How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home

by Truman Perkins

Vanilla is a typical flavor that most of us are familiar with and many adore! Without it in many recipes, especially baked goods would be bland! So, what is Pure Vanilla Extract, and is it what you’re using? Also, I am going to discuss how to make vanilla extract! You may be surprised to learn that many of us are using fake and shocking alternatives to the real deal. You are compromising on some great taste and genuine benefits of the Vanilla bean! Why? Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the World!

It is not just the demand for the flavor or unique scent that raises the price. Vanilla can be challenging to grow, germinate, and it takes years to cultivate a crop. This makes it a rarer spice or herb.

How can you avoid the sticker shock and get the power-packed “greatness” of natural vanilla? Make your own! It is easy and only takes two ingredients. You will save a ton of money, reap all the benefits of this incredible herb, and it can also make a wonderful gift to share with your friends!

First, let’s start with some essential details you should know about Vanilla and this great herbal extract! Stick with me, and I will show you how at the end with a Step-by-step recipe!

Top How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home by Editors

Article Preview: A Look at Pure Vanilla Bean Extract

From its fantastic scent to its rich, bold flavor, there is no doubt why vanilla is so popular! This article covers a lot of details. Get this sneak preview of what you can expect to find here.

⇒Disclaimer: The information presented here by Inside Herb Gardens and Its Authors is intended for educational purposes only. The FDA has not evaluated these statements and is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary. Before using any herbs, supplements, or other natural treatments, it is always advisable to consult your doctor or medical professional.

→Some of the links on this site and in this article are affiliate links that pay a commission for a completed purchase. This does not result in any additional cost to you. I do not write sponsored posts. I want to bring you factual, unbiased information.

So, What is Pure Vanilla Extract, Exactly?

Quick, go to a look in your cupboard. There are likely three options that you are going to find in there. Extract, pure, or marked otherwise is choice one. The other two are either Vanilla favoring or labeled imitation vanilla.

Flavoring and imitation are not the real deal. These cheaper alternatives are meant to mimic the vanilla bean’s flavor but offer you no genuine product.

A pure vanilla extract is made with the beans (pods) of the vanilla plant. They are steeped over extended periods, typically in an alcohol-based method. No artificial flavoring or additives are used. The pods are either soaked or percolated to extract all the essential flavors.

Vanilla bean holds 250 taste and aroma compounds! That is an outstanding flavor and scent that can only come from the pure and true herb. The main component being Vanillin. The Vanillin is that very familiar yummy goodness we are all so familiar with.

There is NO MATCH for pure vanilla! There are varying strengths of extracts; let’s take a look at those next.

Wikipedia article for more details on Vanilla Extract.

Single Fold Vanilla Extract- Commercial Grade

This is the typical standard for “off the shelf” supermarket grade, pure vanilla extract. This commercial quality vanilla is still far superior to imitation but has less vanilla bean content to = alcohol/water ratio.

Typical recipes are based on this vanilla for the home cook. As an example, a chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for one teaspoon of Vanilla. This would be your typical single-fold extract. It packs the flavor that is “enough” for your cookies.

However, professional bakers, chefs, and some home chefs want more. That is where the more muscular folds come in!

Bam! Double-Fold Vanilla Extract – Flavor Explosion

How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home
How to Make Vanilla Extract at Home

Two times the flavor! Yummy. This is the go-to for professional bakers, chefs, and those of us who need a punch of the flavor we love! In recipes that call for vanilla, double-fold can be reduced by half. So, one teaspoon would be a ½.

Double-fold is a pure extract made with more giant beans steeped or percolated in alcohol over maximum curation time. It creates a deeper, darker color and richer flavor.

This is my sought-out result in producing my pure vanilla extract. I find that the flavor and essence of the bean are so much richer.

Note* You can go even higher. Vanilla extracts can be made up to 10-fold. I think that is getting a bit too intense and bordering the line of the strength of an essential oil. Feel free to experiment if you are a true vanilla addict!

What is Imitation Vanilla Made of? The Unappetizing truth!

The not so pretty picture of the fake stuff. Flowers are pretty, yes, of course, they are! Have you heard of vanilla orchids? Well, they are the flowers of the vanilla plant. They also contain a small amount of that vanillin. The content of these flowers is far lower.

Sadly, these pretty flowers are not what make up most of the imitation vanilla world market. Less than 1% of the store shelves and market use this alternative to the vanilla bean.

Instead, most of the vanilla flavored “junk” we buy can be made up of pulp waste from the papermaking industry! Other brands distill wood-tar creosote of the guaiacum tree!

