This article was originally featured in the March/April 2020 Zymurgy magazine. AHA members enjoy exclusive access to the Zymurgy Online archives. Not a member? Start your 30-day free trial today!
By Amahl Turczyn
Vinegar, like beer and wine, is one of the most ancient and revered food products known to civilized humanity, mainly because it resists spoilage. Nothing harmful can grow in full-strength vinegar; this is because of its high acid content rather than alcohol. Louis Pasteur was the first to discover, in 1857, that the conversion of wine to vinegar was caused by the presence of bacteria and oxygen, although it wasn’t until 1878 that Danish botanist Emile Christian Hansen correctly explained the chemical process.
In very basic terms, the alcohol created by yeast during fermentation is broken down by the bacterium Acetobacter aceti into acetaldehyde, and …