My future plans include a heated chamber or a heat pad for the vinegar making container and experimenting with mechanical, automatic aeration of the vinegar.
It takes good alcohol (wine or beer) to
make fermented vinegar. The Hit-or-miss method of making vinegar by allowing
sugar and water to ferment is not wise. The fermentation of sugar to alcohol
by wild yeast is followed by a conversion of the alcohol to acetic acid
by wild bacteria. Chances of failure or undesirable tastes and aromas are
high. Control the process by using great care in cleanliness and introducing
chosen yeast and bacteria to obtain quality vinegar every time.
Winemaking suppliers list acetobacter as "mother" or vinegar culture. These cultures convert alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar). Most suppliers sell red and white wine vinegar cultures. Some sell cider, malt and mead cultures as well. Any culture may be combined with any type alcohol to produce vinegar.
Vinegar should contain at least 5% acid as required for preserving or pickling. Specialty vinegar contains acid as high as 7%. Beer containing 5.5% alcohol will yield about 5% acid. Wine containing 11 to 12% alcohol must be diluted to 5.5 to 7% alcohol before using it to make vinegar.
Acid test kits, sold by winemaking suppliers, are used to determine the acidity of vinegar. Acid tests are easy to perform and instructions come with the kit.
Sanitize utensils and containers that will touch the vinegar by soaking them for 20 minutes in a solution of 2 tablespoons chlorine laundry bleach to 1 gallon water. Rinse everything well with hop tap water. Hot tap water is relatively sterile after being held at high temperatures for several hours in the hot water heating tank.
Vinegar Method I
3 measures beer, ale or vinegar stock (5.5 to 7% alcohol) 1 measure vinegar culture with active bacteria
Vinegar leaches molecules from iron and aluminum. Use sanitized glass, enamel, stainless steel or stoneware containers less than two-thirds full. Cover the container with a cloth or stopper it with cotton to keep insects out, while allowing air to freely reach the stock. Store the mixture in a dark place.
Temperatures between 80 and 85 degrees are ideal. Low or fluctuating temperatures slow the process. At 75 to 85 degrees F, it will take 6 to 8 weeks for conversion. At 85 to 90 degrees F, it can take 4 to 6 weeks for conversion. Temperatures over 95 degrees F slow conversion; above 140 degrees F, the bacteria die.
An acetic film called "mother" will form. This smooth, leathery, grayish film becomes quite thick and heavy. It should not be disturbed. It often becomes heavy enough to fall and is succeeded by another formation. If the mother falls, remove and discard it. An acid test will indicate when all of the alcohol is converted to vinegar. Part of the vinegar may be withdrawn and pasteurized. The remaining unpasteurized vinegar may be used as a culture to start another batch. Living bacteria are in the liquid. A piece of the mother is not necessary to start a new batch.
Add beer or diluted wine to the culture every 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the temperature maintained and when most of the alcohol is converted to vinegar (as determined by an acid test). Adding more alcohol to the culture keeps it alive, prevents spoilage and increases the quality of vinegar. If unpasteurized vinegar is exposed to oxygen without alcohol present, bacteria can convert the vinegar to carbon dioxide and water.
Vinegar Method II
2 measures dry wine (11 to 12% alcohol) 1 measure water (boiled 15 minutes and allowed to cool) 1 measure vinegar culture with active bacteria Follow the directions in Method I. Purchased wine can be used, but some commercial wines contain sulfites or preservatives that could kill the vinegar bacteria.
Vinegar Method III (For winemakers only)
Wine containing less than 10% alcohol is subject to spoilage. This formula to make 7% alcohol is an ideal vinegar stock. Follow good winemaking procedures. When the fermentation is complete (specific gravity 1.000 or below) this low-alcohol wine can be converted to vinegar as directed in Method I.Homemade wine
1 1/2 pounds weight honey (specific gravity 1.050)
yeast nutrient or energizer (as package directs)
4 teaspoons acid blend (or 7.5 ppt tartaric acid with an acid test kit)
1/4 teaspoon tannin
add water to equal 1 gallon
To preserve vinegar, add 3 campden tablets per gallon of vinegar or Heat the vinegar to 155 degrees F and hold the temperature for 30 minutes. After pasteurizing vinegar add one tablespoon 80-proof vodka to each gallon and age it. If desired to enhance the bouquet, up to one cup oak or beech chips may also be added. Pasteurized or sulphited vinegar can no longer produce more vinegar. Pasteurizing kills vinegar baceria and prevents the formation of "mother" which could lead to spoilage. Pasteurized vinegar keeps indefinitely when tightly capped and stored in a dark place at room temperature. Temperatures above 160 degrees F cause a loss of acidity, flavor and aroma.
Vinegar has a strong, sharp bite when first made. It becomes mellow when aged. The esters formed during aging, like those in wine, develop after a period of six months or more when stored at a cool, steady temperature (50 to 60 degrees F is ideal). This undisturbed rest also allows suspended solids to fall, making the vinegar clear and bright. Siphon the clear, aged vinegar off the deposit of solids into sanitized bottles. Introduce as little oxygen as possible. Winemaking suppliers sell attractive vinegar bottles. Use corks or plastic caps to avoid vinegar contact with metal. If corks are used, the necks of the vinegar bottles should be dipped several times into melted wax to form an air-tight seal. The quality of vinegar improves for up to two years and then gradually declines. Fermented vinegar can be sold without the special permits or licenses required for alcoholic beverages. It costs the same as a good bottle of wine.
Beer & Winemaking Supplies, Inc.
154 King Street
Northampton MA 01060
(The only source I've seen for mead vinegar cultures)
114-O Freeland Lane
Charlotte NC 28217
P O Bx 33525
Seattle WA 98133
87 Larkspur St
San Rafael CA 94901