How to Know If Apple Cider Vinegar Has Gone Bad?

Have a bottle of apple cider vinegar at home? It is well-known for its numerous culinary and nutritional applications. Ever wonder what would happen if apple cider vinegar went bad? Is there a 'use by' date for which to look out? We are going to address those queries. Let's speak about ACV's shelf life, how to store it correctly, and how to tell if it's not up to par. 

In the following sections, we will discuss what ACV is. We will explain how it is manufactured and what nutrients it contains. We will also discuss how factors that might impact its shelf life. Finally, we'll share some helpful techniques for storing and using ACV. 

What is apple cider vinegar?

Are you wondering what apple cider vinegar is? It is basically apple vinegar manufactured using the process of fermentation. This procedure provides ACV with its distinct, sour taste and specific qualities. Because of its acidic and anti-microbial properties, it is a common ingredient in cooking and food preservation and a natural cure.

Nutritional Content

ACV is low-calorie in nature. However, it has a high concentration of beneficial nutrients and chemicals. This includes: 

  • Acetic acid is the primary component of ACV, responsible for its antibacterial and acidic properties.
  • ACV contains malic acid, an organic acid that contributes to its sour taste and potential health benefits. 
  • It contains small quantities of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium. 
  • It consists of antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals. 

The table below shows the approximate amount of these nutrients in ACV. 


Approximate Amount


3 kcal per tablespoon (15 mL)


0.1 g per tablespoon

Vitamins and Minerals

Trace amounts

Acetic Acid

5–6% by volume

Malic Acid

Variable, depending on brand

What is the shelf life of apple cider vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is inherently acidic, which helps to preserve it. When properly kept, unopened apple cider vinegar can remain effective indefinitely. Most manufacturers provide an expiry or best-before date of about five years, although it's normally safe to use beyond that period. 

However, everything changes when you break the bottle's seal and let oxygen come into the equation. Oxygen may start a gradual deteriorating process that affects your vinegar's flavour, colour, and general quality. Consume ACV within 2 to 3 years of opening to get the finest flavour and quality. 

Does apple cider vinegar go bad?

So, does ACV go bad? Technically no. It doesn't become unsafe to consume even after opening. ACV's high acidity and low pH create an environment that's not favourable for harmful microorganisms like bacteria and mould to thrive in. So, your ACV is quite the warrior when it comes to preserving itself.

Nonetheless, the taste and quality of ACV can alter. When ACV reacts with oxygen, it might experience some changes that influence its flavour, scent and strength. Therefore, even if it's still technically "good," the benefits derived from using it could be lessened.

And what is that cloudy thing at the bottom of the bottle? It's not a problem - your vinegar hasn't turned bad! The cloudiness comes from sediment from apples used during fermentation and something called "vinegar mother," which forms as part of this process. The mother element might appear frightening, but this is an indicator of good-grade, unprocessed vinegar. It is safe to consume.

Factors affecting shelf life

Several factors can influence how long apple cider vinegar lasts.

1. Temperature

    Hotter conditions accelerate ageing. This might give ACV a distinct flavour and appearance. For optimal freshness, store your ACV in a cold, dark location.

    2. Humidity

      A damp environment might reduce ACV's shelf life. This is especially true if the bottle is not well sealed. Make sure to keep your ACV away from wet areas. Also, always keep the cap tight.

      3. Light exposure

        Sunlight can cause alterations in how ACV appears. It can also degrade some of its valuable components. Therefore, avoid exposing ACV to sunlight.

        Signs that apple cider vinegar has gone bad

        Though it's unusual, there are sure signs that it's time to discard your bottle of ACV:

        1. Changes in smell

          Replace it if your ACV has a strong or odd odour.

          2. Changes in taste

            Purchase a fresh bottle if ACV becomes excessively acidic or powerful due to ageing.

            3. Mold growth and discoloration

              ACV's acidity typically prevents mould formation. Mould, however, can grow in rare circumstances. If your ACV has apparent mould or colour changes, discard it and replace it with a new one.

              So, how long does apple cider vinegar last after opening? 

              Apple cider vinegar can stay good for a long time after you open it, and this is because of its strong acidity that helps with preservation. When kept correctly, it means placing the bottle in a cool place without light from sun's rays and ensuring it is tightly closed. Opened apple cider vinegar has the ability to keep its quality intact for as long as 5 years or even more.

              But, as with any food, its taste and strength can decrease over time. So, it's better to utilize it in the initial few years after opening to enjoy the full flavour and possible health advantages.

              Remember that if your ACV's taste or clearness decreases slightly, it is still safe for consumption. So do not throw it away too early. You can utilize your ACV in cooking and non-cooking uses such as salad dressings, marinades and more!

              How to store apple cider vinegar?

              Due to the natural high acidity of apple cider vinegar, refrigeration is not required. Just keep your vinegar away from sunlight and in a cool, dark area. Ensuring the top is screwed on tightly will also help slow down its ageing process. The longer your apple cider vinegar is in contact with oxygen, the more it will oxidize and have physical changes.


              Due to its acidity and capacity to fight germs, apple cider vinegar is an excellent and long-lasting pantry staple. Even though the taste, texture, and appearance may vary somewhat over time, it is still safe to consume and use in your cuisine or consume as a drink for health benefits like weight loss. Storing it properly can help keep its benefits intact. That involves keeping it in a cool, dark location and closing the lid tightly after each use.


              1. Do you need to refrigerate apple cider vinegar after opening?

              Apple cider vinegar does not need to be put in the fridge after you open it. However, keeping it in a cool place and away from light can help protect its quality and taste.

              2. What happens if you use bad apple cider vinegar?

              Certainly, it is alright to use ACV even after its best-by date. This applies regardless of whether the bottle has been opened or remains unopened. You may wish to try a drop first to ensure it has not become too sour due to continuous fermentation. While using ACV slightly past its best-by date will not cause any harm, it might alter the taste or texture of your dish.

              3. What to use instead of apple cider vinegar?

              Suppose you don't have apple cider vinegar or feel uneasy about using a bottle long past its printed expiry date. In that case, these are some replacements which could be readily available in your kitchen cupboard:

              • White-Wine Vinegar
              • White Vinegar
              • Rice Vinegar
              • Champagne Vinegar
              • Lemon Juice


              Zandu Ayurvedic Team

              Zandu Ayurvedic Team has a panel of over 10 BAMS (Ayurvedacharya), boasting a collective experience of over 50 years. With a deep-rooted understanding of Ayurveda, they are committed to sharing their expertise & knowledge through our blogs.
              We use all kinds of Ayurvedic references in our content. Please use the contact form for any editorial queries.

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