Does balsamic vinegar need to be refrigerated?
In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “does balsamic vinegar need to be refrigerated” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not the balsamic vinegar needs to be refrigerated. Moreover, we are going to discuss how alcohol is converted into acetic acid and the tips to store balsamic vinegar efficiently.
According to studies, the global vinegar market was estimated to grow more than 6.74% from 2017 to 2021. Europe was the biggest market for vinegar in 2017, followed by North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa. By the end of 2024, the global vinegar market is estimated to reach about 54,772 mt for balsamic vinegar, 13,427 mt for apple cider vinegar, 14,297 mt f or white wine vinegar, 31,720 mt for red wine vinegar, 7,539 mt for rice vinegar, 31,720 mt for red wine vinegar and 8,541 mt for malt vinegar (1).
So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.
Does balsamic vinegar need to be refrigerated?
So let me get this straight, balsamic vinegar does not need to be refrigerated as the vinegar itself is a preservative. But it is also a fact that whether or not the vinegar needs to be refrigerated depends upon the ingredients that were used to make it.
So we can settle it this way, if you are using the balsamic vinegar to dress your salads, then it is good to keep it refrigerated so you will add a touch of tangy cool flavor when you add it to the salad. On the other hand, if you want to use it as a part of your marinades, or sauces, you can store it in a cool, dry, and dark corner of your pantry away from direct sunlight and heat.
The commercially prepared bottle of balsamic vinegar can last for about 3-5 years in the pantry or the kitchen cabinet.
One thing to keep in mind is that there is no doubt that refrigeration significantly decreases the rate of oxidation reaction and thus increases the shelf life of the balsamic vinegar. So whether you want to refrigerate your bottle of balsamic acid or not, that’s totally up to you. There isn’t any hard and fast rule about it.
How acetic acid is formed from alcohol?
Truth be told the word vinegar is derived from the French words vin aigre which roughly translates as sour wine.
Alcoholic and acetous fermentation are two fermentation processes that are used for vinegar production. Alcoholic fermentation is a fast process in which complex sugars are generally depleted within three weeks. Conversion of fermentable sugars into ethanol is done through the action of yeasts, usually strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. On the other hand, in acetous fermentation, ethanol is further oxidized into acetic acid by acetic acid bacteria that usually belong to the genus Acetobacter. Alcoholic and acetous fermentations are carried out under anaerobic and aerobic conditions, respectively (2).
As we all know that a yeast devouring the sugars in grape juice makes alcohol as a by-product. The same is the case with vinegar, where Acetobacter changes the alcohol present in the wine to form acetic acid. This acetic acid is the ingredient that is responsible for the characteristic sharp smell and taste of vinegar.
You can read the detailed process of vinegar production here.
Does apple cider vinegar need to be refrigerated?
While talking specifically about apple cider vinegar it is safe to store it outside the refrigerator as long as you are storing it in a cold, dark place away from direct sunlight. It can have a shelf life of 5 years, but it is recommended to be consumed within 2-3 years (4).
Like all foodstuffs, vinegar can be preserved by placing it in the refrigerator but even if chemical reactions are less rapid at lower temperatures, the process of oxidation occurs and oxygen promotes a series of chemical and enzymatic reactions that modify the vinegar (3).
Apple cider vinegar contains a considerable quantity of phenolic compounds in it which acts as a preservative and makes the apple cider vinegar last for much longer even at room temperature outside the refrigerator. Studies showed that phenolics and flavonoids from vinegar exhibited higher antimicrobial activity, especially against pathogens (6).
One thing to keep in mind is that no doubt apple cider vinegar has a lot of health benefits including its role in weight loss and boosting immunity but that does not mean that you should gulp it down like water.
Other FAQs about Vinegar which you may be interested in.
Does vinegar freeze in winter?
What does it mean when you crave vinegar?
Does white wine vinegar have alcohol in it?
Does vinegar go bad?
Like any other food material, vinegar does tend to go bad after a certain time. But what we mean by “vinegar going bad” is that the vinegar will lose its characteristic flavor or aroma or this characteristic flavor of it will be too weak.
As it is formed by the alcohol therefore it tends to lose its flavors over time. Moreover, many of the compounds that give vinegar its characteristic flavor are volatile and are prone to evaporation.
Commercially prepared cider, malt, balsamic, rice, wine, and flavored vinegars are safe indefinitely. However, over time, the appearance and flavor of non-white vinegars may start to change. Most of these changes are harmless if the vinegar has been stored properly (4).
If you see some sediments floating in the vinegar it is better to filter them out. Moreover, the change in color of vinegar indicates that it has started to lose its quality. Moreover, the acidity of the vinegar will also decrease with time owing to the water absorbed from the air in it.
In addition, most of the commercial vinegars are bottled in PET bottles, which dont have efficient barriers against light or gases. This reduces the shelf life of the products significantly, as light and oxygen are important factors in determining the quality of vinegar during storage (3).
Tips to store balsamic vinegar properly
- Balsamic vinegar is acidic and has a low pH, therefore it should be kept in mind never to store it in a metallic bottle like those made of brass, tin, or steel or the vinegar will react with them and have a corrosive impact on these metallic bottles. It is better to store it in a bottle or container made up of glass or plastic with glass being the safest choice (4).
- Balsamic vinegar should be kept in a cool, dry, and dark place away from direct sunlight.
- You should always close the lid of the bottle tightly once it has been opened. Never leave the bottle of balsamic vinegar without the lid.
In this brief guide, we answered the question “does balsamic vinegar need to be refrigerated” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not the balsamic vinegar needs to be refrigerated. Moreover, we discussed how alcohol is converted into acetic acid and the tips to store balsamic vinegar efficiently.
- Harahap, Iswandi. A study on the status of types of vinegar and their rules from Islamic perspective: a case study in the Malaysian market. International Islamic University Malaysia. 2020.
- Ali, Zeshan, et al. Potential uses of vinegar as a medicine and related in vivo mechanisms. Int J Vitam Nutr Res, 2016, 86, 127-151.
- Casale, Monica, et al. Study of the aging and oxidation processes of vinegar samples from different origins during storage by near-infrared spectroscopy. Analyt Chim Acta, 2006, 557, 360-366.
- Geiger,M. Vinegar shelf life and safety. 2021. Iowa State University.
- Kendall, P., and J. Rausch. Flavored vinegars and oils. Food and nutrition series. Preparation; 2000, 9, 340.
- Lekjing, Somwang, and Karthikeyan Venkatachalam. Changes in physicochemical characteristics, polyphenolics, and amino acids of wax apple cider vinegar during prolonged storage. It J Food Sci, 2021, 33, 129-141.