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Hi, tested this and it was wonderful. I was wondering if you can reuse the vanilla beans?
Hi Alicia, not exactly. You can dry them and put them in a container with sugar to make vanilla sugar if you want.
Hi Alicia, yes you can certainly use the vanilla beans again, to make more extract. A second extraction simply takes more time. Grade-B beans will not have much left to give, but Grade-A vanilla pods can be used twice at the minimum, high quality Grade-A beans can yield great extract even a third time. As an example, after using the beans for extract i will remove the extract and refill the extraction chamber with brandy (with cocoa mix in coffee, vanilla brandy is out of this world).
Currently have 4 of these chugging along, 3 contain nice Grade-A Madagascar beans. The 4th has super-quality beans from another East African island. Even after 4 years the brandy out of the 4th chamber is head and shoulders better than the Madagascar beans. This tells me that the beans are still giving their hearts out, even after two extractions and 3 years in brandy.
After the devastating cyclones in Madagascar in 2016, Grade-A vanilla more than tripled in cost. Prices are starting to normalize somewhat, but remain high. Thank goodness, that you can get at least 2 extractions from Grade-A vanilla beans!
Mine do a 6-month extraction with agitation every third day, then a 10-month extraction with a good 30-second shake every third day. Then they go into service steeping in brandy.
I have 2 1/2 Tahitian Vanilla beans. How much vodka should I soak these in? Thank you!!
Hi, Shelley! I’d use 3/4 cup of vodka. Enjoy!
The rule of thumb for one liter of single-fold vanilla extract is 25 Grade-A vanilla beans (soft, plump, pliable), or 33 Grade-B beans (dry, snap when bent). So if your Tahitian vanilla is fresh and bendy, then 2.5 beans should be extracted into 1/10th of a liter of solvent, which is 3.38 fluid ounces.
3/4 cup is 6 ounces.
If your beans snap when you try to flex them, then 2.5 beans should be used in 2.56 ounces of vodka.
If you use 6 ounces of vodka, your result will only carry half the flavor of standard single-fold vanilla extract.
It really boils down to what you want vanilla extract for. The numbers above are official definitions of vanilla extract, but there are no laws for making your own for home use! You can make it half-fold or double-fold, depending on whether you want it for making your own food tasty, or want to impress your friends with a flavor burst.
Where do you recommend getting the vanilla beans?? I have tried many of your recipes and have enjoyed them all, I would like to try making my own vanilla extract. Thanks
Big sellers like VanillaMart and Beanilla are great, but i had some very good beans from a company called Delitaliana. Just make sure that the beans come from an island off the East Coast of Africa. Madagascar is the largest of these islands. Beans from Tahiti, Indonesia or India are lesser quality. Mexico is the native land of the vanilla orchid, but corruption and lax food laws make Mexico a questionable source of quality vanilla today.
To add a true island flavor to your extract make it with good rum.
I have extensive knowledge about vanilla, and about making extract from it. There is a long tonne of incorrect information in the comments to this post, not quite to the level of horrifying or dangerous, but it still makes me sigh sadly that there are so few (and scattered) correct sources of information about vanilla on the ‘net.
To tackle only the most recent Q’s:
to Shelley: never use plastic bottles. Plastic is inherently unable to remain airtight at the mouth, and even through the body of the bottle, there will be some exchange of gases over the length of time this extraction requires. Oxygen will enter and degrade your extract, and organic gases given off by the plastic itself will taint your extract. In this case, we use “organic” not in the wholesome foody meaning, but in the “organic chemistry” meaning.
to Irma: see Shelley’s answer above, and… never put anything edible under your sink ;-) Part of your problem is the plastic bottles, the other part is the structurally deficient recipe given here. If using only 8 fluid ounces of vodka, you must chop the beans into 1 or 2-inch lengths. They will sink.
to Jeannie: because there are only two “grades” of vanilla, A or B, there is an unsettling range of quality levels within each grade. Will a grade-B bean have seeds? Yes. Can you get at this caviar to scrape it out? Maybe. Depends on how far gone they are, into grade-B-land. If you’re using one sixteenth of a gallon (a cup) of solvent, then you need 1/16 of a unit of vanilla to make single-fold extract. Use two 16ths of a unit of vanilla, and you have double-fold extract. A unit of vanilla is defined as 15 ounces of grade-A beans or 13.35 ounces of grade-B vanilla pods. The structurally deficient recipe here calls for 3 vanilla beans. This will never yield single-fold vanilla extract, only nicely flavored vodka, possibly half-fold, possibly not even that. For one cup of solvent, to get single-fold extract, you need 5.86 grade-A vanilla beans or 7.82 grade-B beans. Even in cooking, math wants to be your friend, no matter how assertively you shun it’s affections.
