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.


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.


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.

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.


  1. Hi!

    Thanks for the recipe and the research behind it!

    @Ian and Chef:
    You know plastic e.g. PET is not gas-proof whereas glas is?
    So I’d suggest using glas bottles to be sure nothing happens to your extract.
    You never know which flavors diffuse out of your extract if you use plastic.
    (Maybe you’ll like the result better, but then again who knows?)

    Using dark glas bottles like mentioned in the recipe above probably is the best idea since they are gas-proof and offer some light protection.


  2. We generate a load of ‘used’ beans around here. I’ve been using them to infuse rum for months now. I use a bit of this rum with the generous pour of gold rum that goes into our canele recipe. The vanilla rum adds a wonderful creaminess to the finished product.

    I was wondering how important, do you feel, is it to include the caviar in the extract? Are the flavor compounds in the bean spread evenly across the caviar and the flesh?

    I appreciate the work you’ve put into your very informative site.

  3. I think it’s OK without caviar, but you might want to use a few extra beans.

  4. In reference to vacuum packaging — they’re packed in a vacuum. Unless there’s some sort of very odd anaerobic organism that’s in the beans, there is no way for anything to grow without air. They can’t oxidize, decay or otherwise go bad due to air. UV could be a problem, but nothing should grow in there.

    Can’t wait to make a vanilla soda with this stuff.

  5. Hi! I’ve been trying to track down different extracts e.g. lavender, lemon, orange etc. and am wondering can you use the same recipe for these? Would there be a difference in ratio of alcohol:fruit in the preparation?

  6. Thank you so much for all your great ideas. Went to by some pure extract yesterday and had heart failure at the price. Quality sucks for all available in regular grocery stores. Must go to speciallty store to find anything worth using.
    For those of you asking about plastic versus glass, clean the bottles well, put water in it, seal the top and let set for a week or so then taste the water. Most plastic will give off an after-taste. Also aren’t there some nasty chemicals that can leach out of plastic? Though reusing all those water bottles would be nice. If giving as as a gift stitch up a little bag made from a piece of fairly thick cloth to keep out the light.
    If using the glass stoppered bottles, purchase some parafin wax(NO PERFUMES), or emergency candles,melt them down and seal the stopper iinto the bottle. Keep it handy to reseal bottle after you sneak a taste when in the extracting phase.
    Again thank you for allthe ideas.

  7. I started making my own vanilla a couple of years ago after reading this site. It has been a wonderful experiance. The vanilla is so much better than store bought. I was just looking at a batch that will be a year old in Dec. It truly gets better with time.
    I recently made a batch of vanilla in an Oak Barrel. I aged it 6 months. You lose a little bit from evaporation but it turns out ok. The oak does flavor the vanilla. It’s a different taste.
    Making Vanilla is a great hobby. Thanks for all the Info and the site its been a great help.

  8. I’ve got a batch of vanilla brewing that I want to give as presents as Christmas. When I went online looking for bottles I was originally considering standard brown, but I love the cobalt blue bottles which are also available. Any reason why I can’t use the blue bottles? Any response would be greatly appreciated.

  9. @carol – go for it.

  10. I am going to make my own vanilla using your directions. I was wondering, do you have any ideas for vanilla bean paste? All I can think of to do is the same process, but grinding up everything and putting it in a bottle of corn syrup. I don’t know if it will work the same way though. I use vanilla bean paste for my very vanilla cakes, but the price is outrageous. I need another alternative.

  11. Do you have to slit the beans, scrap, chop? Can’t you just put them in a grinder and then put the grindings in the vodka? Seems easier, but let me know if there is a flaw in my thinking.

  12. @Lauren – give it a try and let us know how it turns out. The only downside might be an abundance of sediment in your final product.

  13. Just want to see if you have tried the oak barrel method, and what if any results have been found.

    Also, have you tried combining the vodka with another spirit like rum to get a different blend?

