Vinegar: Your own unique strain

Collecting Acid Bactar: Making Vinegar

You might not want to read this, but here is the nitty gritty on vinegar: All  vinegar — even the stuff you buy — got its start from the dirty feet of manure-loving flies, and it gets worse. Vinegar is the sewage of bacteria eating alcohol. And alcohol is the sewage of yeast eating sugar. Of course, we can clean up the nouns and verbs, skip the manure part, and say vinegar is made from alcohol and alcohol from sugar. Sounds nicer, doesn’t it.

Many years ago I was making a lot of wine and beer. Florida allows an individual to make a generous amount of beer and wine for personal use without running into legal issues.  With so much wine I thought about making real vinegar. When most people say they make vinegar what they mean is they  put spices et cetera into commercially produced vinegar. I wanted to make my own vinegar, from scratch so to speak. As it comes out, that is easy or a bit of a challenge, depending on how you want to do.

Here’s the easy way to make malt vinegar: Buy a six pack of beer with no preservatives, go to a wine supply store and buy a few ounces of mother, dump the mother into the warm, flat beer, put in a warm dark place, and soon you will have more vinegar and mother than you will ever need. Mother reproduces forever as long as you feed it so you need to only buy a vinegar mother once. I did that for a couple of years. Got to know how the mother behaved, looked and reproduced. And since it came from a lab where the acid bactar was bred for vinegar production, the product was consistent all the time.

The only problem was everyone else with the same mother was getting the same vinegar. I wanted a mother all my own, a strain of acid bactar that no one else on earth had (in theory.)  That meant I had to 1) collect it 2) make it into vinegar and 3) keep doing that until I found an acid bactar flavor I liked.  You should know that both yeast and acid bactar can “throw” bad flavors, so not all wild yeasts or wild acid bactars will produce good wine or vinegar. When you collect from the wild, it is the luck of the draw. You might get a great mother the first try or it make take persistence.

In hindsight part two and part three, making and testing, were easy. It was part one that was the most difficult initially, collecting the acid bactar. I followed all the advice I could read back then — no internet in the Dark Ages — and failed completely. No wine or beer I ever set out ever collected one bit of vinegar bacteria. Ever. I tried for nearly a year and got absolutely nowhere. It was a complete failure. I put the project in the someday pile.

At the same time I moved to a place that had some property and was organic gardening intensely. I started to have a significant problem with moths and the like that come in the warm Florida nights and lay caterpillar eggs. I read of a natural trap one could make so I made one. I few weeks after I hung up the moth trap I looked inside and noticed it had worked very well; a lot of dead moths and other insects. I also noticed something else: Some vinegar mother.  What I had failed to find intentionally was accidentally delivered unto me. I was just fortunate to recognize it when I saw it.

Sometimes it can look disgusting

I not only cleaned and kept that mother, I started another trap, then another. Of the three strains I got, one was weak, that is it made a very mild vinegar. One tasted awful, and one was good. I’ve had that third mother  more than 22 years. Maybe it’s time to find some more since I have moved a second time and might have even more interesting acid bactar is this area.

I refined my mother traps and ingredients as I went along and never failed to get a mother. This is the only place that I know of —until Internet copied, of course — on the internet where you can learn how to make a mother trap:

The classic vinegar pot for home production


Once the weather is warm — read the insects are active — get a one or two liter/quart plastic soda bottle. Two liter/quart is easier to work with later on. Into it pour a cup or two of sugar, and two cups of water. Also drop in one banana peel, all of it, when you’re done eating the banana of course. Add a splash of vinegar for aroma, a teaspoon will do but the vinegar is not necessary. Leave the top off the bottle. You can stretched a small piece of cheese cloth with an elastic over the opening if you like but it is not necessary. That reduces the number of bug bodies but you want big enough holes for the vinegar fly to get through.  Hang the bottle in the shade.  (If you put it on the ground the ants and animals find it too soon.) An out-of-the-sun house eve is good or a tree. Between two and six weeks after you hang it up you should see some phlem-like cloudiness in the liquid. That is the acid bactar forming a mother. Sometimes it can happen in as little as two weeks. Also, if you live where it rains a lot, you also should hang it somewhere in the shade where it won’t fill up with rain water. (What happens is the wild yeast on the banana peel turns some of the sugar into alcohol which is food for the bacteria that drop off fly feet. If you don’t have a banana peeling some raisins or organic apple peelings will work or wild grapes.)

Because the bright daytime environment is not the best for the acid bactar, the mother probably won’t be a hard mother (hard like some of the stuff you cough up when you have a chest cold.) Now you have two choices. What I used to do was cut open the bottle, fish out some loose mother, remove as many bug parts as I could, and put that mother in a new alcoholic non nitrate-medium in a warm dark place. Dark is important.  However, all you really have to do is strain the liquid though a paper filter or the like and use the juice to start the mother. It has the bacteria in the liquid. Either way in the new medium the bacteria will form a hard mother in a few weeks that will float on the top of the liquid while turning the liquid below into vinegar.

The difficult part is finding untreated wine to make into vinegar. It’s less of a problem with beer. Neither can have any preservatives or be treated to get rid of bacteria. It is not so much a problem with beer in that many beers have no preservatives. Wine is a different issue. You either have to make your own without any sulfides et cetera or buy it that way, often in health food stores called challice wine. Of course, you could make homemade apple cider — another article here — or make some beer. Either works well.

I intentionally made six-pack batches (about one gallon) of malt vinegar with my new-found mothers. It was cheap and easy to use one particular beer (Miller’s) so that way I could compare the flavors the acid bactar were throwing without having to contend with different flavors of beer. It takes about three months to get a real good zip to the vinegar. Then you bottle it and drop in some sulfide to kill the bacteria, or heat it to 140F but not hotter than 160F. Or not do that. You can use vinegar with live bacteria in it. But it will eventually get cloudy in the refrigerator or elsewhere.