to Amber and Jaime: the real problem with the recipe here is the proportions and the directions. Yes, you split the beans lengthwise, that is correct. But the crucial First Law of vanilla extract is that you must never (ever) allow the vanilla beans to breach the surface of the liquid (in this case, vodka). An 80 proof vodka is 40% ethanol, right? So what’s the other 60%? It is water. A vanilla bean is typically about 6 inches long. An 8 oz cup of liquid can never be 7 inches deep in a mason jar. In fact, to reach 7 inches in height, 8 fluid ounces needs a jar less than 2 inches in diameter.
Your problem is not mold, it is a fungus. Vanilla pods left exposed to air and water will develop this fungus. All fungi are toxic to some degree greater or lesser. What you see is a mossy white substance, correct? If so, this is not highly toxic. Simply remove the beans, trim away the affected areas, wash them in clean cold running tap water, then chop the beans into 1 or 2-inch lengths so they will stay submerged. Then you need only remember that when your extract is done and you transfer it to another (brown glass) bottle for storage, you must filter your extract through a coffee filter before storing. Dampen the filter with vodka beforehand, or the greedy fibers will eat up half of your extract!
If your fungus is NOT simply white and mossy, then it could be another substance, one of a dozen possible culprits, and personally, I would not take the risk. One nice thing about vanilla pods is that they are naturally anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. The alcohol during extraction will take care of any possible mold growth. But this one fungus is a symbiont to vanilla, evolved over millions of years to resist vanilla’s range of anti-fungal agents. Or, the vanilla orchid might have evolved over millions of years to selectively promote this certain single fungus and inhibit all others. Who knows? In the natural world, it helps break down the pod’s tough outer husk, helping the seeds to propagate the species. In our world it is a nuisance, foul tasting and unsightly.
Since we’re on the topic, if you see gold/yellow flakes floating on top of your extract, these are not a fungus, but instead rather valuable. They are pure vanilla extractives, and if you were to collect an ounce of them, you could sell it for $5,000. Don’t get giddy, I’ve done the math on it, and the amount of vanilla beans you would need is… almost $5,000.
For other comments here in general:
If you’re giving gifts of little holiday-happy bottles of vanilla extract, DO NOT include a small piece of vanilla bean in the bottle. I know it’s tempting, and for flavor it’s a great idea, but how can you be sure your Aunt Viv in Tulsa will follow the First Law and carefully make sure this vanilla chunk stays submerged at all times over the next few years? If she doesn’t, she ends up with fungus in the bottle and tells everyone on Facebook that your extract is ratty. You don’t need that reputation.
Cheaper vodka is indeed better than expensive vodka, more likely to be purely water and ethanol. Someone mentioned Svedka, and that’s a great candidate. Glass bottles, multiple distillations, no flavorings. Try to buy it at a larger liquor store with more shelf turnover, so it’s fresher.
Lower quality beans will extract faster, since they rehydrate in situ via the water in the solvent, but yield a lower quality taste. Better beans take longer to extract, unless you scrape out the caviar. Scraping the caviar makes an unbelievable mess and requires you to filter your extract after it’s done. In a dry pod, the caviar is a dust so fine that you won’t believe any such powder could exist. Put this into your vanilla ice cream.
If giving small bottles as holiday gifts, do it at Thanksgiving, not at Christmas. Everyone’s all baked-out after New Year’s, so your prized extract will sit around for months. But gifting a handmade ingredient a month before Christmas will psyche-up your friends to find ways to use it. That kind of reputation, you’ll be glad to have.
Hi Yana & Elise,
Thank you very much for all the great information.
I am making the vanilla extract/tincture for :
A. Food flavoring
B. Skin care perfume
I have the Tahitian vanilla pods (don’t know the grade). And I will be using 95% home brewed, non-flavored (drinkable) alcohol. This is free, instead of spending $100 for Vodka.
My questions are: For each of the intended usages (A & B).
1.Is it better (better flavor for A & better scent for B) to dilute the 95% alcohol down to about 50% (I use a different 95% denatured ethanol to tincture Calendula flowers & the flowers ‘disappeared’/disintegrated)?
