Make It Yourself: Homemade Vinegar

DIY Homemade Vinegar tutorial. Simple instructions to make vinegar at home. It's easy and you'll never believe how fantastic vinegar can taste! Great for gifts too.

Did I mention I make my own vinegar?  Of course I didn’t.  The last friend I shared this with sighed audibly and warned me firmly that if she were to note I’d stopped shaving my legs, wearing the appropriate foundation garments or if she were to catch a sign I’m constructing a lean-to in my backyard, she would stage an intervention (I should never have told her about my worm composter).

I do make my own vinegar and you should too.  This is the perfect time of year to start and you’ll have some ready for early summer salad dressings.

I make two types.  Red Wine Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar.  Making vinegar is very easy though there are some specifics you need to know to be successful.

DIY Homemade Vinegar tutorial. Simple instructions to make vinegar at home. It's easy and you'll never believe how fantastic vinegar can taste! Great for gifts too.


  • 1 gallon wide-mouth glass* jar preferably with a metal spigot (can be larger than 1 gallon)
  • Cheesecloth and rubber bands
  • A vinegar ‘mother’ (see Where To Buy below)
  • The liquid to convert into vinegar (organic red wine if making red wine vinegar or hard cider if making apple cider vinegar; you can also make white wine vinegar through the same process)

*must be glass or ceramic crock; plastic with interact chemically with the vinegar.

DIY Homemade Vinegar tutorial. Simple instructions to make vinegar at home. It's easy and you'll never believe how fantastic vinegar can taste! Great for gifts too.
The wine I have used for my red wine vinegar.

The ‘Mother’

This name has always scared me, evoking memories of Sigourney Weaver in movie Aliens when she confronts ‘THE MOTHER’, the oozy, dripping, teeth-gnashing alien giant.  This mother isn’t much prettier once it becomes a ‘big girl’.  The mother is a mass of bacteria which serves to convert the liquid into vinegar.  When you begin, it is an innocuous mucoidal blob which you put in the jar with the liquid.  You’ll need a vinegar type-specific mother; they are different depending on whether you are making apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar.

DIY Homemade Vinegar tutorial (the vinegar mother). Simple instructions to make vinegar at home. It's easy and you'll never believe how fantastic vinegar can taste! Great for gifts too.' -
Arial view of the Apple Cider vinegar ‘mother’

Over time the mother grows to make an opaque thin layer on the top of the liquid.  Each time you add more liquid it usually dislodges the mother and a new one will grow.   When your batch is mature, you can even give part of your mother to a friend with some of the vinegar and they can start a batch of their own.  I’ve heard tell of people (all of them in France) who have been working with the same mother for 20 years.

DIY Homemade Vinegar tutorial. Simple instructions to make vinegar at home. It's easy and you'll never believe how fantastic vinegar can taste! Great for gifts too.


  1. Before beginning  decide where you’ll keep your vinegar.  It should be a place where it can stay (they don’t love moving).  It will need warmth (70-80 degrees is ideal), darkness and good air circulation.  I started mine a year ago this past December when it’s cold in Colorado.  I put it up on the highest shelf in my laundry room which was good for warmth.  I wrapped a hand towel around the jar and fastened it with clips to keep it dark.  It was too close to the ceiling however and was not getting enough air circulation.  It began to smell like acetone (which I’ve also read is part of the process but not having had that happen since I’d say it’s not good).  I brought the jars down lower and they’ve been fine.  The cheesecloth, which you’ll put on the top of the jar opening, allows circulation and keeps things (fruit flies) out.
  1. Sterilize your jar with hot water (not boiling) and drain. I’d check the spigot before beginning to ensure it works.  Because the conversion process is ongoing, you’ll be ‘feeding the mother’ (love THAT phrase; like having a pet) regularly.  This refers to adding additional liquid to convert to vinegar.  The converted vinegar will be at the bottom of the jar and the liquid in process of converting on the top.  The spigot allows you to drain completed vinegar out the bottom for use and not disrupt the mother(s) by pouring out the top of the jar.
  1. Adding liquid.  The container your mother comes in will have instructions of initial liquid to add.  For the red wine vinegar I added 16 ounces of organic sulfite free (that’s the hook; you want to use low or no sulfite wine as sulfites can impede the conversion process) wine combined with 8 ounces of water and pour it into the jar (too high an alcohol content can also impede the process so it needs to be diluted).  Then add the mother.  For apple cider vinegar you add a bottle of organic hard cider and the mother.  Put the cheesecloth (I recommend 2-3 layers) securing it with rubber bands.

