Does Apple Cider Vinegar Go Bad? Can It Go Bad?

Written by: Mike Marshall
apple cider vinegar with some apples

A single spoon of apple cider vinegar can bring your salad game to a whole nother level.

But the only bottle you have is a few years old.

Can you use it? Does apple cider vinegar go bad?

The answer is not as simple as you may think. 

But don’t worry.

In this article, we’ll go over everything related to apple cider vinegar, including its real shelf life and storage options.

Let’s dive straight in!

How Long Does Apple Cider Vinegar Last

According to a study conducted by the Vinegar Institute, vinegar has an indefinite shelf life. That’s thanks to its high acidic content, which prevents harmful bacteria from forming inside.

However, you’ve probably noticed that every store-bought bottle of apple cider vinegar comes with a “best by” date printed on the label. But that’s only because manufacturers are required by law to give an estimate on how long their products will retain their optimal quality.

The date on the label is a long way ahead. So for instance, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar by Bragg has a shelf life of 5 years. However, if you store it properly, you can still use it many years later.

Now if we’re speaking strictly about how long apple cider vinegar can retain optimal quality, a better estimation is 2 years. 

After that time, it might slightly change in color and flavor, although it will still be good for use.

Optimal quality~ 2 years
Shelf lifeIndefinitely

It’s also worth noting that breaking the seal on the bottle of apple cider vinegar doesn’t affect its shelf life. As long as you keep the bottle closed whenever you’re not using it, it should last you just the same.

Another thing that doesn’t affect the shelf life of apple cider vinegar is refrigerating. 

There’s absolutely no reason to store a bottle of vinegar in the fridge. Well, not unless you live in a really hot climate with daily temperatures reaching over 100 degrees,

How To Tell If Apple Cider Vinegar Is Bad

Apple cider vinegar is sold as both pasteurized and unpasteurized. The difference between the two is that the former is treated with heat to kill any microorganisms inside. 

This means that it also kills all the beneficial cultures as well. As you probably know, apple cider vinegar is created through a fermentation process. This means certain yeasts and bacteria are added to convert sugar into alcohol, and then alcohol into vinegar.

Pasteurized apple cider vinegar might not experience visible changes in appearance. But the unpasteurized version certainly will.

Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar still contains beneficial cultures. Because of that, there’s a possibility of a weird slimy substance forming inside the bottle. While it looks alien-like, this thing is by no means harmful. 

That substance is called the “mother,” and it’s basically a mixture of cellulose and all those good bacteria inside apple cider vinegar. 

While it might look weird and repulsive, the mother is a great thing to find in your vinegar. You can use it to make even more apple cider vinegar. Just leave it in apple juice for about a month, and you’ll have a fresh batch for future use.

If you don’t want to do that, simply strain the mother away and continue using apple cider vinegar as before.

Certain brands also filter their vinegar. This gets rid of not just bacteria, but all the sediment usually found in the liquid. As a result, you have crystal clear apple cider vinegar.

But not all products are filtered. If that’s the case with the bottle you’ve bought, don’t be surprised to see it turn cloudy after some time. 

The cloudiness doesn’t affect the taste or potency of apple cider vinegar, so you can still use it the same way. But if you want it back to its clear state, you can simply filter the liquid and throw away the sediment.

Over time, apple cider vinegar can get darker in color. This is a result of a reaction between amino acids and sugar, and it’s perfectly normal.

The change in color will also be accompanied by the change in flavor. You can expect apple cider vinegar to become a bit sour and umami. 

While different, the change in taste is definitely not bad. It can work well for many savory dishes.

How To Store Apple Cider Vinegar

ready to drink apple cider vinegar

Considering it has a practically indefinite shelf life, you don’t have to worry much about proper storage. In most cases, a bottle of apple cider vinegar can sit in your pantry for many years to come.

However, it’s still important that your pantry is dry, cool, and away from sunlight. This will further slow down the slow degradation process and keep apple cider vinegar fresh for a very long time.

In most cases, vinegar is sold in plastic or glass bottles, and they both are great for storing. The only thing you should always make sure of is that the bottle is sealed between uses. 

Given it’s made of apple juice, it’s not surprising that apple cider vinegar is something pantry bugs can be attracted to. To avoid them getting inside the bottle, assure it’s always closed properly.

Because it’s shelf-stable, there’s no point in storing apple cider vinegar in the fridge. And because it has a practically indefinite life, freezing it also does absolutely nothing. 

But in case that’s the only storage space you have available, you can definitely freeze it. Just make sure not to use a glass bottle, as it can burst inside the fridge. 

Instead, transfer apple cider vinegar into a plastic bottle. Remember to leave at least an inch of room inside the bottle, because liquid expands when frozen.


A bottle of apple cider vinegar can safely sit in your pantry for many years to come without getting spoiled. 

Still, that doesn’t mean it won’t change at all. 

Subtle changes in color, flavor, and texture are inevitable over time. And while not appealing, they’re certainly not dangerous.

Related articles:

How useful was this post?

Click on a heart to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Photo of author


I’m not a pro chef by any means, but years of tinkering inside the kitchen have taught me a thing or two about preparing delicious, healthy food. So whether you’re interested in how to properly store food, figuring out side dishes for your main course, or even learning how to use a knife properly – I've got you covered.