Balsamic vinegar (acto balsamico) is a famous type of vinegar produced in Modena, Italy. The process of making balsamic vinegar can last from 10 years to more than a century. Taking into consideration the fact that the vinegar is stored for years before being fully ready, you might wonder – does it ever expire?
Balsamic vinegar generally doesn’t expire, if made traditionally. Commercially made balsamic vinegar has a “best used by” date, but it still has a relatively long expiration date if stored properly. Balsamic vinegar usually only goes bad if not properly stored.
In today’s article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about balsamic vinegar going bad or past its expiration date. You are going to find out whether balsamic vinegar has an expiration date, how long you can use it for and how you should properly store it. We are also going to tell you if there are any health risks associated with overusing it and some other interesting information if you keep reading ‘til the end.
Briefly – What Is Balsamic Vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar (aceto balsamico) is a type of vinegar produced from grapes and not alcohol, as is usual. It has a very specific production method; the grape must (freshly squeezed grape juice with all the skins, seeds and stems) produced from the grapes is stored in special wooden caskets for years. The period can last anywhere from 12 to more than a hundred years, during which the vinegar becomes more concentrated and the flavor more intensive. Balsamic vinegar is a very famous condiment known globally for its dark color, specific flavor and frequent use in a variety of dishes.
Will Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad?
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Expiration
Balsamic vinegar is one of those rare foods that can last for years without going bad, but only under the condition that it has been stored properly. There is also a distinction between traditionally produced balsamic vinegar and commercially available products, but more on that in the following paragraphs.
First, let us talk about traditional balsamic vinegar. This is balsamic vinegar produced in Modena, Italy, using the above-described method of production. Such vinegar takes a year to become “ripe”, it is not always readily available, and is generally more expensive than other types of (balsamic) vinegar.
Traditional balsamic vinegar does not go bad if stored properly, which is actually logical when you consider that it might already be more than a century old. A general expiration date is set at 20+ years, but the fact is that you can use it even longer if you’re storing it properly. This is one of the amazing things about balsamic vinegar, as you can be sure you can use it whenever it suits you if you’re taking care of it properly.
Will Commercially Produced Balsamic Vinegar Expire?
As far as the commercially available balsamic vinegar is concerned, things stand a bit differently. Namely, this balsamic vinegar is not produced in the same way and is of lesser quality, meaning that the aforementioned rules on going bad don’t apply the same way here.
These widely available vinegars usually have an expiration date on the bottle, unlike traditional balsamic vinegar. The expiration period here is also relatively long when compared to most foods, but is significantly shorter when compared to traditional balsamic vinegar.
As for how and when you can use it, there is an unwritten rule that commercially available balsamic vinegar can be used for up to three years after the expiration date. Still, it is a good idea to watch out for all the warning signs your vinegar may have gone bad (outlined below).
Will Flavored Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad?
Before we conclude, we wanted to share that most of the rules that apply to commercially available balsamic vinegar also apply to flavored balsamic vinegar, yet another sub-type. Both the average, commonly available balsamic vinegar and the flavored balsamic vinegars are commercially produced products available in most grocery stores. This is why they don’t have such a long expiration period and will usually go bad after some three years or so.
What Is The Best Way To Store Balsamic Vinegar?
The best way to store balsamic vinegar is to put it in a dark place, such as a pantry. The sun won’t make the vinegar go bad, but it will significantly decrease its nutritive characteristics. What you need to do after finding a location is to close the lid of the bottle your vinegar is stored in. If you properly close the bottle, you needn’t worry about it going bad. On the other hand, if you keep it open or you seal the bottle improperly, you’re almost certainly going to see it go bad after a while.
How Can You Tell If Balsamic Vinegar Has Gone Bad?
Well, it’s relatively easy to do so. Even though it can last for decades, an improperly stored bottle of balsamic vinegar will eventually go bad. Some signs that that has happened are the presence of mold on the bottle, significant discoloration, a strong odor and a change in how it tastes (it’s usually stronger and more unpleasant). These are some of the most common signs of balsamic vinegar going bad, but do note that whenever you notice something strikingly different about an open bottle of balsamic vinegar, it is probably best not to risk using it. It is probably safer for you and your health.
The rules for storing balsamic vinegar also apply here. If you do not respect all the necessary rules, your balsamic vinegar might even go bad before its expiration date.
What Happens If Your Balsamic Vinegar Becomes Cloudy?
There are also several other things worth mentioning here. The first one concerns the vinegar becoming cloudy, which is a common phenomenon when balsamic vinegar is concerned. But, unlike with some other liquids, the vinegar becoming cloudy is not an issue and you can still use it normally.
What Does It Mean If The Vinegar’s Flavor Weakens?
The second thing concerns the taste of the vinegar. Although the vinegar won’t go bad, you might notice it has lost its original, rich flavor after a while. This is also a normal thing, but it’s a “warning sign” that you shouldn’t rely on one open bottle of balsamic vinegar for too long. After two or three years, the quality of an opened vinegar bottle will start to deteriorate slowly and you won’t be enjoying your favorite condiment to its fullest.
How Does Temperature Affect Balsamic Vinegar?
As far as heat is concerned, it won’t make the vinegar go bad, but if you keep exposing your vinegar to sunlight or heat, it might evaporate faster thus losing a lot of its quality. It will remain completely usable, but it won’t taste the same, nor have the same level of quality as it had in the beginning.
Cold, on the other hand, doesn’t suit the vinegar and it can make it go bad, i.e., become unusable. This is why you should never put your opened bottle of balsamic vinegar in a refrigerator, as it will quickly ruin it by disallowing it to go through its natural process of evaporation.
So, as you can see, the best thing you can do to your bottle of balsamic vinegar is to store it in a dark place, keep the room temperature at bay and close the bottle properly.
What Are The Health Risks Of Using Expired Balsamic Vinegar?
The general consensus out there is that you shouldn’t have any serious health issues when using expired balsamic vinegar. We haven’t found any information on any such risks and it is probably because balsamic vinegar lasts for such a long time. Thus, the chances of it getting so bad that it might harm you are minimal (excluding the situations of improper storage, but then you’ll certainly know that you have a bad condiment in front of you).
Such products have such a long expiration date that it is not likely that they will go bat at all, let alone cause any health problems. Plus, there is the fact that most properly used vinegars can be used for years after its expiration date. Of course, if you spot or smell anything funny, it may be best to avoid using it.
What Does It Mean If Balsamic Vinegar Has Sediment?
The storing of balsamic vinegar should always be done in cool and dark places. But, even stored like that, sometimes you may notice sediment in the bottle. Don’t worry about it, it is a normal and natural by-product and it is not harmful in any way. The sediment is basically fine solids that have not been completely filtered out during production.
What Are The Black Or Dark Flecks In Balsamic Vinegar?
As we said before, it is very improbable that your balsamic vinegar has gone bad, so, those black or dark flecks you see are probably just sediment.
That means you should just probably shake the bottle more, to distribute that sediment all over, or not shake it at all, to leave it on the bottom of the bottle. You can also try and sift it out.
My White Balsamic Vinegar Turned Brown: What Does It Mean?
Again, vinegar, doesn’t really go bad. So, you are safe in that regard. But, if your white balsamic vinegar is stored in a dark place for a long time, it will turn darker. Sediment develops and usually accumulates at the bottom of the bottle. It may also change the flavor/acidity of your vinegar – like becoming more acidic – but it should still be safe to consume.
We have shared how balsamic vinegar functions and informed you of whether it can go bad or not. Also, we included some suggestions for storing balsamic vinegar, information on the influence of different external factors and signs that your vinegar has, indeed, gone bad.