apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

So, you’ve had a bottle of apple cider vinegar sitting in the kitchen for months, maybe years – only God knows. After using it a few times for salad dressing and marinades, it’s tucked somewhere and forgotten.

The first question popping up in your mind when discovering a long-forgotten food item like this, is: Does apple cider vinegar go bad?

Apple cider vinegar (or ACV) is a kitchen essential that is usually used for salad dressings, meat tenderizers, marinades, or basically for anything that requires a dash of sharp and acidic flavor to balance the dish. Besides culinary use, it is also used for medicinal and cleaning purposes.

As with other kinds of vinegar, a little goes a long way. Unless you also use it for other purposes, it’s almost a guarantee that it takes a while to finish a bottle.

Wasting food is always dilemmatic and frustrating. But, on the other hand, you don’t want to risk getting food poisoning.

Don’t worry. We got you covered. In this article, we will share some useful information on apple cider vinegar’s shelf life, its storage methods, and more around these topics! So, read on!

How To Properly Store Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar prepared by fermentation of apple juice. The juice is fermented into alcohol, which then turned into acetic acid (or the active compound of vinegar).

Storing vinegar is somehow unclear for many people, while it is actually effortless and straightforward. The ideal storage conditions are similar to other kinds of vinegar, such as Balsamic vinegar.

Since apple cider vinegar is not a perishable food, it can safely sit outside the fridge. Your basement or pantry is preferable. But, anywhere inside the house should be fine, as long as the storage spot is cool, dark, away from sources of heat and sunlight.

After opening, refrigeration is unnecessary. It doesn’t improve the shelf life either. So you can save space in the fridge for other food items.

Simply keep it in the same spot where it is stored before opening. This is enough to preserve its quality. Make sure that the cap is tightly closed when not in use.

How Long Does Apple Cider Vinegar Last?

Technically, apple cider vinegar does not expire. Yes, this is no joke.

Apple cider vinegar is naturally high in acid content. It also contains some antimicrobial properties which make apple cider vinegar a self-preserving food.

You should find a “best by” date on the bottle of apple cider vinegar. Similar to other foods, this date is to indicate the best quality the vinegar holds, rather than a safety concern. Generally, the time frame is between 2 to 5 years.

A study from the Vinegar Institute found out that when properly stored, apple cider vinegar can last for years to come; in other words, it stays indefinitely. You may see some visual changes, but other than that, it remains safe for consumption.

How Do You Tell If Apple Cider Vinegar Has Gone Bad?

As mentioned above, vinegar is almost unlikely spoiled due to its highly acidic nature.

However, you may notice some changes with your apple cider vinegar after a while in storage.

1. Cloudy liquid

Over time, apple cider vinegar may develop some visual changes. The liquid becomes cloudy or hazy. This is natural and considered harmless.

2. The “mother”

Next, maybe you see something like sediment floating on the bottom of the bottle. Don’t panic. This unfamiliar object is the “mother of vinegar.” It is actually the cellulose produced by the vinegar bacteria.

This is completely normal and not a sign of spoilage. But, if you don’t want it, take it out from the liquid by filtering or straining it with a cloth or coffee filter.

Some products are intentionally sold with the mother in it. You can find this kind of product labeled with unfiltered and unpasteurized, like this one from Bragg.

In most products, each bottle undergoes a pasteurization step to stop the growth of the mother. However, even for pasteurized vinegar, the mother will start to form once a bottle is opened.

If you have an old bottle of apple cider vinegar, it’s worth spending extra minutes to check and taste it. See if the flavor and taste are still satisfying to your taste buds. You may still want to discard it for quality reasons.

If the taste is inferior, don’t bother using it. Next to that, if you are doubting or see other suspicious signs other than cloudy liquid or the mother, let’s just stay on the safe side.

If your ACV is spoiled or contaminated and you can’t use it any more, try these apple cider vinegar substitutes.


Can you use apple cider vinegar after the expiration date?

Yes. Generally, apple cider vinegar is safe for consumption beyond the recommended date on the label. Be sure that you approve of the flavor and taste before using it.

What is the difference between filtered and unfiltered apple cider vinegar?

It’s common to see both filtered and unfiltered apple cider vinegar in the store. The big difference lies in the filtering process to remove the mother of vinegar.

Filtered variety is usually clear, while unfiltered vinegar is cloudy from the sediment of the mother vinegar.

Does apple cider vinegar contain alcohol?

Apple cider vinegar is different from hard cider. The latter is an alcoholic drink.

The main components of apple cider vinegar are acetic acid and water. Acetic acid is produced by a two-step fermentation process.

First, sugar from apple juice is fermented into alcohol. This is known as alcoholic fermentation. Next, alcohol is converted into acid by bacteria Acetobacter. This step is known as acetic fermentation. At this point, the acid is no longer alcoholic.


Apple cider vinegar is a self-preserving food. Technically it lasts for years and doesn’t expire. However, you may see some visual changes during the storage, such as cloudy liquid and the forming of mother vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar will stay good as long as you always close the bottle tightly and store it properly in a cool, dark place, away from heat and sunlight. But, if you notice other suspicious signs, don’t risk your health and get a new bottle.

Related: Does Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad?

apple cider vinegar shelf life

*Photo by 9dreamstudio/depositphotos

About The Author

Scroll to Top