2. If so, should I dilute it before adding the vanilla or after the extract is done.
I don’t mind having strong (may be 4x fold) extract, I can always just use less. I worry about too high of a alcohol level might destroy the Vanillin.
Thank you very much for both of your help.
Hi Carol, as far as I know, brewing your own alcohol is neither free, nor is it legal unless you live in New Zealand. You definitely need to know what the law is about that, in the place where you’re doing it.
For making vanilla for your food, use beans from the various islands off the Eastern coast of Africa. Several grow vanilla, the most prolific being the largest island, Madagascar. Tahitian vanilla is a subspecies, more known for aroma than taste. Decent choice for your (B), but you may wish to use something better for cooking extract.
For perfume, 50% ethanol should do fine. I have not made extract for perfume, but can tell you that only a few of vanilla’s many compounds will survive the process of being made into a skin care product. Luckily, vanillin is one of them, helped by sheer statistical numbers since vanilla beans are from 1 to 4% vanillin. And vanillin will extract just fine at 50%.
Alcohol will not destroy vanillin, but the opposite, alcohol is how vanillin is preserved, held in solution. That’s why there are no water-based vanilla extracts. For perfume purposes, 90% of vanilla’s aromas will be lost in processing, so it doesn’t really matter what you use. You can buy the compound vanillin cheaply in bulk, so why bother extracting from vanilla beans at all?
The only reason to use real vanilla beans for perfume is to boast to customers that you used real vanilla beans, but you should know foremost and upfront, that you will not be delivering any real olfactory benefit to them by using real vanilla extract in their soap. How, or whether, you impart that information to customers is, naturally, under the jurisdiction of your own conscience.
With over a hundred compounds in vanilla which can be smelled or tasted, making cooking extract is another matter entirely. Higher concentrations of ethanol will tease out more compounds, but are much more inefficient at extracting appreciable amounts of the more rare tastes. Think of it as a palette of colours. The more dollops of paint you have, the more shades you can make. The more months you can let your vanilla set and extract, the more flavors you’ll get.
If you have the time, do an extraction at 95% for several months, then dilute the result just before you portion it into useful bottles. You are not allowed to use a 95% alcohol solution near any cooking or baking, so don’t.
It will louche when you dilute it, and yellow flakes will form as it sits. You can filter this type of extract to be a clear liquid, but you would be ripping the guts out of the extract’s flavor complexity.
If you want a bunch of cooking extract fast, and want it to be non-cloudy, use a 40% vodka and then you can use it right out of the bottle after a couple months, shaking the bottle every few days.
Lastly, I am having trouble imagining 4x vanilla extract. I don’t think it’s physically possible to do this at home. Even if the pods were packed in like sardines, it would be impossible to circulate so small an amount of solvent over them. Imagine it’s possible, but only with very expensive evaporators, grinders, steamers, and exotic filters.
Fascinating. Thanks. Indeed, I live in New Zealand. I have made & used my first batch of Tahitian Vanilla infused Jojoba oil in my body cream. Yep, not very strong, but it was only a few weeks old. I will be patience. Guess I won’t be making 4x extract as well. Well, thank you very much for your explanations. Cheers.
Is it OK to just leave the seeds(not beans) in the vodka long term without filtering out. It’s murky looking but I don’t care if its clear or not as it’s strictly for personal use.
Hi Jane, yes it is perfectly OK. The seeds are no trouble in any way, neither bad for health nor bad for flavor. The only advice i could suggest is to shake the bottle before using it, so you use the seeds evenly over the life of your extract. They add to flavor, the seeds give the look of authenticity to your recipes, and if you use them evenly then you won’t have a muddy goop at the end. I avoid this altogether by just slicing the beans open and not scraping out the seeds. The extract is just as excellent, you simply have to shake the bottle more often, for 30 seconds every three days is fine. Most of the seeds stay in the pod, but the ethanol swishes over them and does the extraction the same. This way, you can use the beans over again for a second extraction… but this one will take 6 months instead of 3.
hi yana, i read your reply well and nicely :) May i ask how many cups would you suggest to cover the vanilla beans? I am not from U.S; so i dont know how much is the unit ounce. I did a google search but a bit scared to try without asking first.
Last, can you advise how many vanilla beans would u also suggest if we wish to fill up the bottle completely so as to cover the beans.
Thanks for ur reply beforehand…waiting for ur answer :)
I use a 1.75 liter glass bottle, because i need large amounts of vanilla. Currently, have four extraction chambers going, which will yield about 6 liters of extract. This size bottle is tall enough to contain even the largest vanilla bean, and leaves enough room at the top. Because if your bottle is completely full, then you will not get agitation when you shake it. You need a small amount of air at the top, but still have the vanilla beans completely submerged.
Wash and dry the bottle, then sanitize the bottle with a chlorine bleach solution. Rinse thoroughly, then rinse again, and again, then let the bottle dry. To a 1.75 liter bottle, i add 1/2 pound of vanilla beans, about 235 grams, using fresh Grade-A beans this numbers about 65-75 beans.
From the total 1.75 liter volume, subtract 0.25 liter for the volume of the beans, and the bottle will accept about 1.5 liters of your extraction liquid.
If you use a different bottle, you simply adjust your ratio. A 1-liter bottle will contain about 4/7 as much as a 1.75 liter bottle, so use about 40 Grade-A vanilla beans. Also, this bottle will accept 4/7 as much liquid. Using a 1-liter bottle, you will have about 870 mL of extract at the end.
Do not measure the liquid, measure your bottle. Make sure that the bottle is tall enough to accept the vanilla beans plus 3 cm of covering liquid, plus 2 cm of air at the top.
About 40 beans per liter of bottle space, this will make extract which is better than “single fold”.
Time. Spend as much time as you can afford. Two months minimum, shaking the bottle every 3 days, will make a fine extract. I let extractions run for six months, shaking every three days, and this makes a better extract. The longer you let the beans soak, the better your result.
hello Yana, do you have a blog or website of your own where you offer more advice or info regarding the vanilla extract process?
Do have a blog and website, but organizing the information into a presentable format with the pictures included is a large task, but is a task i plan on completing this year, although i said that last year too :-(
There is always a new project to consume my time, this year learning how to make cocoa extract!
In the meanwhiles, you may email at idontmindyourlies which is at yahoo. My reply will not be instant, but happy to share what i know.
I made this about two weeks ago and my vanilla beans are kind of fuzzy. I can’t imagine that it’s mold, because it’s in vodka, but is that possible? Has anyone else had this problem?
Bottle is glass btw.
I’m having the same issue and am wondering the same thing. My extract is about 5 days old and I’m noticing that there look to be big fuzzy things on the pods. Trying to find out if this is ok.
I really have no idea. My guess is that no, it’s not okay. I’ve never had this happen.
This is awesome! I’m trying to move to making as many of my own ingredients as possible, and this was a great thing to try! I just started using mine, and it’s great! Here’s my blog post: http://heatskitchen.blogspot.com/2015/01/heats-homemade-vanilla-extract.html
Looks great Heather!
Elise, There is a lot of good info here for us first timer vanilla extract brewers. Your recipes is 3 beans to 1 cup vodka. Are those grade B beans and is the strength single or double? I just set up some brew, but used 7 beans to 1 cup per a post on another site. Is this too much? Should I buy more vodka and add to? Will grade B beans still have some seeds to scrape out? Or are they too dry?
Hi Jeannie, great questions! I have no idea about the grade of the vanilla beans I used. As for the resulting strength of the extract, I’m guessing it’s single, not double. If you make vanilla extract and it is too concentrated for you, you can always dilute it with more vodka.
I have 2 bottles under my sink (plastic) with 2 different vanilla beans in them and have noticed that there is stuff floating in the bottles. Is that normal? Not sure if I want to poor in to containers and give it away if it is not normal.
Don’t know. I don’t recommend using plastic bottles. ~Elise
Hi Elise! I’ve made this vanilla several times, and I bottle it and give it away as gifts. This time my task is to make some as favors for my good friend’s bridal shower. I was thinking about emptying a bit of the 1.75 liter bottle of vodka and then sticking the vanilla beans in. Problem is- the bottle is plastic. Do you think that’ll be a problem? Thanks!
I don’t recommend plastic in general. No idea what the impact would be in this case. ~Elise
ok so i have been doing a bit of looking up how to make Vanilla Extract.. and this is what i have decided to do. i have purchased a 375ml bottle of Maker’s Mark Bourbon/Whiskey & to that i have added 5 Tahitian beans and 3 Mexican beans.. I have also purchased a 375ml bottle of Svedka Vodka to that i will add 8 Madagascar Bourbon Beans.. I am figuring that by June or July they should be ready to use… i am excited to see what the difference int he flavors will be using the different beans and the different Alcohol… i have never made my own Extract before but it seems to be more cost effective i ordered my beans Through Amazon.. Mexican beans were from Beanilla and the Tahitian was from some seller same with the Madagascar beans..the reviews were good so i figured i couldn’t go wrong..so far i am happy with the beans i have received so far just waiting on the Madagascar beans right now…
Could I use this vanilla for non-baking purposes, like flavoring frosting, or would the taste be off?