Does this sound Yummy to you?

The Vanilla Price Tag: Why Most People Buy the Fake Stuff!

Money savings is the biggest reason people sacrifice the quality of their food and diet. This is not just for spices, but it relates to this topic in the most significant way! Vanilla is one of the most expensive herbs and spices in the world!

At the end of March 2018. Vanilla prices were $600 a kilo. That is about $272 a pound here in the US! Paper pulp and tar creosote sound a bit more appetizing when you choke on that price tag!

Wait! No, you do not need to sacrifice your quality, and you can still reap the benefits of natural vanilla!

The average consumer does need a pound or even a kilo of vanilla beans. Making your vanilla extract only requires a portion of this. Besides, you will save over the market and grocery store markups by at least half!

You Can Still Have the Real Deal – Why We Should Make Our Own!

All is not lost! Indeed, money savings is the #1 reason we should learn to make our own at home. It will take far fewer beans than that pound. We have complete control over the amount we need or can even produce in bulk. Extracts appropriately made even at home have long, often many-year shelf lives!

You also get to decide on the type of vanilla bean you want, like other herbs and vegetables. Vanilla beans come in a variety of flavors. Creating your extract allows you to choose your flavor preference or mix them up for unique combinations. What is pure vanilla extract without an array of options? I love choices!

  • Mexican Vanilla: Smokey, bold and sweet.
  • Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla: Classic taste, creamy, sweet, and rich.
  • Tahitian Vanilla: Cherry, flowery notes.
  • Indian Vanilla: Sweet chocolaty full-bodied flavor.
  • Indonesian Vanilla: Smokey, nicely balanced flavor that is mild.
  • Tonga Vanilla: Woody earthy essence with a touch of fig.

As a bonus! You would pay in the store for an excellent quality single-fold vanilla; you can make an even better-quality double-fold vanilla extract at home for even less. That means using even less each time you use it!

Let’s Review! 6 Reason to Make Our Own Pure Vanilla Extract

  1. Huge Cost Savings
  2. Control Over Quantity
  3. Ingredient Control – choose your flavor.
  4. Long shelf life
  5. Better Quality
  6. It makes Great Gifts!

The Cost Break-Down: See it In Comparison!

On Average, right now at the time of this article.

A Quality Single Fold Vanilla is About $7.50 an Ounce USD.

  • That is 1 ounce! Approximately six teaspoons in a bottle. The average recipe calls for a teaspoon of Vanilla. That is not going to last very long.
  • This comparison will be based on making our own in the quantity of 16 ounces. That would make the retail price of the store-bought at $120 for a single-fold.
  • The average Double-fold price at the current market is $10.38. So 16 Ounces would be $166.08

Making a Large Batch of Extract at Home.

  • We will need 16 -20 beans. Grade B Madagascar Bourbons work great! About $60 for 20 at the time of this article.
  • 80 Proof vodka a fifth/ or 750ml. It does not need to be anything fancy. I just grabbed a bottle for $10 yesterday! Use 2 cups (16 ounces) of vodka. You will have vodka left for other extracts.
  • That’s $70 average, and I can make 16 Ounces of Double-fold Vanilla.

The Savings!!

  • If this was just a single-fold mix, I saved $70!
  • On Double-Fold, I save $96.08!
  • Less than half the price and I counted for the entire cost of the vodka and the beans even though I do not need to use them all in this scenario.

Of course, you can make smaller batches, and prices can fluctuate. I am sure you can see, though, how much cost savings and sense it makes to create your extract!

Extracts make incredible gifts too. A great thing to keep in mind when holidays, birthdays or any other special occasions come around.

The Tale of Two Folds! – Best Pure Vanilla Extract

I compared the costs because vanilla takes time to steep and develop into the total flavor capacity. You may want to start using the extract in as little as eight weeks. This would make some of your results a single-fold. What is pure vanilla extract greatness without a bit of patience?  Waiting six months to a year would give you the rich vanilla and benefit of the double-fold!

How to Make Pure Vanilla Extract- The Recipe

An excellent, effective ratio to keep in mind to achieve the best pure vanilla extract is 8- 10 beans (min 4 to 5” in length) to every 1 cup of Alcohol. Or at least one bean per ounce. This recipe will be for 24 ounces. (3 cups)

You Will Need

The Two Ingredients!