I found the easiest containers to make one -gallon batches of vinegar in are the ice tea containers with a spigot on the bottom.  Then you drain off your vinegar and bottle it.

Collecting and making vinegar is far more iffy than wine making but there is great satisfaction in making your very own vinegar. If you have any questions, email me and I’ll answer them if I can.


{ 116 comments… add one }
  • Green Deane October 26, 2011, 5:01 am

    Hi Green;

    I’ve been trying to make vinegar for a couple years using your method from YouTube. And it always starts fine, just starts to smell like vinegar and before the mother can ‘take off’ and grow the whole thing goes moldy. I must have tried 3-4 times a year while the weather was still warm enough here in South Carolina for the little flies to be around…

    ((I’ve been making the hard cider, your way, for the same time and it always turns out ok, although some different yeast sources do taste better than others. So far I like wine or champagne yeast and let it go for 2 1/2 days only (I like it a little sweeter and more apple taste and it has a lot of carbonation. Also I was going to use this for the vinegar base once I got my ‘mother’ started..)

    Anyway, back to the vinegar, I decided to START with the hard cider with the banana peel instead of sugar water and it worked first try!! I’ve had my ‘mother for about 6 months and it almost fills a 64 oz juice jug, I use a small spoon full of it for red wine, apple cider, and even put some into beer and it all worked fine!!

    So I thought you might try it that way if you wanted to try again, lost your ‘mother’, try to get a different strain, whatever. It really works great and much easier if you START with hard cider, esp if you happen to have a batch of cider that you didn’t like as well (My batch had fermented too long, so I used it for the vinegar)


  • Green Deane October 26, 2011, 2:25 pm


    Well, it looks like I may actually have two mothers in the making! I
    followed your recipe with the banana skins but w/out the splash of
    vinegar for two of my collectors, and I just put out a third using
    apple skins to see if that’ll throw a different scent. I’m pretty
    sure I’m on the right trail with the first two because I could
    actually smell them on the wind as I approached. Now to chase down the

    Can you recommend a good beer for a malt vinegar and a good chalice
    wine? I really need to get brewing again because I only have a 2liter
    of elderberry wine and a 2liter of agave mead left in the house.

    and by the way on the agave mead. I really suggest brewing some if you
    haven’t already. I do 1 – 1.25 ( 1/2 the big 2lb bottle from the
    store) of agave nectar into a 2liter jug, add 1 cup of white sugar, 1
    whole clove, then a tablespoon of yeast. I have been using baking
    yeast in my projects so far and it throws a very heavy taste to the
    brews. But, the end result, and even in wort, is a wonderful taste
    that doesn’t survive long at parties I bring it to.


    • Al Gladding February 11, 2015, 12:15 am

      Hello Deane, my focus is a multi depth malt vinegar. I’d rather not use a pre-made red or white mother. I have the luxury of my friend & neighbor who owns & operates a beautiful craft brewery where I can procure beer after malting & before hopping. Using a bug trap & the malt extract, should I be able to create a mother? Thanks, Al

  • Green Deane October 26, 2011, 2:26 pm

    Regarding beer, use the one you like. Chalice wine is harder to find, usually in health food stores. There’s no leading brand that I know of… though it does sound like a good, personal research project.

  • Chris @ Jax December 1, 2011, 2:03 pm

    Hey Deane, how do we care for a vinegar mother after a batch of vinegar is completed? Can we bottle it and refrigerate it, leave it in the old container, or have to constantly start a new batch to maintain the mother? I’m about to have more vinegar than I’ll need well into February and I don’t really feel like prepping up another batch once these are done.

    • Green Deane December 1, 2011, 2:09 pm

      Just put it in the frig with a little beer or the like to sit in.

  • Savannah June 26, 2012, 3:19 am

    So happy to have found your website!
    Not much out there on true vinegar making.
    I am wondering, I made some red wine vinegar, how do I find out what acidity it is? In my understanding, most store-vinegars are diluted to about 5%, and I’m just thinking, when I give it as gifts, maybe I should dilute mine a little if people aren’t expecting it to be very acidic.

    • Green Deane June 30, 2012, 7:04 am

      There are tests to tell but usually 10% is under distillation conditions.

  • michelemz June 30, 2012, 5:24 am

    j’ai un vinaigrier où je verse tous les restes de vin, mais maintenant la mère est trop grosse, que puis-je en faire, … dans le compost ? dans la fosse septique?… où ailleurs ?…, le vinaigre est très bon et naturel..

    • Green Deane June 30, 2012, 6:41 am

      Donner à vos amis…

      (The question was I have a good mother but I have a lot of it. Do I compost it? Put it down the toilet? Somewhere else? What? My answer: Give it to friends.)

  • SJ Smith October 15, 2012, 11:53 am

    Love your youtube videos. Had to check out your site because I want to make some cider vinegar. The guy at the beer supply store thought I was mad. I guess if I was trying to make wine or beer and ended up with vinegar, I’d be a bit upset. If I understand what I’ve read on the internet, first you make alchohol. It is anaerobic, and I’ll use one of those valves to let the carbon dioxide escape. No large air gap necessary. It prefers a bit cooler temps. Then, I siphon out the good stuff and will have hard cider and more yeast for alcohol. In another container, fill about 3/4 full of hard cider and add the mother. This is an aerobic bugger, and so cap it with some cheesecloth and a rubber band. Am I on the right track? Do I need to add sugar at any step, or is the pasteurized ‘fresh’ apple juice adequate?