The conversion process takes about 3 months depending on the conditions where you keep your vinegar.  The warmer it is the faster it converts.  You don’t want it overly hot (like in a boiling garage in the middle of the summer) for you can kill the mother.

Feeding the Mother:  Until the vinegar begins to convert you want to hold off on regular feedings so as to not overwhelm the mother.   Also I added my liquid with a funnel trying to direct the liquid to run down the side of the jar so as to not disrupt the mother.  I’ll include my notes that show my intervals of adding liquid, though I added more liquid to mine about once a month.  Continue to feed it the same amount you started with each time until you are getting vinegar (or at a minimum ensure the wine is always diluted with half the amount of water).  I was very regimented at first but do it when I think of it now that I have a good size batch to draw from.

How to Make Homemade Red Wine Vinegar (tutorial)- DIY Homemade Vinegar tutorial. Simple instructions to make vinegar at home. It's easy and you'll never believe how fantastic vinegar can taste! Great for gifts too.

How to Make Homemade Red Wine Vinegar (tutorial)-
When ‘feeding the mother’ I use a funnel to direct the liquid to run down the inside of the jar if possible so as to not dislodge the mother (if that happens however, a new one will grow)
DIY Homemade Vinegar tutorial. Simple instructions to make vinegar at home. It's easy and you'll never believe how fantastic vinegar can taste! Great for gifts too.
My notes of when I added more liquid to the red wine vinegar (on the left) and apple cider vinegar (on the right)

You will know the batch has converted by tasting it.  You will also smell the vinegar.  It’s not very strong but notable.  You can leave the vinegar in the container and just draw off what you need.  Some people prefer to drain a batch, pasteurize it by heating it and bottling it.  You can infuse it with herbs as well (in a container separate from the main batch).

Why Make Vinegar?  Because the taste is recognizably better than purchased vinegar.  Plus YOU made it.  Isn’t that the best part?  Some say it’s a great way to use up wine which does not get consumed (that seems an oxymoron to me; ‘wine’ ‘not consumed’).


Fruit Flies.  Depending on time of year and where you live, fruit flies may come to visit.  They love vinegar.  Three layers of cheesecloth, tightly secured to the jar opening will keep them out.  I had a mass visitation this past fall and resorted to putting out small bowls with a bit of vinegar and a drop of dish soap in them which did the trick.

Proper air circulation:  While the process is beginning really pay attention to the conditions where you are keeping the vinegar and the smell.  If you get an acetone smell, check to ensure you are getting enough air circulation.

Evaporation:  I’m not sure this is really an issue but something to watch and prompt feeding the mother.  I noted when decloaking my red wine vinegar for photos a ‘recession line’ where I noted evaporation.  I had not added liquid for awhile and being winter it’s dry and the heat is blazing.  Just keep a watch on that and add more liquid if needed.

How to Make Homemade Red Wine Vinegar (tutorial)-
The container/brand of my red wine vinegar mother and evidence of evaporation inside the vinegar jar (note the area above the liquid where prior liquid has receded)


The Mother (starter): On you can find both red wine vinegar mothers and apple cider vinegar mothers as well as others I have not made yet myself; malt vinegar mother, white wine vinegar mother and rice wine vinegar mother.  Beer brewing and wine making shops usually sell them too.  Since originally writing this post I’ve seen them in natural food stores too.

There is a store that stands out for me though due to the expertise, willingness to help and selection:  Beer and Wintemaking Supplies (formerly Northampton Beer and Wine) in Massachusetts.  I have phoned them a few times with questions and 5 minutes on the phone was as good as any book or workshop.  They are an extraordinary online and brick-and-mortar resource.  They ship and have many cool items for sale.  Check them out.

