Make Vanilla Extract

Tanzania vanilla growersOnly 2% of vanilla flavor is made from real vanilla beans. This tutorial shows you how to make quality homemade vanilla extract.

At a glance

  1. Mix 1 ounce (30 grams) of chopped vanilla beans per 1 cup (250 ml) 40% alcohol vodka.
  2. Shake occasionally, age 6 months.
  3. Strain out the vanilla pieces.

Materials

Why make vanilla extract?

Quality vanilla is a tasty and essential cooking ingredient. It’s also very expensive. By making our own extraction we get the highest possible quality product made from the absolute best vanilla beans. Considering that the FDA regulates vanilla extract by bean weight and not bean quality, you never know what you might be getting with manufactured products. Your vanilla will be free of the artificial colors and vile corn sweeteners found in even high-quality vanilla extracts. Hand crafted vanilla extract is a great gift that will last a lifetime — like a fine wine, vanilla extract matures with age. It’s also popular among people on restrictive diets, like the SCD.

Materials

Gather these supplies to make your extract:

Vanilla Beans (1 oz per cup alcohol/30 grams per 250 ml alcohol)
Get the best beans you can, but don’t get ripped off by outrageous prices — check out the reviews. Grade ‘B’ vanilla beans (also called “extract grade”) will give the most vanilla flavor per kilo of beans.

We could go with the FDA requirement and use about 0.8 oz beans per cup of extract, but this probably wouldn’t be strong enough. Industrial vanilla extractors are orders of magnitude more efficient than our hand extraction process. We need to add more beans to get anywhere near extract concentration. I recommend a minimum of 1 oz (~8 beans) per cup, but shoot for more. Remember: professional bakers use 2-fold extracts, it can’t be too strong.

The beans shown in this recipe are Amadeus Trading’s Uganda Gold ™ Vanilla beans. These beans were the obvious choice because their large size made for great pictures.

Dark Glass bottle with tight fitting cap.
Green or brown wine bottles work best. Dark glass protects the extract from direct sun exposure. Make sure you have a tight-fitting cork or lid that can be easily removed (you cannot resist smelling it during the extraction!).

Vodka (37.5-40% alcohol, 75-80 proof)
Consider a decent quality vodka, as you could have this extract for 10 years or more. A super high proof (more alcohol) vodka won’t extract as much vanilla goodness [reference]. Commercial vanilla extracts are 35% alcohol, by law. Leave some room in your calculations for the water that the beans will contribute.

Sharp knife and cutting board
To slice the beans in half and remove the seeds.

Steamer or pot of boiling water
Though optional, I always sterilize any implements that will come into contact with the bean or extract. Any yuck will sit in the bottle and contribute off-flavors for years. Why risk it? Steam or boil a clean bottle, cap, and knife for 30 minutes just prior to use.

Clean work area
Its probably not a huge concern, but you don’t want strong odors floating around when you prepare extract. Unless you intend for your vanilla to have smoked salmon undertones.

Patience
Some, but not a lot. Our vanilla can be used after 4 weeks, even though the extraction will continue for 6 months. When the extraction is finished the vanilla will continue to mature indefinitely. It’s like having a fine wine that can be sampled continuously as it ages over decades.

Step 1: Cut Beans

Step 1: Cut the vanilla beans

Step 1 – Cut the Beans

Cut your vanilla beans lengthwise.

Leave one end attached if you like (because it looks nice), but I find that it’s easier to clean the beans, get them in the bottle, and make them sit in the bottle properly when they are split completely.

Step 2: Scrape Beans

Step 2: Scrape Beans

Step 2 – Scrape the Caviar

Lay your cut bean flat, exposed side up. With your knife titled at a 45 degree angle, run the knife along the bean so that it scrapes up all the goo from the inside (also called caviar).

A dull knife, like a butter knife, ensures that you can harvest the caviar without further shredding the skin of the bean. Every so often, clean the blade with your fingers and make a caviar pile on your cutting surface.

Step 3: Chop the Skins

Step 3: Chop the Skins

Step 3 – Chop the Skins

Cut the bean skins into smaller pieces. Smaller pieces have more surface area which might yield a stronger extract. Whole and half beans tend to pile up above the vodka after shaking, smaller pieces don’t do this.