    • Green Deane October 15, 2012, 3:58 pm

      You’ve got it right. Just make sure the “pasturized” apple cider does not contain preservatives. Those will kill yeast and or acid bactar.

  • Reina October 19, 2012, 5:29 pm

    I have watched your video and read your step by step making your own mother strain from the banana peel instructions. So I have all of that with the exception that I want to confirm that I don’t need yeast or should I to add a little warm defizzed beer for better Mother? However can you direct me to your next step after I have the Mother…the directions to make a full batch of banana vinegar. I already have friends in my little town that I have promoted homemade vinegar to and I want to start production and share. I live in Costa Rica and so some items I can not obtain such as a wide mouth glass gallon jar, yeast and cheese cloth. Can I substitute another kind of jar?

  • Mari December 15, 2012, 8:57 pm

    I have a bottle of Bragg raw unfiltered apple cider viengar, at this point only with the Mother and a tiny bit of vinegar left in the bottle. I am wondering what to add to the mother to produce more vinegar. My impulse is to add hot water, but I haven’t done this after reading your column here. Please suggest? Thanks.

    • Green Deane December 16, 2012, 5:09 pm

      Yes, add a bottle or can of warm beer you’ve let go flat.

    • Elisa December 21, 2012, 9:01 pm

      I had about 1/4 cup of Bragg’s vinegar left and I divided it up between 4 glass jars, added two quarts of organic apple cider (from a grocery store) equally, to the 4 jars. I covered each jar opening with a scrap of an old white tee shirt (allows gases to escape I think), secured with rubber bands, and now, two weeks later there are 4 great mothers in the works. There was only a tiny bit of a mother in the Bragg’s jar, but now there is a lot of newly forming mother in each jar, top and bottom it seems. I’m very pleased so far.

      Love this blog! Wish I’d found it sooner. 🙂

  • Bethany January 23, 2013, 12:22 am

    Hi, I want to make a vinegar just to be used for cleaning. I’ve been searching for directions on how to make a white flavorless vinegar with no luck. We use a LOT of vinegar around here for EVERYTHING. Even though the white distilled vinegar is affordable enough it most likely has nasty chemicals in addition to being packaged in a plastic container (we’re trying to eliminate purchasing anything in plastic -it’s not easy). Do you have any ideas that you can pass along please?

    • Green Deane January 23, 2013, 7:14 am

      To make vinegar you need an alcoholic beverage, so you’d have to make that in quantities first then make that into vinegar…

      • Tina June 25, 2015, 2:27 pm

        Also white vinegar is white because it is distilled- otherwise it would have some color at least if not cloudy… Unless you start with vodka maybe? Or everclear? No need to worry about ‘chemicals’ though as even mass produced vinegar is only acetic acid and good old dihidrogen monoxide, blended to 5% acidity. I have seen glass bottles of vinegar, but not big ones (the thought of breaking a glass gallon of vinegar makes me cry a little bit…)

        I found this blog searching for a solution to an unfortunate cider incident, now I think I’ll just pretend I meant to make cider vinegar all along, thanks!

  • jen lynch January 26, 2013, 2:18 pm

    Hi I am wondering if you can give me some advice. I have been trying to make vinegar with leftover wine since mid-December. I filled a mason jar with red wine and one with white. I did not have a good mother but used whatever I could fish out from my bottle of commercial organic cider vinegar. I wrapped them in black paper and covered the tops with cheesecloth and stuck them in the back of a closet. The internet articles I read suggested this method would work and was a great way to use up leftover wine.

    However, at this point there has been much evaporation–at least a third–and the whole situation is becoming quite yeasty-smelling and stinky. (I live in an apartment.) I do not see any mother that has formed in either of the bottles.

    If there is a possibility I could get decent vinegar I would keep going, but at this point I think I am just stinking up my home for no reason.

    Thank you so much in advance for any advice you can give me.

    • Green Deane January 28, 2013, 1:41 pm

      You cannot make vinegar from most store-boughten wine because they have added nitrates that kill off bacteria.

  • jen lynch January 28, 2013, 7:24 pm

    thank you–dumping it out now

  • augustus March 16, 2013, 9:59 pm

    i want to start vinegar how should i do it because i don’t have any banannas

  • Amber March 26, 2013, 3:06 pm

    Hi Green Deane! I’m so happy to have run across your website…like your “mother”, by accident 🙂

    I have a question: I use GALLONS of white vinegar every year for cooking/canning. If I use banana/grapes to make my “mother”, can I then use that to make white vinegar without it tasting like bananas or grapes??? Also, I cannot find a recipe to use to make plain, white vinegar…any suggestions???

    • Green Deane March 27, 2013, 9:33 am

      Yes… the banana or grapes are just to provide some yeast to make some alcohol to make the mother. Theren’t not enough there to flavor the vinegar.

  • augustus April 4, 2013, 1:13 pm

    i grow minnows as pets and they died while i was on vacation and i noticed sompething floating on the top of the tank and it had a faint vinegar smell do you think that it could be a mother in the making .

  • SS May 23, 2013, 9:17 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article, thank you SO much. I have made Vinegar, but NEVER have even thought to source my own Mother, what a concept! I’m still pondering whether i might bring myself to try it…

  • Ray G May 26, 2013, 1:44 am

    Do you know if I can keep my vinegar mothers, in indirect lighting? We have 3 batches going and they look so cool that I thought they would be interesting to have visible. The room never gets direct light but does get the ambient light from outside.

  • Nick August 18, 2013, 7:09 pm

    My homegrown grape juice became wine, which then became vinegar. Then it evaporated and it doesn’t smell like vinegar any more. It smells like earth. What happens if you wait too long to bottle the vinegar? I believe I have composted these grapes by accident.

