Fruit vinegar is incredibly easy to make using either homegrown or storebought juice. While you can take a shortcut and infuse storebought vinegar with fruit for flavor, there’s something incredibly satisfying about making your own probiotic vinegar from scratch with high-quality fruit.
This post is written by Autumn Keim, the talented writer, and inspiring homesteader behind the blog A Traditional Life.
There’s nothing more rewarding than growing or foraging food from the land, then using it to create something tasty and unique to your own home. Fruit vinegar is no exception!
When I first began searching for information regarding the vinegar making process, it wasn’t easy to come by. When I finally did begin fermenting fruit juice, I was both pleased and surprised by the simplicity of the entire process.
Making homemade vinegar is a two-part process, that starts with fermenting the fruit into alcohol. Acetic acid bacteria then convert the alcohol to vinegar in the second stage of fermentation. Done properly, there’s no residual alcohol, just beneficial probiotic vinegar right from your own backyard.
Types of Fruit Vinegar
You can use almost any fruit or berry to make homemade fruit vinegar. Traditionally, frugal homemakers made a simple white vinegar from sugar, water, and a handful of raisins to introduce natural yeast, but using fruit dramatically improves both flavor and nutrition.
While some fruit juices do better with a bit of added sweetener, most of them don’t need any help. I wish I could say I’ve made every type you could imagine, but this simply isn’t true. The fact is, I don’t have access to every type of fruit and when it comes to making vinegar, I will always be a learner!
Here are the varieties I have made in my own home:
- Apple Vinegar ~ A robust vinegar, excellent for herbal infusions, meat marinades, combine with milk for buttermilk substitute.
- Apricot Vinegar ~ A light golden flavor, well suited to mild vinegarettes.
- Blackberry Vinegar ~ An excellent candidate for shrubs, condiments, and salad dressings.
- Elderberry Vinegar ~ Add ¼ C sweetener per quart (1 liter) juice before fermenting; take as a preventative for sickness.
- Cherry Vinegar ~ A rich, thick vinegar, suitable for salad dressings, shrubs and summer drinks.
- Chokecherry Vinegar ~ Add ¼ C sweetener per quart (1 liter) before fermenting; makes thick, heavy vinegar.
- Red Currant ~ Suitable for dressings, condiments, use as an addition to sweet drinks.
- Grape Vinegar ~ The flavor profile varies according to type, suitable for vinegarettes and dressings.
- Juneberry Vinegar ~ A thick vinegar, use in salad dressings and add to refreshing summer drinks.
- Mountain Huckleberry Vinegar ~ A wonderful option for refreshing summer drinks and vinegarettes.
- Plum Vinegar ~ With a bold flavor, it pairs well with basil and is excellent for meat marinades.
- Raspberry Vinegar ~ Has a rich flavor, pairs well with mint in homemade condiments, vinegarettes and shrubs.
- Strawberry Vinegar ~ Excellent for sweet salad dressings or refreshing sweet drinks.
There are obviously many other types of fruit vinegar, and traditional vinegars were made with just about any fruit available.
Vinegar Making Equipment
Historically, vinegar making equipment was simple and based on common household items that every homestead had available. Fruit wants to ferment into alcohol, and vinegar bacteria will “sour” the ferment unless you take active steps to stop them. Do nothing, and vinegar more or less happens (most of the time).
As a vinegar maker, all you’re doing is guiding the process, encouraging the right type of fermentation while discouraging mold.
It helps to have a bit of simple vinegar making equipment on hand, but in truth, all you really need is a simple container (jar or crock) and patience. If you plan on making multiple batches of high-quality fruit vinegar at home, here’s some vinegar making equipment that will make your life a bit easier:
- Apple Cider Press (or Small Fruit Press) ~ Fruit presses allow you to extract juice from fruit efficiently without heating the fruit. Soft fruits like grapes press easily, while apples require a fruit grinder that chops them up before pressing.
That’s the main difference between a simple fruit press and an apple cider press. For large volumes of homemade apple cider vinegar, consider a double-barrel apple cider press.