Step 4: Fill Bottle With Beans

Step 4: Fill Bottle With Beans

Step 4 – Fill Bottle with Vanilla Skins and Caviar

Stuff the cleaned bean skins and the caviar into your bottle.

Step 5: Fill with Vodka

Step 5: Fill with Vodka

Step 5 – Add Alcohol

Fill the bottle with vodka or your choice of alcohol (see Step 1).

Step 6: Shake…

Step 6: Shake...

Step 6 – Shake

Week 1 – Shake the bottle vigorously every day for at least the first week. Seed and cottony fibrous chunks will swirl in the bottle, this is normal. By the second or third day the extract should be a bit darker. Open it up and smell, yum that’s good! Contemplate wearing the extract as your signature scent.

Week 2,3, and 4 – Shake the bottle a few times a week.

Week 5 – Congratulations, you have a very raw vanilla extract! If you want vanilla seeds in your recipe give the bottle a shake before pouring. Use some. Yum! Use some more. Top up the bottle with alcohol if you expose any vanilla beans.

Month 2 – Month 6 – Sick of vanilla now? Me too. It was a fun ride though, huh? Give it a shake when you can be bothered.

Step 7: Filter

Step 7: Filter

Step 7 – Filter

After 6 months it’s time to clean up the extract.

Why clean up the extract? It’s probably a personal decision. I’d love to hear what others do. I reason that:

  • vanilla beans are fresh for about 12 months – after 6 months in my possession they are likely at least 12 months old. I don’t want stale beans to befoul my extract.
  • extraction has pretty much happened at 6 months.
  • eventually the pods have to be removed or they’ll dry out as you use the extract and the beans become exposed.
  • you can add fresh beans for an even more concentrated extraction, which is good.

Don’t worry, you can dry out the extracted vanilla beans and use them to make vanilla sugar.

You will need:

  • A clean (sterilized) bottle and cap.
  • A clean funnel.
  • A coffee filter – or – a clean strainer.

Put the funnel in the clean bottle. Put the filter or strainer in the funnel. If you want vanilla seeds in your final extract use a strainer, otherwise go for the coffee filter. Pour the extract into the funnel and filter it into the clean bottle. Cap tightly.

I didn’t have an extra bottle handy, so in the picture below I’m filtering into a clean measuring cup.

Step 8: Mature

Step 8: Mature

Step 8 – Mature

Like a fine wine, vanilla will mature and ‘improve’ indefinitely… or so they say. This is a good thing, because a liter of vanilla extract will last an average person decades. With a 1/4 pound of vanilla beans and some vodka you can make a holiday, birthday, or wedding gift that will still delight in 10, 20 or 30 years!

Also visit our answers to frequently asked vanilla questions, vanilla info page, and vanilla bean and plantation galleries.

281 comments

  1. Hi all,
    I have a question that I hope someone will help me find the right answer to.
    I want to make extract for selling but I am worried about selling all of my batch quickly so that I have to wait 3-6 months before I can sell more. But then I got this (brilliant I hope :-) ) idea to make a batch of really strong extract and then when selling some I could just dilute that strong extract with vodka down to 1-fold extract. Then I can add some new beans and some vodka to the original batch. Then it would blend in with the old batch and mature more quickly. This way I can make a lot of extract on one batch without buying huge amount of vodka that I cannot afford until I have sold some extract. So the question is: Will this work?

  2. Tina…..I would use a low end mid grade vodka. Don’t use an expensive vodka unless you get a deal on it. i have used Gordons Vodka and Smirnoff Vodka bought on sale. Pour a little bit of the vodka out of the bottle if it is a glass one and add yourncut beans. If the bottle is plastic and you are using another container, just put cutbbeans to a thoroughly CLEANED and STERILIZED container and pour in vodka leaving about 1/2″-1″ from the top. Yes you want a little space so you can shake the bottle daily for the first few weeks….then a few times a week. Good luck!!

  3. Orjan just make your batch in 2 bottles. Adding vodka to a batch of vanilla will probably leave it smelling too strong of alcohol. When the beans are brewing over time in the vodka you smell more of the vanilla and less of the vodka. By adding more vodka to what is already steeped will result in a vodka smelling extract. Of course if there are a lot of beans in the bottle to start with you can top it off as long as it then steeps for another 4-6 months before using. Good luck.