    • Green Deane August 18, 2013, 7:48 pm

      Wow… yeast turns the sugar to alcohol, that is wine. Bacteria turn the alcohol to vinegar. Then it can evaporate. When one stage is done you have to seal the container well to stop the progression.

  • Tony R August 31, 2013, 9:01 am

    Green Dean
    I have 4 different red wines that I made that I’m TIRED of trying to fix. They taste pretty bad. I have moved them out of my wine cellar and put them outside under my carport. They’re in 50 gallon wood barrels. They have no added sulfite left in them. I want to turn them to vinegar for spraying weeds. The alcohol is present, there is no sulfite preservatives. It’s just bad Red wine. If I take the bungs out and lay some cheese cloth over the bung opening and let them sit, will the mother grow? Should I start 4 different mothers in plastic jars using each wine I have then step up the quantity of the mother? What are your thoughts?

    • Green Deane September 1, 2013, 5:57 pm

      Sounds like a plan as bad wine make bad vinegar but fine for the use you have in mind. What I would do, however, is one barrel at a time. If you get a good strong vinegar with the first just use some of that to innoculate the rest.

  • Denise September 13, 2013, 4:23 pm


    I am preparing to make my first batch of apple cider vinegar, but I have a few questions.

    I bought a bottle of Braggs Cider with mother to start a mother of my own.

    I was always under the impression that pasteurized cider could not be used. It’s early September, most of our local orchards have not begun pressing yet, but a lot of stores are already carrying the pasteurized version. I’d like to start my mother now so she’s ready when the raw cider is available. I was reading your blog, am I correct in understanding that if my pasteurized cider does not have any preservatives, it can still be used to start the vinegar?

    My dad made vinegar in a huge oak barrel and then transferred it into gallon jugs. (I’ve been working on the same batch for 20+ years.) In one of my jugs of vinegar, there is a large mother in the bottle of the jug. She has sat, undisturbed for a very long time. Is it possible to revive her, or should she be discarded? I fully intend to start my own mother, but this old barrel aged batch has such a wonderful flavor to it, I’d love to replicate that if its possible.

    I’m putting the cider into a new oak barrel. My barrel is approximately 5 gallons.

    Once I have established a mother, must my cider be hard before I put it in the barrel, or can I put fresh pressed cider in there with mother?

    Should I be adding anything else? Water, sugar?

    I’ve read that you want to leave 10-20% space at the top for proper air circulation, is that correct? Once my cider turns into vinegar, how long do I leave it in the barrel?

    I guess that’s all I need to know. I’m sorry for the multitude of questions, I love the process of making things myself and want to pass these things on to my kids.

    Any more information you can share would be greatly appreciated.


    • Green Deane September 13, 2013, 7:09 pm

      Thanks for writing. Yes, pasteurized cider is fine as long as it does not have any preservatives in it.

      Mothers can live a long time, I ‘d give it a try.

      You need hard cider every time.

      The bacteria in the mother only works on alcohol. No alcohol no vinegar. Once you have hard cider the mother is all you have to add, or even just the juice the mother is sitting in.

      Air space is good.

      You leave it in the barrel until it become vinegar.

  • carolyn October 28, 2013, 12:09 pm

    I have made cider vinegar before and am almost finished with the last 5 gal. bucket I made a couple years ago. I just poured the cider into a 5 gal. bucket plopped a lid on it and let it do its thing. You made this sound intimidating in the respect of worry over the mother. I found you because I was looking for what to do with the mother from the bucket and I didn’t do anything to “get it”. I let the cider sit until it made it’s own. This year I pressed my own apples and am making it from these apples. the only other thing I did differently is add a little of the mother from the last bucket or should I add the whole gelatinous layer?. After it is vinegar though must you, or is it optional, to pasturize it? I didn’t do it to the last batch and it has been fine until now. I am down to the last 2 gal. and was a little confused at your instructions, “add sulfide, or heat it to 140…or not” . Thanks so much. I did appreciate the article, btw.

    • Green Deane October 28, 2013, 4:39 pm

      Actually all it needs is just a bit of the juice in that it has active bacterial.

  • Jolie October 29, 2013, 4:25 am

    Hi Deane,

    Can I use a kombucha culture to make vinegar with my coconut water that I fermented and has gone to sour for me?
    If not, what type of mother do you suggest that will not overpower the coconut water taste?

    • Green Deane November 11, 2013, 6:38 pm

      I’m afraid that’s mission impossible unless you collect your own mother and find a weak one that suits you.

  • Aimee Paradise November 12, 2013, 9:00 pm

    Aloha Deane! I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog post about homemade vinegar. I currently live on Maui and am determined to make some local preserves using entirely local ingredients. We have coconuts available but I am thinking that fermented cane juice will work better for some of the projects I have in mind. I come from a wine background and am familiar with unpredictable wild yeasts and bacterias but hoping there is already cultured strains or research to help me understand the process a little better. This trial and error seems like a long process that I would love to invest in but if you have an tips on how to get started I would appreciate it. I was thinking of leaving a bunch of open cane juice containers around different farms but not sure that is the most efficient method. I am open to buying a mother if there is one that you would recommend for cane juice. Thank you for take the time to help this locavore!

    • Green Deane November 13, 2013, 8:22 am

      The cane juice has to ferment first. The mother and bacteria only work on alcohol. Most homebrewing stores carry vinegar mothers, usually a white variety and a red variety (from different wines.)

  • Caroline December 15, 2013, 3:03 pm

    Thanks for your article! I have attempted to make vinegar for the first time this past fall – I purchased a mother supposedly especially for malt vinegar. Unfortunately, the instructions did not say not to use a hoppy beer and it never occurred to me to check – my vinegar is incredibly bitter! Are the hops the reason for this? I am trying again with Miller. Also, although the mother seemed to flourish, the resulting product after three months is not very sour. Can you add a bit of grain alcohol (like vodka) to your mix to increase the acetic acid production? Last question – the website I bought my mother from seemed to imply you need a different mother for red wine, another for white wine, a different one for cider. Your blog seems to say you can use the same mother for ANY of these starting materials – do I have that right? Thanks!!!

