Step by Step to make apple cider vinegar at home.
Step 1 - Make or buy your apple cider or apple juiceApple juice or apple cider is the starting point for making apple cider vinegar. You can make your own, or buy it ready made, fresh, bottled or frozen. You can use a mechanical or steam juicer to produce the juice / cider. To make your own juice (which is the same as plain unfermented apple cider), see this page. Keep in mind that you want to select sweet apples, like Fuji, Delicious, Mutsu, Gala, etc. Green, unripe and unsweet apples (like Granny Smith) do not have enough sugar to make good cider vinegar.
Tips about selecting apples:Apples used for cider don't have to be flawless. They do, however, have to be free from spoilage. You can use blemished apples and small sized apples. You can mix apple varieties together or use all one variety. The only rule is to cut out any spoilage areas on otherwise good apples. Spoiled areas will cause the juice to ferment too rapidly and will ruin the cider. Don't use apples that appear brown, decayed or moldy. Apples should be firm and ripe. Green, undermature apples cause a flat flavor when juiced. The best cider comes from a blend of sweet, tart and aromatic apple varieties. A bushel of apples yields about 3 gallons of juice.
Step 2 - Make your starter yeast
Adding yeast to activate fermentation is not essential, but will speed up the process and can produce a higher quality. Special cultivated yeasts are available for this purpose at wine-making shops and biological labs but bread yeasts are not recommended. To make a starter, crumble one cake of yeast into one quart of cider and mix. This makes enough starter for 5 gallons of cider; double the recipe proportionately when making more.
Steps 3 - Making Alcohol and Acetic Acid
Pour all of the juice or cider into one or more containers to about three-quarters capacity; do not close the lids on the containers. Instead, cover the openings with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band or string.
Step 4 - Store out of direct light, but some place with constant temperature
Stir the mixtures daily, making sure the cheesecloth is put back in place. Keep the containers away from direct sunlight and maintain the temperature at 60 to 80 degrees F.
Step 5 - Keep stirring daily, monitoring and tasting for the next 3 to 4 weeks
Full fermentation will take about 3 to 4 weeks. Near the end of this period, you should notice a vinegar-like smell. Taste samples daily until the desired strength is reached.
Step 4 - FilterMother of vinegar
When the vinegar is fully fermented, filter the liquid through several layers of fine cheesecloth or filter paper; a coffee filter works well for this. This removes the mother of vinegar, shown at right, preventing further fermentation or spoilage of the product. Mother of vinegar is completely harmless and the surrounding vinegar does not have to be discarded because of it. It can be filtered out using a coffee filter, used to start a bottle of vinegar, or simply left in and ignored.
Step 6 - Done! Storing Your Vinegar
The vinegar is now ready for storage in separate, capped containers. Stored vinegar will stay in excellent condition almost indefinitely if it is pasteurized. To pasteurize, heat the vinegar before pouring it into sterilized bottles, or bottle, then place in a hot water bath. In both cases, the temperature of the vinegar must reach at least 140 degrees F to pasteurize the product, and should not exceed 160 degrees F. Use a cooking thermometer to ensure the correct temperature is met. Cool the containers and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight.