This site from Kerala, India, gives a detailed description of commercial vanilla extract manufacturing:
Extracts are prepared by crushing the vanilla beans, extracting with an alcohol/ water mixture and separating the residue from the liquid. Variables such as extraction time and temperature affect the quality of the extract…
The percolation method consists of circulating a solvent, which is an ethanol/water solution in the range 35-50:65-50 (v/v), over and through the beans under vacuum. This process may take between 48 and 72 hours. By using this process, an approximately four fold strength vanillin can be obtained.
The page continues with descriptions of the oleoresin and supercritical fluid extraction methods.
I’ve kept the important excerpts here, the page went down earlier…
Quoted from here:
The oleoresin method consists of pulverising whole beans and then circulating ethanol over the beans under vacuum at about 45°C. The excess alcohol is removed by evaporation. This process takes about 8-9 days. However, by using the oleoresin process, an approximately 10-fold strength vanillin may be obtained. Commercially, natural vanillin is sold as a dilute ethanolic extract. Post-extraction processing involves clarification by centrifugation or filtration followed by aging of the extract for 1 year.
The supercritical fluid extraction is a two-step process, which uses carbon dioxide (CO2), above its critical temperature (31°C) and critical pressure (74 bar) for extraction. Feed is the ground solid, which is charged into the extractor and then fed with CO2 using a high pressure pump (100-350 bar). Extract laden CO2 is then sent to a separator (60-120 bar) via a pressure valve. The extract then precipitates in the separator at reduced temperature and pressure. The extract free CO2 stream is recycled to the extractor. The CO2 used as a solvent in the process is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS). The process can be used for extracting concentrates from several other spices and herbs. The extracts produced by this process are free from biological contaminants, have longer shelf life, have high potency of active components, and addresses major international concerns regarding residual solvent concentration and residual pesticide concentration.
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