- Champion Electric Juicer ~ Another great option for juicing, the champion juicer is known as a “masticating juicer” and it’s much more efficient than the standard centrifugal (spinning) juicer, but they can be pricey. Inexpensive juicers also work, but roughly 20-30% of the juice volume remains in the fruit pulp, which isn’t a big deal if you’re only making fruit vinegar occasionally. The Breville juice fountain is a good middle-of-the-road option, since it’s a lot less expensive than a champion juicer but still quite efficient.
- Cotton Straining Cloths (Or Cheesecloth) ~ Cheesecloth can be helpful for straining the finished vinegar, or if you’re juicing by hand without a juicer or press you can use your hands to juice soft fruits wrapped in cheesecloth. Cotton flour sack towels work well since they have a fine weave. If you’re using cheesecloth, choose 90-grade cheesecloth (the finest weave) as other cheaper weaves won’t filter the homemade fruit vinegar effectively.
- Potato Masher ~ For mashing fruit if you don’t have a juicer or fruit press. This works pretty well in a pinch, especially with soft fruits.
- Steam Juicer ~ A great option for pectin-rich fruits that are difficult to extract as a pure juice (rather than a nectar). They’re super-efficient, and perfect for home winemaking (like this cherry wine) and jellies (like this blackcurrant jelly) as well.
- Large Glass Jars (Gallon, half-gallon or quart) ~ For fermenting the homemade fruit vinegar.
- 1-gallon Stoneware Crock ~ Another good option for home vinegar making, stoneware crocks work really well for all manner of home ferments (like this sauerkraut made in a stoneware crock).
- 1-gallon & 1/2 Gallon Glass Carboy Jugs ~ Used by home winemakers, carboys are a great way to control the primary alcoholic fermentation for your fruit vinegar (and they’re a convenient glass container).
- Swingtop Bottles (Grolsch Bottles) ~ With the bottle and cap integrated together, these bottles are used to store all manner of home ferments from hard cider and kombucha, to your own DIY fruit vinegar.
- Wine Bottles with Corks ~ Another easy way to store homemade vinegar, and you can use just any old re-used wine bottle provided it’s clean.
While equipment makes the process easier, the truth is all you need to make high-quality homemade fruit vinegar is a food-safe container, a bit of juice, and patience.
How to Make Fruit Vinegar
Once you’ve assembled your vinegar making equipment and picked out your fruit, it’s time to make fruit vinegar!
Here’s how you can take your fruits and turn them into a vinegar that is shelf-stable and can be used in homemade condiments, herbal remedies, refreshing summer drinks, and even in your baking.
I’ll take you through each step of the vinegar making process in detail, but here are the basic steps:
- Harvest Fully Ripe Fruit
- Extract Fruit Juice (Multiple methods discussed)
- Alcoholic Fermentation (with yeast)
- Acetic Acid Fermentation (Converting alcohol to vinegar)
- Bottling Vinegar
- Storing Homemade Fruit Vinegar
Harvesting Fruit for Fruit Vinegar
The first step in the vinegar making process is to harvest your fruit or berries of choice when they are fully ripe. Natural sugars are most concentrated at this point and will make a stronger vinegar, with a richer flavor profile.
Fully ripe fruits also have less pectin, which will make it easier for you to fully extract the juice.
Extracting Juice for Homemade Vinegar (4 Ways)
After you’ve harvested your fruit, you must find a way to extract the juice for fermenting! There are 4 basic methods you can use. I’ve outlined them for you below!
Extracting Juice with A Juicer or Cider Press
When dealing with firm, crip fruits (such as apples and some pear varieties), an electric kitchen juicer or a large cider press is ideal. They’ll extract juice with speed and ease!
Hand Juice Extraction
Juices from soft or fragile fruits (like grapes or berries) are easy to extract by hand. This method is a wonderful choice if you wish to keep your juice in raw form! Here’s how you do it.
- Line a large bowl with a cotton cloth and dump clean fruit into it.
- Take a potato masher (or clean hands) and work your grapes or berries, until they’re thoroughly broken up.
- Gather the 4 corners of your cloth and knot them together.
- Hang your “sack” of mashed fruit where juices will drip into a bowl below.
- When the dripping stops, you’ll have delicious fruit juice, ready for fermenting!
Stovetop Juice Extraction
Fruit types with lower liquid content (currants, gooseberries, chokecherries, blue elderberries, etc) make excellent candidates for the steam juicer! If you have one, simply follow the directions in your owner’s manual to extract juice from your particular type of fruit.