  14. Ok, just what the hell.

    I have about 30 AAA vanilla beans in 2 cups of vodka, matured for three months and it still strongly smells from alcohol with just a slight hint of vanilla. Could it be that I bought some older beans?

  15. Could be, it should be a potent thick syrup.

  16. I am making my second batch of vanilla!! I just buy a 750ml bottle of vodka and add approx. 30 grade b Madagascar beans. (I cut the beans open, scrape out the caviar, and then cut up the beans in half widthwise then in thirds lengthwise. I put it all in the quart Mason jar and shake daily since I am thinking about it less as time passes and I forget.) After 6 mos it is slightly syrupy thick and smells like vanilla instead of strongly of vodka. Thank you for your excellent site!!

  17. Hello Debra,
    I am Tahitian vanilla producer in French Polynesia island Huahine.
    I made extract by using tahitian rhum and of course Tahitian Vanilla from my production. And my syrup smells strongly vanilla first. But you also smell the rhum .
    Why not make a try with Tahitian Vanilla. I dry beans not less 55% in other to give the original perfum of the bean (that’s my secret).
    Nice to hear from you
    Tsing Tsing

  18. I made some extract back in October, used premium vodka, and kept it in a dark cupboard. I peek at it time to time and noticed “slimy” gook around the caviar. Is this mold and is the vanilla ruined?

  19. The alcohol (35%) should kill anything in the bottle. I usually get this, and I believe it to be sediment and other stuff that manufacturers filter from their vanilla. I usually decant my bottle carefully to leave the sediment and caviar at the bottom of the bean soak bottle. Repeat for clearer vanilla.

  20. Do you have to cut up the vanilla bean or can you just put in the whole pod?
    Thank you.

  21. I have wanted to make my own vanilla extract for quite some time, but other “recipes” I’ve seen are so vague I’ve not tried it. I love the details you’ve provided here. Thank You!

    I wondered if you use the same measurements when baking, etc. with the homemade vanilla extract as you would store-bought. I go through vanilla extract pretty quickly, though I often increase the amount called for in my recipes as I <3 the vanilla flavor. I'm also thinking of making as gifts, but an 8 oz bottle doesn't seem like it would last very long.

    TIA, Wendy

  22. My cousin in Tucson just sent me six 33oz bottles of Molina mexican vanilla blend. It`s not quite as good as other brands I have had. Would putting good vanilla beans in it improve the flavor? I am using one bottle so putting beans in the others would mean lots of time for them to do their work. Will this work ?

  23. I’m trying to make a big batch of really strong vanilla extract for Christmas presents.
    All of this slicing lengthwise, removing the seeds, then chopping is really tiresome! I’m using 3 x 1.75 L bottles of vodka and 3 # of beans.

    Will it work the same (and make the same quality extract) if I took the beans and chopped them roughly in the food processor?
    Or sliced them lengthwise and THEN chopped them in the food processor?

    I figure that with all the vigorous shaking I’m doing, all the seeds should come out of the bean pretty quickly, right?

    Any ideas?

  24. I was wondering, can you make vanilla extract without using alcohol? (It’s for the kids.)

  25. Not really, but the alcohol is tiny and much will cook out.

  26. Where can I buy oak barrels for the counter to make vanilla? Or can I just put a small piece of oak in the vanilla while it sets? Do they even have oak sticks that can be used for this purpose and be safe for consumption?

  27. I only used about 8 beans for a liter of vodka and it was outrageous.

  28. I just finished making about 10 cups. I’m really excited and can’t wait to give for Christmas gifts. It will be just a couple weeks shy of six months.
    I ordered 1/2 pound of Uganda extract grade from Amadeus Trading Fter reading your vender reviews. $12 shipping on 1/4lb vs. $7 shipping on 1/2lb.
    The aroma was very strong, nice uniform beans, beautiful actually. Still pliable. I ended up with more vodka than I needed so I just made a more dilute mix an hope it turns out. 2- 1/2 gallon canning jars about 2/3 full of vodka and 49 beans each (1/2 pound equaled 98 beans) you said 1/4 lb per quart of vodka. I didn’t convert milliliters to quarts before shopping (oops! Math memory lapse) I bought a 1.75L and a 750 ML bottle.
    Do you think that will produce a rich extract or should I order more beans to add?

