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. I once, several years ago bought a 16 ounce bottle of vanilla from Costco, Kirkland Signature, which was labeled pure Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract. It was actually very good product for the money and I’m near 100% positve it was in a clear bottle. The label covered about half of the bottle.

    I have not seen the same product at Costco since then. Now they have what they simply label as Kirkland Signature pure vanilla extract in a 16 oz bottle. I bought a bottle of it probably about 2 years ago, it was CLEARLY inferior to their previous offering, and after trying once, I relegated it to the back of the pantry. So I just went and found that bottle. It just so happens it is also in a clear bottle, and upon reading the label, it has a use by date of Jan 03 1016. So what is that, an aproximately 6 year expiration from the time I bought? Now I’ll put it back in the pantry, and maybe I’ll try it again in another 4 years to see if the taste has improved any, lol.

    I wouldn’t worry one iota about using clear bottles for your extract, especially when keeping in your cupboard/closed cabinet. I absolutely intend to use clear bottles myself. Hope this helped.

  2. Thank you.

  3. Yup! Thanks a bunch!

  4. We recently bought some extract at a little farm in the Dominican Republic. 16oz for $6. I was wondering now if all vanilla extracts have alcohol in it. We want to feel safe using the extract. Thanks for any help!

  5. Wes, yes all vanilla extracts have alcohol in them.

    Even McCormicks uses 70 proof alcohol (35% according to the label.) Right after vanilla extracts and water, so this homemade extract is MUCH better because there is no water to dilute the extract. I have been making my own vanilla extract after reading this blog a year or so ago. I’ll NEVER buy another bottle from the store.

  6. I’ve made this a couple of times as gifts. It was so well received that I decided to try it out as a commercial venture to see if it would fly.

    Last Christmas I made 4 batches:
    1) 2 pounds of beans + 4 liters of rum
    2) 2 pounds of beans + 2 liters of rum (double fold)
    3) 2 pounds of beans + 4 liters of brandy
    4) 2 pounds of beans + 2 liters of brandy (double fold)

    That was around a hundred bottles (100 ml ~ 4 oz). I sold them all in under 4 hours.

    So, yeah … commercially viable.

    I had to push the double fold and sold it mostly to people who like to take pride in their baking. This time I’m only making the single strength. 32 liters.

    I found some 10 liter pails at a wine supply store. These are the perfect size for an 8 liter batch as they aren’t too heavy to shake.

    The recipe is easy with this size as a reference. 7 liters of 40% alcohol + 1 liter of filtered, bottled water will give you 8 liters of 35% alcohol. If you can get them, that’s exactly 4 x 1.75 liter bottles.

    Then I cut up 2 pounds of beans, lengthwise for each pail. Yes, that’s 8 pounds of beans in total. Yes, it took a while. The math of 1 pound of beans to 4 liters of 35% liquid works out as Ian has put forward in his recipe, even though I’m mixing metric and imperial measurements. ;)

    2 pails are plain vanilla, made with alcool (basically ethanol available at the liquor store), 1 pail is rum and the last is brandy. 32 liters should give me about 300 bottles. At $10/bottle, that’s a little over $6 profit for each bottle. Not too shabby. At that price for boutique grade handmade vanilla in nice little bottles with cute labels, people were literally THROWING ten-dollar bills at me.

    If you can make a decent product that is fairly unique, quite portable, and you don’t mind explaining it to people 60 or 100 times each time you do a show, you can make a fair amount of money at this. I’d be making a fair amount at $8 a bottle and would be quite ecstatic at $12 a bottle. I certainly could do $12, but dealing with all that change would be a pain. Seriously. I’m not greedy.

    Right now I’m having fun with the alcohol and gaming commission trying to convince them that I don’t need to get a special event permit to sell this at craft shows because it isn’t an alcoholic ‘beverage’ for ‘consumption’. Just something else to think about on your road to self-reliance through vanilla sales.