If you don’t have a steam juicer, you can also use an old fashioned, stovetop extraction. Simply follow the directions below!
- Place clean fruit in a pot with a thick-walled bottom.
- Cover fruit halfway with water, then apply gentle heat.
- Slowly simmer your fruit, stirring occasionally until it softens and splits open.
- Allow everything to cool until there’s no danger of being burnt!
- Line a large bowl with a cloth and pour the pot’s contents into it.
- Knot the 4 corners of your cloth together and hang where juices will drip into a bowl below.
- When the dripping stops, you’ll have a collection of fruit juice, ready for fermenting!
Fruit Water Infusion (instead of juicing)
This option is well suited to nearly any type of fruit. It does particularly well with berries, stone fruits, and any berry that has lower liquid content.
- Place clean fruit in a large glass jar, filling it 2/3 full.
- Add chlorine-free water until your fruit is covered by approximately 1 inch.
- Cover with a lid to keep bugs and dust out.
- Keep the jar at the back of your counter for 4-6 days.
- Line a bowl with a cotton cloth and pour your infused liquid into it. Lift the fruit out and, if the fruit retained liquid, let it drip until the bowl below, as with previous methods.
- Fill the jar 2/3 full of ripe fruit once again.
- Pour your infused liquid over the fresh fruit and then let it sit for another 4-6 days.
- Strain. If desired, you can do a 3rd or 4th infusion.
- When you’re satisfied with the flavor profile and the strength of your juice, it’s ready for fermenting!
Fermenting Fruit Vinegar
There are two fermenting phases your fruit juice must go through before it turns to vinegar. The first is referred to as the “alcohol” phase, while the second is referred to as the “acetic acid” phase. Let me walk you through them both!
Phase 1: Alcohol Phase
Natural, airborne yeasts are responsible for the first stage of fermentation. Yes, they already exist in your home and were also present on the skin of your fruit!
Yeast present in the air or on the skins of fresh fruit will naturally start an alcoholic fermentation when left open at room temperature.
(If you want to try another fun project, you can even harvest your own yeast for homemade bread using a potato. The process uses those same airborne yeasts, but for bread baking instead.)
As your juice sits in the proper temperature range, these yeasts go into action and will begin feeding on the natural fruit sugars. As they feed, they release carbon dioxide and convert the natural sugars to alcohol.
If you see bubbles on the sides of your container or on the surface of your liquid, it’s a sure sign that yeasts are in action. After about 10-14 days have passed, you’ll likely notice a light, alcohol-like aroma wafting up from the mouth of your jar. This is yet another sign that good things are happening!
Phase 2: The Acetic Acid Phase
Once yeasts have consumed most of the sugars, a natural, airborne bacteria group joins the party. Acetobacters take the alcohol and very slowly, transform it into acetic acid. During this time, your fruit juice will begin emitting a sharp, nose-tingling aroma.
Vinegar making bacteria must be exposed to air to work, so it’s important to keep your ferment closely covered with cloth or cheesecloth to ensure that it can actually turn to vinegar. Home winemakers use something called an “Air Lock” which creates a one-way valve at the top of their fermentation vessel.
This lets the carbonation produced by the yeast escape but prevents vinegar producing bacteria from colonizing. That’s the opposite of what we want when making fruit vinegar.
While winemakers have to really work to prevent the alcohol from turning to vinegar, we’ll just sit by and let those little hardworking probiotic microbes go to work.
This aroma will grow stronger as the weeks pass by, and you’ll notice a “mother culture” forming within your fermentation vessel. That’s totally normal, as the acetic acid bacteria form a colony that’s held together in a cellulose matrix. It looks a bit like a jellyfish floating in the container.
If you want to speed up the process, or if you run into any issues getting good colonization from acetic acid bacteria, you can add a few tablespoons of raw vinegar (with the mother) to ensure that the vinegar producing bacteria can take hold.
The second phase of fermentation takes 3-6x longer than the first. But when it’s all over, you’ll have a delicious, shelf-stable vinegar.
Important Note on Fermenting Containers
Because vinegar is an acidic substance, you should always use food-grade containers for fermenting! If you don’t, vinegar may leach unwanted properties into itself, which could potentially make you sick.
