A few readers have recently written about their new vanilla extract smelling a bit harsh.
I’m in the third week of my first extract experiment, and it smells sort of . . . plastic-y.
Is something wrong? Is it just the type of bean I’m using? I sterilized my jar and lid in advance…
I put the beans in my food processor instead of cutting them by hand, and they were in .5-1″ damaged chunks when I started macerating them in the alcohol. I’d think that was good, for maximal surface area, but it’s been about six weeks and while the extract is very dark it tastes harsh. Do you think it was the food processor step?
In both cases, it’s still a bit early in the process. Give vanilla extract a few months to age before judging the aroma. Extract has an intense alcohol aroma when new; maybe that’s the chemical or plastic smell. Commercial manufacturers cut extract with something sweet (sugar, corn syrup) to remove the alcohol nose. Given time, your extract will age and mellow naturally without the need for sweeteners.
That said, if you notice quickly growing mold, toss it without opening! It’s not worth the risk. But at 40% alcohol, that shouldn’t be a problem.