When I first stepped into the world of making my own vinegar, information and tutorials were scarce. It’s an old skill, one that very few of us understand or practice in our modern homes.
Truth be told, if it wasn’t for several vintage cookbooks I sourced at my local library, I wouldn’t be making or teaching other people how to ferment fruit (or in this case, grapes) into vinegar!
That’s what I’m here for today. In this tutorial, I’m going to teach you exactly what grape vinegar is and also, how to make it in your kitchen!
What Is Grape Vinegar?
Many people feel confused when it comes to grapes and the vinegar-making process. They often assume that wine vinegar and grape vinegar are one and the same. However, this just isn’t true. The creation process is different for each. And the flavor profile differs greatly!
Now I’m not a wine maker, but I did do my research and this is what I discovered.
How Wine Vinegar Is Made
Wine vinegar is made from finished, red or white wine. To transform wine into vinegar, all you have to do is expose it to airflow. That’s right! The air in your home carries a group of natural, airborne bacteria called acetobactors. Once they are caught on the surface of the wine, they go to work, transforming the alcohol content to acetic acid.
It can take months, but eventually (thanks to airborne bacteria), wine will be converted to a very acidic, tangy, wine vinegar!
How You Make Grape Vinegar
Grape vinegar is made from the juice of fresh pressed grapes. To make your own grape vinegar, all you need is juice, a food grade container for fermenting and a breathable, cloth cover that allows airflow to carry airborne organisms to the surface of your grape juice.
From there, the fermenting magic just happens! I dive deeper into the particulars below. All the home brewer needs to do is wait, check on the juice and troubleshoot if any issues arise. If all goes well, a fresh tasting, tangy grape vinegar is created in just a few month’s time!
How to Make Grape Vinegar
Now that you understand the difference between a wine vinegar and a fresh grape vinegar, let’s get into the particulars of making the latter!
Step 1: Harvest Your Grapes
When harvesting grapes for your vinegar making attempt, choose clusters that are fully ripe! These grapes will have the highest sugar content and make the most flavorful vinegar.
To the best of my knowledge, grape varieties don’t matter. As long as they have natural sugar, you shouldn’t have any problem fermenting their juice into vinegar.
Step 2: Extract Juice from Your Grapes
There are several ways you can extract juice from your grapes. If you have a steam juicer, it does an excellent job. You can use an electric juicer if you’re dealing with seedless grapes (don’t do it with seedy types; they’ll make crazy amounts of foam).
But I actually recommend a simpler method.
Line a large kitchen bowl with a flour sack tea towel. After rinsing your grapes under running water, remove them from their stems. Don’t worry if you crush the fruit as you handle it, or if you get some small stems in the mix. It really won’t affect anything!
Once you’ve run out of grapes or filled the bowl 2/3 of the way, it’s time to break up your fruit. You can use clean hands or use an old school potato masher.
It can be a sloppy task, but once you’ve turned all the grapes into a juicy, pulpy mess, it’s time to collect the juice! Do this by knotting the 4 corners of your cloth together.
Hang the bundle where grape juice can drip into the bowl below. And when the dripping stops? You’ll have a raw grape juice, ready for fermenting!
Step 3: Place Your Juice In a Fermenting Container
Because your grape juice will eventually turn into an acidic product, it’s important that you use a food grade container for the fermenting process. I like to use wide mouth glass jars and also, small Ohio stoneware crocks.
Pour your grape juice into a food safe container. And instead of putting a lid in place, cover the mouth with a cloth, paper towel or coffee filter. Be sure to fasten it down with a rubber band or tightly tied string. This will allow airborne organism to reach the surface of the juice, all the while keeping dirt and pesky fruit flies away from your juice!
It will also allow your ferment to release carbon dioxide in the first phase of fermentation (see step 4).
Step 4: Leave It to Work In Proper Temperatures
Leave your juice to sit in a room that is no cooler than 60F (16C) and no hotter than 80F (26C). The airborne organisms responsible for converting your juice to vinegar are sensitive to temperatures.
If they are too cold, they won’t go into action. And if they are too hot? The wrong organisms will take over and spoil the batch. Should your home be too warm for fermenting during the hot summer months, extract the juice, freeze it and ferment at a later date, after outdoor temperatures have cooled down.
Step 5: The Fermenting Phases
As your grape juice sits, it will go through two phases of fermentation. The first is a result of natural, airborne yeasts, while the second phase takes place due to airborne bacteria. Let me give you a breakdown of how it works!