  4. I would never use any alcohol other than Everclear. 195 proof (97% alcohol).
    Very nearly pure grain alcohol. Reason being is that it has no flavor unlike all vodkas. Also since it it twice as strong you need only half as much and the real kicker is the cost usually around $14 a fifth

  5. I have a bottle of what was clear vanilla I got in Mexico years back well it is now brown.Is it still good?The bottle is clear so is that why it discolored?

  6. Longhorn, there is no need to use such a strong alcohol. Certainly if you choose to that is your call. Most commercial extracts only have a 35% alcohol content. Stronger isn’t always better. A vodka with 35-40% (70-80 proof) alcohol content is standard.

  7. I brew my batches of extract in sterilized, clear mason jars, and keep them in my cupboard. For the first three batches, I used a I used a local (to me) brand of vodka (Lone Star – it was about $24/750ml bottle). I’ll be using another local brand (Enchanted Rock – also about $24/750ml bottle) for the next batches.

    I will say, of the 3 batches I made, the ones using the extract-grade beans (Amadeus Trading Company, online) turned out the best – and the longer it sits, the better it gets. I also didn’t filter out the caviar & bean pieces when I portioned it out for Christmas gifts (and kept the bulk for myself), so there’s still quite a bit of caviar & bean left in the bottles. I also used cobalt blue glass bottles for the final storage.

  8. I use one pound of grade B extract beans from Vanilla and Saffron, and 1.75 liter of vodka plus one cup. I use Smirnoff vodka and would use even cheaper if I was not afraid it would not be as good. This is my third batch recently and it is excellent. Years ago I made a batch of vanilla and followed Martha Stewarts recipe. It turned out to be what I would call vanilla flavored vodka. So consequently I did not try making it again until I read this womderful site to get better informed.
    This is my third batch in this year and this time because I live in Ca I ordered my bottles from E.D. Luce bottles as they were a little cheaper than what I have ordered so far.

  9. I have made my vanilla extract and strained/poured into bottles. I put a few beans in each 2 oz bottle. What do I do with the rest of the beans?

  10. Hey! I’m thinking of making this, but I would like to know if I should dilute it?
    I mean, if a recipe calls for a tsp of vanilla extract, should I take a tsp of this extract?

  11. Jessica….yes if you made a good strong extract you would use it the same as any extract you would buy.

  12. Janeinbama you can make more extract or use the rest of your beans in recipes. There are many uses for vanilla beans.

  13. On a whim, when the flavored vodkas first came out, I bought Smirnoff’s cherry flavored vodka.

    For years I’ve used brandy and rum to make vanilla extracts. So, I added the cherry vodka into the extract method.

    The cherry vodka vanilla extract was an incredible success! Relatives and friends that used to be happy waiting for me to give them a half pint (of course they asked first), were no longer satisfied waiting one me. Instead they’ve journeyed to the liquor store and bought their own.

    Yesterday, because I am running out of my 2010 cherry vanilla extract, I finally made it to a liquor store. A trip that left me flabbergasted at the range of flavors now in vodka. On another whim, I added a raspberry flavored vodka to my list of purchase. I confess to spending far longer than I expected imagining vanilla extracts made with new flavors, hmmm green apple vanilla extract.

    Over time as one uses vanilla beans, they’re left with the husk residue. I just add them to whatever extracts I have currently brewing. My rum extract has been working for years (it’s really potent and my wife isn’t too thrilled with rum flavor; maybe she had a bad rum raisin ice cream exerience…). This doesn’t stop me from adding in more vanilla pieces.

    Their is an old piece of advice in cooking. Never use alcoholic spirits that you wouldn’t drink normally. If you’re fine with drinking the cheapest vodkas stored in plastic; then by all means do make extract with them.

    I know from fairly long experience which vodkas I can actually drink on ice with water or club soda. I also know and still blench at a number of the cheap varities fed to me at one time or another. Yeah yeah yeah, it’s ony a tablespoon or so… Why add ketones, aldehydes, alcohols, off flavors that people do not enjoy? Especially flavors you already know you don’t like.