I recommend using glass jars or lead-free stoneware crocks for the fermenting process.
When you are ready to begin, pour fruit juice into your container of choice. Cover the mouth with a clean cloth, coffee filter, or paper towel. Be sure to fasten it down so fruit flies can’t get in!
The fermenting process is dependent on airborne yeast and bacteria, so it’s absolutely vital that you use a breathable cover, allowing airflow to reach the surface of the liquid.
Importance of Your Temperature Range
Because DIY fruit vinegar relies on these natural, airborne yeast and bacteria, it’s very important that you leave your juice to ferment in temperatures that are conducive to the growth of these organisms.
If temperatures drop too low, fermentation will be very slow or even non-existent. Expose your ferment to temperatures that are too high and the wrong yeasts may take over, spoiling your fruit juice.
Fortunately for us, most of our homes fall into the proper temperature range of 60-80F (15-26C). Often, the best place for fermentation fruit juice is actually at the back of your kitchen counter!
(If you happen to live in a Northern climate and keep your house a bit cooler, you can read more about fermenting in cold climates.)
When is Homemade Fruit Vinegar Finished?
For ease of use and to avoid evaporation, you should bottle up your fruit vinegar once it has finished fermenting. Trouble is, it’s not always easy to tell when it has finished! If you seal it up too soon, the liquid will carbonate, resulting in a bubbly mess when you break the seal.
Here’s a simple test you can use to determine whether or not your vinegar is finished!
Pour several inches of your fermenting juice into a bottle or glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Seal it up, then let it sit at the back of your counter for 2-3 days. Break the seal.
If there was a release of carbon dioxide, it hasn’t yet finished working! Return the liquid to your fermenting container and let it sit for 2-3 more weeks. Test again.
When there is no release of carbon dioxide, you can safely bottle up your vinegar!
Bottling Homemade Fruit Vinegar
When the time comes to store your vinegar, be sure to use food-grade containers! Also, be equally sure to stay away from tin or metal lids.
Vinegar is corrosive and will eat away at metal covers. For this reason, I recommend storing your vinegar in canning jars with plastic lids, swing-top bottles, or (my personal favorite) glass bottles and jugs with cork stoppers.
Storing Fruit Vinegar
Homemade fruit vinegar is shelf-stable and can be stored in a kitchen cupboard, on a pantry shelf, in a cold room, or (if you have one) a root cellar!
If stored at room temperature, the flavor of your fruit vinegar will slowly mellow out over 12 month’s time. It’ll still be tasty, but it will lose some of its edge. If you want to hang onto the snap and bite, store it in a cool place!
Learn More About Fermenting Fruit Vinegar
Like the idea of DIY fruit vinegar? Be sure to check out my e-book “How to Create and Use Traditional Fruit Vinegar!” With over 60 pages of information, it’ll leave you feeling confident and empowered as you create vinegar from homegrown or foraged fruits!
I also share my favorite recipes, natural remedies, and kitchen tips for putting homemade fruit vinegar to use. If you want it, you can get it here!
Let me close by saying there is nothing more gratifying to the independent soul than taking home-grown fruit and turning it into something special, without relying on purchased culture and bacteria starters!
More Probiotic Fermented Foods
Looking for more ways to keep your crock bubbling?
- Sima (Finnish Fermented Lemonade)
- Fermented Strawberries with Honey & Whey
- Lacto-Fermented Pickles
- 100% Rye Sourdough Starter
- How to Make Sauerkraut
Is the “mother” re-usable or just goes into compost pile? How can you capture the bacteria to make kombucha?
Thank you for sharing a great skill/ treat!
Yes, it’s reusable and can be used to make kombucha. I don’t have a recipe on how to do that, but I’m sure there are plenty of options on Google.
The Scoby for Vinegar and the Scoby for Kombucha are different, you will not want to use that mother for Kombucha. I keep my Kombucha and Vinegar in separate areas so they do not mix.
Wow! this was an incredibly detailed and helpful post. I have done some research to make mango vinegar, watched some YT videos and i thought I was set.
So I took my mangoes, cut them into big pieces, put them in a jar with water, sugar and a bit of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. I close the lid! And waited. It turned out ok, the mangoes were fermented (and i used them to make a delicious chutney) but the remaining liquid was NOT vinegar, not acidic enough at all. Not bad, but not vinegar. Of course now i know that’s not what i should’ve done.