    Oh, one other thing: I managed to sell the used beans to a restaurant! A place I frequently go makes a lot of cheesecakes, so I brought them a bottle of my product just to try out and they loved it. We got to talking and they took the 8 pounds of beans that I had originally used for $100 credit at their restaurant. Not a bad trade. There are enough high-end restaurants in the area that regularly make desserts like creme brulee and cheesecake that I shouldn’t have any trouble at all getting rid of more the next time I bottle.

  7. No Danile, it’s kind of a SPAM.

  8. That was an awesome post! Love to hear everyones stories! At the end of this week I should get my very first shipment ever of vanilla beans! I bought a pound from the Saffron Vanilla Co. in San Fransisco as someone suggested in an earlier post..they were very nice! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! I thought I’d use a couple beans for some vanilla sugar & add a couple to the Kahlua I made a lil bit ago…the rest is for the vodka…though I’m bad at math, putting it lightly, ;) and want to be sure of how many beans I need for a 1.75 liter of vodka.
    Thanks for all the great info & help!

  9. without reading this first I bought pure 95% alcohol. Can I use this with boiled water to cut it? Guess I could keep it and make my orange liqueur with it.
    Also my beans are about 2 years old but kept dark and airtight, no mold, from Tonga. Will they have little flavor left? Actually not too much risk.
    Do you know if Morocco sells vanilla beans. I will be stopping by there before sailing home in Sept. My Mr is addicted to vanilla so I will do it the right way sometime. It’s almost impossible to get in some parts of Europe. All they have is some powdered chemical that tastes bitter.

  10. What is great about this recipe is that you can use many different spirits for your vanilla extract. As Losul stated they found Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. So just use bourbon over vodka and I have heard of one resturan (from food network) that made Vanilla Extract with Tequila.

  11. First, a rather late thank you for the excellent tutorial! Late, because I used it to make my vanilla some some three–four years ago.

    Two bottles I made. One I have yet to open. One bottle now almost gone. (And what pleasure it’s brought tongues and olfactories!)

    Comment on production: While I largely followed the directions, I cut the beans far more finely than your photograph illustrates, and added extra alcohol to bring the mixture to 50+% alcohol content. (There is evidence a higher alcohol content would perform a more efficient extraction.) Also, I never removed the bean debris, allowing it to remain in the bottle even to this day. This has not really been an issue, for very little debris decants with the extract.

    Now one of my bottles is about to empty, with the vanilla bean debris still inside the bottle. It’s been over three years.

    If I add some more vodka, can I reasonably expect more extract? Can anyone recommend how much more vodka I should add—and how much more time I should wait? Or, has the fat vanilla bean sung?

  12. Hi Dale,

    Thanks for the update, I’m glad it worked out for you.

    You can add a bit more vodka and wash the excess off the beans, I sometimes do that when I remove the beans.

    The new extract won’t be nearly as concentrated. You can of course resoak the beans too and get a nice smelling liquid, but I think it will be immensely less concentrated and recipes won’t work the same.

    The original extract is probably 35%+ true bean goop and extracts, depending on how generous you are with the beans. Mine is sometimes like pancake syrup. Once you wash and resoak I can’t imagine it’s more than 5% extractives, probably less, so that’s a pretty big hit.

    I also think some of the more delicate or soluble flavor compounds will be washed out in the first extraction and you’ll be left with something of a completely different composition.

    Just random thoughts. No reason you shouldn’t try!

  13. Excellent and very helpful. I just ordered my beans to make my first batch. In doing some research, I’ve discovered specialty white oak casks, made especially for aging and maturing vanilla. I know that oak adds a vanilla flavor to wines and malts like whisky and rum, and wonder if anyone has used a cask to age their vanilla?

    Also, am curious as to opinions on the use of vodka, or rum, as the alcohol of choice?

