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How can I turn excess wine into delicious wine vinegar at home? For those who have done it, are there any useful tips to get the best results?

I do not have access to any "mother of vinegar" starter culture, and am not likely to spend money on it; however, I DO have a well-stocked home kitchen and a lot of patience.

Edit: To be more specific about my questions

  • How long should it take to ferment, and when do I give up if it's not vinegary?
  • Do I need to add sugar/water for low-sweetness or high-alcohol wines?
  • How do I collect Mother of Vinegar for use in fresh batches?
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With that many bullets, why not split this into multiple questions? –  baka Sep 7 '11 at 2:36
    
I could do that, but I think for now I'll cut some bullets out –  BobMcGee Sep 10 '11 at 18:47

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

My accidental vinegar just happened, and I have been able to propagate it by pouring the last few teaspoons from one bottle into the next (after drinking half of the next bottle).

It goes pretty slow using an open bottle (too little circulation) but it does go. I open the bottle every day or so and swish the contents around. It takes about 1 weak to even start smelling vinegary, and circa one month to really develop.

I've been sticking with the same variety of wine and not trying to diddle the sugar content.

I still have not developed a mat-like mother, but there does seem to be a culture there. I'm on the fourth generation now.

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Although you can hope that the right bacteria will get from the air into a bottle of wine you left open, you will get quicker and more reliable results using unpasteurized cider vinegar. Unpasteurized means there should still be plenty of the needed acetobacter.

Pour your vinegar half and half with red wine in a container that you leave open (but with cheesecloth to prevent bugs and all to get inside) and let it sit in a dark spot 2-4 weeks.

Different sources recommend using solution with a 5-7% alcohol content, so any wine (typically ≤15%) diluted by half with vinegar should be fine.

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Wine becomes vinegar when in contact with oxygen. To speed up the process, if you are worried that bacterias would start growing, I would try to pour the wine in a larger ovenware and cover with a cloth. This should give result quicker than just leaving the wine in an open bottle.

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The trick to making vinegar is the container. Place the wine in a plastic bottle and make a hole just above the wine (no sense in making a hole under the wine...). Make another hole opposite the first one, but on a higher level.

Place the container in a dry and dark spot and wait. When it smells like vinegar, you're done.

The trick with the holes creates a current that aerates the wine.

I've never done it myself, but an enologist told me.

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Acetobacter are aerobic, and not a whole lot of stuff can live in a greater than 10% alcohol solution, so you might be able to get away with putting the wine into an open-mouthed container and letting it sit out for a few days, to get going. You might cover it with a cheesecloth to keep dust and mold out. Of course, there's no guarantee that you won't pick up some other bacteria or wild yeast in the process.

Some sour beers have an acetic character to them, but I just looked at the Wyeast and White Labs web sites, and neither of them sell straight Acetobacter.

Aren't there some vinegars that are sold still alive, with some mother culture in the bottle?

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So, what would I do to wine that is 12-15% alcohol.... dilute it down or give it more time to ferment? –  BobMcGee Sep 3 '11 at 18:02
    
According to Wild Brews from Jeff Sparrow, Acetobacter's alcohol tolerance is ~18%, and it prefers a temperature range from 70-110F. You may be able to just set the wine out in a carafe or beaker with a cheesecloth over the top at room temperature for a few weeks. –  baka Sep 3 '11 at 18:26
    
So, if I dilute it down a little to accelerate fermentation, am I likely to get problems with other bacteria growing in there? –  BobMcGee Sep 3 '11 at 18:51
    
Maybe. pH may be an issue as well. The conventional wisdom regarding wild fermentation is that nothing that can really hurt you will live in the harsh environment in a wine or beer. Worst case, you'll make something that tastes bad. Try it and see what happens. –  baka Sep 3 '11 at 18:59
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Bragg's apple cider vinegar says their mother of vinegar is not filtered out. –  Erik Olson Sep 6 '11 at 20:13

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