How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar
You’d be surprised at how versatile a jar of apple cider vinegar can be.
Drizzle a little on your salad and it becomes an excellent salad dressing. Its unique woody tartness can complement a wide variety of recipes, too. But besides its many culinary uses, apple cider vinegar is also a top-notch household cleaning agent.
The good news is that apple cider vinegar is incredibly easy to make and can be easily brewed at home. Follow this guide to learn how to make apple cider vinegar DIY-style!
What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
For the uninitiated, apple cider vinegar (ACV) is simply fermented apple juice.
Apples are first crushed or pressed to produce apple juice. A naturally occurring yeast that lives on the outer skin of the apples will turn the sugar into ethanol. Since the yeast is naturally occurring, you don’t have to manually add commercial yeast to the mix.
Once the ethanol is produced, the cider is processed further by acetic acid bacteria (Acetobacter). This type of bacteria can convert ethanol to acetic acid — the chemical responsible for vinegar’s taste and many of its properties.
What Does Apple Cider Vinegar Do? What Are the Health Benefits?
ACV has many different uses. It can serve as a salad dressing or a flavoring agent in cooking. ACV — thanks to its antimicrobial property — can also be used as a natural house-cleaning chemical.
But while all of that is common knowledge, whether ACV has any health benefits at all is a rather contentious issue. There is currently no concrete scientific research that proves ACV’s purported health benefits.
Nonetheless, small-scale research exists that suggests taking a small amount of vinegar is capable of lowering post-meal blood sugar levels. As such, it could potentially be a helpful supplement if you’re diabetic.
When used as a salad dressing, ACV can ward off Salmonella contamination and protect you from food poisoning.
A randomized study also suggests that ACV can help with weight loss.
But it’s crucial that you take everything above ‘with a pinch of salt’. We don’t recommend you use ACV purely because of its alleged health benefits.
How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar
Step 1: Prepare Your Apples
ACV is often produced using leftover apples or scraps (peels or cores). Nonetheless, if possible, you should use good quality apples for the job. The better the quality, the better the taste.
Aside from quality, the type of apple you use for brewing ACV is also important. This is because the final taste of any products that are fermented from apple is majorly influenced by the cider.
Sweeter cultivars like Gala, Fuji, or Golden Delicious will result in a more sugary cider, so the ensuing ACV will be milder. Vice versa, ACV made with tart cultivars like McIntosh, Jonathan, and Braeburn will be sharper.
You can even mix and match apples from both types to create a more complex blend of flavors.
If you use apple scraps, you can skip straight to the second step. In the case that you use whole apples, you need to clean and process them for fermenting.
Once the apples are ready, wash them carefully under cold running water. Scrub off everything that you don’t want to have left floating in your vinegar.
After they’re washed, chop the apples up into 1-inch cubes. No need to remove the peel or the core.
Step 2: Put the Apples into the Fermenting Jar
Use a large glass jar as a fermentation vessel (a mason jar will do nicely).
Remember that prior to using the jar, you have to sterilize it. Simply put it into a pot of boiling water and ‘cook’ it for 15 minutes.
Avoid using any storage container made from stainless steel. Once fermentation is complete and vinegar is produced, the high acidity is going to corrode the steel. The leeched iron is going to give your ACV an off-putting metallic taste.
Place your apples in the fermentation jar, then pour in filtered water.
Do not use plain tap water because it will most likely be chlorinated. Chlorine will kill all of the beneficial yeasts and bacteria in the apples.
Pour until the apples are fully submerged. If they aren’t, the portions that are exposed will rot away.
Next, for each apple that you place in the jar, add a teaspoon of sugar into the mix. The added sugar will ferment and become ethanol, and later, acetic acid.
Step 3: Cover Up the Jar
Cover the top of the jar with a coffee filter or piece of cheesecloth.
As the mixture ferments, carbon dioxide is going to be released. The cloth allows the gas to escape as well as allowing fresh air in to nourish the yeast and bacteria.
Tie the cloth to the mouth of the jar with a rubber band.
Step 4: First Fermentation
Once you have covered up the jar, the first fermentation session can begin. This will take around 3 to 4 weeks.
During that time, you must keep the jar somewhere warm and dark. Ideally, it needs to be stored at around 70°F and be shielded from direct sunlight. The pantry or an empty cabinet in your kitchen are both great places for this purpose.
Every day, take off the cover and stir up the mixture with a wooden spoon (do not use a metal utensil for the task). If you don’t have much time, stirring once every two or three days will be okay. Just make sure to keep the apples moving.
If the apple bits begin to float and rise above the surface of the water, keep them pressed down with a fermentation stone. You can also use a small glass plate for this purpose.
After roughly three weeks, you will notice the mixture beginning to bubble. The fermentation process creates carbon dioxide, which manifests itself as the tiny bubbles you see. You will also notice a slight alcoholic smell to the mixture from the ethanol.
Around the fourth week, the bubbling will reduce. The apples will also sink to the bottom of the jar. When both of these things happen, the first fermentation phase is complete.
Step 5: Remove the Apple Bits
In the second fermentation phase, you no longer need the apple bits. So, the first thing to do is to strain them away.
Uncover your fermentation jar and offload the mixture into a second glass jar (once again, do not use metal).
Tie a new piece of cheesecloth onto the mouth of your original fermentation jar, or, alternatively, you can use a plastic sieve.
Pour back the cider mixture from the second jar. The cheesecloth (or the sieve) will filter out the apple bits, leaving just the cider.
Step 6: Second Fermentation
Once again cover the fermentation jar with a cheesecloth. Place it somewhere warm and dark for another 3 to 4 weeks. Stir every 3 to 4 days.
During the second fermentation, you may notice a white, film-like scum floating at the top or within the mixture. That is the mother of vinegar — a collection of acetic acid bacteria and cellulose.
It’s natural and isn’t harmful. In fact, it’s best to skim it off and store it in a jar. The next time you brew vinegar, you can use the mother to kickstart the fermentation process!
But be extra careful about this part. If the scum in your mixture is white, it’s a mother and normal. But if it’s any other color (green, brown, black, or gray), it could be a sign of a bacterial infection or mold.
You will have to discard the whole thing and start again. If you use this spoiled vinegar, it may cause poisoning.
In the third week of the second fermentation phase, the flavor of your ACV will have developed nicely.
Extract a small sample and conduct a taste test. If the fermentation process is working out nicely, you will find a hint of tanginess behind the cider’s sweetness.
The longer you keep the jar, the tangier and sharper its taste is going to be. So, once every two or three days, sample the ACV until it has a desirable taste. Typically, in the fourth week, your homemade ACV will have a comparable sharpness to commercially-sold ACV.
Step 7: Transfer and Storage
Transfer the fresh ACV from the fermentation jar into a second, sterilized glass jar with a tight lid. The lid will prevent air from entering and effectively pause the fermentation process.
The best place to store your ACV jar is in the refrigerator. We don’t recommend storing at room temperature. The warmer temperature will restart the fermentation process.
Fortunately, if your ACV turns a bit more acidic in storage, you can still salvage it. Just dilute the ACV with a bit of water and it will become milder.
How to Use Mother of Vinegar for the Next Batch of ACV
If a mother appears in your first jar of ACV, skim it off and store it in a glass jar.
The next time you brew ACV at home, add the mother to the mixture during the first fermentation phase. It will cause the apples to ferment quicker.
Homebrewed apple cider vinegar is cheaper and tastier than store-bought. Now that you have learned all of the basics, you can go ahead and make your very first batch!
Try it out and see how it goes.