What is the formula for vinegar?

In this brief article, we will provide you with the answer to the question: “What is the formula for vinegar?”, discuss the history of vinegar, the benefits of this liquid.

What is the formula for vinegar?

Vinegar refers to brewed vinegar that is produced by fermenting grains, fruits or alcoholic drinks or by mixing and ripening them with a grain saccharified solution or fruit juice or to synthetic vinegar that is manufactured by diluting glacial acetic acid or acetic acid with drinking water. 

As a result, there are two major chemical formulae in this substance. H2O is the molecular formula for water. Acetic acid has the structural formula CH3COOH. Vinegar is classified as a weak acid. Despite its extremely low pH, acetic acid does not entirely dissociate in water.

The molecule is produced as a metabolite by microbes, mostly bacteria, which use a carbon source in a fermentation process to produce it.The total acid content is quantified as the acetic acid content, which is, as said before, in the range of 4.0 to 29.0%. (1) 


Where does vinegar come from? 

Vinegar is the product of the acetic fermentation of slightly alcoholic liquids (less than 10–12% by volume of ethyl alcohol); transformation of alcoholic liquids into vinegar is not really fermentation, but oxidation.

Ethanol is dehydrogenated to acetic acid and the reduced cosubstrates are oxidized via the respiratory chain. Similarly, but less abundantly and in an anaerobic atmosphere, acetic acid is formed by dismutation of 2 molecules of acetaldehyde (derived in their turn from alcohol by oxidation). (2)

Vinegar may also be produced by diluting glacial acetic acid or acetic acid with drinking water. The organic acids (lactic, acetic and succinic) and volatile compounds (2-butanol, 2-propen-1-ol, 4-ethyl guaiacol and eugenol) of vinegars are significantly influenced by the maturation of the vinegar. 

It was found that vinegars with higher levels of maturation have higher concentrations of these compounds.(1)

What are the physical and chemical properties of acetic acid?

The chemical structure of the acetic acid is CH3COOH, and its molecular weight is 60.05 g/mol. It is a solution of the second most basic carboxylic acid, having only two carbon atoms in its structure. 

Acetic acid is a colorless liquid with a distinct vinegar-like odor and a sour flavor. It has a density of 1.05 g/mL and melting and boiling points of 16 and 118 degrees Celsius, respectively. It has high miscibility in water, methanol, and ethanol.

Acetic acid is a weak organic acid, which implies that when a solution of this substance is created, it is not totally dissociated in water. The pH of the acetic acid solution is not excessively low, oscillating between 2-3. (3).

What  are the types of vinegar?

There are a few types of vinegars, classified based on their raw materials and fermentation process, with different amounts of acetic acid content.

Distilled White Vinegar

Sometimes referred to as spirit, distilled, or alcohol vinegar, is prepared by acetous fermentation of an alcoholic distillate obtained from the products of alcoholic fermentation of natural sugar solutions.

When diluted to 4–5% acidity is used for pickling. (1)

Wine Vinegar

Wine vinegar, which is obtained from acetous fermentation of wine, both white and red or rose´ wines can be used to produce white or red vinegar, respectively.

Its total acidity must not be less than 6 g of acetic acid per 100 ml and residual ethanol may be present in quantities not exceeding 1.5% v/v. (1)

Rice vinegar

Rice vinegar is prepared from rice, from sake (its fermentation product), or from the byproducts of sake manufacture.This vinegar has a high amino acid content. It is light in color and has a clean, delicate flavor. It typically has an acidity level of around 5% and a pH ranging from 3.6 to 4.0. (4)

Apple cider vinegar

Cider vinegar is prepared from apple wine that has undergone acetous fermentation and is widely used as a table vinegar. It is yellowish in color and may be darkened with caramel. It has acidity of approximately 5% and pH between 2.5 to 3.0. (5)

Malt vinegar

Malt vinegar is produced without intermediate distillation from the double fermentation (alcoholic and acetous) of malted barley with or without the addition of other cereals. Malt vinegar is straw-colored and must in any case contain 4% w/v of acetic acid. (1)

Balsamic vinegar

A particular type of highly prized vinegar has been produced for centuries in the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. The raw material is grape must, preferably Trebbiano.