    • Green Deane December 15, 2013, 8:43 pm

      A mother if you like the taste and it produces well can be used with any low-alcohol beverage. Like you I wondered if it could be used with vodka and the like and it just killed the mother. Strong alcoholic beverages have to be watered down if you want to turn them into vinegar.

  • Jenny December 27, 2013, 8:33 am

    Thank you for the informative article!
    I have made ACV from apple scraps from my orchard, and there are two beautiful mothers living on them! The ACV is ready to bottle & shelf, and I am not sure what to do with the mothers at this point.

    How can the mother be stored? (I am unsure if I need nitrate-less wine? or if any will do) and would it need to be fed?

    If I wanted to make more ACV, but do not have any more apple scraps, how do I use the mother to duplicate?

    The idea of making red/white wine vinegar sounds delicious, can any red/white wine be used or does it need to be organic (without the nitrates?)

    Thank you for the help, I am hooked on ferments now 😉

    • Green Deane December 27, 2013, 8:39 am

      Thanks for writing. You can take the mothers and put them in a little wine or beer in a covered jar and store in a dark place. Take them out now and then, warm up, add some new wine or beer, then back in the dark place.

  • Judy Beard January 25, 2014, 2:42 pm

    Hi! I have a question…I bought a small bottle of vinegar with mother. When I opened it, there was no mother, just dark fluid. Nothing that looked like what mother has been described as. So, my question is do mothers die after awhile? And just dissolve in the vinegar? The bottle read good til 2017. I want to start making my own apple and wine vinegars. Can you offer an opinion as to what happened? Thanks. Judy

    • Green Deane January 25, 2014, 2:58 pm

      Mothers can die and disintergrate. However, I would try the liquid first to see if it still has enough bacteria to make vinegar.

  • Joe March 12, 2014, 9:25 pm

    Hey – thanks for all the useful info. I am new to vinegaring, though I have been fermenting beer and wine for some time now. I just finally got a hold of some mother from a local brew shop, and a Bragg’s mother that I had given up on has finally manifested itself. Anyway, at the brew shop they emphasized the importance of aerating the wine before adding it to the mother they gave me, which I did; however, they did not emphasize using homemade wine, thus I used a nice, fairly expensive, though probably not sulfite-free, malbec. Should I be worried that my hard-won mother is dying as I write this? Anything I should do to help her survive? The Bragg’s mother is probably fine – she took a while to come around, as she’s not been kept in the warm and dark, but all she’s had to eat is homemade apple cyser. Love to hear your thoughts, and thanks again 🙂

    • Green Deane March 13, 2014, 12:07 am

      Commercial wines usually have chemicals in them that kill mother bacteria. That’s just the way it is.

  • Joe March 12, 2014, 9:45 pm

    Furthermore 🙂 I don’t understand why so many people/websites talk about the reason most store-bought vinegars are pasteurized is so that they don’t fill with mother on the shelf…. if there is zero alcohol content in the vinegar you are buying, which must be the case or else they’d have to put it on the label, then what on earth would the mother possibly consume in order to “fill the bottle”? Thus, why pasteurize?

  • John March 31, 2014, 2:33 am

    I am interested in making horticultural vinegar (20%).
    I noted that you said 10% vinegar is generally made by distillation.
    Obviously flavor is not my priority or even my intention since HV@20% needs to be handled quite carefully.
    Do you have any tips with or is it your experience that – white sugar would ultimately produce as fast as anything else?
    Any other ideas for me?
    I am considering growing it in a 50 gallon barrel – obvious I need to cover it, what about oxygenating it to keep such a large portion of warm liquid from becoming stale? I’m in TX – it’s hot…. I don’t know if MOV is picky about heat.

    • Green Deane March 31, 2014, 12:48 pm

      You’d have to make 50 gallons of an alcoholic beverage first. The percentage of that which is turned to alcohol would influence the percentage of vinegar.

  • Paris April 16, 2014, 1:57 pm

    I accidentally got my vinegar heated to just under 200 degrees before I realized it. I cooled it down to 140 and continued until the total time was 30 minutes. Have I ruined my vinegar, or is is okay? I did go ahead and bottle it into sterile bottles. It was pineapple vinegar that had been fermenting for 3 months. Thanks!

    • Green Deane April 16, 2014, 3:28 pm

      Ruined for use? No. But it probably did kill off the mother bacteria.

  • Pat April 22, 2014, 12:45 pm

    We have been experimenting with many batches of home grown vinegar. Does anyone know where I can find something really large to grow it in? I have gallon glass jars but would like something maybe 5 gallons or larger. Glass, wood kegs or whatever would work well.

    • Green Deane April 23, 2014, 12:15 pm

      Five-gallon glass water jugs are easy to come by.

      • Pat April 27, 2014, 10:24 pm

        Thank you Deane!

      • BarleySinger January 7, 2015, 5:46 am

        >Five-gallon glass water jugs are easy to come by.

        maybe where you live… not here.

        I moved to South Australia in 1999 from the Pacific Northwest (job offer).

        Then I became disabled in 2002-2003 (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Sundrome, Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome (and more). So these days I MUST live all organic and green to keep my pain level down (not be in agony). It was quite probably from all the pulp mills I grew up around (lots of very sick people where I grew up) , and all that spraying as people used DDT and 24D like water in those days.

        My point is, here in South Australia (and in Australia in general) some things are quite hard to come by. Every nation is different.