    I shop the sales and I look for those middling quality levels that I used to buy and drink. No, it is not a coincidence that I went alcohol shopping during the Xmas sales period…

    Just saying…

  14. A friend recently brought back vanilla beans and a sealed bag of vanilla “caviar” (inside of bean) from Madagascar. Could I use just the caviar to make extract? It is a large bag, and I don’t think I can use it all in baking before it dries out.
    Thanks

  15. Actually, I think what I described in the above entry as “caviar” may be the ground vanilla powder — it is more dry than moist. It seems like this would be fine for making extract, as long as it was filtered after a few months of steeping. What do you think?

  16. @candace

    I recently bought Madagascar beans that came with ground vanilla powder. I didn’t expect it in my order so I went to the host website (instead of the Amazon storefront). Turns out that the ground vanilla powder was from used extract beans. I smelled it, and they don’t smell much, and the website said you could use it for “texture and looks”. Seems to me like someone is just trying to pass on their waste products as a “bonus”.

  17. I have grade B beans. I have had the bean soaking in vodka for about 10-months. the liquid is not clear and there seems to be some white milky/creamy substance developing. What is this is it bad. I strained about one cup through some cheese cloth and the liquid is not clear but rather “cloudy” is the right term. any thoughts?

  18. Thanks David. I just had the same thing happen to me. I made 4 batches of 8 liters each. 3 are fine, but one has this milky look. It smells fine, but I don’t know if I want to try to sell it. I did as you did with straining it through cheesecloth, then I went so far as to try filtering it with a carbon water filter. No difference. I use a combination of Madagascar and Tahitian beans in mine and they were extract grade.

  19. Alright, after taking a look around the internet I might have an answer to my own question.

    It is possible that the way I introduced the ingredients together had something to do with it.

    I cut the beans first and put them into the container.
    Then, poured in the 3 liters of 94% grain alcohol.
    Lastly, I added 5 liters of filtered water.

    It is possible that the highly concentrated alcohol did something to the oil in the beans in the few minutes before I diluted it with the water.

    I’m not saying that this is the answer, but after doing a search for “cloudy vanilla extract” and checking out a dozen entries or so, I think this is the most likely answer. In all of my other batches I had mixed the alcohol first, then added the beans. I can’t say for sure that this is what I had done with that particular batch, but it is likely.

    Lesson learned: dilute the alcohol first, THEN add the beans.

  20. Nordlead, Thank you for your comment re vanilla powder. My bag came directly from Madagascar (via a dentist friend doing charity work there) so I can’t ask anyone any questions about whether this is “fresh” or “used.” It does have a nice fragrance. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to add some to a batch of vanilla along with the split beans. But the idea that your source would send you something that adds texture and color but no flavor is just awful!

  21. Help! I ordered some vanilla beans from a seller with good reviews because I got a bottle of booze and I don’t drink whiskey. Here are the ingredients I have:

    20 Grade A Premium Gourmet Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans FRESH PRIME 6-7″ and I got a bottle of Makers Mark Bourbon for Christmas.

    Can I use these to make vanilla extract? If it can be used, what should the ratio be for (20- 6″ beans:___ oz bourbon). Please reply.

  22. Would 1/2 pound of Vanilla Beans in 1750ml of Vodka sound about right for a good vanilla extract?

    Also, would blue bottles be okay to store the extract in or would the brown be better in terms of keeping harmful light away? I would love to use blue, but I’ve been reading they aren’t actually good to use.

  23. @Bob…..you can use Bourbon if you want, but generally vanilla extract is made with vodka. Oh, and for 20 beans you would use no more than 3 cups of booze if you want a good extract.

  24. @David….are you saying 1 3/4 liters of vodka?? If so, i would say as long as they are good sized beans then that may do. About 60ish beans.

    You can use any color bottle…..colored ones help block the light. Clear is okay as well if in a cabinet.

  25. @veggie.. Yes 1.75L of Vodka. I’m going by weight as in 0.5 pounds of vanilla beans to account for the fact that they can come in different sizes. I made a batch used a 1/2 lb which was around 80 beans. I’m curious if that sits for 6 months if it would produce a strong enough extract or not. The smaller bottles(750ml) which I can see as they are in clear bottles are pretty dark already and I used 1/4 pound of beans in those. I started the batch on Dec 28th. I cannot really see the larger batch as it is in a cobalt blue(Skyy) bottle.

