Apple cider vinegar is often used in cooking and baking, or to make marinades, dressings, and even beverages.
To make it, chopped apples are covered with water and left to ferment to form ethanol. Natural bacteria convert the ethanol into acetic acid, which is the main component of vinegar.
It’s not often that an entire bottle of apple cider vinegar is used in one sitting, which may leave you wondering whether it ever expires.
This article reviews whether apple cider vinegar goes bad, plus storage tips to improve its quality and shelf life.
The acidic nature of vinegar makes it a self-preserving pantry staple, which means it generally never sours or expires.
The pH scale, which ranges from 0–14 indicates how acidic a substance is. A pH lower than 7 is acidic, and a pH greater than 7 is basic. Acetic acid, the main constituent of apple cider vinegar, has a highly acidic pH between 2 and 3.
Vinegar has natural antimicrobial properties, which likely contribute to its long shelf life. In fact, vinegar can prevent the growth of illness-causing germs like E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans.
In one study, vinegar had the most antibacterial characteristics when compared with coffee, soda, tea, juice, and olive oil.
The best way to store apple cider vinegar is in an airtight container in a cool, dark place away from sunlight, such as in a kitchen pantry or basement. Refrigerating apple cider vinegar is unnecessary and does not improve its shelf life.
As vinegar ages, it may undergo aesthetic changes, such as becoming hazy or separating. You may also notice cloudy sediments or fibers at the bottom of the bottle.
This is largely due to exposure to oxygen, which happens every time you open the lid.
Over time, oxygenation also causes the release of citric acid and sulfur dioxide, two preservatives in vinegar.
This could affect how it tastes or contributes to a recipe, but these changes don’t significantly affect the nutritional value or shelf life of apple cider vinegar.
Before using apple cider vinegar that you’ve had for a while, you can smell and even taste it to make sure it’ll still work well in your recipe.
Keep in mind that even though apple cider vinegar products may have an expiration date on them, many manufacturers note that its safe to use well beyond this date.
Apple cider vinegar is acidic and has antimicrobial properties that make it self-preserving. This means that it’s safe to consume and use in recipes even if it’s old.
However, apple cider vinegar can undergo aesthetic changes over time that may slightly change its taste, texture, or appearance. This is primarily due to chemical changes that happen when it’s exposed to oxygen.
Still, these types of changes do not affect the shelf life of apple cider vinegar, and it’s not dangerous to consume it when it gets old.