Phase 1: The Alcohol Phase
In the first stage of fermentation, the air carries natural yeasts to the surface of your ferment. Once captured, they go into action and begin consuming the natural sugars found within your grape juice. As they feed, they convert the sugar to alcohol (the alcohol content is very low). While the yeasts do their work, they will also create and release carbon dioxide, which is another reason you want a breathable cover on your container!
The first phase of fermentation is evidenced by the tiny bubbles that appear on the walls of your fermenting container. They may even show on the surface of your liquid, and a layer of bubbly foam may appear. If it does, you’ll want to skim it off. Oh, don’t worry! It’s not harmful, but it may give mold opportunity to grow and that’s something you want to avoid!
After a few weeks, your fruit juice will omit a light, alcohol-like aroma. Natural yeasts will feed and thrive until they have consumed all the natural sugars in your grape juice. After this, they die off.
Phase 2: The Acetic Acid Phase
Several weeks after the bubbles disappear, you’ll notice a slightly sour aroma when you check your fruit juice. This is an indicator that airborne acetobactors (acetic acid bacteria) have arrived on the scene! This group of bacteria transforms the alcohol content to acetic acid, the thing that makes vinegar what it is!
Most of the time, this stage takes 3-5x longer than the first phase. Be patient!
Step 6: How to Tell When Your Grape Vinegar is Ready
There is no sure way to tell when your grape juice has been fully converted to vinegar. You can taste it. Smell it. Guess at whether or not it’s finished! But here’s the best test I’ve found.
When your vinegar smells and tastes sour, seal 1-2 C of the liquid in a glass jar or bottle. Make sure you have a tight fitting lid (or cork) and then let it sit at the back of your kitchen counter for 2-3 days.
Break the seal. Was there a release of carbon dioxide? If so, your vinegar is still working and isn’t ready to be sealed. Leave it for another 2 weeks, then test again.
No release? It’s ready to be bottle (or jarred) and used!
Step 7: How to Bottle Grape Vinegar
Because vinegar is an acidic substance, it is corrosive. Be sure to store it in a food grade container! Glass is ideal. I use canning jars, old whiskey jugs and wine bottles I got at a garage sale.
Also be aware that vinegar will slowly eat away at tin or metal lids. If used, you may end up with unwanted substances in your vinegar.
When using glass canning jars for vinegar storage, I recommend buying a set of wide mouth, white canning lids. They also come in standard mouth size.
And the jugs and bottles? Well, corks will do just fine!
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Step 8: Tips for Storing Grape Vinegar in Your Home
Due to it’s acetic acid content, grape vinegar is a shelf stable product and needs no refrigeration. You can keep it in a kitchen cupboard. On the pantry shelf. In a cold room or root cellar.
If stored at room temperature, the flavor will start mellowing out after about 1 year. You’ll lose some of the snap and zing that comes with freshly made vinegar. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t use it in the home!
It should keep for up to 2 years. But trust me. If you like tangy flavors, you won’t be able to keep it around that long!
Where to Go For Further Help
Now I know there was a lot of information packed into this blog post! If you want a comprehensive guide on making fruit vinegars and also using them in the home, be sure to check out my eBook by clicking on this link here.
Of course, you can always leave me your questions and comments below. I’ll get back to you with the best answer I have on how to make grape vinegar!
Louis Bam says
I see you answer all comments so i decided to take a chance and see if you will reply.
I contacted a cellar now and asked if i could buy grape juice from them and the winemaker asked if its OK if it has sulfur in?
Is that OK?
Thanks for the info
Hi there! I haven’t worked with grape juice that has sulfur added in. I believe sulfur inhibits the activity of certain yeast types, but whether or not it would prevent the wild yeasts responsible for fermenting grape juice into vinegar, I dont know! Sorry I cant be more helpful. I would maybe purchase a small amount and try? Let me know how it goes if you do! 🙂
Ann Bone says
Hello . I’ve been fermenting our grapes . 2 jars are a nice straw color they have some white mould round the jar but very little . The 3 rd jar has changed to an orange colour . It dosnt smell bad just different . Gas it gone off do you think ?
With fermenting, things usually smell bad if they’re off. Try tasting some and see…if the flavor isnt yucky, the color change might be because of oxidization.
Hello! Thank you for the instructions! Mine bubbled a lot and moulded…a few times. It is also very hard to remove all of the bubbles!
Isnit still ok to continue once it’s been scrapped off, or once it moulds it’s no good?
I would recommend cleaning the surface really well and then changing fermenting containers. See if that helps with the mold. If not, I would probably throw it out!
Thank you very much for the reply! I followed your advice which helped. I have another problem now that it is evaporating very quickly – there’s maybe a 10th of what I started with. Any suggestions please for what I could do – and why this happened? Thank you!