    I think my math conversion to the larger batch will be fine, though I’d just like to know for sure if I need to add more vanilla beans into the mix or not, but then again I have seen recipes calling for extremely less vanilla beans. Sorry, this is really just a new hobby for me. But thanks for the response.

    On the blue bottles, I’ve read they let in blue lights which are harmful in beer, but haven’t seen any source mentioning vanilla extract. I would love to use the blue, however I may go with brown anyways due to they are cheaper and easier for me to get.

  26. @David…..I am just offering info from my own experience and from what i have also read. Sounds like you have a pretty good amount of beans in there. After 3 months you can probably use some of the extract and let the rest sit longer. My master batch has been sitting for a year now. It is yummy!! God luck.

  27. @David.. I started two batches in October using that same ratio.

  28. I noticed in one of your comments you mentioned that you diluted with water but that’s not in the recipe above. I plan on making my first batch soon. Do I need to add water to the vodka?

  29. It’s understandable how wine improves with age-oxygen in the wine breaks down the tannins into glycerine. I can’t find any information that shows aging vanilla extract improves it.

    Why does vanilla improve with age?

  30. @Dave…I don’t think that it is aging that improves the vanilla….but you need the beans to extract into the vodka. The longer the time the more richness to the extract.

  31. Why would you throw out the beans after 12 months? if the alcohol in vodka is a natural preservative, so the “vanilla only good for 12 months” doesn’t actually apply in this case.

  32. I have some 4 year-old vanilla extract made with excellent assistance of this site. In my vanilla, I had chopped up the skins in a food processor, and added extra alcohol to about 50% concentration. The vanilla skin debris was never removed from the extract. A few days ago my wife made rice pudding. The rice and milk were boiled as appropriate (she is highly experienced in the process), later adding some extract. On adding some of the 4 year-old extract to the hot mixture, the milk showed signs of curdling. The milk was fairly fresh and not suspect. She had used the same vanilla many times before (though not for some months). Also, the liquid level in the vanilla bottle was low enough that much of the vanilla debris has been showing for quite some time.

    Even in the preservative environment of the alcohol, could anything have happened to change the extract? Anybody have any thoughts on this?

  33. Hi there,
    I’ve had my extract “steeping” for about 4 1/2 months. I just opened it to give it a sniff. It still smells pretty Vodka-y. I smell the vanilla but I thought it would smell more like vanilla than it does.
    I have 2 questions.
    1. Can I use it & get good (flavorful) results in baking?
    2. It’s definitely not syrupy like some have reported. Is it too soon for that?

    @Dale – I’ve read that leaving the beans exposed for a long period of time can allow them to go bad. I’m not sure how accurate that is, as this is my first batch & I am quite inexperienced with making extract but I think I read it on 2 occasions.

    Thanks in advance!!
    ~Tina

  34. @Dale,

    You’re adding alcohol to a milk product. That, in itself can cause the milk to curdle. It’s a tricky affair. ESPECIALLY since it is 50%! The ideal is 35%, which is why I add water to the 40% I get in the stores. Sure, you can make it with higher concentrations of alcohol, but it may not react the same with your usual recipes.

    There are some recipes that start with a much higher alcohol content while ‘curing’, but water is usually added after to bring it down to the magic number. There is math involved. That, or you can just water it down until it reaches the point that you like it. More alcohol is not necessarily good. More vanilla, the same. However, the usual rule is to keep it around 35% alcohol.

    After a year, you can chuck the beans out because you aren’t going to get anything more out of them. After 4, yeah … I might suspect that they’ve started to turn. That certainly could be the culprit.

    @Tina,

    After that period of time, it should be perfectly fine. If you followed the ratio of 6 beans/cup of 35% alcohol, you should have some perfectly serviceable extract. Otherwise, you’re just making vanilla scented vodka.

    Use some. I bet you won’t even taste the vodka. Mine has a very strong alcohol smell as well on its own, but the vanilla flavour really shines through when baked.

  35. I’m ready to make vanilla extract! Question, when I remove the caviar what do I do with it? Store away from light? Keep cool? At week 5 I will want to add some vanilla seeds to the bottles but dont want them going bad before. Thanks!

