Homemade Vanilla Extract

Have you ever thought about making your own vanilla extract but didn’t know where to start? Vanilla beans and extracts have become increasingly expensive in the past few years and making your own can save a little money and ensure you are getting the real thing.

The recipe for a single fold extract is simple, just 1 ounce of vanilla beans per 8 ounces of any alcohol (35% ABV/70 proof – 50% ABV/100 proof) and let sit for at least 12 months to get the most flavor. Use 2 ounces of vanilla beans per 8 ounces for a double fold extract. Going by bean weight is recommended as vanilla beans can vary greatly by how much they weigh due to varying sizes of beans. You can decrease the time it takes to extract in half by cutting your beans. I chose not to so I can use more of the bean later for another purpose. You can read more about the pros/cons of cutting beans on this VanillaPura article: Do I slice my Vanilla Beans or Leave them Whole?

There’s 3 main vanilla bean species and a multitude of origins where they are grown and each has a different flavor profile, giving you a wide array of bean and alcohol combinations you can use to make your extract unique. The most common and cost effective is Madagascar beans + Vodka. If I could only make one extract that is the combination I would go with. However, I like to experiment so I’m trying out a few other beans and alcohols.

Vanilla bean Species:
Vanilla Planifolia: found in Madagascar and other areas along the Indian Ocean. Has high vanillin content.
Vanilla Tahitiensis: found in the South Pacific. Has less vanillin content than planifolia.
Vanilla Pompona: found in the West Indies, Central America, and South America. Has high vanillin content. The most rare and classified as endangered due to overharvesting.

Where to buy beans:
There are lots of sources for buying beans but my favorite for good quality Grade A beans are from the vanilla bean co-op groups on Facebook. There are two different groups I have ordered from and each of them works a little differently. Both offer ability to order additional bean varieties from their websites for a much higher price that is not part of the co-op group buys.
Vanilla Bean Coo-Op (IndriVanilla)
Pros: Cheapest option, will be offering other spices besides vanilla
Cons: May take longer to get beans, only one type of bean available to order at a time, orders for each type are open for limited time (approx 2 weeks), beans aren’t shipped in vacuum sealed bags, order via a Google Docs form.
VanillaPura’s Vanilla Bean Co-Op
Pros: Shipped in vacuum sealed bags, variety of beans available to purchase at one time, usually ships in less than one month, 30 day 100% guarantee on orders, lots of great resources on their website
Cons: A bit more expensive

There’s a wide range of alcohols that can be used to make extract. What you plan on using it for can play a role in your decision but it should be at least 35% ABV (70 proof) and no more than 50% ABV (100 proof). Below are some of the most popular options. You can find some reviews of specific brands on VanillaPura’s website.
Vodka: The most popular choice because it produces the most pure vanilla flavor since this alcohol has virtually no taste and can be used in any applications.
Everclear: 190 proof Everclear should be diluted 1:1 with distilled water to bring it down to 95 proof. 151 proof Everclear should be diluted 1:.5 to bring down to 100. Anything above 100 proof will dry out the beans. Everclear will give you a pure vanilla flavor like vodka but will extract more quickly due to the higher alcohol content.
Bourbon: Creates a sweet smokey vanilla flavor but may take longer to extract.
Silver Rum: Is a sugar based alcohol so makes a sweeter pure vanilla flavor.
Dark Rum: Is a sugar based alcohol with added spices which makes a sweet spicier vanilla flavor.

If you want to see what beans and alcohols I’m using to make my extract, you can watch my YouTube video on making vanilla extract.


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