Which type of apple cider vinegar is best?

Apple cider vinegar is a popular health tonic made from fermented apples. There are several types of apple cider vinegar available, including filtered, unfiltered, organic and pasteurized. But which type is best?

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about the best type of apple cider vinegar:

  • Unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar is often considered the highest quality and most beneficial type.
  • Filtered apple cider vinegar is clearer in appearance, but still contains the healthy components of ACV like acetic acid.
  • Pasteurized apple cider vinegar has been heated to kill any bacteria, which some people prefer but can also kill beneficial probiotics.
  • Raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar may contain trace amounts of beneficial bacteria from the fermentation process.
  • Organic apple cider vinegar comes from organically grown apples, meaning no pesticides were used in production.
  • The “mother” in unfiltered apple cider vinegar refers to strands of proteins, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria that give it a murky appearance.

What is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made by fermenting the sugars from apples. First, apples are crushed and combined with yeast to convert their sugars into alcohol. Then, bacteria are added to further ferment the alcohol into acetic acid, the main active compound in vinegar.

ACV has been used for centuries as a health tonic, used topically and orally. Modern research has confirmed some of its purported benefits, suggesting ACV may be helpful for:

  • Controlling blood sugar levels
  • Improving insulin sensitivity
  • Lowering cholesterol
  • Promoting weight loss
  • Detoxification
  • Digestive health

These benefits are attributed mainly to acetic acid, which gives vinegars their sour taste and pungent smell. Acetic acid seems to have antibacterial and antioxidant effects in the body.

Types of Apple Cider Vinegar

There are several ways apple cider vinegar can be prepared, each creating a somewhat different product:


Unfiltered apple cider vinegar retains the “mother” – strands of proteins, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria that are formed during fermentation. This gives unfiltered ACV a murky, brownish appearance and contains the most benefits.


Filtered apple cider vinegar has the mother removed through filtration, giving it a clear, amber appearance. Some nutrients and minerals may be lost, but it still contains acetic acid.


Pasteurization heats vinegar to high temperatures to kill any bacteria present. This creates a clear product, but may destroy some of the nutrients, enzymes, and probiotic bacteria.


Raw, unpasteurized vinegar has not been heated or processed. It may contain trace amounts of beneficial bacteria left from the mother and fermentation process.


Organic apple cider vinegar comes from organically grown apples where no pesticides or chemicals are used in production. This is considered healthier and environmentally-friendly.

Comparing Types of Apple Cider Vinegar

Here is a comparison of some key differences between the most common types of apple cider vinegar:

Type Appearance Processing Taste Benefits
Unfiltered Cloudy with sediment Unprocessed Earthy, rich flavor Contains the mother with beneficial bacteria, proteins, enzymes
Filtered Clear, light gold Filtered to remove sediment Mild, tart flavor Easier to consume; still contains acetic acid
Pasteurized Clear, light gold Heated to kill bacteria Mild, tart flavor No bacteria; heat destroys some nutrients
Organic Can be filtered or unfiltered Made from organic apples Taste varies No pesticides used; environmentally-friendly

Unfiltered vs Filtered vs Pasteurized

The main differences between these three types of apple cider vinegar relate to processing and purity:


Unfiltered apple cider vinegar retains more of the beneficial components produced during fermentation – including probiotic bacteria and enzymes. This gives it a cloudy, brownish color and more earthy flavor.


Filtered ACV has a more refined appearance and taste. It still contains most of the same healthy acids and antioxidants but may lose some minerals through filtration. The mother with its probiotics is removed.


Pasteurized vinegar is heated to high temperatures to kill any bacteria present, creating a neutral flavor. However, this process also destroys beneficial probiotics and may degrade some of the enzymes.

Choosing the Best Apple Cider Vinegar

So which type of apple cider vinegar is best? Here are some tips:

  • Unfiltered: Choose unfiltered apple cider vinegar if you want the benefits of probiotics, enzymes, and nutrients from the mother.
  • Filtered: Filtered ACV has a more palatable taste and appearance while still providing acetic acid.
  • Pasteurized: Pasteurized vinegar has longer shelf life but less nutrition. May be preferred if you have a compromised immune system.
  • Organic: Look for organic apple cider vinegar to avoid pesticides. Can be filtered or unfiltered.
  • Raw: Unpasteurized vinegar may contain trace amounts of beneficial bacteria.
  • Dosage: 1-2 tablespoons diluted in water or juice is a commonly recommended dosage.

Making Your Own Apple Cider Vinegar

You can also easily make your own apple cider vinegar at home. Here is a simple process:

  1. Cut apples into small chunks, leaving on the skins which contain beneficial yeasts and bacteria.
  2. Combine apples and a little water in a sterilized jar.
  3. Cover the jar loosely with a cloth and leave in a dark place to ferment for 4-6 weeks, shaking occasionally.
  4. The natural sugars will ferment into alcohol with the help of wild yeasts, then into acetic acid by acetic acid bacteria.
  5. You’ll know fermentation is complete when the liquid becomes cloudy with a cobweb-like mother and turns vinegar-like in smell and taste.
  6. For a filtered vinegar, pour through a cheesecloth or filter to remove sediment. For unfiltered, leave as is.
  7. Pour into sterilized bottles and cap tightly. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Making your own apple cider vinegar allows you to control the process and ingredients. You can use organic apples and achieve a raw, unprocessed product full of beneficial probiotics.

Risks and Side Effects

Apple cider vinegar is generally safe to consume but does come with some potential side effects to be aware of:

  • Tooth enamel erosion: The high acidity can damage tooth enamel with regular use. Avoid taking it undiluted.
  • Digestive issues: ACV can cause nausea, throat burns, and reflux if taken undiluted. Always dilute in water or juice.
  • Drug interactions: The acetic acid may interact with certain medications like diuretics and insulin. Speak to your doctor.
  • Potassium depletion: Large doses of ACV may lower potassium levels. Those with low potassium should exercise caution.

While small amounts of diluted apple cider vinegar are considered safe for most people, it may cause problems in high doses or for those with digestive disorders. Start with small quantities and avoid taking it straight to minimize side effects.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing the best apple cider vinegar, going with an organic, raw, unfiltered variety provides the most nutritional benefits. It retains the strands of proteins, enzymes, and probiotics formed during fermentation known as the mother.

Filtered apple cider vinegar has a more pleasant taste but removes some of these beneficial components. Pasteurized vinegar has been heated to extend shelf life, which also kills probiotic bacteria. For maximum nutrition, raw organic ACV is likely the best option.

Apple cider vinegar has many potential uses and benefits, from cooking to household cleaning. However, it’s becoming most well-known as a health supplement. Research suggests the acetic acid is the main compound giving apple cider vinegar its powerful effects, aiding weight loss, blood sugar control, cholesterol reduction, and more.

Be sure to dilute apple cider vinegar in water before drinking to prevent side effects like throat burns and tooth damage. Start with small amounts like 1-2 tablespoons per day to assess tolerance. Select organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to maximize potential benefits while staying safe.

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