  36. @Kassandra, I think you add the pods AND the caviar to the vodka.

  37. @Kassandra……just chop, cut, or slice up the whole vanilla beans and add to the vodka. No need to scrape out the cavier unless you want to. It will loosen up in the vodka as it sits. Don’t forget to shake the bottle every few days!! You can later use as is……or strain….I just use as is.

  38. Thank you very helpful!

  39. @ Rizak
    My Vanilla Products USA (Madagascar extract grade) beans are 11 beans per oz.
    So… I’m way over. They plump up pretty good once they sit in the vodka for a while.
    Am I over doing it?

  40. @ Rizak
    Where do you get your beans from? I wanted a different variety but Vanilla products USA didn’t offer what I wanted. :-\
    Should I get something other than extract (B) grade?

    I’m about to order more beans so I can give extract for Christmas. It’s GOT to be cheaper than our typical shopping and after having 2 more babies in the last 20 months… Well, let’s just say I am NOT doing that kind of shopping this year!

    Thanks a million!
    ~Tina

  41. I’m about to embark on my first ever venture into homemade vanilla extract. I have the beans, I have the 1 qt mason jars with lids/rings, and I have both vodka and everclear.

    My question is about the use of everclear. My plan is to use 1/4 pound beans with 4 cups of everclear. I’ve read a few posts where they’ve said when you make the extract using everclear, you actually want to dilute it with either filtered or distilled water (which is better?). So do you dilute it after the extract is brewed? Or do you dilute the everclear before you add it to the beans in the jar?

    I plan to make the Madagascar Bourbon and Tahitian extracts with both types of alchohol to see which I like better (also to see if there is a difference). I am also doing a blend of the two beans (50/50 blend) also with each type of alcohol.

    Thanks for any input you can provide.

  42. Spooky 789….I don’t know if you have to dilute the vodka or not. I have read that some do if the proof is over 80% (40% alcohol). I believe they added a little filtered water at the beginning of the process. They mainly did it because most commercially bought extract is about 35% alcohol…so it just lowers it some. I would not add too much filtered/distilled water though. HTH

  43. Reading all / most of these posts I notice some variation in the beans to vodka ratios.
    1oz beans to 1 cup vodka = basic recipe.
    But there is one POUND of beans being added to 8 cups of vodka in another post. That would work out to 2 oz per cup of vodka.
    What does one need to get a good extract?

  44. @ veggie, I’ve got all my brews going, full strength. Once the 4-6 months is up, I’ll see then (by tasting) if the everclear extract should be diluted or not. Since I posted my original question, I have also made Mexican vanilla extract using vodka and everclear, Ugandan vanilla extract using vodka only, and then I did buy a sample pack of 8 varieties of beans from Beanilla, and have small (50 ml) of Indian, Indonesian and Tongan, all using Absolut vodka (I just used the small shooter bottles). I did buy some Chivas Regal 12 year old scotch whisky, originally for the cool little 50 ml bottle, but did decide to use the whisky, and mixed it with Madagascar Bourbon gourmet beans, using 100 ml of the whisky and 10 grams of beans.

    @ Johanna, I think the recipe you are referring to is for a two-fold vanilla extract, where you use twice as many beans for a double strength extract. I think if you used 1 oz beans to 8 fl oz alcohol, you’d get a good tasting extract.

  45. In case anyone is interested in an alcohol-free vanilla extract recipe, I came across this in search of one for my older sister who is a breast cancer survivor and has celiac’s disease as well as being intolerant to alcohol, a recipe using vegetable based glycerine.

    16 fl. oz. food grade vegetable based glycerine (I found it at iHerb.com)
    6 fl. oz. hot water (can use distilled)
    1 oz (approximately 8) vanilla beans

    In jar with tight fitting lid, mix glycerine and hot water, replace lid, shake well. Split beans in half length wise, scrape out seeds and add to jar, then cut split beans in half, add to jar. Replace lid, shake well, store in cool dry place, shaking occasionally.. While some said it would be ready after six weeks, others said three months. I’m going to follow Ivan’s advice and go six months.

    No refrigeration required.

    I’ve ordered the glycerine and some more beans and will make this to give to my sister at Christmas. I’ll make some for myself as well to try.