  29. You should be fine.

  30. wow, makingyour own vanilla, like wine, I’m excited.

  31. A few observations about some of the comments. As a food inspector I have to comment about Chuck’s comment on 6-24-10. With vacuum packaging everyone should be aware that there is an incredibly common anerobic bacterial spore present in practically any type of food. It’s called Clostridium Botulinum. This is what causes botulism food poisoning and ONLY grows in an oxygen free (anerobic) atmosphere. The cool part is that it’s easily controlled and the toxin that it produces is easily destroyed with heat. The bad part is that the bacterial spore is not too easily destroyed with normal boiling water temperatures except when boiled for very long periods of time or pressure cooked at higher temperatures. If the dry beans are vacuum packed it should be OK since the beans are usually too dry for the spore to germinate. If you are packing the finished vanilla in a sealed container the alcohol content and/or the low water activity (amout of moisture available to the bacteria for growth) would prevent the spore from germinating and creating the botulism toxin. If in doubt you can always refrigerate or freeze anything and that should prevent spore germination.

    Also a comment about Mexican vanilla. Often cheap Mexican vanilla labeled as pure vanilla is actually an extract of the Coumarin or Tonka bean. This extract has the look, taste and smell of vanilla extract. The problem is that the chemical coumarin has been banned by the FDA because it can cause internal organ damage. A Coumarin derivative (dicumarol) is a common blood thinner and is the active ingredient in many rat poisons (Warfarin). When buying Mexican vanilla look for a statement on the label that says “coumarin free”. Or better yet, just make your own and don’t worry about it.

  32. Maravillosa fórmula! Muy generoso que la divulguen. Gracias!!

  33. Has anyone sold their homemade extracts? I want to try selling my extract at a farmers market (maybe online??), but I’m not sure what the requirements would be.

    I’m sure regulations vary from state to state, and I know we have a really helpful local USDA office here in my town.

    Any advice?

  34. Thanks for the great information. Just made my first batch of vanilla. Already it smells good after only 5 days. Also, I ordered my beans from The Spice House in Milwaukee, WI. They are really nice people and very helpful. Thought maybe this would interest the people who don’t know where to buy the beans.


  35. Could you please make a printable copy of this recipe? It would really be helpful to save a lot of paper and ink. Love your recipes!! Sally in ID

  36. Thank you so much for this recipe!
    I just did my vanilla extract following your post!
    Later when I`m ready (in 6 months later) I will show the result in my blog.
    Thank`s a lot for all good stuff here!

    Regards from sunny Cyprus!

  37. As suggested, I plan to buy the Grade B Madagascar beans from Vanilla USA in order to make vanilla extract. With this purchase I will receive 1/4 pound of the Tahitian Grade A Vanilla Beans – from what I have been reading it seems that the tahitian beans do not have a strong vanilla flavor or have a flowery somewhat odd flavor – what are these beans best used for? I need a strong vanilla flavor for canning jams as well, so I am assuming the Madagascar would be best for this as well. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

  38. *UPDATE*
    OK, we are just about a week short of 3 months into the (brewing?) process. My Hubby and I did a taste test comparing a regular bottle in my cupboard and the homemade. I was so surprised that it was well on the way to Vanilla Extract!!! It had a different “bouquet” than the store bought, no doubt due to bean types used. Very pleasant, indeed!

  39. I have seen in some blogs to add sugar or corn syrup, but most do not.
    I was thinking of adding honey. Do you think this is a good or bad idea?