  14. Hi.
    I just ordered 40 beans and washed out a green wine bottle.
    Will boil it when I get my beans. Think I’ll go with bourbon.
    I looked up many sites on Google for making vanilla extract.
    I liked yours best.
    One site suggested grinding the vanilla beans in a coffee grinder. I use one specially for herbs and keep it clean.
    Suggested it would be ready in a couple of days. Sounds like a good idea to me…but I’m ignorant about the topic.
    What do you think?
    Regards, Charlie

  15. Does anyone have experience with making vanilla extract from Polish grass vodka? Its all I have on hand and since I dont drink it, seems like a good use for it.
    My beans are from the supermarket so I dont know the country of origin.
    Thanks,

  16. Enjoyed your article, I can’t imagine having a bottle of vanilla extract lasting over a month! I’m also a pastry chef so I use vanilla extract like butter! I always start a 1.75L bottle at the beginning of every month :)
    But I always like to read around and see what everyone else is doing and how they make their extract, its how I improve on my technique

  17. I read that some people get cloudy liquid after it has been aged for a few weeks. Has that got anything to do with where you stay, as in whether you are from the tropics or places with 4 seasons? Coz over here in Singapore, the humidity is really high. Definitely more than 85%. I just bought 8 madagascar beans at some atrocious price. Am very afraid my effort will not be paid off if it starts to mold. Tx!

  18. As far as I can tell, no one has posted any results on the difference between scraping and not scraping beans, so I decided to start the experiment. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to take the time to scrape! I just started, but here’s a photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/5.....hotostream

  19. Losul said the expiration date on her vanilla was Jan 03 1016. When, pray tell, is that?

    Losul can revive his/her extract by adding some vanilla beans to it along with some bourbon or vodka. If she uses bourbon s/he may be able to replicate the Madagascar Bourbon vanilla s/he liked. Or s/he can start from scratch with spirits and vanilla beans. Incidentally, the island of Reunion, just off the coast of Madagascar, was once called Bourbon. It is where the best vanilla is produced (at least according to the people in Reunion). Whether the extract Losul liked had any actual bourbon in it is not known, but it wouldn’t hurt to make your own out of bourbon.

  20. I’m sorry Louise, I disagree. Bourbon vanilla is a style, it absolutely NEVER has actual bourbon type spirits in it. Most people who try spirits other than vodka regret it (read all pages of comments here for examples).

    Second, 1016 is obviously a typo for 2016, give a guy/gal a break.

  21. thanks for taking a time to help people with so great information, congratulations, your work is so dignifying.http://www.bancodonordeste.net

  22. Any one try blending the beans and vodka in a blender? I tried a small batch and at first it was Thick like syrup but seems to have thinned out as it settled.

  23. Ian,

    I’m wondering if the corking method matters in extract making. I see you have plastic corks with metal pour spouts in your pictures. Can I reuse corks from wine bottles or should I purchase something else like mushroom corks?

  24. So, I made some vanilla extract last year. 1/2 gallon vodka vanilla. 1/4 gallon brandy vanilla. 1/4 gallon rum vanilla.

    To be honest, as many people have mentioned, the straight vodka seemed superior. Will be making some more.

    However, several people have asked this, but I have not yet seen an answer. Has anyone tried aging vanilla in oak casks, or with some toasted oak from a homebrewing store? Is it worthwhile, or not worth the effort? Could you get similar results by just adding in some bourbon whiskey? And is it worth it?

  25. Tim,
    I am a layperson myself, but I can’t think that is a good idea. I view it like this:
    Aerating wine and spirits comes from dissolving oxygen into the liquor, either over time in a decanter, or forcefully in a decanter. Think of how much oxygen would get dissolved then. Same thing when you are making mayonnaise, you don’t want to use a blender for things like olive oil, you will oxidize the olive oil, changing the flavor, making it bitter. Most likely, this would apply to vodka(especially the aldehyde’s) and the complex flavor compounds in the vanilla. The friction generated wouldn’t help in the preserving of the vanilla’s flavor compounds either.

