Mother” that is growing on top will sink
and drown. This slows down the process and can over time cause off
tastes from the drowned and dead “Mother”. The mother can get very
thick, 1, 2, even 3 inches. When my jar starts to get full and also full
of mother I take out the mother and squeeze the vinegar out of it over a
very large bowl. This is a nasty slimy weird job but the mother is 99%
vinegar and the best part to use for starting more vinegar. Some people
describe “Mother” from red wine as looking like placenta / afterbirth. A
somewhat accurate description.

Every now and then you can pour
out a quart or so of vinegar. Filter through first a bandana then if you
want a coffee filter. At this point you can either:

Put in a
sealed jar and let it sit for at least a month or six, to take off the
raw edge. Then filter again and you can use it. This will be a lightly
filtered live vinegar.

Or you can put in a mason / ball jar and
process at 165 degrees for ten minutes. Then let it sit and age for a
month or six to mellow it out. Then filter and use. This will give you a
vinegar that is dead and will not age as fast but will be more like
commercial vinegar.

You can use any low alcohol beverage such as
wine- red, white, desert wines, saki, beer- any decent type but it will
only be as good as what you start with, hard cider, fruit wine,
champagne, sherry, port, etc.

Commercial vinegar is watered down
to about 5% acid, the vinegar you make will have apx. the same acid
content as the alcohol content was in your starting liquid. A wine of
11% alcohol will make a vinegar of 11% acidity. You can dilute the
vinegar but I use it straight and take allowances in my recipe or use.

Question asking about how to stop Mother of Vinegar from reforming:

Yes, heating the vinegar will kill off the mother and prevent the
problem of mother forming. Don’t boil it since this will destroy a lot
of that flavor. Instead bring the vinegar slowly to 165 degrees, no
more or less, in a sealed jar in a water bath for ten minutes as if you
were canning it. This will preserve much of the great homemade quality
and character. Let the vinegar sit for a month after heat treating to
mellow and age then filter and bottle.

But if that much mother
is forming after bottling then you may be removing the vinegar too soon
after adding the last wine or else possibly your temp of your crock may
be too cold, for the mother to fully make the wine into vinegar. I have
found that my winter made vinegar takes much longer, but tastes better
than my summer made vinegar, because my cellar is about 10 degrees
cooler in the winter.

Again, after removing from the crock I
always let the vinegar sit for a few months in a sealed jar before final
filtering and putting in a bottle so that the mother has fully used up
all the alcohol and so that the vinegar mellows and smooths out. This is
whether I heat treated it or it is raw.

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Thanks! This is exactly the information I needed.

Glad to help. I’ve been consulting to farms and food/beverage businesses for around a dozen years, so I have lots of this info. I really need to collate all of the stuff I posted to over the past 16-17 years, and the few new things I posted here, so I have it readily available.

JoeBabbit, yes, too high a strength alcohol can slow down the ferment, but as long as the wine is a normal one of under 15-17%, it’s ok. But adding distilled or spring water to bring the ABV.% down to 6-9% does speed up the process. Tap water’s small amount of chlorine can slow things down a lot, until the chlorine evaporates.