    I bought both Madagascar and Tahitian beans and used some in one jar and the other kind in one jar and mixed the two in another jar. Also used vodka in one (with each kind of bean) and rum in one (with each kind of bean) and also with bourbon. I guess you could say I am experimenting. It seams that everyone I read has a different idea of which one is best. I decided to just see which one I liked best.

  40. I read on another site to warm the alcohol. Not to a boil just warm it then add the beans and it speeds up the process. Any ideas on this. I would like to start some now for Christmas gifts. Any comments appreciated.

  41. Hi, I have researched the net for alcohol free vanilla and some recipe’s call for vegetable glycerin. Has anyone tried that? Any feedback?

  42. How to make a two fold concentration? I will make vanilla extract using your method and I will also try the Cooks Illustrated method which purports to produce a vanilla extract equivalent to McCormicks pure vanilla extract in about 1 week by heating the vodka prior to combining. Their recipe only calls for one (1) bean per 3/4 cup of vodka.

    I will try your version and theirs. I don’t mind waiting, I just want to produce a superior product. I have bakers who want some too, and if I could reliably produce the double strength, I know they would love that.

    I will make my first try from mostly Madagascar extract grade beans and some Tahitian extract grade beans. I hope to get Indonesian vanilla beans soon and try those for an extract that is for baking primarily.

    I very much appreciate you sharing your experience and expertise. Thank you!

  43. For two fold use twice the FDA-required beans or more. 1 bean per 3/4cup will never give you anything close to real vanilla extract…

  44. I made vanilla extract last year, in October. We moved and I forgot about it and just found it, still in the vodka bottle. Is it still good? Too strong?

  45. @sb – Perfect, use it!

  46. I have 3 different extracts going right now, all using locally (to me) produced vodka and beans from Amadeus Trading Company: 1 8oz jar using Uganda Gold (10 grade-A beans), 1 12oz jar using the extract grade beans (I didn’t measure how many beans or the weight, but I put in the majority of 1/4lb of vanilla beans), and 1 10oz jar using 2oz (12 beans) of their grade-A PNG beans. The first 2 jars are about a week apart on start date, and the third I just started last week.

    Since I do bake (a lot), I had to purchase some commercially available vanilla extract, until the homemade varieties are ready. So far, the 12oz jar seems to smell about the same as the 2oz bottle of commercially available extract – and it’s about 2 months along. I’m really looking forward to actually using these extracts, and seeing which ones I like the best.

    And to share, I am vaguely blogging about it: although not in the detail I’ve seen in other blogs (or even here). It’s more for my own reference, but has pictures.

  47. @Jen – Don’t wait! Give it a try now :) You can taste it mature, and it’s certainly ready to go now.

  48. I have several clear glass bottles that are the perfect size to make vanilla extract. I want to give them as gifts. I am wondering if it is ok to use the cler glass bottles instead of the dark brown ones. I figure most of the extracts will be kept in a cupboard or pantry which is dark and protected from light. I love this website, very informative.

  49. Anyone looking for excellent quality beans at a great price from a vanilla bean direct importer that sells also to the individual consumer at wholesale prices – here’s a tip from my hometown San Francisco: Vanilla Saffron Imports on Valencia Street. They’ve been selling online for many years, Juan the owner is absolutely committed to providing top quality and because he wants consumers to understand vanilla and saffron, he sells to the consumer also at the best prices you can ever get as a non-commercial buyer. Google the name, you’ll get the website. He’s been in business 30 years and imports 125 metric tons per year, but he will still sometimes answer the phone! You can ask any questions by email or direct plus you will learn so much from his website. You can buy large or small quantities of various types of beans. He also makes and offers superior extracts and pastes including all organic. He has all lab testing reports on file to back up his quality. A true gem of a company. When I spoke to him on the phone he told me how to make extract from beans, even though he sells extract! A true gem of a person.

