Step 1: Supplies

This Instructable has spawned its own site. Check out the updated article with more image galleries at www.vanillareview.com.

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. Search the internet and eBay for some really decent vanilla bean prices. Grade 'B' 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 instructable are Amadeus Trading's Uganda Gold (tm) 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 might not 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.
<p>Make Vanilla Extract without alcohol,</p><p><strong><a href="http://organicindonesianvanilla.blogspot.com/2011/04/vanilla-vegetable-glycerin.html" rel="nofollow">Homemade <br>Halal Vanilla Bean Extract</a></strong></p>
<p>Thank you for the information.</p>
<p>i made some with vodka 2 years ago for Christmas. I made way too much and still have a liter left. Does this go bad?</p>
<p>I have kept a botle for over tweny years, still good. As long as you keep it capped when not being used.</p>
<p>Can you keep adding vodka to the mix as you use it, or should you just start a new bottle? I was thinking that if it's ready to use in 1 month but keeps fermenting(?) for 6 then you could add more. When will it get to the point of not contributing to the mix?</p>
<p>I made it, and it came out great! I used 96 proof (48 vol%) alcohol, since I had some 96 vol% alcohol around, which I diluted 1:1. The beans (B-grade madagascan bourbon) are still in it, and as long as they are submerged, I see no reason to filter them off... The alcohol should conserve them. </p>
I was given a bottle of Mexico Natural Vanilla (see photo)&nbsp;and it was made with no alcohol. All the recipes that I have seen on making vanilla require alcohol. I'm not opposed, just curious of the process on how it is made. How long does it last being stored? I have made my own extract and I used 3 beans per cup of vodka, I was surprised that this site says you need about six per cup. My extract is still in the soaking stage, I was going to use them after 3 months, but since I only used 3 beans, I think I will wait for 6 months.
Ian, I posted my recipe below... what do you think about using bourbon (a smooth liquor). <br>I bought grade A beans that were dark plump (not dry) <br> <br>The post office had a shipping box - that was about the size of bottle so I used that to create the dark environment. The beans were long - after cutting the bottle was about 1/3 full of beans. Correct any errors I made please. <br> <br>Note: the flash on the camera made the bottle a strange color <br>I plan on using qt beer bottles next time with a capper
Ian, I posted my recipe below... what do you think about using bourbon (a smooth liquor). <br>I bought grade A beans that were dark plump (not dry) <br> <br>The post office had a shipping box - that was about the size of bottle so I used that to create the dark environment. The beans were long - after cutting the bottle was about 1/3 full of beans. Correct any errors I made please. <br> <br>Note: the flash on the camera made the bottle a strange color <br>I plan on using qt beer bottles next time with a capper
Lots of good info here about making vanilla. I made vanilla extract today. <br> <br>Here is my recipe: <br>750 ml bottle of Maker's Mark&reg; handmade premium Kentucky Bourbon <br>18 - 6-7&quot; madagascar vanilla slit down the middle then cross cut each into 3 pieces (2&quot;) <br> <br>I used the bottle the bourbon came in - opened it, took out 3 oz to test quality ;} <br>Then I opened the package of beans. <br>Clean hands: Before touching the beans I washed and dried my hands . <br>On a clean paperplate I cut each bean lengthwise then cross cut so each bean was about 2&quot; dropped into the bottle. <br> <br>The bottle was clear and I read it needs to be in the dark so I used a tall box and set the bottle in there. On the box I labeled it fragile, vanilla and put the date set on the bottom shelf of my pantry. <br> <br>Never done it before - but it seemed simple enough. Maybe I will try a good vodka next time. I believe, like cooking wine - you start with a liquor that taste good. I have read and seen videos to use cheap stuff, but I like to start with good ingredients. <br>
This is great! I knew the technique but not all the details. I'm starting now - this will make great Christmas gifts next year.
