The pH of Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar: a diluted acid
Apple cider vinegar is produced by fermenting apple juice in a two-step process: first, the apple is converted into alcohol (hard cider), and then, in a second step the alcohol is converted into acetic acid by specialized bacterial fermentation.
Apples contain malic acid and during apple cider fermentation part of this malic acid becomes lactic acid by a process called malolactic fermentation.
Malic acid has a distinct flavor and so does lactic acid.
Apple cider vinegar contains roughly 1 part of malic acid for every 7 parts of acetic acid.
But, what is an acid?
Certain molecules (oxides, salts, acids, and alkalis among others) split apart into when dissolved in water. They break down into two components with different electrical charges known as ions.
An acid is a substance that when dissolved in water generates a positively charged ion (or cation) formed by H+ ion: a hydrogen atom without its electron.
For instance, hydrochloric acid in water dissociates as follows: HCl → H+ + Cl-.
Basic or alkaline substances when dissolved in water form a hydroxyl ion: OH-.
If an acid dissociates completely in water it is known as a strong acid (like hydrochloric acid), if only dissociates partly into its ions it is known as a "weak acid" and the solution contains water, ions, and the acid (this is the case of the acetic acid found in vinegar).
Acetic acid (whose correct name is ethanoic acid) has the following formula:
The image shows how acetic acid dissociates in water, the hydrogen proton combines with a water molecule to form a hydronium ion (H3O+).
But, what does all this have to do with pH?
pH a measure of acidity or alkalinity
pH measures the acidity (or alkalinity) of a substance.
The concept of pH was created by Sørensen in 1909, it is a measure of the concentration of H+ protons in a solution.
The "p" stands for "Potenz", German for power or concentration and the "H" stands for the hydrogen ion which, as we mentioned above, is the hallmark of an acid.
The formula used to calculate the pH value is:
pH = -log10[H+]
For alkalis, the concentration of the hydroxyl ion: OH- is used instead of the hydrogen ion.
The formula for weak acids like vinegar's acetic acid is a bit more complicated, but it follows the same general concept.
It has a logarithmic scale so one unit on the scale represents a tenfold increase or decrease in acidity.
It has a scale that ranges from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline) and the midpoint value of 7 is that of a neutral solution.
The pH of apple cider vinegar
The pH value of vinegar depends on the concentration of acetic acid in it. As the U.S. government sets a minimum value of 4% acetic acid for vinegar and most vinegars have a 5% concentration, we can estimate a pH value of around 3 for a 5% strength vinegar.
For instance, Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar with 5.14% content acetic acid has a pH of 3.08.
A study that analyzed different apple cider vinegar samples reported an average pH value of 2.78 (1).
The table below is based on data from Avanija (2016) (2):
Minute Maid Lemonade
Apple Cider Vinegar
Gatorade Rain Lime
Mountain Dew Reg.
Dasani Water Regular
Surprisingly, cola drinks have a similar pH to apple cider vinegar (around 2.75).
The pH scale tells us that apple cider vinegar (pH 2,75) is over 100 times more acidic than carbonated water with a pH of 5.
Compared to regular tap water (pH range 6.5 - 8.5) apple cider vinegar is 10,000 to 1,000,000 times more acidic (due to the logarithmic scale used to measure pH).
Effects of Vinegar on Body Acidity
We discuss the Side Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar separately, but we should point out that its acidity increases the risk of dental enamel erosion.
The acidity and alkalinity of the human body
Our bodies can only function within a certain pH range, which is slightly alkaline (ph 7.4). The enzymes that catalyze our body's biochemical reactions can only work under special pH conditions so any changes in pH are quickly adjusted so that the balance is stable.
This process is known as "homeostasis" from the Greek words "homo" = "the same" and "stasis" = "standing still".
The body's pH can't be modified
Can the acidic pH of vinegar influence your body's overall acid-alkaline balance?
No, it can't, but the homeostatic forces cand disrupt some natural processes trying to restore the balance if you go overboard with your vinegar ingestion.
Lhotta wrote about a patient (in 1998) who was hospitalized after her health failed due to excessive ingestion of apple cider vinegar (3).
The 28-year-old woman had been drinking just over one cup of apple cider vinegar a day (half a pinta - 250 ml) for six years.
Her body absorbed the acetate in the intestine and the liver converted it into bicarbonate to be excreted by the kidneys, but these ions (acetate and bicarbonate) circulating in the bloodstream required extra buffering (buffering is the process by which the body neutralizes acids and alkalis) to maintain the homeostasis.
This buffering consumed calcium which was leached from her bones, provoking osteoporosis.
This is an extreme case, a normal ingestion of a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to dress your salad shouldn't disrupt your body's pH homeostasis.
Ingestion of vinegar will increase blood plasma acidity slightly as your body transports and metabolizes the acetate and excretes the bicarbonate. This will cause your urine to become more acidic as shown by Johnston (2008) (4):
The study involved individuals with diabetes who were given either commercial vinegar pills, pickles (equivalent to 1 oz. 28 g of vinegar), or vinegar (2 oz. - 56 g). Those consuming the vinegar displayed a "significantly reduced urinary pH" (their urine was more acidic) and the study concluded that "chronic Vinegar ingestion may influence hepatic function and metabolic pathways..."; meaning that it provokes an extra strain on your liver and kidneys.
This is a reminder that "Alkaline" diets entail some risks.
The dubious science behind the alkaline diet.
Learn about Apple Cider Vinegar Uses at our:
> > Apple Cider Vinegar Uses webpage
From weight loss to disinfectant and denture cleaner...
References and Further Reading
(1) Rei-Chu Chang, Hsiu Chin Lee and Andi Shau-Mei Ou, (2005). Investigation of the Physicochemical Properties of Concentrated Fruit Vinegar, Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, Vol. 13:4, 2005, 348-356
(2) Avanija Reddy et al., (2016). The pH of beverages in the United States. April 2016 Vol 147:4, 255-263 JADA
(3) Lhotta K., Höfle G., Gasser R., Finkenstedt G., (1998). Hypokalemia, Hyperreninemia and Osteoporosis in a Patient Ingesting Large Amounts of Cider Vinegar, Nephron 1998;80:242-243 https://doi.org/10.1159/000045180
(4) Carol S. Johnston, Andrea M. White, Shannon M. Kent, (2008). A Preliminary Evaluation of the Safety and Tolerance of Medicinally Ingested Vinegar in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes, Journal of Medicinal FoodVol. 11, No. 1 24 Mar 2008 https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2007.574
About this Article
Apple cider vinegar pH level, A. Whittall
©2018 Fit-and-Well.com, 11 Oct. 2018. Updated. 12 Sep. 2020. https://www.fit-and-well.com/health/apple-cider-vinegar-ph-level.html
Subject: Fit-and-Well.com. The pH of apple cider and your body's acid-alkali balance.