  50. @marlo I’m “brewing” mine in clear mason jars, also stored in my cabinet. I haven’t noticed any difference in flavor (mostly, I wanted to be able to see if anything went wrong). Before I give it out as gifts, I’m going to transfer it to dark blue bottles.

  51. hi, my vanilla experiment smelled wonderful 1-3 wks into the project now the sweet smell is gone and it has a acrid – unvanillaish smell.I have it in 1plastic and 1gass bottle and they both have lost the woderful aroma.Please let me know cause i bot 55 dollars worth of beans and dont want this to go bad

  52. I have recipes that require the seeds from the vanilla bean. Can I scrap out the seeds and save them for my recipes? If so, how long will they last and how do i save them?

  53. I wish I could add a picture! I started my vanilla in early oct. and it is still only slightly tan (like a diluted ice tea color).
    I used clear glass jars, but have stored them in a cool dark place.
    I used the highest quality beans from “vanilla products USA” on eBay. The beans were vacuum sealed & very moist when I opened them.
    Here is what has gone wrong-
    1. There is an oily film on jar that you can see since the glass is clear.
    2. There are white specs floating, and what looks to be fuzzy mold growing on the cut side of the beans.
    3. In addition to the “spore-like” floating pieces, there is a white cloudy color that settles toward the top, I can see it when holding it toward light before I shake it.

    I see the recommendation for filtering, but I’m concerned this isn’t safe??

    I have $50 of vodka & $20 in beans at stake!

  54. I was told by homesteading friend that diy vanilla, much like sourdough starter, could be added to as you use up your vanilla. That is, you could drain off half your extract, top up your container with more alcohol and reuse the same beans. She said the beans could be reused for up to two years. This sounds too good to be true. Thoughts?

  55. Shellie– we must have purchased the same vanilla beans on eBay. I started in October, and have an oily film near the top of my jars. Yuck. I don’t have the ‘spores’ but have the oily film. The beans didn’t smell very ‘vanilla-ey’ to me. Yes, have about $30 in vanilla beans and $50+ in vodka invested too. My first time as well! Thanks for any comments from the experts! Happy holidays!

  56. Is it common for the vanilla to have a slight skunky odor before the end of the six month fermenting period? Thank you.

  57. I believe the oily film you’re seeing is due to the higher water content in grade A beans. I’ve made 3 batches of extract thus far, all using 3 different types of beans, and all made in clear mason jars – the 2 using grade A beans both have the oily film on top (no mold or spores, however), which integrates back into the extract when shaken.

    That said, the grade B beans (which were very dry, brittle, and really difficult to cut up, let alone scrape the caviar out of), have made for a MUCH better extract. It’s what I’ve doled out for Christmas presents this year. When I poured the extract from the mason jar into the dark blue bottles I’m gifting, I used some of the beans from the original batch, and added “fresh” beans to the mix. I did 2 2-oz bottles, and had 4oz left over – which was poured into a 8oz bottle, with more “fresh” beans, and then topped off with more vodka, to fill the bottle. Divine.

    If you’re showing mold, as much as I hate to say it, it’s probably best to scrap the batch.

  58. Is there any way to take the alcohol out of the sulution after you made the extract? like possibly letting the alcohol evaporate off, to concentrate it even further?

  59. I have been using my vanilla that I made last year. I have one other bottle left. I am almost finished with my first bottle . Do I add more vodka and let it sit for another year??? I bake a lot And am dreading having to buy from the store! I also used a glass bottle . Where can I find dark bottles?

    I loved the clear directions. I know I did not scoop out the caviar… just slit the beans.

    I will definitely order f om the San Francisco store. Thanks for the tip.

  60. Just finished pouring off a quart of vanilla extract made from ebay beans that were dry. The extract did turnout good. Had mixed Tahitian and Madagascar beans. Yesterday was cleaning out the pantry and found 3 bottles different bottles of alcohol with 3 to 5 inches in each bottle. Appleton Estates Jamacia Rum, Wild Turkey, and American Honey. So divided the beans and caviar between the three and we will see how it tastes in a month or so. E=Waht other interesting liquors have others used that turned out well? Thanks.

