Apple cider vinegar is made by chopping up apples, covering the pieces with water, and then leaving them to ferment. Once ethanol is formed, bacteria convert it into acetic acid, which is how the vinegar is created.
Apple cider vinegar can be used for cooking, baking, or making marinades and dressings, though it is unlikely you will use it up all in one go.
Because of this, you might be wondering:
“What’s the shelf life of apple cider vinegar? Can it even go bad?”
Here’s the deal: Apple cider vinegar technically stays good indefinitely, though it will degrade in quality over time, especially if you don’t store it in adequate conditions. To stay on the safe side, consume your apple cider vinegar within 2 years of purchase.
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Go Bad?
So, will your apple cider vinegar expire? You’ll be pleased to hear that, due to its highly acidic pH level, the vinegar is self-preserving. This means that, generally, it won’t go bad or become unsafe to use.
However, this doesn’t mean that changes will never occur. As time passes, the apple cider vinegar quality might be altered because of its exposure to oxygen every time the lid is opened. These alterations may include haziness or cloudy sediments separating from the liquid and resting on the bottom of the bottle.
Exposure to oxygen causes chemical changes; citric acid and sulfur dioxide are released, which will affect the flavor. If you plan on using it in a recipe, be sure to test out the vinegar before you use it—perhaps give it a smell or a tiny taste—to check whether it will work well with the other ingredients.
But it gets better; even though there are subtle changes, the nutritional benefits and shelf life of your apple cider vinegar won’t be affected. In other words, it won’t have gone bad!
The bottle will come with a best-by date because this is legally required for food products. Thankfully, manufacturers note that apple cider vinegar will remain safe for consumption long after the expiration date has passed.
How To Store Apple Cider Vinegar
Because of its self-preserving nature, apple cider vinegar is very easy to store. Its long shelf life is caused by possessing antimicrobial qualities. This means your vinegar is effective at preventing harmful germs that give rise to illnesses, such as E. coli, staphylococcus aureus, and Candida Albicans, from growing and spreading.
While apple cider vinegar never technically expires and becomes unsafe for use, it is still important to ensure you store it correctly so it retains its taste quality. Ideally, you want to leave it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, such as your pantry or kitchen cupboard, away from sunlight.
Since it already has a long shelf life, there is no need to try and prolong it so refrigerating or freezing your vinegar is unnecessary.
What To Do With Old Apple Cider Vinegar
We’ve established that apple cider vinegar doesn’t really go bad. However, you may not want to consume any bottle over 2 years old for quality reasons.
If you’re in that position, don’t bin your apple cider vinegar! There are plenty of uses for old apple cider vinegar, like making a natural deodorizer, an all-purpose cleaner, or to boil better eggs.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Its antimicrobial, self-preserving properties mean apple cider vinegar will remain safe for consumption, even if you purchased it a while ago and it has aged considerably. Remember to be mindful of the fact that minor changes will occur over time that may alter the smell, texture, or taste, but otherwise, the nutritional value and shelf life are not affected.