        This includes (unfortunately) really large glass vessels. It was just around 2012 (roughly) that folks started to import BALL jars for canning.

        I *hate* plastics, but I haven’t a clue where to get large glass vessels for brewing anything in. The wine making industry has turned to using mylar bladders so they aren’t even any help.

  • Mark June 1, 2014, 11:48 am

    I followed your instructions, week one checked it, it had a few bugs. I went to check on it week two and it was gone, not only my bottle but the branch it was tied to was torn down, guess I did not go deep enough in the woods and placing it around thorn bushes did not deter the kids/adult that may have trashed it. Fall back just got some Bragg organic apple cider vinegar with the mother and put some of that into beer. This is my first time trying this and I was hoping to have wild acid bactar. Maybe I will try again after coming back from vacation.

  • joe stolzenberger June 23, 2014, 1:01 pm

    I haven’t found one wine supply that sells vinegar mothers.

  • mark July 7, 2014, 4:20 pm

    Seens like your method relies on making alcohol first and then relies on capturing the acetobacter bacteria to produce the mother in the alcohol

    Why not skip the 1st step. Just lay out a container of alcohol from the get go

  • Sylvia July 13, 2014, 1:12 am

    I have only just started to make vinegar. I wanted apple cider vinegar for making sweet chilli sauce. Like a lot of people I made a cider in a 25 litre fermenter keg. I went to see how the cider was progressing and found that it had a thin layer of mother on top. This was not intentional as I was going to put the cider with my mother that I bought. I can see little things wriggling in the fermenter albeit they little. My question is can I filter this out and still use the vinegar? I have tested it with litmus paper and get a reading of 4. They say not to use apple cider vinegar for pickles etc. even thought the recipe calls for it. Any help I would appreciate.

    • Green Deane July 13, 2014, 6:39 pm

      You can use it for some things but the percentage of acid is important for preserving. It either has it or it has not. If it is not strong enough, it won’t work as a preserving agent.

  • Mark July 27, 2014, 12:07 pm

    I tried again and failed, got lots of bugs, but I just think stripping the land before building on it, there is very few bugs around.
    I noticed from a bag of farmers market onions that were forgotten and started to go bad and lots of tiny little vinegar flies, I trapped them and managed to move them to a jar of flat room temperature alcohol beer and maneuvered them so they ended up wadding in the alcohol, I left them for about two minutes then scooped them out by using a spoon and they grabbed on and I released them outside. There were about 4 or 5 of them is that enough exposure? My wife thinks I am like a crazy mad scientist lol

    Will this work.

    • Green Deane July 27, 2014, 5:49 pm

      One gets a lot of bugs. What do you mean it failed. How are you measuring that failure? I mean what criteria means you failed?

  • Mark July 28, 2014, 12:05 pm

    Hi Green Dean,

    By failed, it’s been out a full 8 weeks going on the ninth week, it’s got quite a few dead regular flies and a few bees, not much else for bugs. Smells like funky banana and not alcholic nor like vinegar.

    That’s why I moved on to trapping those vinegar flys and placing them in beer hoping to get that acid bactar by letting them swim in the beer for a few minutes, I managed to capture about ten of them, now I have it in a warm dark place to let it do its thing I hope.

    • Green Deane July 28, 2014, 4:16 pm

      What you can do is take that bug juice you had sitting out for a long time… strain it through a coffee filter, then add some of the liquid to flat beer, put it in a dark place, and see what happens.

  • Mark July 28, 2014, 5:12 pm

    Thanks for the advice, I will do that today after work, bug juice here I come! I will let you know how it turns outs in a month or so.

    • Mark August 19, 2014, 7:28 pm

      Green Dean, thanks for the advice!!! Bug juice is working, it’s smelling like vinegar and the bacteria is hard at work, it has a ways to go before a nice solid mother forms, but it’s working! Also the vinegar flys that I trapped and put in the beer then released that too is working and making vinegar so I have two wild strains. Thanks for keeping me from just tossing it out.

  • chloe August 9, 2014, 9:16 am

    i made my first batch of red wine vinegar. no new mother was created and the old mother is a gelatinous blob that sunk to the bottom. did my vinegar not turn out? can i reuse the old mother to try again? thanks

    • Mark August 19, 2014, 7:32 pm

      Did you strain out the vinegar and add more wine? It’s a cycle alcohol to vinegar, strain out the vinegar then add more alcohol. New mother is probably not forming because there is no food, just add more red wine should get it going again.

      • Green Deane August 19, 2014, 11:50 pm

        You can do it either way, mother to wind or wine to mother. But you have to make sure the wine does not have any preservative like sulfides or they will kill the mother.

  • Pat September 3, 2014, 9:25 pm

    We have been doing really well growing all kinds of fruit vinegars. Then this summer some of them were real strong fruit flavor with a good strong acid, almost ready to bottle and then when I went to taste again they had gotten real weak tasting like they were watered down even though they weren’t. Does the heat mess up vinegar making?

    • Green Deane September 4, 2014, 5:13 pm

      Summer heat? No, stove top heat, yes.

  • Dan Dowling September 16, 2014, 7:03 am

    What a fun project! I left my collector on a porch inside of a screened pool area. The fruit flies had no problem finding it. Using bananas growing on the property, I got lucky on the first go. Great flavor and I’m off and running with several experiments in different varieties. FYI: beer makers do not have to disclose all sorts of things, including ingredients and preservatives. (they are not regulated by the FDA, but instead the Treasury!) So I took a shot with Yuengling and whalla, it worked like a charm. For the squeamish, just know the mother forms its own bio filter and, akin to a French press coffee maker, it takes the bug bits down with it as it sinks to the bottom. So much respect for what you do Deane.