In my e-book and digital course, I give you several tips that help avoid evaporation. In your case, try placing a lid on top of your cloth cover, but don’t fasten it down. It will help until your vinegar is ready to be bottled.
Not sure if this a redundant question , but I filtered my juice through a sieve and noticed this morning (I put the liquid in the jar last night) that the liquid has separated into two layers. One seems to be flint that was left over from the skins. Will this cause any problems for the fermentation?
I highly recommend filtering the juice through a cloth to strain out any solids that are present! The surface of your juice should be clear of any grape skins or solid bits. Otherwise, they most certainly will mold and can quickly spoil a batch.
I tried to make grape vinegar this autumn – I didn’t have a recipe so I went the same way I always do apple cider vinegar: fruit, water and a bit of sugar. But otherwise the method is the same.
However, there is layer of a bit foamy white-ish thing on the top and I’m not sure it’s OK. It’s def not the mother (I know what that looks like from making ACV enough), so I don’t know…. What do you think it is? Am I able to attach photos? Thank you…
Skim the white layer off and wipe the sides of your container down to remove any residue. It sounds like you have a build up of white yeast. Clear the surface and it shouldn’t return. If it begins to, just keep skimming the surface until you can bottle up your vinegar.
Will do that, thank you. It’s been two months and still smells more like alcohol, rather than vinegar. It seems, perhaps it takes longer than making ACV…. Shall I cover it with a proper lid or shall I go back to the cheesecloth?
I would stick with the cheesecloth. And if after 3 months it still smells like alcohol, you can add about 2 Tablespoons of sugar per 4 cups of juice and see if that doesn’t kick it into higher gear!
Thanks for the post, I am trying this out. I have been looking for good books on vinegar and haven’t came across much either. What vintage cookbooks did you come across that were useful?
I wish I’d written the names down, because I can’t remember them now! I know they were from the late 1800’s and touched on “proper etiquette” for the housewife as well. Sorry I can’t be of more help! If you want to learn more about vinegar, you can grab my digital books under the SHOP tab on my site. I walk you through making (and using) all kinds of fruit vinegar.
All the best,
Elias Daoud says
I asked many people in my country whose make grapes vinegar. I searching in YouTube too. Two main ideas leave the grapes as it is or by make the juice (fresh pressed grapes). I went with the second method, but my question is some told me (they are making vinegar for long years) that to cover the juice completely with a tight cover like nylon and the barrel cover or tight jars by its metallic cover. In the internet they put two methods one with this and the other is as you told us (the most) to cover the container by a breathable cover linen or thick cloth to let air and bacteria to enter this for 40 to 60 days. I tried the last year to make a vinegar by cover it well, with the barrel cover and maybe it is my mistake, I mixed the content 3 times when the bubble appeared without removing the mold (I think I didn’t find some). After 40 or 50 days the vinegar smell like light smell of vinegar and the main is fermented as to be alcohol or wine or something non vinegar. Does the covering way is the mistake or / and the mixing? I notice from your page an important information that the temperature should remain between 16 and 26 degrees Celsius. Maybe the last year it reached 28 or few days of 30.
If I cover the container with a breathable cover (double layer) leave it for 40 to 60 days breathing? (Sure, I make a wire ring to fix the cloth)
Thanks in advance
If you seal up grape juice with a tight cover and leave it to ferment, the sugars will convert to alcohol. If you leave it tightly covered, it usually stays in wine form. If you want your grape wine to turn into vinegar, it needs exposure to airflow and a group of airborne bacteria called acetobactors. This bacteria is responsible for turning alcohol content into acid which creates a vinegar.
This is why I only recommend covering your juice with a cloth or breathable cover. If you tightly seal up your grape juice, you’ll porbably get a naturally fermented grape wine.
Does that help?
Thanks so much for this informative post! I have Noah grapes which I want to find a use for. I’ve heard that they are not recommended for wine because they can have neurotoxic effects? So I was thinking to make vinegar instead. I’m assuming for the same reasons the vinegar should not be for food grade use…
does this recipe work for making vinegar for the purpose of cleaning and household use? And are there any steps or considerations I could skip if the resulting product is not intended for consumption (eg containers)?
Thank you so much!
Fruit vinegars are not often used for household cleaning, primarily because there’s no simple way to test the acetic acid in the finished product. If you are going to try and use grape juice to create a cleaning vinegar, I recommend adding sugar to the ferment (1-2 tablespoons per 4 C juice) to increase the alcohol content in the first phase of fermentation. This will give you higher levels of acetic acid in the finished product and make it “more” suitable for cleaning.