In traditional balsamic vinegar the total solids are very high (20–70%), acidity varies between 6 and 18% w/v acetic acid and there are large amounts of sugars, as well as numerous aromatic substances. (1)

What are the uses of vinegar?

The tangy acidity of vinegar enhances the taste of food and brings a harmonious balance to indulgent dishes. It is a staple ingredient in popular kitchen essentials such as salad dressings, marinades, sauces, mayonnaise, and ketchup.

Beyond flavor, vinegar possesses the ability to transform the texture of various foods. When employed as a marinade, it breaks down the chemical composition of proteins, effectively tenderizing meats and fish. 

Additionally, vinegar can be utilized in the creation of cottage cheese by introducing it to milk. The acidic nature of vinegar aids in separating the solid curds from the liquid whey in the milk.

One of vinegar’s remarkable qualities lies in its role as a preservation agent. Through the process of pickling, vinegar acts as a bactericidal force, extending the shelf life of perishable foods. 

Pickling involves immersing food in a brine solution comprising vinegar, water, salt, and sugar, which also imparts a distinct flavor profile to the preserved food. (6)

What are the health effects of vinegar?

Vinegar has garnered attention for its potential health benefits, with several reported advantages. 

These encompass improved digestive system functionality, appetite stimulation, antioxidant properties, aid in recovery from exhaustion, lipid level reduction, and blood pressure regulation.

Moreover, vinegar contains polyphenols, which have exhibited promising capabilities in preventing lipid peroxidation, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, inflammation, DNA damage, and certain types of cancer.

The diverse organic acids present in vinegar, particularly acetic acid, possess the ability to permeate the cell membranes of microorganisms, leading to their demise and exerting antimicrobial effects.

Additionally, vinegar may contribute to enhanced insulin sensitivity in humans, thereby displaying antidiabetic effects. Several studies have suggested the potential benefits of vinegar in diabetes treatment.

Incorporating 0.3% of dietary acetic acid from food sources has shown potential in reducing serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Acetic acid has also been reported to promote lipid homeostasis and aid in lowering cholesterol levels. (1, 7)

Other FAQs about Vinegar that you may be interested in.

What does vinegar do to rust?

What is the difference between vinegar and cleaning vinegar?

What happens when vinegar and baking soda are mixed?

What happens when you mix vinegar and bleach?


In this brief article, we provided you with the answer to the question: “What is the formula for vinegar?”, discussed the history of vinegar, the benefits of this liquid, References

  1. Chin Wai Ho, et al, Varieties, production, composition and health benefits of vinegars: A review, Food Chemistry, 221, 2017
  2. M. Plessi, VINEGAR, Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition), Academic Press, 5996-6004, 2003.
  3. Pravasi, S. D.  Acetic Acid. Encyclopedia of Toxicology, 33–35.(2014).
  4. Lee S-W, Kwon J-H, Yoon S-R, Woo S-M, Jang S-Y, Yeo S-H, et al. Quality Characteristics of Brown Rice Vinegar by Different Yeasts and Fermentation Condition. Journal of the Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition. 39, 1366–72 2010.
  5. Adriana Dabija et. al. Study concerning the quality of apple vinegar obtained through classical method. Journal of Agroalimentary Processes and Technologies  20(4), 2014.
  6. Harvard. The Nutrition Source. Vinegar, Harvard T. H. Chan. School of Public Health 677 Huntington Avenue, 2019
  7. Launholt TL, Kristiansen CB, Hjorth P. Safety and side effects of apple vinegar intake and its effect on metabolic parameters and body weight: a systematic review. Eur J Nutr. 59(6):2273-2289. 2020.