  • Eileen October 14, 2014, 9:37 pm

    THAT, was a great read & just what I was looking for! And as luck would have it, I’m in Florida. I’m going to try this. Thanks for the pep talk!

  • Helen November 4, 2014, 11:08 pm

    Wondering if you might do an article about Kefir “grains”?

    • Green Deane December 1, 2014, 6:24 pm

      Hmmm… I might, as I am over run with them at the moment…

  • Alana December 4, 2014, 5:08 pm

    Hi there, great article. I can’t wait for nicer weather to start my own mother :). However, I am a little confused about something. I followed a recipe for making fruit vinegar, plum, using chopped plums, a little honey, splash of acv with mother, and topped with water. So, straight from fruit. Not fruit alcohol. After two months, with fruit still in it, it is awesome. I realize the fruit would have fermented into alcohol and then into vinegar, but you make it seem like you need to start with alcohol… Which is confusing because I just used fruit and water…? Which was easier than making plum wine and then turning that into vinegar. Also, if I store my mother in the fridge in some beer as I have no plum juice, will it change the mother and therefor the next batch of fruit vinegar flavour? And how often do I need to feed her beer to keep her going until next fruit season? Thanks very much, I have been looking for instructions on making my own mother, best I have found 🙂

    • Green Deane December 4, 2014, 5:46 pm

      The more you control the process the greater likelihood of a better product. Yes, you can feed the refrigerated bactar some beer now and then to keep it alive and happy.

  • Alana December 5, 2014, 1:04 pm

    Well thanks, that makes sense. My husband is now going to start to wonder where his beer is going… Thanks again for the response 🙂

  • Jesse March 2, 2015, 5:49 am

    I live in Vermont and its the first of March, needless to say It’s very cold out, and will be for some time. But I’m in a bit of a hurry to start a Mother. Do you think fruit flies in the house will produce a Mother?
    And I also want to thank you for the info, I have been searching and there isn’t much out there on making vinegar.

    • Green Deane March 2, 2015, 1:35 pm

      Yes, I think fruit flies in a house can start a mother. It’s a neat idea.

  • john rensten April 4, 2015, 5:04 pm

    Hi Dean, thanks for this post and so much of your other wonderful information. i was wondering if you knew how to keep a mother in “stasis”. I dont want to keep producing endles vinegars but dont want to loose the mother i have, but i assumed it would die if just left in a jar, unfed, as it were…any info would be really useful, many thanks john

    • Green Deane May 19, 2015, 4:51 pm

      Put it in the frig with some beer and feed it every few months.

  • john rensten April 4, 2015, 5:04 pm

    Hi Deane, thanks for this post and so much of your other wonderful information. i was wondering if you knew how to keep a mother in “stasis”. I dont want to keep producing endles vinegars but dont want to loose the mother i have, but i assumed it would die if just left in a jar, unfed, as it were…any info would be really useful, many thanks john

    • Green Deane April 5, 2015, 9:32 pm

      Yes, put it in the frig and once a month pour off some liquid and add some flat beer.

  • Jennifer April 23, 2015, 10:42 am

    I made up a batch of raw apple cider vinegar. The mother formed and everything seemed great. However, I compared the smell to store bought cider vinegar, and it definitely does not have that sweet clean apple smell. It smells a little off. Almost like sweaty feet. Is this normal? I didn’t see any mold or other signs of something bad. It tastes like vinegar (I only tried it on my finger because I was afraid the smell might mean it was bad).

    • Green Deane April 23, 2015, 1:56 pm

      I doubt it is bad. Where did the mother come from? They can smell quite different. The proof is in the flavor.

  • F K Burnham April 30, 2015, 11:15 pm

    Thanks for all the info on the vinegar.
    I have been trying to make some for a few years, unsuccessfully. All my apple juice I press does is turn to a very high alcohol content hard cider.
    Since I don’t drink, my friends would come by & “dispose” of the hard cider. Guess they won’t have that option any more.

  • nancy June 20, 2015, 7:27 am

    Thanks for the info. I live in jamaica and have been trying to make vinegar with our apples. I test mine with a pH pen and it read 1.1 is that ok.

  • Sunday September 20, 2015, 7:01 am

    Just out of curiosity, is it possible to preserve the Mother in any way shape or form so you can use it on future batches later?

    • Green Deane September 21, 2015, 9:59 am

      Preserve? I don’t think so… but you can keep it alive a long time, years in fact.

      • Agata September 27, 2015, 3:10 am

        You can dry the Mother and rehydrate it when you want to use it…

        • Emma May 6, 2017, 7:02 pm

          Never woulda thunk of drying my mother. Been making acv for years with the same mother from a bit of heinz unrefined.

          My mother is huge. I just decant from one jar to another and let the mother in first one. I also made kumbuchu with a piece but i am not impressed with kumbuchu. Have to do malt next!!!

  • Vince October 8, 2015, 3:15 pm

    Hi… Thanks for this article…. I tried to make my own ACV using crab apples and letting the natural yeast on the skins ferment… After two weeks it was not bubbling much, so I added some apple juice, syrup and bread yeast and voila!

    That was a few weeks ago and it’s all rested…Now I’ve added some Braggs raw ACV to the mix…. My concern is that I’ve got a mix here and also a large volume of liquid (about 1.5 litres)…… Is this going to turn into vinegar?

    • Green Deane October 8, 2015, 3:21 pm

      It easily could… it will take time, many weeks rather than many days.

  • John October 29, 2015, 7:43 pm

    I’ve just started making vinegar. Had great success with a number of beers and wanted to make some champagne vinegar. Got a case of cheap bubbly and put it in my gallon jar with some of the beer mother. Current beer batches forming new mother but the champagne is just sitting there, it tastes a little tart but has no new visible mother. Could it be sulfited? I don’t know if that outgasses, but tonight I poured it over through a funnel into a jar and back again and added new mother. Any ideas appreciated.