If you just want a white vinegar for cleaning, you could try and do what housewives of old did: combine sugar and water, throw in a handful of grapes or raisins to introduce natural yeasts and let that fermented into a white vinegar.
Let me know if you have more questions!
Valarie Rider says
Hi Autumn – I used a food mill on my concord grapes to separate the seeds and skins (for another recipe) and have a few cups of “juice” left that I would like to make vinegar from. Trouble is it is quite thick. I tried to run it through a sieve but it wont go through it is just too thick but really nothing to filter out. It’s kind of like as thick as a fruit syrup. Should I water it down before I start the vinegar? If so, with tap or dechlorinated water or maybe some vinegar or store bought fruit juice?
When making vinegar, you want juice that is free from solids. It sounds like your food mill pulverizes the grape solids so they slip through with the juice. You can try fermenting it, but often thick juices result in mold growth on top of your ferment. You could try watering it down and then stir in some sugar or honey (1-2 Tbs per 8 C of juice) and that should help kick start the fermenting process. And in the future, I’d avoid using the food mill for grapes and use the method I outline in this post here! It’ll hold back the solids and leave you with a pure juice for fermenting.
Best of luck,
IF the foam on top does show some mold, does it need to be tossed?
I would skim the foam/mold off, rinsing the spoon in fresh water between every dip. And changing over to a new container might be a good idea as well! Go ahead and lift off the foam every day and unless mold appears again, it should be fine. If the issue persists, I cover troubleshooting mold issues in my e-book here: https://atraditionallife.com/product/fruitvinegar/. It will give you other tips as well! Good luck!
Steven Lightfoot says
Hello, This is very helpful. I just made grape jelly, and have left over juice which I am now going to ferment and follow your process to make vinegar. My question pertains to the fact the juice was made by mashing and boiling the concord grapes (process for making grape jelly). The juice is rich purple and has a lot of solids. Is this kind of juice ok to use to make grape vinegar? Thx Steve
Absolutely! Just strain out the solids (peels or pulp if present) and fermented your juice as directed!
I am so pleased to have found your information. Thank you. I wish I was able to purchase your eBook however, I have very limited resources. I understand you must make a living as well.
Stay well and thank you for taking the time and effort required to do what you do so well.
Thank you for that! I have quite a few free tutorials on my site that have to do with making vinegar. They’ll be quite helpful if you’re looking to expand your knowledge and make more varieties.
All the best,
Hello. I want to make different fruit vinegars like pomegranate and berries and I am curious to know if it is only apple cider vinegar that produces the mother?
Also, I was wondering if I need to make my other fruit vinegars with only water or only apple cider vinegar or only water mixed with the mother (from apple cider) and then submerg my berries in it?
I’m sorry if the question looks confusing.
I think I’ve got it, but let me know if I missed something! Yes, other fruit/ berry vinegars will often make a mother culture (though not always). You don’t need to add any vinegar or mother culture to your new fruit vinegar ferments. You can if you like, but everything should be just fine with just fruit or berries and water. Does that answer your questions?
Julie Kelly says
My concord grape juice has been working away since about October 15, 2020. It went through the bubbling stage and I noticed lots of residue on the bottom so I filtered it again and put it back in the clean jar. It keeps developing a thin white substance on the top…not really mold, almost like a tiny powder. I tasted it and it is getting sour!
That’s great! The powder isn’t an issue and if things are beginning to taste sour, you’re on the right track! Congrats!
I notice more residue on the bottom. Should I filter it again or leave it alone?
It’s totally up to your personal preference! Residue won’t hurt anything. I usually leave it, but if you like, you can get a siphoning hose and lift the clear liquid off!
My vinegar has formed a mother/scoby, which is floating on the surface. Should I submerge it in the liquid, or leave it on top (it kind of forms a cap on the surface of the liquid). Thanks for the great tutorial! I used Concord grapes, which I think will make an awesome vinegar.
That’s great! You can sink it or just leave it. Doesn’t really matter! Congrats on a successful ferment!
I have lost track of how long my jar of juice has been in the cupboard. Regardless, it now has a healthy scoby on top. You don’t mention a scoby. Is that not a typical part of the process? Should I remove it and just keep going? I tasted it today and it is still pretty sour. thanks for your help!
That’s wonderful! It’s not abnormal for your vinegar to grow a mother culture, particularly when working with fruit juice that has a higher sugar content (which results in higher acetic acid levels). If you were lucky enough to grow one, keep it! So long as it remains healthy, it’s a good thing to have. 🙂
We used a blender to juice our grapes so the skin is now liquified as well. We put the entire liquid in a gallon jar and now, about 6 weeks later there is sediment on the bottom as well as on the top. There is mold on the top portion. We assume this is not working correctly due to not juicing correctly?????