  1. The Beans. Choose whichever variety you like or mix and match. Ideally, I look for 5 to 6-inch lengths (12 – 14cm). Grade B is lower in cost and works excellent for extract. They are not as pretty as the higher-grade A. That is fine for making extracts as they are not used for any visual appeal.
  2. The Alcohol. Vodka is cheap, easy, and convenient to find in the needed 80-proof. You can also choose bourbon, rum, whiskey, or brandy in 80 proofs. Alcohol flavoring can impact the result. Keep that in mind when selecting.

*A note about alcohol. Alcohol free extracts and tinctures are possible to make. See more in my Introductory article: An Introduction to Using Herbs to Make Herbal Extracts & Tinctures. However the small amounts of alcohol used here are most often cooked away or dissipate with heat when using the extract. They are also the best way to extract all the constituents and flavoring of the vanilla bean.

Choosing the Right Beans

The Vanilla Beans make the extract literally! You have options for flavors, and grade B is excellent for quotes.

Check out this selection of beans as a guide to help get you started.

Additional Supplies:

Glass Bottle(s) for Brewing & Later Storing. This may be the same if you are making a small batch. You will need a large enough container to support the amount of alcohol you will use to the ratio of beans for initial brewing. The bottle needs to hold the vanilla bean wholly submerged in the drink.

Glass is a must. Plastics are always a big NO in my extract-making rulebook—too much risk in BPA and the possibility of acidic material from the plastic makeup. Stick to the glass and be safe!

You can use the bottle of vodka or alcohol you purchase; remove excess drinking that you will not need.

These are my favorite bottles for brewing extracts and tinctures like vanilla. They are a perfect size! 1 Liter Swing Top Glass Bottles with Stopper Caps- 4 Pack.

Amber-colored bottles are great for long-term storage. After your extract has had aging and brewing time, these bottles are best to prevent light from harming your quote and extending shelf life. These can be of any size you choose. They are reasonably priced and a good size for gift giving. See here.

Sharp knife or scissors for slicing or cutting the vanilla beans. If you choose to strain, straining and filtering supplies will be needed.

To learn more about Tincture and Extract making supplies take a look at these two articles on site. They give a good break down of everything you could possibly need to succeed!

Steps to Make Vanilla Extract

It would help if you always sterilized any equipment you use before making extracts or tinctures. This includes knives, scissors, containers, and measuring devices. Using boiling water or a sterilization setting on a dishwasher works fine.

  1. Measure 24 Ounces of Vodka or 80 proof alcohol of choice. And put in a tall glass jar.
  2. Slice or cut 24 Vanilla beans down the center lengthwise with a sharp knife or scissors. I like to use scissors, and I end just before the end of the bean. If the bean length is too tall for your container, you may cut them in half or pieces to make them fit. Place them into the jar with the alcohol.
  3. Cover with lid and give it a good shaking.
  4. Label! Always good practice and to mark your extracts with herb, date, and the alcohol used.
  5. Place out of direct light and excess heat, like inside a cabinet or cupboard.
  6. Shake mixture once or twice a week.

That was so easy! Now you will need some patience. I made a small note above. If you want to begin enjoying your vanilla flavor early, you can use it after 6 -8 weeks. I recommend you try to wait it out at least the 6-month mark, though and enjoy the full-bodied greatness of your homemade vanilla extract. One year will yield the best pure vanilla extract.

Tips

  • Try making a small bottle to use right away while you wait for a large batch to mature to greatness!
  • Suppose you are keeping it all for your use; no need to strain. The beans will not decay from the extract life and only continue to add to the flavor over time. Straining makes a better presentation and fits nicer into smaller amber bottles for gift giving.
  • I also like to place vanilla extract in amber dropper bottles for drops of natural vanilla flavor in my coffee, tea, cocoa, and even smoothies.

Are You Ready for the Real Thing?

I hope that I helped illuminate a pure vanilla extract for you versus the fake “no value” stuff you may have been using. It does make a huge difference in flavor alone when you begin to experience the genuine earthy charm of this excellent herb.

The following Article in Extract & Tincture Series will continue on the standard extracts that most of us use. This particular focus on vanilla was due to the high demand for this most popular herbal extraction.

Vanilla can be one of the most expensive spices in the world. Knowing how to achieve the most value from it can help you still utilize it in your kitchen.

Ready to make your own? I am excited to help you with it! Run into any questions along the way or just want to talk about your progress. Drop a note below. I would love to hear about it!

About Truman Perkins

Truman Perkins has worked as the SEO consultant for over a decade; there he's helped so many startups and friends' sites get off the ground. Believing gardening is a natural stress reliever, Truman indulges in learning and writing about gardening in his free time. He lives with his wife, Jenny, and their twins in Detroit, Michigan.

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