  61. @nru: I made all 3 batches of my extract in clear mason jars. The batch made using the extract grade beans ended up getting split up into 3 different dark blue bottles (2 for gifts, 1 to keep & use). 2 2oz bottles were filled with extract, caviar & beans from the original batch + some fresh beans & caviar (don’t know why I thought to do that – to give it more vanilla-y flavor).

    That left me 4oz left over, from an 8oz batch for the 3rd bottle. Turned out, I’d bought an 8oz bottle, NOT a 4oz bottle like I’d thought. So, I put as much of the extract, beans & caviar from the original batch as I could into the 4oz bottle, added some fresh beans & caviar, and topped off with an additional 4oz of vodka to fill the bottle.

    For the first week, I routinely shook up all three bottles (the 2 2oz bottles & my 8oz bottle) to mix the newer beans & caviar … and then after a couple of weeks, started using it in my baking.

    It’s seriously the best vanilla I’ve ever used.

  62. Leslie,

    Thank you for the tip About Vanilla Saffon Imports on Valencia Street in San Francisco. Juan has been so helpful answering my questions as he was in Mexico looking checking out his vanilla crop. On my next trip to CA I will be strolling on Valencia Street for sure!!! I am definitely putting an order in with Juan.


  63. @angela,

    “I was told by homesteading friend that diy vanilla, much like sourdough starter, could be added to as you use up your vanilla.”

    I’m very new to this, and no expert, but I think this is a bad idea. I considered it, and I know that Ina Garten has a bottle of replenished vanilla for 20 years. But I think it’s a bad idea because you’ll mess up your proportions, unless you are very careful. I think it might be an OK idea if you’ve used up clearly half the bottle, then add more vanilla beans in the proportions that Ian has suggested. So, if you add four more ounces of vodka, add 3 more vanilla beans. That might work.

    But, why not just make more vanilla on a rolling basis? I think that way you have control over proportions.


  64. I saw a great deal on ebay for Grade A beans (they didn’t specify country of origin – I asked and am waiting for answer).

    Are these OK for extraction making?

    I just started a batch and this whole thing is very exciting.

  65. DON’T use grade A beans! There is too much oil in them. Get good quality Grade B, they are not oily and have more flavor per pound than grade A.

  66. I just finished making a batch of vanilla extract using extract grade beans from Saffron and Vanilla in San Francisco. The beans were very nice and they were shipped quickly.I was very pleased with the bean quality and the service. I did call them on the telephone and they were most helpful.

  67. I just made 1 cup using 3 beans. I can hardly wait! I brew beer, and adding my own vanilla extract to my vanilla bourbon imperial porter will be awesome!

  68. I started my batch around the 1st of the year and the color is darkening and smells like vanilla when I shake it up. I choose not to slit the beans rather just cut them in half and put them in the jar that way. Maybe that was a poor choice I made but time will tell. I plan to open it up and try it around the first of April which will give it 3 months to brew.

  69. some things I have learned about vanilla beans and extracts:

    -Grade A vs Grade B ( or gourmet vs. chef)
    Always use Grade B for extracting and most recipes, unless you are garnishing a recipe with a whole bean to impress someone, or you don’t care about cost efficiency. The main difference is only in appearance, the grade really tells you nothing about the flavor. Grade A are usually longer beans, without blemishes, possibly ripened more fully, and more pliable, due to the higher moisture (mostly water moisture) content. Grade A theoretically may also contain more of the essential compunds/oils, but not necessarily so, usually just more water, which you are paying for. If using Grade A in extracting, you generally need to use more of them (by weight), vs grade B, and you will also end up with more water in your extract, and maybe more problems with your extract.