In my book, I give you my favorite ways to juice grapes. Yes, pureeing fruit isn’t a good idea because it’s nearly impossible to separate particles from the juice. And they’ll forever be floating to the top (where things can mold). If the mold growth isn’t extreme yet, try skimming the top layer off and filter the remaining juice through a cotton cloth that has been folded 4-5x. Pour the juice into a clean jar and let it sit. If mold forms again, you should probably throw it out. Sorry it didn’t work out for you! Let me know if you have other questions along the way!
Thomas Robert Thompson says
I have a glass mason jar of wild grape juice that I want to turn to vineagr for hot sauce. I have a paper towel held down with a rubber band on the top. Fruit flies have began hover and landing on the top. What should I do?
As long as they can’t get into it, you don’t need to worry about your juice. In my ebook, I outline ways to control fruit flies, but for now? Use the hose on your vacuum so suck them up every morning before they become too active. Hope that helps!
Hi! I am so excited to be trying this recipe for the first time. I have 2 questions for you. I juiced my grapes and the jar has been sitting for a week on my counter. Is that ok, or should it be somewhere dark? Also, it smells great and has lots of bubbles, but the top inch or so looks to have solids that have separated and the top is foamy. They are not brown, they are the same color purple as the rest of the jar. Should I skim this off or leave it? Thanks!
Hi Amy! You don’t need to put the juice in a dark place. I only recommend that once it’s finished and you’re putting it away for long term storage. I would recommend skimming any foam or solids out. Just so mold doesnt have a landing pad! Let me know if you have any more questions!
Hi there, l followed your recipe except that l have stirred it once daily for the first week. Is that ok?
Totally! How is it coming?
Thomas Andrew HUDKINS says
Could I do a balsamic type:(i.e. from a nonalcolic must) using my personal abundance of wild Wisconsin grapes?
Thomas Andrew HUDKINS says
You know, I don’t have experience with balsamic vinegar, so I couldn’t say! All I know are fresh fruit vinegars.
Dawn R Graves says
I have Concord grapes and have already made jam. I am looking to make something this the rest. Are these grapes ones that can be used? My other question is. After making my jam. I know that some of the grapes have little worms in them. This was om first year getting grapes. So i have a lot to learn. Can i separate the grape skin from the flesh when using the old fashion way of extracting the juice from the Grapes? Thank you for your time
I’ve never used Concord grapes, but they should work as well as any other type of grape. I suppose you could pick thru and remove the skins from the flesh, but it really isn’t necessary. You’ll be straining out all the solids later on anyway! Let me know if you have more questions!
To people wondering if this grape or that grape will work… I put a bunch of grapes in an old picnic cooler with water to wash them… I never got around to taking them out… it turned into vinegar just fine.
Natural processes happen. Just stick your grape juice somewhere and leave it. It will do the rest. The reason to keep it unsealed is that the gases expelled need a place to go so the pressure doesn’t build up and explode your bottle… when everything is done, you can cap it, like the article says.
Any fruit will work.
Dan Jacobson says
So we don’t have to bother removing the skins anyway. OK.
Hi, thank you so much for posting this article! I decided to follow this recipe. Unfortunately, my grapes have been sitting in my fridge for a while and aren’t fresh. I didn’t want to throw them out so I thought I’d look into making vinegar instead. That’s when I found your article. I’ve juiced my grapes by steaming them in my instant pot and will be storing them away in the boiling room for a few months with the hopes that it will turn out okay. I’m worried though that it won’t turn out okay, since I didn’t use fresh grapes. Do you have any thoughts about this? Thanks again.
So I’ve only ever used fresh fruit for this recipe and usually, it’s been made from raw grapes. Occasionally I’ve used my steam juicer and that works well. I would *think* that your grape juice would still turn into vinegar, as long as it’s kept a room temperature! Good luck!
Johnjesselarue LaRue says
Don’t heat the grapes you are killing g the natural yeasts. You need them…esp. if you are keeping your project in an enclosed room.
Tamara Groenestein says
Hello, we are in Australia and are growing a Shiraz vineyard and have been wondering what to do with them. Have been looking into doing a vinegar do you think these will be ok?
I’m not familiar with very many grape varieties, but in order to create traditional vinegar, you need sugars and liquid. If your grapes afford these two things, you’ll be able to create vinegar from them!
john LaRue says
sure…easy don’t use spoiled wine use good wine and add vinegar “mother” for faster results the best vinegar I have made was from fresh French Corn as (syrah/shiraz)…very smooth and rich!