I’ve used this vanilla for all sorts of purposes, including flavoring frosting. But it’s up to your own individual taste. ~Elise
A person to whom i gifted vanilla extract used it to make marshmallows! At least once a week, i use it in coffee with some hot chocolate pre-mix powder. There is a Scandinavian recipe for sea scallops flavored with butter, cardamom, and vanilla.
Remember, vanilla is not sweet. It is a spice. Fresh vanilla beans often have a peppery character. Most of us are familiar with vanilla only in recipes which also use sugar. But the spice is capable of much, much more.
Plus mine smells a lot like alcohol is that normal? Thanks again!
My vanilla is ready to give away as gifts. do I need to leave the vanilla beans in the jar or strain out all the small bits? I didn’t see that anywhere in the recipe. Thanks.
I would leave the vanilla in the jars, it will only intensify the vanilla flavor over time. ~Elise
HI! I am SO excited to try this. I JUST got my vanilla beans from Beanilla and they smell sooooo good! I will be off to the State Liquor Store this friday! I know there are a LOT of people who don’t “drink” alcohol are are concerned about the ALCOHOL part of making their own vanilla. Well…..what they are not aware of is ALL extracts in the grocery store that they have purchased USE and contain alcohol. Even the Artificial vanilla flavor has a type of alcohol in it called “Propylene Glycol”…It is just how it is made people. It cooks out. When you go to a restaurant, lots of them use cooking wine or white wine in pasta sauces and you are eating it. So you just need to realize that it is what you have to use if you want to use vanilla! :)
A cosmetic form of mineral oil found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid and industrial antifreeze. In the skin and hair, propylene glycol works as a humescent, which causes retention of moisture content of skin or cosmetic products by preventing the escape of moisture or water. The Material Safety Data Sheet warns users to avoid skin contact with propylene glycol as this strong skin irritant can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.
Propylene glycol is Commonly found in:
Soooo…..Do you want this, and other chemicals in your vanilla or make it the proper way with a little liquor and vanilla beans and a bit of water in some cases…..
I was just diagnosed with lupus and am having a hard time with processed foods. I think we are getting more sick in general because of all the chemicals we are eating. I am so excited to make this! I just keep smelling the beans in the packages! LOL!
Thanks for the recipe, I have a question about the wax seal on the top of the bottle, how do you do it? I could not find anything on it. Thanks!!
The bottle I used was an emptied out and cleaned out Italian balsamic vinegar bottle. It had originally been sealed with wax. I have no idea how they did it. ~Elise
I’ve done this a couple times and I’ve had good luck with Svedka vodka. It’s pretty neutral-flavored, but also pretty inexpensive. (I also decided to try some other extracts with Paramount vodka that I filtered through a Brita 2 or 3 times, and I wouldn’t recommend it.)
I tried as well with Everclear diluted with water to about 40% ABV, but the results just seemed lacking compared to one made with vodka.
I’ve been wanting to make my own vanilla extract and your site has pushed me to do it but before I started, I need to buy the vanilla beans, so I wanted to ask you: If I were to buy 1/2 lb of vanilla beans from the web, where would I keep the unused portion of the beans? And how long would they keep for?
I put mine in a mason jar. So far they’ve kept for several years. ~Elise
I started my first batch of vanilla last night. I hope it works. I bought the beans a year ago in Mexico and, like so many things, never got around to doing anything with them.
When I went to my favorite liquor/wine store, the one where people actually KNOW stuff, I asked the guy I really trust what vodka he would use to make vanilla extract. He recommended a really clean-tasting vodka like Death’s Door (made right here in Wisconsin, thankyouverymuch!). So, we’ll see. It’s a little more expensive than some, but if the results are good, it’ll be worth it.
Great idea! I just started about 6 batches in hopes that I am going to give them away as part of Christmas gifts. One of the batches is ‘cloudier’ than the others. Any ideas for that? I washed all the bottles and prepared them the same way.
Thanks for the help.
Hi Ashley, I don’t know what might be causing the cloudiness. Perhaps someone else reading this has a suggestion? ~Elise