    Slow but steady wins the race. =p

  26. Hi,
    Can we make this vanilla extract using Stoli Vanil Vodka ?

  27. I’m sure you could, but why would you want to?

  28. I watched Ina Garten place vodka in glass bottle with tight fitting lid. She added whole vanilla beans, closed lid tightly and placed in cabinet. She stated that you could continue to add beans and vodka as extract is used. She has been using from the original batch for years. She also showed that if one desired to use the beans, pull bean from vodka, snip one end and push out from end. It looked like a thick substance. She showed that she just places the casing right back into the bottle. I do not believe that she used an exact number of beans per volume of vodka. I believe that she stated you can pack as many uncut beans in container as possible if you like. Did anyone else view this episode?

  29. Bourbon Vanilla is actually not named after the alcohol bourbon but is named after the Islands of Bourbon where these particular beans are grown. They are pretty much the same as a Madagascar Bean.

  30. I make my extract very similar to above excellent article with just a couple tweaks. My wife is home baking master but adverse to quality issues and high price of commercial products, (McCormacks, etc.) We also give presents of this spectacular nectar as gifts. I also want the best extract when I make candy, syrups, custards, ice cream, etc. for the family. The only real work is slicing and dicing the beans. I use a razor knife ( box cutter) to slice the bean and a teaspoon to scrape out the seed-use a new sanitized blade.

    I then use a very sharp chef’s knife to cut the scooped out bean into 1/4 inch bits. The big job is done! But please use caution with that chef’s knife – the beans are tough and leathery. A very sharp knife is a must and please take your time. Turn off the cell phone and TV.

    Liquor purchase. I use vodka. Being retired with some discretionary funds I use Ketel One vodka for about $23 for a 750ml bottle. I said I wanted to use the best. But to be honest I have used Popov vodka for $9 a bottle and have not seen any real taste difference between the two. Both vodkas yield an excellent product. However, I gift this nectar to people I care about so I go for the Ketel, conspicious consumption I’m guilty of. I buy two 750 ml bottles of Ketel for each batch, about 6 cups total.

    The beans. I have used many sources to get top quality beans and for the recent past have been using “Olivenation & JR’S Mushroom” brand available on Amazon. They are sent in a 8 oz. resealable plastic bag for $23.24. These are excellent beans. Usually between 55-65 beans per bag.

    Boil 2 mason jars as directed to sanitize. As best as you can split the harvested seed and diced bean stalks and put equal estimated shares in each jar. Add the vodka, tightly seal the jars, store in a darkened shelf or cellar area, shake jars when you think about it, and wait for the magic to happen. I have used extract after 1 month, but the extract reaches nirvana in about 6 months. I usually reserve 5-6 beans out of each package for runout situations or to be used in something I’m preparing and I want the bean specks noticed. (Vanilla icecream!)

    Unit cost math. If you use Popov, add $18 cost to the bean cost ($23+$4shipping), you’re into this magic juice for $45. If you dont have mason jars, find empty liquor or wine bottles with excellent lids, or course sanitize these. You yield about 50 ozs of extract for $45 which equals a per ounce cost of $.90. With MCCormacks going for $9 (onsale) for a 4 oz bottle which contains Vanilla, some type of alcohol, water, which comes out to $2.25 per ounce.

    Way cheaper, your own manufactured extract is extraordinarily higher in quality, and you got some gifts if you so choose to send to another appreciative home cook. You won’t believe the taste difference in all your recipes. Good idea about coffee filters. I’ll try them, while now I use a extra fine sieve which still leaves some very minor but noticeable residue.

    Bon apetit and good health to all.

  31. Ok…so like I said a while ago..about a month .. I bought a pound of vanilla beans..I don’t have a small scale to measure an ounce of beans per cup of vodka so I broke it upinto 16 bundles and just estimated … I think I did way to many beans…it was a 32oz bottle and by the time I cut them up and put them in it was about half full of beans and filled the rest with skye vodka…it is crazy dark already (I started it on 4-11-12) so I’m wondering if it’ll just be better or if I should break it up and start another bottle? Thanks guys! I really appreciate the help!!!

  32. Thank you for this tutorial, it’s awesome! Question about making the extract: if you want to have as much vanilla bean surface area as possible in contact with the alcohol, why not just grind up the whole beans in a food processor, blender, food mill, or similar? Is there a disadvantage to having the vanilla beans ground up that small?