Glass Jars.  My first jar was a gift stemming from reading an article in Savuer.  It is from an infusion jar maker and was about $50.  There are many glass jars that work well for this purpose online too.  I like this 1 gallon glass jar from because it is smaller yet still has plenty of room for making vinegar batches (often the jars are multiple gallon sizes which is far more volume than is needed).  I prefer metal spigots such as this metal spigot , which can be retrofitted onto a glass jar that might be originally fitted with a plastic spigot.  Brick and mortar shopping: I purchased a jar at World Market for $19 (Pier 1 usually has them too) and it has served me well (note: this is the same jar now available via the link to which ships free via AmazonPrime; often these jars are considered ‘seasonal’ in physical stores and might not be available all year round).   To check them in my photos the more expensive jar has the red wine vinegar in it and the World Market jar has the apple cider vinegar.  Both come with glass lids which I don’t use for vinegar making.

How to Make Homemade Red Wine Vinegar (tutorial)-

Starting additional Batches from your Mother:   The guys at Northampton Beer and Wine told me that once the mother has dropped from the top of the batch they are not as potent but also do no harm (if they get in the way of your spigot draining vinegar just take them out but leave the top active mother).  If you were to want to start another batch you can cut part of your active mother (the uppermost one in the jar) along with some of the vinegar liquid and start it in another jar or give it to a friend.  The mother you use part of will regenerate or another will form in your batch.  They also shared in many cultures the inactive mothers are cut up in salads or other dishes for their believed medicinal properties.

DIY Homemade Vinegar tutorial. Simple instructions to make vinegar at home. It's easy and you'll never believe how fantastic vinegar can taste! Great for gifts too.


  1. Sherry says

    I am confused about the wine. It is not clear if I can add wine(+water) as it goes along. Does all the wine need to be the same, i.e. all pinot or all zinfandel, etc. or can I use the left-over wine from various bottles. (As if there is ever any left-over wine!!)

    • says

      Hi Sherry. As noted in Step 3 and the ‘Feeding the Mother’ section the original combination of low or no sulfite red wine and water should be left until the batch fully converts to vinegar (the length of time depends on your environmental conditions but on average takes 3 months; longer in colder winter months). After that point you can follow instructions for feeding the mother, using the same ratio and amount to allow the mother to properly convert to vinegar. My notes of frequency are included in the photo.

      I have only made vinegar this way using the same organic sulfite-free wine (for the reasons shared in the tutorial) and have not mixed random wines. I think you could try it being mindful of the sulfite levels which can impede the Mother’s ability to convert to vinegar. I do not know how mixing of wine types would affect the end flavor of the vinegar but it might be fun to experiment! Good luck and hope that helps.

  2. MamaToMany says

    Wooowwww. My interest has been piqued, that is for certain. I have long ached over the cost of the little Bragg’s bottles and wondered if “the mother” they provide is really some sort of magic that only *they* can provide. Sooooo, aha! I found your site and now my brain is wrapping around this new-to-me concept. I have 7 kids (4yrs – 12yrs) & look for ANY ways to A) save $, and B) keep the fam healthy via natural products.
    Thank you for explanation- I look forward to trying this out!

  3. John George says

    We own a farm in New Jersey and are growing Aronia. To make a very long story short, I have acquired approx. 300 gal of Aronia wine that has starting to turn. How can I handle not wasting the opportunity to start a product line selling vinegar? Is it possible to make vinegar in say 5 gal batches? It would take years to cultivate enough Mother to satisfy all that wine. Help! John George

    • says

      Hi John George. I would suggest you contact Northampton Beer and Wine who are listed in the ‘Where to Buy’ section of this post for your question. They would have experience making vinegar on a larger scale and with the type of wine you are making hopefully. Good luck!

  4. says

    i’m a newbie vinegar maker & your instructions are so much clearer than most! my vinegar process started just a couple weeks ago, but i noticed the dreaded acetone smell last night. i moved the crock where it would get more air circulation, but do i need to throw the batch away? seems like opinion is divided on that.

    • says

      Hi Mary! Congrats on making your own vinegar! As you read in this blog post I encountered this as well when placing a batch very high in my laundry room which disallowed my air movement around the top. Once I moved it to a location lower with plenty of air space above it, it was fine. I don’t think you need to throw it away but see if the smell doesn’t clear out now that you’ve selected a better location. If the smell persists I might give a call to the Northampton Beer and Wine guys (link to their website in the post) for consultation.

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