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I tried 7 apple cider vinegars and my all-time favorite was dethroned

One ACV absolutely shook me to my (apple) core.
TODAY Illustration / oxygen / Getty Images

I have a notoriously bad habit of partaking in every health trend to a point where I probably do more harm to my body than good. Many, of course, are gimmicks and make me feel “better” due to a placebo effect, but the one that’s stuck around and has become a part of my daily routine is apple cider vinegar. In fact, I have noticed significant improvement in my skin and hair quality, as well as my energy levels since treating the liquid gold like a morning vitamin.

Much to my esophagus’s dismay, I can pound tangy, fermented ACV like a shot of vodka, while most people have to dilute it in water or incorporate it into a salad dressing. But the craziest thing about ACV (and no, it’s not the caveman-like way in which I consume it) is that despite its generally positive publicity, there aren’t many mainstream, mass-market varieties available. Most apple cider products are blended into sweet beverages for easier sipping experiences because y'all are #weak.

So for this week’s taste test, I ordered the seven most popular bottles and jugs from Amazon to put one of my most beloved pantry items to the ultimate test. Spoiler alert: My all-time favorite brand was dethroned and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. Read on to find out why it hurt me to my core (get it?).

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7. AVO Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider
TODAY Illustration / AVO

For an apple cider vinegar that touts being unpasteurized and “from the mother” (the beneficial bacterial culture that transforms apple cider into vinegar), this tasted surprisingly diluted. But if I’m giving the company a fair shot, it looks like there may just be a bit of inconsistency with each jug because many reviews claim that its flavor is as bold and memorable as my top three picks. Should you get a product like the one I purchased, have no fear: You can use it for baking, instead, and channel your inner Martha Stewart.

6. Woeber’s Pure Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider
TODAY Illustration / Woeber's

Woeber’s also suffered from AVO’s watered-down treatment with a blend that lacked unfiltered ACV’s signature murkiness and depth of flavor. Instead, this almost reminded me of distilled vinegar, which then reminded me of cleaning my toilet and, frankly, I don’t need to think about a toilet when I’m putting something in my mouth, thank you very much. That said, the taste wasn’t awful … just lacking potency (and toilet paper, apparently).

5. Kevala Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider
TODAY Illustration / Kevala

Kevala killed it in taste and palatability. This is the one that sour-sensitive folks should flock to since you can really taste the sweetness of cooked fruit, rather than just the one-notedness of unbridled tang. But, I hate to be a rotten apple: This did not look like it came from the mother, as advertised. And if I’m spending hard-earned cash on a freakin’ vinegar, I expect to get what I pay for. Signed, Karen.

4. Heinz All Natural Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider
TODAY Illustration / Heinz

Here is where things turned interesting. Heinz got into the ACV game with a stellar bottle worthy of my oh-so-coveted praise and adoration. But be forewarned: There was no indication that it came from the mother, meaning it won’t have most of the health benefits you’ve read about in countless articles. That said, the company didn’t mislead by marketing it as such and the flavor is delicious and well-balanced, making it the most versatile on this list. If you simply need a vinegar to splash on top of a bed of arugula or to brighten up a heavy stew, this is the one for you. But if you’re hoping to ward off that cold or strengthen your gut, opt for one of my top three finalists.

3. Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider
TODAY Illustration / Bragg

Bragg has a lot to brag about by being the most popular mainstream option. And I will admit that it is the one that has secured a permanent spot in my pantry. But I have a bone to pick with the company: The recipe has changed. While it’s certainly one of the murkiest, mother-iest (maternal?) of the bunch — er, bushel — the tartness has been weakened and even its deep golden color is a touch lighter. My guess is that more water has been added to cut down on manufacturing costs, but I really hope that’s not the case and I implore Bragg to go back to its O.G. recipe. That said, it still tasted better than most of the options on this list, so I can’t fully complain. (Bragg has said it has not changed its decades-old recipe.)

2. Lucy’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider
TODAY Illustration / Lucy's

Lucy isn’t just the name of an amazing ‘90s Hanson song, it’s the brand that beat out beloved Bragg and rightfully earned a silver medal. While the two tasted oh-so-similar, there was a subtle difference and I think it primarily had to do with the smell. Dare I say that I actually enjoyed the smell of this? I mean, it’s not going into a diffuser or a cologne bottle anytime soon, but it reeked of good taste and high quality. Bottoms up!

1. Fairchild’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider
TODAY Illustration / Fairchild's

OK, but where the heck has this been all my life? Fairchild’s is my new favorite brand, likely because they’ve found a way to maintain 6.3% acidity (as opposed to the standard five) and my apparently masochistic self loved its bold, memorable, and ap-peel-ing tartness. It also maintained the murky, mother-aplenty quality that a good ACV is supposed to have, so I had zero complaints and will now be clearing shelves to make room for more bottles. If there is any week to really trust my taste buds, this is the one. It’s now the apple (cider vinegar) of my eye … and gut.