You don't really need to start vanilla now in order to give it for Christmas 2008. You can start your vanilla in September and have it ready well before time to give for Christmas. Put 6 vanilla beans, Bourbon or Tahitian, split length-wise and then cut in 1 1/2" pieces, in a clean jar with 2 cups of vodka...set it in a darken area, and shake it once a day...it will be ready in about 6 weeks...which will be plenty of time to order and receive your bottles. According to most vanilla bean grower sites, vanilla extract really should be used in about a year's time. So to give a gift with the optimum amount of time left in which to use it, make it as close to Christmas as possible. Nancy Curtis...nancihank
I have read both 6 beans per cup and 6 beans per 2 cups vodka. Does it matter either way? Also I am making some extract currently using 6 beans per cup. The beans are not entirely covered with the vodka. I am seeing some sediment floating that looks similar to mold, yet different as well. I would not think anything could grow in the alcohol. Is this correct? Or should I be worried about the floaters? Thanks
If you want great extract, write to me at dawei4321@hotmail.com
Nancihank makes some good points, <em>but using only 6 beans per two cups of alcohol will make a very weak extract. The FDA requirement will give you 1x fold extract, but since hand extraction is weaker than industrial percolators, it's important to use even MORE beans than that.</em> <strong>Don't short change yourself, if you extend your beans like this, you'll just have to use twice as much extract to get the desired vanilla flavor.</strong><br/><br/>Also, it's important to age your extract on the beans for 4-6 months for the best flavor. After a year the extract will mellow and smell wonderful, it's not uncommon for extract to smell harsh for the first few months.<br/><br/>Don't worry about the floaters, it's just vanilla bits and is perfectly normal. If you notice that it grows up the side of your bottle, discard it without opening (mold is bad). I've never had this happen, and the alcohol should kill everything in the bottle.<br/>
Hello ian.... There is no problem with using more beans to make vanilla today if someone wishes since you can get great vanilla beans VERY cheap on ebay but as I have posted before, I have been using the original recipe for over 30 years and the vanilla turns out great. I also see no problem letting it stand longer but if you only have 6 or 8 weeks, you can get a perfectly acceptable vanilla in that amount of time. My extract has never smelled "harsh" in the first few months. Are you referring to the "vodka" small that goes away in time? That I have noticed but it does go away. Homemade vanilla is different from commerical vanilla in that it does not have caramel color added or sugar of any kind. It is pure vanilla extract. As I said....you CAN use more beans per 2 cups if you choose but 6 will work. Since you can get vanilla beans so much cheaper today than 30 years ago when I paid for 2 what I now pay for 30 beans, you can use more easily enough. I have never had any kind of mold grow in my vanilla either during the process or after it is completed. Good luck and have fun! Nancy Curtis...nancihank
In the original recipe, which I found in a copy of Southern Living magazine over 30 years ago, it called for 6 vanilla beans into 2 cups of vodka or into 2 cups of brandy. I have always used vodka because it is so much cheaper and has no flavor of its own and works great. I guess you could use 6 beans to 1 cup but why use that proportion when you can use 6 beans to 2 cups and end up with twice as much vanilla with half as many vanilla beans? If you use 6 beans to 1 cup of vodka, your cost is rising considerably then if you follow the original recipe directions. You should also cut the vanilla beans into pieces approx. 1 1/2" long after you have split the vanilla beans lengthwise...that way they will be totally covered by the vodka. The "sediment" you are seeing is definitely not mold. What you are seeing are the tiny vanilla bean pieces that are inside the larger vanilla beans, little black specks. Also, the longer the beans set in the vodka, the more the pieces swell and some times tiny slivers come off of the orginal bean pieces...not a problem though. When your vanilla has been sitting for 6 weeks, or longer if you desire, you can strain the little specks and the larger bean pieces out when you decant into bottles for gift giving. I usually do this but I don't try to get the vanilla totally clear of all of the tiny pieces and I add at least one or two pieces of the vanilla bean back into the gift bottle. I like the way it looks. Also, after you have decanted the first batch of vanilla, you can refill the jar with 2 MORE cups of fresh vodka and let that set for 6, or more, weeks to make a second batch of vanilla. The original directions said you could get several batches of vanilla from the original 6 beans. I can usually get at least 3 batches by adding a couple of fresh beans by the third time making it. When the vanilla beans will no longer turn the vodka brown, it is time to start will all fresh beans. And don't forget to shake the "vanilla" every few days as it is "making" during the 6 weeks. I have been making and giving this absolutely pure vanilla since around 1974 or so and everyone I give it to, especially for the first time, are amazed that vanilla can be made at home and are very happy to have received it as a gift. And since this vanilla is not being made for public sale, I don't think FDA regulations make a lot of difference. I can tell you that this vanilla recipe makes wonderful, full flavored vanilla that only gets stronger the longer it sets, as long as you leave the vanilla beans in the liquid, and that it does not lose flavor during baking. Good luck and have fun!! Nancy Curtis....nancihank
