Here’s the drill: you buy an apple cider vinegar bottle and use it, only to be left thinking where to store the leftover. Even worse, you just discovered a year-old bottle lying forgotten in your cabinet. You wonder, does apple cider vinegar go bad? Don’t let that question haunt you. Keep reading to find out all about ACV’s shelf life to make informed storage decisions.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apples are crushed, distilled, and ultimately fermented to produce apple cider vinegar. The process involves the transformation of sugar into alcohol. Bacteria further converts it to acetic acid, the powerhouse of apple cider vinegar.
ACV has a pH level somewhere between 2-3 and is known for its significant antimicrobial activity. This is why ACV remains one of the most popular natural home remedies for acid reflux, detox, weight loss, and even for treating gout. (1)
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Go Bad or Expire?
It is unlikely for apple cider vinegar to go bad due to its high acidic nature. Most foodborne pathogens would not reproduce in such conditions.
A 2018 study investigated ACV’s antimicrobial capacity against several microorganisms. It concluded high microbial resistance from ACV’s side, thus proving that pathogens are unlikely to cause damage to ACV. In 2019, another study reported antimicrobial activity at 25% concentration. (2, 3)
In 2017, another study proved that fermented beverages promote an antimicrobial ecosystem. (4)
Thus, it can be said that apple cider vinegar is not prone to expiration and can last years before having to worry about replacing it. However, this assumes that ACV is stored properly.
How to Prevent Apple Cider Vinegar Spoilage?
If you ask; can apple cider vinegar go bad, the technical answer would be, yes, if stored improperly. While ACV can take care of its composition, it is upon the user to provide it with a healthy environment. Here are a few storage tips to help your apple cider vinegar bottle last longer.
- Always store an ACV container in a cool, dark place. It doesn’t necessarily have to be refrigerated, but you should always protect it from excessively hot temperatures.
- Never place it in a cabinet or shelf close to the kitchen stove. Store it away from the stove, preferably in a pantry of some sort.
- Contaminants from the air, even dust, can deteriorate the quality of the vinegar. Store it in a tightly sealed jar.
- Prevent cross-contamination by removing spoons or any other utensils from the jar.
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Need to be Refrigerated?
Contrary to most commercial products, apple cider vinegar does not need refrigeration before or after opening. The “self-preserving” nature of vinegar, which was demonstrated in a 2007 trial, deals with the harmful bacteria itself. The study reported high bactericidal activity in vinegar, allowing us to conclude its longevity of use. (5)
Another study aimed towards noticing the differences in vinegar before and after opening provided positive results. (6)
A Korean study from 2016 presented another perspective on vinegar’s refrigeration. While doing so does not directly impact the substance, it can improve the lifespan of refrigerated vinaigrette salads. Thus, the findings suggest a need for refrigeration for foods that have been mixed with ACV, as they are likely to contain microbial ingredients. (7)
What is the Shelf Life of Apple Cider Vinegar?
Based on the aforementioned studies, the apple cider vinegar shelf life appears to be indefinite.
However, remember that each ACV bottle comes with a “best before” date for a reason. The date, either on the label or the bottom of the bottle, indicates the period during which the vinegar will supply the best results. It is generally between 2-5 years. Following this, you may see a change in the appearance of vinegar.
Over time, apple cider vinegar undergoes oxygenation due to exposure to oxygen. This induces a chemical change in the preservatives included in apple cider vinegar; mainly sulphur dioxide and citric acid.
While the appearance of apple cider vinegar might change over time, it’s nothing to be overly concerned with. These changes do not cause any adverse effects on health. This is why manufacturers allow apple cider vinegar to be used for some time even after the expiry date mentioned on the product, though it is not recommended.
The Changes in ACV Over Time
Remember that once opened, the ACV will change taste and odor. It will transform into a more acidic taste, providing a slightly more intense flavor. The odor will remain pungent, however stronger. It may even begin to take on a cloudy appearance. These are signs of its slow deterioration.
Can you Drink the Sediment in Apple Cider Vinegar?
You may see cloudy or brown strings floating within the ACV. This rust-colored sediment you see beginning at the base of your vinegar is actually “the mother.” This is cellulose produced from the vinegar bacteria itself.
The mother only appears in raw and unfiltered vinegar, which is responsible for many of ACV’s health benefits. It is harmless to drink it however you may filter it out if you wish.
Remember that pasteurized ACV bottles do not contain the mother. Buying one of those could save you trouble, but, it may affect the overall health benefits of the product. After all, raw ACV is the most beneficial form.
- More Reading: Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse
Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Opposition often critiques ACV for its lack of scientific backing. As a natural home remedy, many first-hand experiences have attested to ACV’s benefits. Still, most are justified by vague research interpretations only. Thus, how ACV affects you depends on each person individually.
Here are a few of ACV’s reported benefits:
- It is a low-calorie solution to control weight. A traditional ACV drink recipe only contains about 22 calories.
- It promotes appetite control.
- It helps strengthen the metabolism.
- It is a verified home remedy against gastrointestinal dysfunctions like acid reflux, GERD, and heartburn.
- It is an antimicrobial agent. Therefore, it may be used to preserve food or as a cleaning agent.
- It reduces cholesterol levels.
Potential Side Effects
- It can lower potassium levels.
- It delays gastric emptying rate, which can disturb normal digestion.
- A large ACV dosage can harm tooth enamel.
- The acetic acid in ACV can cause throat burns.
- It may interfere with your past medical history without professional guidance.
Safety Tips for Consumption
ACV seems promising, and as time goes on there will only be more scientific research in the field. Whatever form of ACV you consume, be it apple cider vinegar gummies, drinks or salads, keep in mind the following safety tips to escape the side effects.
- A raw ACV that still has “the mother” is the healthiest form.
- Dilute ACV in about 8 ounces of water before consumption.
- Always use a straw in drinking ACV.
- Do not exceed the dose of more than 15-30 ml a day.
- Always take medical guidance before using apple cider vinegar pills.
Final Thoughts on Apple Cider Vinegar Expiration
Does apple cider vinegar expire? If not stored properly, it can go bad and become less effective over time. It may decay in its quality after the expiration date unless sealed tightly in a cold dark area.
With that said, it contains many properties that give it incredibly long shelf life. Therefore, store the ACV well and make the most out of its taste before it is too late!