  33. It leaves quite the nasty gunk that clogs a coffee filter like crazy.

  34. I have been putting off bottling up my vanilla. It has been 3 years since I made it and I will just occassionally pour some up to use or give away. I bought the large (1/2 gallon) or so container of vodka and made 1 pint of lemon 1 pint of Tahitian and the rest I left in the 1/2 gallon bottle and it got the Madagascar Bourbon bean. When I ordered my beans it came with a small package of the Tahitian beans. The descriptions said that here in the U.S. that most of the commercial vanilla extract we buy is from the Bourbon Vanilla bean and it has nothing to do with bourbon whiskey. The Tahitian bean was described as a sweet, tropical floral fragrance and taste… with vanilla backgrounds. That’s why I only made a pint. I didn’t think I would like a cupcake that tasted like flowers. I wish I had reversed the order. The Tahitian is wonderful…not tasting like a flower at all. I will be making MORE as soon as I go to the liquor store. The lemon is really good too. I just used lemon zest and vodka. I also made vanilla sugar with some of the beans and it is really good, also. QUESTION: I have been filtering most of the afternoon through a coffee filter and there is a slightly thicker sediment in the bottom of the filter that doesn’t want to go through. Any suggestions of whether to just toss that out and start with a new filter each time? Even if I dont get an answer I encourage you to buy some of the Tahitian vanilla beans next time and give it a try. I think I’m going to try some liquers now…I need something to sample without making cookies. ;)

  35. Hi Carolyn,

    I’d just toss the sediment.

  36. I AM SO SIKED to find this website. I LOVE to cook and my Mom is an amazing woman, with her garden, growing all her own herbs, an army of fruit trees, You name it she grows it, saving and developing her own seeds. She grows 20 different types of peppers each year and smokes some, dries and grinds them. Needless to say with someone like that it is hard to find exciting gifts for her :) I am always looking and this is it!!!!!There are so many beautiful bottles you can find reasonable on e-bay that would be prefect for gift bottles. I am off to order supplies now. Thank you all for sharing!
    Just giddy, you’ve created a vanilla monster here :)

  37. I just finished my first batch. I used five 750 ml bottles of Beyond Vodka and a pound of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans from Beanilla.com. The beans were gorgeous! For the first bottle I scraped out all the beans. This took forever. For the next bottle, I split each bean in half lengthwise and then cut into tiny pieces as if I were cutting green onions. This went faster but then I came up with a huge time saver. I sterilized my kitchen shears and used them to cut the bean in half lengthwise and then cut into tiny pieces. This made for very easy work. I’ll be interested to see if I can tell the difference in the resulting extract in six months. I’m really looking forward to using this as Christmas gifts. My kids have so many teachers/assistants/therapists and I go crazy every year trying to buy them something nice without breaking the bank. This is the ticket! I can also get my kids involved in helping me shake the bottles so they can say they contributed to production. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this awesome tutorial!

  38. I bought a pound of Mexican vanilla beans from Beanilla, not realizing that they were Grade A beans rather than Grade B. I wanted to make extract with them but have noticed from the comments that grade A will leave a greasy film on the top? Where can I buy Grade B beans instead of A, and should I use these beans for something other than making extract?

  39. Can one use other types of alcohol to make the extract? Or does it have to be vodka?

  40. @ Rizak The Really Horrible… Hi, loved your comments and your name but I’ve been puzzling about your maths. You said you used 2 pounds of beans/pods and 4 litres of alcohol for your single fold extract and it equates to the same amounts as Ians recipe. I’m no maths expert but I think you’re using roughly double the amount of beans/pods that Ian quotes in his article.

  41. No, Richard. I’m using 2 pounds for an 8-liter batch. I was using double that for a double-fold method, which I’ve since stopped doing because people weren’t buying it as well as I’d hoped.

    Oh, god. I wrote that wrong, didn’t I? I just checked. Yes, I wrote it wrong.

    CORRECTION:
    1 pound of beans to 4 liters of 35% alcohol!
    This is my standard recipe Always has been.

