What Is a Mother of Vinegar, and Where Can I Find One?

You want to make vinegar at home, but you don’t know where to find a mother of vinegar? Read on!

Many vinegar recipes require only two ingredients: alcohol and a mother of vinegar.

But what is a mother of vinegar? Is it a mushroom, algae? Do you have to use one to make vinegar? Why do you need a base of alcohol? Is it the same as a kombucha scoby?

This article will explain what a mother of vinegar is made of, how to use it, and where to find one.

Go straight to the section:

What Is a Mother of Vinegar?

A mother of vinegar is a film that forms naturally on the surface of wine when left uncovered for several weeks.

When in contact with oxygen, bacteria eat the alcohol and turn it into acid. In doing so, they create a gelatinous film on the surface, the mother. Gradually, the wine turns into… sour wine. As simple as that!

Visually, a mother of vinegar looks like a gelatinous film that takes on the colour of the liquid in which it lies.

A mother of vinegar formed in red wine will therefore be reddish, while a mother of vinegar created from cider will be cream-coloured.

The Latin name for the mother of vinegar is Mycoderma aceti, which means “skin of the acid”.

Vinegar mother

Contrary to popular belief, the mother of vinegar is not algae or fungus. As with kombucha scoby, the mother of vinegar is formed of cellulose woven by bacteria.

The mother of vinegar contains mainly acetic acid bacteria (ref.). These bacteria convert alcohol into acetic acid, the scientific name for vinegar!

When we speak of “mother of vinegar”, we are also referring to the unpasteurized vinegar that the film lies in. This vinegar also contains the bacteria necessary for fermentation.

Contrary to popular belief, gelatinous film is not essential for fermentation. It is simply a by-product of vinegar production. The most important thing is that the mother is alive and well.

How to Make Vinegar With a Mother of Vinegar?

To use a mother of vinegar, you mix it with an alcoholic liquid that you want to turn into vinegar.

It is possible to turn all kinds of low-alcohol drinks into vinegar. Traditionally, vinegar is made from wine, beer, cider, fruit wine, etc. However, vinegar can also be produced by diluting strong alcohol (vodka, rum).

Alcoholic beverages containing between 6 and 8% alcohol are excellent choices to be made into vinegar. A too high alcohol content would make fermentation impossible.
To allow the fermentation of vinegar, it is necessary to ensure that enough microorganisms are added.

The easiest way to do this is to add 20% of the mother (including the liquid) to the volume of alcohol.

Steps to start a vinegar fermentation:

  1. Measure the volume of alcohol (in ml) to be fermented.
  2. Multiply this volume by 20% to find the volume of the mother to be added (in ml).
  3. Add this quantity of mother of vinegar to the alcohol.
  4. Cover with a cloth secured with a rubber band.
  5. Let it ferment for several months.

For example, if you have 1L (1000ml) of cider, add 200ml of unpasteurized vinegar to inoculate it.

Fermentation takes place at room temperature and in the open air. The mother of vinegar needs to breathe! However, the jar should be covered with a tight cotton cloth to prevent the invasion of fruit flies.

Note that any mother of vinegar can be used to ferment alcohol. However, the mother of vinegar can influence the quality and taste of the vinegar produced.

For example, if you have a mother of vinegar fermented from beer, you can still add it to the cider. However, your cider vinegar will have malty notes.

Want to learn more? Read How To Make Vinegar.

Apples and Vinegar

Can One Make Vinegar From Apple Juice?

No, it is not possible to transform fruit juice directly into vinegar! It is necessary to go through the alcohol step.

If you try to skip the alcoholic fermentation step by adding a mother of vinegar directly to juice, the fermentation will most likely go wrong.

Steps to turn apple juice into vinegar:

  1. Ferment the juice into alcohol using yeast. The result is hard cider.
  2. Ferment the cider into vinegar using a mother.

The principle applies to any sweet liquid. The bacteria in the mother need alcohol to create the vinegar.

Is the Mother of Vinegar Essential for Making Vinegar?

It is possible to make vinegar without a mother of vinegar.

Acetic acid bacteria are present in the air. If alcohol is left in the open air, it will sooner or later be contaminated by acetic acid bacteria and naturally turn into vinegar.

Acetic acid bacteria are the nightmare of wine producers!

So, using a mother of vinegar has several advantages:

  • It speeds up the fermentation
  • It gives more consistent results
  • It offers a better success rate

Differences between Mother Vinegar and Mother Kombucha

What Is the Difference Between the Mother of Vinegar and Kombucha Scoby?

Although they look similar, kombucha scobys and mothers of vinegar are not the same or interchangeable.

The kombucha scoby contains bacteria and yeast adapted to the fermentation of sweet tea. It conducts two fermentations simultaneously:

  • Fermentation of sugar into alcohol (yeast)
  • Fermentation of alcohol into acid (lactic and acetic acid bacteria)

The kombucha scoby is added directly to a sweet liquid. Over time, the liquid will become fizzy and tangy. A delicious kombucha vinegar can be made if the fermentation is allowed to continue.

The mother of vinegar, on the other hand, contains mainly bacteria. It must therefore be added to already fermented alcohol.

A mother of vinegar could not be used to make kombucha, but a kombucha scoby could be used to turn alcohol into vinegar.

Where to Find a Mother of Vinegar?

Mothers of vinegar can be bought or gifted.

If you have friends who make vinegar, they will be happy to give you one! Otherwise, there are online communities that specialize in sharing mothers of vinegar.

No mother of vinegar in your area? Buy a kombucha scoby, or a jun scoby. Their bacteria will do a great job of turning alcohol into vinegar.

Another alternative is to use unpasteurized vinegar. Look for vinegar marked “raw” or “with mother”. This vinegar will be perfect for inoculating your fermentation.

The gelatinous disk is not essential to start the fermentation. One will form on the surface of the liquid over time.

Enjoy your exploration!

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