So if i understood correctly : 1) I juice my mangoes/fruit, 2) I let i in the jar with no lid for a few days until it bubbles (should I add water to make it less thick?), 3) I then add ACV, and keep the jar open? wait a few weeks. Do the test.
Thank you for your advice on this please.
That sounds right, but I’d give it a good bit of time. The initial fermentation should be 10-14 days at least, and then filter the fruit chunks and add the vinegar. After that, it’ll depend on the temp in your house and the strength of the culture…but it should take weeks (if not months) to fully convert to vinegar.
Thank you for sharing – looks amazing
Thomas Robert Thompson
This was a very informative article on home made vinegar. I have recently experimented with making wild grape vinegar from the wild grape on our property. I have not yet finished the product but intend to use it in hot sauce (don’t really have a recipe). I “juiced” the grapes, put it into a jar and have covered it with a paper towel. It is on my counter but what is keeping it from going bad. It doesn’t take fruit flies long to hover around any produce on our counter.
What happens if you see mold on your fruit vinegar?
If it’s black mold then you should discard it. If there’s a thin later of white on the top of your vinegar, it’s likely kahm yeast or the being of your vinegar “mother”, Both of which are harmless.
Hi Ashley! When making chokecherry vinegar, do you add 1/4 C of sweetener per quart of whole fruit, or is that per quart of the resulting liquid using the stovetop extraction method? Thank you.
Based on my read you’re measuring the extracted juice and adding the sugar to the juice before fermenting. Good luck, let me know how it goes!
I am making prickly pear vinegar, never heard of anyone else doing it, so thank you for the information. Wish me luck.
I have the juice ready and begin today. I will stir in some sugar and put a scoby (kombucha) and some raw acv and kombucha with it just to help give it a start.
You’re welcome. We can’t wait to hear how it turns out.
I make plum vinegar after harvesting my grandmothers’s plum tree every summer. Because the plums are a wild variety, it’s impossible to de-stone them so I use infusion method. The process takes around 2 months due to high acidity of fruit and the time required for fruit skins to be broken. It yields perfectly acidic and fruity vinegar at the end of the process but there is also something that I don’t understand going in some of these vinegar making attempts. Although the vinegar acidity is present and there is no remaining alcohol, the beautiful fruit taste and acidity turn bad 1 or 2 months after bottling. Vinegar transforms itself to a liquid which has water-like bland taste with no acidity and a little bit of soapy texture. Colour of vinegar is lost too. No carbonization is present. I can say that every 1 of 3 attempts gives a result like this. Other 2 are really good. Do you have any idea why my vinegar dies sometimes?
Is there a difference in the way that you are bottling and storing the vinegar once it is finished?
Hi, is it ok to leave the fruit in through the whole process with the water and mother? Or do you recommend straining it out? Thanks
Some people leave their solids in for about the first two weeks, strain and then continue to allow it to ferment. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it beyond that.
Beyond grateful for having discovered this website!
Got a quick question: What exactly did you mean by writing that vinegar may leach harmful properties into itself? Would that not be the non-food-grade containers?
That is why it is important to use food-grade containers so that it doesn’t leach unwanted properties.
Love this recipe, thank you for sharing! I’m making a strawberry vinegar. I used the water infusion method and that went great, but my first ferment has the thin layer of white on the surface (described above as kahm yeast, possibly). what should I do in this instance? I’m wondering if there’s a way to troubleshoot now, or if I just need to wait it out.
Most people recommend scraping the kahm yeast off the top. It is perfectly safe to consume but it can affect the flavor of the vinegar.
I am making 2 apple cider vinegars, one with scraps and one with juice. I have made scrap vinegar before and it works great everytime. I just went to check on my juice vinegar after not checking it for about 6 days (it’s been sitting now for probably 2 weeks) and the whole top layer has blue and white mold spots all over it! I assume this needs to be thrown out now? But I am also wondering why this would happen? Should I have added other apple cider vinegar to the juice one from the beginning?
Both vinegars are in proper stainless steel brewing containers with cloth coverings and are in the same place and the scrap vinegar is fine.
Did you extract your own juice or did you purchase juice from the store? I would make sure that your juice is pure juice with no added ingredients.Adding a little vinegar to innoculate it in the beginning can sometimes be helpful. If you’re having problems, you might need to add a bit of sugar as well.
Thank you so much for this recipe! I’m a little nervous about long white strands that have appeared. I’m at about week 5 or 6.
No ‘mother” has formed yet so I’m wondering if this is the start of that or if these are yeasts that I need to get rid of or start again 🙁
It sounds like that is most likely the mother developing. As long as you don’t have any mold growing on the top, it should be fine.
I use a steam extractor to get grape juice from my grapes. I then store that boiling liquid in sterile jars which seal. I do not process them what’s the juices in the bottle. Could I use that juice to make vinegar? My purpose to learn to make vinegar is for household cleaning and disinfecting.
You can use pretty much any juice to make vinegar. Some fruits will benefit from a little added sugar while others will ferment on their own without it.
You Just SAVED My Apple Cider Vinegar. I was using Pickle Pipes so now 2 way air flow ! Thank You !
You’re quite welcome!
After reading some of the “not acid enough” comments, I have a suggestion that we have been using for 30+ years. Once you reach the “vinegar” stage, strain it into convenient sized containers. We use empty, plastic, one gallon bottled-water containers. Pour the vinegar into your container, about 90% full, cap, then place into the freezer.
Once frozen, remove the cap and invert the frozen liquid over a “catcher” container, i.e., a larger-mouthed jar or bottle. Since acetic acid (the stuff that makes vinegar, vinegar) freezes at a lower temperature than water, you are removing the vinegar from the water, i.e., distilling the vinegar, Allow to sit at room temperature and shortly, you will see drips from the frozen container. In time, the color of the frozen mixture will change, as if two layers: white at the top (water) darker at the bottom (vinegar).
When most/all of the vinegar has been removed, (typically, this will take about 16-24 hours), you have a (more) concentrated vinegar. At this point, test the acid level (by test or taste). If it tastes (or measures) too strong, add small amounts of water. If still too weak, you may refreeze and repeat the distillation process (we do this when making thicker, balsamic-type vinegar). When happy, proceed as usual to pasteurize and/or bottle.
Hope it helps.
Hello! Thank you for this! I hot Hooked on raspberry vinegar from Trader Joe’s and they don’t sell it anymore, and it’s ridiculously expensive to buy online, hence the search! Have you ever tried adding fruit juice to pre-made vinegar? Wondering if that would work. Thanks again!
I haven’t tried that. I think if I wanted to do something like that I would be more likely to infuse the vinegar with the raspberries. If you add juice to the vinegar then you will change the acidity of the vinegar because you are diluting it with the juice.
I’m a pretty seasoned fermentation fetishist lol but I haven’t pursued vinegar making after it messed up the first two times. I got bitter tasting grape vinegar and bitter tasting apple vinegar. The fruit tasted good but my main goal was to make a homemade vinegar using wild yeast that tastes good and is safe to use for pickling. I know that the FDA says nothing under 4% aceitic acid can be sold because it’s not safe for pickling and potentially not shelf stable.
How do you know the fruit juice you use has enough fermentable sugars to get above 4 or 5% aceitic acid? Have you used your home ferments for pickling vegetables? If so did you have to add supplemental sugar to the fruit juice to get it acidic enough? or is it okay just plain juice?
I found one reference, from an unreliable source, that claimed you need the ABV to be 5 to 7 % in order to get a finished aceitic acid of 4 to 7%. I know from doing home ferments that it’s difficult to make shelf stable fruit wine because it needs to be above 5 ABV to be shelf stable. Thanks for any insight.
Most people will not use homemade vinegar for preserving purposes since it is so difficult to get that finished acetic acid level to the proper percentage.
I don’t use cane sugar in anything since I’m allergic to it (or something it’s processed with). Can I use honey to make vinegar? Or is there another sweetener you’d recommend?
You can definitely use honey.
Would the alcohol stage be faster if I used an air lock for the first week or so and then took it off to continue fermenting?
No, this would not make the process faster. As a matter of fact you want the mixture to be exposed to the natural yeasts in the air which start the fermentation process.
Loved reading this thank you so much for sharing. Cant wait to get started !
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed it.