    -Storage of beans:
    Vanilla beans are particulary ssupseptible to certain molds/fungus, especially those with higher moisture content. Never store in refrigerator, where conditions for mold growth are optimized. Beans with higher moisture content should not be sealed completely tight, or at least be allowed fresh air occaisonally. Dryer beans can always be rehydated to make more pliable for use. The flavor is not in the water moisture, it’s in the oils.

    -Method of kill/sweating/curing/aging
    Most beans, with the exception of certain hybrids (like Tahitian), have to be kiiled to stop certain enzymatic process, and begin others. All beans have to have a method of cure and aging. Sun kill/cure/crate aging is probably the most time consuming/expensive process whereas boiling/then oven drying, the least.

    -Vanilla orchids are native only to Mexico/some of Central America.
    All other places growing them are descendants/transplants of Mexican Vanilla orchids. For some 300 years, Mexico had a total monopoly on vanilla. As it was, vanilla orchids have an exclusive method of pollination. A particular small bee (melipone), only native to certain parts of Mexico, was the only known enabler of pollination. Methods of atrificial pollination proved financially prohibitive. Efforts to establish the bees elsewhere failed. Finally a certain method of hand pollination was developed and enabled production in other parts of the world.

    -Mexican vanilla beans are still perhaps the finest in the world, if properly produced/ripened/cured, even though very little of the total worldwide amount is currently produced there, and the cost is very prohibitive for most.

    -Avoid cheap Mexican tourist vanilla extracts.
    Many of these are mostly/all artificial and some may even contain extracts from the tonka bean. Tonka bean use for food and food additives is banned for sale in the U.S. by the FDA, due to toxic amounts of coumarin.
    There are still high quality Mexican vanilla extracts available for sale in the U.S. at a price, but with some reassurance that thay contain no coumarin.
    As a side note, most cinnamon sold in the U.S. is usually one of the cassia species, which contains fairly high amounts of coumarin. The FDA warns against excessive use of cassia and some countries have banned it altogether. So if you are a cinnamon junkie like I am, a much safer form, the true cinnamon, or Ceylon cinnamon is much more expensive and harder to find, but contains vastly less coumarin. It also has a weaker, but sweeter, more complex, and less harsh taste.

    -Most vanilla beans are currently produced in Indonesia and Madagascar. Mexico, once the largest producer, now only totals about 2% of the worldwide production.

    -Tropical cyclones, political instabilty, poor weather, have in the past driven vanilla prices unbelievably high, in 2004, as much as $500/kilo. Today prices are probably near record lows, back around $20/kilo.

    -Vanillin is not the only compond to give vanilla it’s flavor.
    There are at least some 171 indentified compounds in it, with vanillin usually the most pronounced. Tahitian (a hybrid) contains relatively small amounts of vanillin compared to the others, but has more of some of the other compounds, one of them piperonal, that give it perhaps a stronger aroma/ different flavor. Some chefs prefer Tahitian for baking/pastries.

    -synthetic vanillin is still sometimes made from lignin, a byproduct of paper mills. But today, most vanillin is derived from petrochemicals.

    -Castoreum (approved by the FDA for food additives) is often used in food and beverages for vanilla and rasberry flavoring, (almost always listed only as “natural flavoring” in ingredients) and in some cigarettes and perfumes. If you really want to know, castoreum is the odorous secretion from glands between the sexual and anal organs of sexually mature beavers. Even the name of it has a certain yuckability.

    -I have found that aging (in my own cupboard) real vanilla extracts or flavorings really does greatly improve upon it’s flavor over time, like fine liquors/wine, even when there are no vanilla beans in the bottle. I suspect that when the vendors give a shelf life of only a couple of years, there are saying so only because of liability purposes, and the product preserved in alcohol can actually be kept much longer. I have savored wines/liquors many many years after they were produced with no ill effects, although you will probably never get definitive answers (especially from the manufacturers) on how long they can actually be kept.