    I think I was trying to diminish the batch size by half and still use the measures I was familiar with, but messed up a bit when translating that.

    I REPEAT:
    ONE (1) pound of vanilla beans to every FOUR () liters of 35% booze!

    BTW, I get nothing but compliments on this stuff. Especially from gluten-free bakers who (I’ve found) tend to use a lot of vanilla.

  42. A note to Alexis, or to anyone else who can get the 94-95% alcohol:

    Yes, you can cut it down to approximately 35% by watering it at a ratio of 3:5. I just did this myself. 3 liters of alcool to 5 liters of water.

    94% at X liters = 35% at 1 liter
    94 x X = 35 x 1
    94X=35
    X = 0.37
    Therefore, you need 370 ml of 94% alcohol to make 1 liter of 35% alcohol. Top the rest up with filtered water.

    To make an 8 liter batch with this (my standard recipe size, using 2 pounds of beans) I need 2.97 liters plus 5.03 liters of water. This is close enough to 3:5 for me.

  43. I made a 1-1/2 gallon batch last November as an experiment for Farmers Market. I used 1/2 pounds of Madagascar Vanilla beans (from Olive Nation) in a 1/2 gallon jar filled with Smirnov Vodka. I let it steep in my basement for 7 months. It was beyond awesome! I bottled it in 4 oz and 8 oz bottles. I sold out at Farmers Market in 3 weeks! I am starting another much larger batch for next year. Here is the question I have…Do I need any type of license or permit to legally sell this since it does have alcohol in it? A friend brought this to my attention and I don’t want the ATF to confiscate all of my vanilla and give me a fine. I did go to their website but could not really figure out if I needed one or not! Thank you!!

  44. I also added a piece of vanilla bean to each bottle! When I originally made the vanilla, I split the beans with my kitchen scissors. I did not scrape the beans or chop them up.

  45. Linda, I had the very same question about selling vanilla at an open market, so I asked the local alcohol and gaming commission. They replied that as you have added a ‘bittering’ agent to the alcohol, it is no longer considered ‘an alcoholic beverage for consumption’. It fits into a special category of ingredients/spices/flavourings. You might want to check with your local authorities though.

    Also, because 35% is the same as you can buy any real vanilla extract in the grocery store, you can easily use that as your first line of defence.

  46. hi, i made out my extract using this recipe, but a slighly different ingredient. my problem is my extract likes to explode gas like opening a bottle of champagne, you get that pop sound. and after it doesn;t smell vanill extract anymore
    can anyone help me?

  47. So, I can use clear jars as long as I kee these in the cupboard?

  48. Here’s a good bottle suggestion for everyone. The large Grolsch beer bottles have a permanent resealable flip top. It’s a green bottle as well. I use them for all types of things I make that I want to keep air tight.

  49. I am so happy I found this web site. Thanks for all the really great info.
    I had already started making my vanilla extract for Christmas and had bought my beans on Amazon from Vanilla Prods. USA. I loved the beans but read some of the reviews here about Saffron Vanilla and thought I would give them a try.
    While Juan at Saffron was a great help and their beans were cheaper and shipped out fast, I preferred the Vanilla Products USA beans. When I have my friends smell both batches they love the VPUSA batch. I had even gotten one pound of the chopped beans from Juan for the same price but I was not impressed. Also, there were more seeds in the VPUSA beans and I could smell them through the shipping box before I even opened them.
    I did read here about VPUSA selling beans on eBay and they were cheaper than Amazon (even with free shipping) so I bought more beans to make a few more gallons. Maybe over time the batch will change and they will be closer but I think I will give the Saffron Vanilla bean extract as hostess gifts or last minute gifts and give family and friend the VPUSA.
    Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound like a spokesperson for one company over the other and maybe they are different beans and I am too new to vanilla making to know any better. I am sure both will be great.
    But I do have a few tips from liqueur making.
    I use Svedka vodka because after checking with several sellers they all agree it imparts the least amount of flavor. I don’t drink but I can’t smell anything when I open the bottle.
    Also, if you have cheap vodka on hand you can run it though a Britta (with a new filter) before using it. I do this when making other things that call for vodka.
    If you dampen your coffee filters with bottled water first your vanilla won’t be soaked up in the filters and it never hurts to save ever little bit.
    I used clear 1 gallon glass jars and just put them in the coolest closet in the house.
    In the first batch of vanilla I made I split the beans before chopping but I didn’t for the second. After the first week of shaking I could see no difference in either batch. They are the same color and smell just the same so no more splitting in the future for me.
    Love this site! Thanks again for all the great info.