  46. Is anyone making vanilla sugar from their post extract beans?
    Can anyone recommend a ratio?
    I added about 5 lbs sugar to 1.5 oz. dry POST extract beans. (Meaning I used the beans for extract for 6-7 months then dried, then put in sugar.)

    I’d like to add this to my sales but I don’t know how long to “steep” or if I used enough beans.

    Also, has anyone used their vanilla after 3 months? I wonder if it will be vanilla-y strong enough… I heat my vodka before I add my beans and after my previous tests, I found that the extract made by heating is definitely darker.

    Any help would be appreciated!

    I conducted a test with Svedka vs. Volganaya (sold at Trader Joe’s) with my last batch & I found that the Svedka definitely has a liquor smell left in the bottle after extraction. The Volganaya was straight vanilla scent. I will be using that in the future. Just an fyi.

  47. I haven’t put my spent beans yet in sugar, as they are still steeping. I have put a single bean that I used the seeds from into the bottom of my sugar canister, then filled with sugar. It definitely is flavoring the sugar. I also put sugar into the bags that the beans came in. After just 10 days or so, the flavor from the remnant seeds/oil on the sides of the bags is awesome!

    The color of my vanilla I made with vodka is lots darker than the color of the vanilla made with Everclear. I used straight Everclear, as I plan to cut it with distilled water once it has finished extracting. My first batch was bottled on 6/18/13, so they are seven weeks “old.” lol

  48. Spooky_789

    You’ve just demonstrated (confirmed) what every vendor has told me – EVERCLEAR and similar high proof alcohols DO NOT extract vanilla flavoring from the beans as well as the 35-45% alcohols like vodka and bourbon. You should have diluted the everclear FIRST…then added the beans. Now when you add water to your “less dark” extract, it will become even weaker looking. It will look like colored water instead of the dark extract color.

    Live and learn.

  49. So I have an extract from last year that I’m down to the dregs on and I noticed that it has white solids, some free floating and some in larger clumps. I filtered this extract at the 6 month mark with a fine sieve (rather than cheesecloth) so there is still some caviar in the extract as well. Is this normal? And what is it?

    I just checked a newer, unfiltered batch and it has it too. I used extract grade beans from a reputable source, used mid-grade vodka, steam sterilized the brown bottles before use, and store them at room temperature. So unless there was some contaminant on my hands or cutting board when I prepped the beans, I’m not sure where I might have went wrong.

  50. MrTAD,

    True, live and learn, but unfortunately, when I was doing my research, the advice for using Everclear was not as concise or as plentiful as using vodka, rum or even brandy.

    Since it’s almost two months old now, I’ll continue to wait and see how it looks in another four months when I start to use it.

  51. Spooky,
    Yeah, I know what you mean about getting good information. That’s why I’m glad I found this website. Vanilla extract is around 35% alcohol (which is 70 proof) and that’s why vodka is what’s recommended because you use it right out of the bottle. I thought about using Everclear too (except I would have cut it with water to get it down to the right alcohol concentration). But I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to use distilled water or bottled water, so I just went with vodka for my first batch.

    I also made a smaller, second batch with bourbon using the same combination of beans so the only difference is vodka versus bourbon. I’m anxious to see how they will turn out but I have at least two months to wait!

    Next step is designing labels for my bottles!

    Good luck!

  52. I think when I make my next batches of extract I will use everclear diluted with water – I like the idea of “no taste” other then pure vanilla from the beans. I did some taste tests with 5 or 6 different vodkas and noticed each has a taste and that there is a noticeable difference from brand to brand. I used a good quality grain vodka for my first batch.

  53. Lower proof alcohol will extract more vanillin then higher proof alcohol. In the store the extract is limited to 35% alcohol dating back to prohibition where people used to buy extracts to get drunk so the government limited extracts to 35% alcohol. But now you can get some even higher in alcohol but in my opinion just use 70-80 proof alcohol and at that extraction you will need approx. 13-14oz of vanilla pods per gallon on alcohol to get a single fold at 35%. so if you use 1/4 pound pods in a 1/2 gallon bottle of 80 proof vodka that’s a good single fold use 1/2 pound of pods for 2x fold. yes it’s best to make your own as many extracts are from wood pulp vs. the bean pod and seeds.

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