    I have dealt with Vanilla, Saffron Imports-San Francisco and have found them to give the most “bang for the buck” on both vanilla and saffron products. This vendor makes the world’s 2 most expensive spices affordable to the masses. You can get better a few places elsewhere, but usually at a MUCH higher cost.

    I haven’t made my own extract for many years, instead using beans in most recipes and keeping a bottle of high grade real Mexican vanilla “flavoring” for handiness, only from suppliers with FDA approval, with an FDA #, to ensure against artificial, or coumarin and gluten aldulterants. What I am talking about can’t be sold in the U.S. as extract, because it contains much less alcohol than the FDA requires, in order to be sold as extract, usually only about 4%. But it still is REAL vanilla flavoring.

    I currently have way too many beans on hand, so I am thinking about experimenting again with extracting. But I want to savor the potent flavor of the vanilla without so much alcohol to wreck it, especially in things uncooked where the alcohol will not evaporate and is not desired. I can always flavor my vodka with vanilla if I so desire.

    So this is what I am contemplating, most consumer vanilla extracts are single fold. I want to experiment with a 3 or 4 fold batch. 1 liter bottle. Install about 3/4 pound vanilla beans, add 70 to 80 proof vodka to fill. Vodka content will not be the full liter because of displacement by the beans, maybe only 3/4 liter at most. Also, I do not intend to cut or chop the beans, leaving them intact, except for some small lengthwise slits. I am thinking that I can possibly then remove whole beans from the solvent whenever I please, and still use the “caviar” and/or pods elsewhere. I guess, a method of creating potent extract AND preserving beans? Anybody have thoughts on this?

    BTW, I have a warning: I believe real vanilla, quality saffron, true cinnamon, cardamom, and a few others to be mildy, but pleasurably and euphorically addictive, (They are in my case anyway, lol.), and the present prices to be affordable.

  70. Thank you for this sight. It is very helpful. Could you please explain to me why a clear bottle would not be good to use? I have some lovely clear bottles with corks that I would like to fill with vanilla and give as gifts. If the bottles are stored in the cupboard they would not be exposed to the light. Would this be ok? What effect does the sunlight have on the vanilla?

  71. I LOVE THIS! I recently started making my own amaretto &I Kahlua … but started a ‘new’good bottle of vanilla and it has a different flavor .. not as yummy as the first .. so now I’m excited about making my own vanilla! This page is awesome! Wonderful directions and great helpful comments! Thanks so much everyone for all the help! Can’t wait to try this!!
    Also the comment from Leslie on Nov 12 about the Vanilla, Saffron Import Co in San Fran was awesome! I had questions and got an email back from Juan the next day!
    Thanks again! ;)
    I’m also curious about the clear bottle thing..I have my Kahlua in a cupboard .. is the not enough?

  72. I think your clear bottles would be just fine kept in a usually dark cupboard. Light eventually degrades quality of all, or at least most food products, Unless the bottles are very large, or you think it will be kept for many years, I don’t see a problem, provided all the alcohol hasn’t evaporated out. It’s the reason why most beers are put into dark bottles-longer shelf life. I don’t think your extract likely to ever spoil if used in a reasonable amount of time, but perhaps eventually lose some quality over a long time.

    More about Mexican vanilla products:
    I’ve been thinking about and IMO, it’s probably best to avoid Mexican vanilla extracts/flavorings period, unless you can really trust the manufacturer/vendor. Illegally tainted and/or labeled products have even shown up on U.S. shelves. Just as the Spanish have seriously adulterated Saffron with proven and/or potentially dangerous additives, sadly, many of their Mexican descendants have learned to adulterate their vanilla products. Some of the synthetic and/or dangerous Tonka bean tainted vanillas can actually smell and taste superior to the real thing to many people. Mexican border towns are rife with this tourist connage. It’s another reason I think I will again make my own extract.

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