  50. PS If you live on the East coast check out SKS-bottle for your bottles. Their bottle prices are cheaper but I went with Specialty Bottles in WA because shipping was cheaper for me.

  51. I use SKS for my bottles and other supplies. If I order more than $250 in product I get free shipping. Granted, if you’re just getting a couple of bottles it might not be worth it, but it also helps that they are the only ones with the bottles I like. I really wish I could find a Canadian distributor with what I need.

  52. I love reading all these vanilla making comments. I started my batch of vanilla in Jan 2012 using vanilla beans I bought on Amazon from Vanilla Products USA. The vanilla beans I got were Madagascar grade B. They were drier beans but that is supposed to be better for making vanilla extract. I used vodka to make my extract and after sitting for 4 months I started using it in my home made yogurt…..it is good. I have bottled up some of it into 2oz and 4oz bottles that I bought locally at a better price than online ordering. I still give my master bottle a shake and a whiff every few weeks. I made over 1.5 liters but I have given some away already so I might start up a new batch with my leftover beans. I might top off the master bottle with more vodka and add a few more beans into it…..or leave it to get stronger. Since it has been 7 months already I am not sure if it will continue to strengthen. I used a lot more beans then most recipes in my vanilla so it is already very vanilla tasting.

  53. Oh shoot. Why didn’t I find this site three months ago? I would love to make some vanilla for Christmas gifts this year, but we are already into September. Could I double the amount of vanilla to cut the time in half? Lol. My guess is probably not, but I thought I would ask anyway.

  54. Nicolene, you can still make the vanilla in time for Christmas. The minimum time is 2 months and you have 3 1/2. The longer it steeps the better it will be. For the best vanilla flavor use at least 6 or more beans per cup of vodka.

  55. Awesome! I am going to get right on it :)

  56. I am fortunate enough to have a small wine cellar in my home. Is there anything to be gained (or lost) by extracting the vanilla in the cellar with the bottle on its side, keeping the cork wet as is important with wine?
    The temperature is 55 deg. Thanks – wonderful site.

  57. I enjoyed reading all of the comments here and I learned alot, I am making my first batch which I started 3 months ago, Its all tarted because I make decorated sugar cookies and sell them on Etsy and after scaping the Cavier from the bean and setting the first few into sugar for vanilla sugar I caught an article on Pintrest about homemade Vanilla . Having bought a quarter pound of Madagasgar Vanilla beans on Amozon.com for like 24$ which was about 54 beans, they were great , plump and the smell was awesome , I was glad to find that I could make my own Vanilla , I started with a quart of good grade Vodka and each time I made a batch of cookies I would scarp out my cavier for my cookie dough and cut up the beans and add to the jar of vodka, Very likley I have to many in there now but I want to bottle up some smaller bottle to give to family & friends for Christmas gifts , It looks and smells great .. I am tempted to take out half my beans and start a new batch right shortly… I think that i have 15 beans in a quart sealer and maybe thast a little over done.. any suggestions.. I read here where i can still use the beans in sugar for vanilla sugar and wonder if they dry out can I grind them and what can i add that to… Thanks Annie… wonderful site here

  58. If i make another batch right away I could personalize the jars and add a best after a certain date , i have 3 months to Christmas so it will be half way by the time I give it as gifts

  59. I’d like to make vanilla extract to sell at our farmer’s market, but am having difficulty figuring how it might be regulated. Do you know if it needs to be prepared in a commercial/certified kitchen? Is a liquor license required? I’m in California.