    • Green Deane October 29, 2015, 8:28 pm

      It most likely was sulfited.

  • AlyCrocker November 7, 2015, 11:05 am

    I’ve got to say, your site provides the most useful information about cultivating a mother of vinegar. I’ve been making vinegar for a couple of years now- starting with apple cider, various beers, then red and white wines and finally my favorite: maple-bourbon.
    I’ve got a few questions… Mainly about ‘end of life care’.
    When a mother ‘dies’ does she, the gelatinous glob, disintegrate? Or just become inactive while the disc stays intact? (I have have an inactive, intact red wine mother.)
    And… Ought I weed out the original mother or the many babies she makes? (I have a very, VERY active apple cider mother.)

    • Green Deane November 7, 2015, 12:29 pm

      It becomes inactive and eventually falls apart.

  • Susan March 11, 2016, 6:04 pm

    I live in Alaska and always have made my mother the old fashioned way, with time and patience. No matter what vinegar made it always takes time, but it is worth the wait. I did not know that you could buy a product to help produce the mother. How interesting. I will have to try malt vinegar, sounds nummy. Thanks!!!

  • matthew allen taylor June 29, 2016, 3:35 am

    So I am currently attempting to make a mother using your method. I live in coastal south texas where it is very humid. Will this hinder the mother process at all? Also does it have to be banana? I am trying it with orange peel, blue berries, and grapefruit rind as well as the banana (had lots of leftover fruits)(all different jugs). Also, about sulfites in wine: I work at a wine bar and often we have open bottles go bad. Obviously they mostly contain sulfites. There are ways to rid wine of sulfited using professional as well as at home methods. A couple drops Hydrogen peroxide will turn the sulfites into hydrogen sulfate in the wine. Do you know if that will still kill a mother? If not I could have an endless supply of high quality wines to make vinegar from. One last thing: I live, as previously mentioned, in an almost swamp-like enviroment. Mold groes easily here. Is there risk of these hanging jugs outside developing mold and if so, should I shake them up daily to reduce that risk? Will shaking hurt the developing mother?

    • Green Deane June 29, 2016, 8:25 am

      As long as the remaining chemical does not kill bacteria there’s no problem. Actually you can use organic grapes or raisin or oranges. It is the yeast on them that is important. The banana is just handy.

      • matthew allen taylor June 29, 2016, 3:48 pm

        Thank you. 1 of the 4 jugs developed some white mold at the top this morning. It was the one that had the most exposure to the sun. I skimmed it off and shook it up hoping that would help. Also do you know of a way to develop a unique kombucha scoby strain? Thanks again.

  • J D August 17, 2016, 1:01 pm

    Great read! Can’t show it to my partner though. She’s threatened to clobber me if I show her any more mothers, I know that first paragraph would get her! I’ve been making vinegar for about a year. Started with some watermelon wine I made a couple years before. Got my first mother from the bottom of a pint of store bought ACV. Since then, I’ve made beers and wines from cherries, apples, jalapenos, poblanos, tomatillo salsa, and a few others, and converted to vinegar. Also did a batch with chopped apples in water with honey. Just put in a gallon jar covered with cheesecloth, in a dark room for a month or so.

  • Carl September 8, 2016, 10:58 am

    I have always failed at making vinegar mother, today I will try your method. When you say flies, do you mean just fruit flies, or any insects is ok? And is tap water ok?

    • Green Deane September 8, 2016, 6:15 pm

      The chlorine in the tap water goes away so it can be used. And they’re are vinegar flies but you will find other bug parts in your collection container.

      • carl September 9, 2016, 7:48 am

        Thanks Green, I hanged two plastic bottles yesterday outside my window, one bottle is filled with old apple juice (that never made any mother), the other bottle is filled with fresh grapefruit, water, banana skin and a bit of sugar. Yesterday I saw a fruitfly going to the grapefruit bottle. I will let you know the results later.

        • Carl December 16, 2016, 9:38 pm

          Finally I made it (after many failed attempts!). For all those who failed, here is my experience. Never try to save on the sugar portion. Use at least 2 cups of sugar, no less than that. I tried many attempts with small bottles, with fruit juices, a bit of sugar, a bit of banana skin, and always failed. So as a last resort I tried with a big bottle, 3 cups of sugar, banana skin, and tap water. After 3 weeks I saw very tiny filaments of mold, they were stuck inside the banana skin. Check carefully. They were small but they were enough to kickstart the other batches with a flat beer. Thanks again Green!

          • Green Deane December 17, 2016, 5:26 pm

            Sometimes one has to coax Mother Nature to cooperate.

  • Tab October 19, 2016, 8:59 pm

    I found what I think is a mother forming in my hummingbird feeder. I put it in some fresh apple juice and it’s growing. Appreciate any thoughts on this.

  • Susan November 30, 2016, 5:14 pm

    I just discovered a large mother in the balsamic vinegar we have and wondered if I could use it, and consequently discovered your site! Lots of info, learned lots!! What are your thoughts on using this mother in beer and should I? I have all these ingredients on hand, but I could find a nice wine as well but thought I’d try the beer.

  • JJ VAN ZYL May 9, 2017, 6:08 am

    I would like to make my own guava vinegar. I have access to plenty of guava fruit and I would like to try my hand on this for a unique flavor. Can you perhaps assist me in doing this correctly?
    Thank you.

    • Green Deane May 12, 2017, 9:46 am

      Hmmmm… you first have to make guava wine then make it into vinegar. That should not be difficult only make it with no sterilizing agents. Then use that to catch the vinegar flies.

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