  60. Anne I had over 30 beans in a liter bottle of vodka. I started a second batch a month or so after the first batch and I ended up combining them. I have a 1.5 liter bottle with about 70+beans in it.

  61. It’s a little confusing the ratio of beans to vodka. A friend gave me 50 Madagascar vanilla beans and told me to put 20 into a 750ML bottle of good Vodka and another 20 into a 750ML bottle of good rum. I did but now am wondering if it is too much. Did I make double fold/triple fold without realizing it? Seems there are many ideas on strength. I scraped the pods as suggested so am hoping they are ready by the Holidays. What has anyone done for packaging? Any ideas for how to display the bottles to sell? Thanks in advance for any comments.

  62. What has anyone done for packaging? Any ideas for how to display the bottles to sell? Thanks in advance for any comments.

  63. Sarah – at this time in California you cannot sell any food items at a farmers market that has not been made in a certified commercial kitchen.

    However there is a Cottage Food Bill sitting on Governor Brown’s desk waiting to be signed (along with many other bills), any day now, that would enable certain homemade foods to be sold (with proper Permits). Watch for it – AB1616 is the Bill. It will go into effect January 2013 when/if signed.

  64. I’ve made a batch of extract last year. I wanted to make a new batch this year but as I’ve read some of these comments I was just wondering if I did it right. I don’t add any water to my vanilla. Is it necessary to add a certain percentage of water to your vanilla? My vanilla tastes great and just keeps getting better with age. What is the best method?

  65. Oh brother! My sister and I just finished putting together our first batch of vanilla – hoping to have something wonderful for the farmers’ markets in the spring.

    I’m afraid that I may have confused the ratio of beans to vodka. What we ended up doing was using 44 beans (+/- 4 oz) to each 1.75 litre bottle of Smirnoff. If I am reading the earlier posts correctly, I wonder if I have been too chintzy. Advice please.

  66. I found the original site: Makingvanilla.com where it was stated to use 12 beans to each 750ml bottle. If 12 beans would work for 3.125 cups, wouldn’t 44 beans be more than enough for 1.75l (or less than 8 cups)?
    I’m so confused.

  67. @Marilyn I would be concerned about selling vanilla extract that did not meet the FDA minimum. The FDA minimum is 0.834 oz. of bean per cup (8 ounces) of 35 percent alcohol (70 proof). This does not mean that the vanilla made with less than the FDA minimum does not have good flavor. There are all sorts of recipes on the internet with a much lower ratio of beans to alcohol with reported good results.

  68. Thank you so much for these instructions! We made a batch last spring, and are really enjoying it so I just finished chopping for a 2nd batch!

  69. Some people use less beans per cup of vodka….and that is okay if you want weak vanilla. i would rather have a good strong vanilla so i use at least 8 beans per CUP of vodka.

    FyI you can pour out part (1/3-1/2) of the originally made vanilla that has steeped a good amount (4-6 months) of time into another bottle to use. THEN add some more vodka into the original bottle with the beans……it will continue to make good vanilla.

  70. if i have an 5 ounce jar and i want to make the vanalia extract. how many beans do i need for that 5 ounce jar?

  71. For good vanilla I would say 4-5 beans. Since it is recommended to use 6-8 for 8oz.

  72. Hi there,
    Got my beans in the mail yesterday. 1lb grade B Madagascar from Vanilla Products USA.
    I just called my local wine shop for a recommendation on vodka. I don’t drink so I really have no clue what to buy.
    I need some help…

    1- Based on reading here & the local recommendation I’ve narrowed it down to either Svedka or Skyy. Can anyone tell me if one is better than the other?

    2- Do I need to leave space in the bottle so that when shaken, the contents are agitated more? Or, should I top off the bottle?

    I bought a 1/2 gallon brown glass jug at the local home brewery supplier & I think I might be able to fit the vodka & beans in it but it would be filled to the tippy top of the jug.
    Thanks in advance for any help!!

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