&quot;Put 6 vanilla beans...in a clean jar with 2 cups of vodka&quot;<br/><br/>This will make a lightly flavored vanilla booze, but according to the <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/FCF169.html">FDA regulations</a> linked above it takes a minimum of 6 beans per cup of vodka to make actual 'vanilla extract'.<br/>
From www.vanillaking.com:<br/><br/><em>Like fine bordeaux wines, champagne cognacs of France, and magnificent sherrys, pure vanilla extract requires slow aging in order to develop a full-bodied character. Chemical changes take place during the aging process allowing for the formation of esters from acids, which develops aromas and aldehydes, thereby producing the full complexity of the extract. These changes first become evident at three weeks after aging when the bitterness begins to diminish. Within two months, the changes become even more noticeable in taste and particularly in aroma. Our vanillas will continue to age on your shelf. When aged over six months, the character and complexity of the extract matures, producing topnote essences with smooth, rich taste.</em><br/><br/>From www.ronaldreginalds.com:<br/><br/> <em>Expensive and rare as it is, we age our Pure Vanilla Extract one full year after bottling. We know of no other manufacturer who goes to this extent to develop the full richness of vanilla extract. At Ronald Reginald's, we understand the importance of this slow aging to the development of the total character of a quality Pure Vanilla Extract. Do not be misled by manufacturers who claim that their vanilla beans are aged for up to a year--this refers to the curing process and the length of time required for the beans to reach the vanilla brokers in this country.'</em><br/><br/>It's probably overkill, but I've all ready ordered the beans!<br/>
Madagascar beans are big, so the statement this person used Uganda beans because of their size is irrelevant.<br>Also, red beans used for extract are the best. I know because I work for a company that imports beans, and I know great extract when I smell it.<br>Dawei4321 at hotmail is where I can be reached. Our beans rival Nielsen Massey, and so does our powder and extract. But since we buy from 500 farmers, direct, our prices are cheaper.
Why do you filter the beans out after six months, why dont you just leave them in and let them keep going ? as long as you dont let them get dry
I have made 11 jars of vanilla extract for Christmas gifts this year. I have started to notice that there is little clear like floaters in there. What is that? I can see the beans floating but whats the clear stuff? Is that okay? Please help.
i saw at ebay <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.organic-vanilla.com/servlet/StoreFront">http://www.organic-vanilla.com/servlet/StoreFront</a> the seller says that &quot;Use the custard for all your cooking needs, as vanilla extract cannot be used for baking because its flavor components will dissipate at about 300&deg;F (150&deg;C). &quot; may i have some advice pls? vanilla extract will dissipate at that temperature? that means when we bake we dun get the vanilla flavours? some comments and advise pls.<br/>
I know this is a couple years old, but maybe it will help someone else who comes along.<br><br>If we assume his facts are correct (which I have not verified), it still won't matter to us as bakers. While oven temperatures for baking vary from 350-500&deg;F, most baked goods are done at between 190-210&deg;F on the inside. This includes breads, which tends to be cooked at higher temperatures. If we baked them beyond the boiling point of water (~212&deg;F), especially all the way up to 300&deg;F, they would dry out, and probably appear withered and burnt.<br><br>So, if we were baking a delicious vanilla pound cake, we might lose some of the vanilla compounds at the surface of the cake, but the inside will still be nice and vanilla-rich.
What a wonderful instructable! So much information!<br>I'm just curious about why this has to be kept in a dark place? What happens if I keep it on my kitchen counter? I think it'd look nice as decoration but will the light spoil the extract?
Why can't you use mason jars just place them in the dark or back in the shipping box?? Rebottle later we needed!
I make vanilla in old glass ketchup bottles for gifts and mason jars for my own vanilla (4 different varities of beans!). As long as you keep them in the back of the spice cupboard, you'll be alright.<br>Just make sure that whatever bottle/container you use, it's super squeaky clean with a proper fitting lid (you don't want vanilla to spray across your kitchen when you shake it!).
You can actually get some vanilla bean from India here: <br> <br>http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/catfluff/3694044/indian_vanilla_beans_for_culinary_use_grade_a_quality_five_beans/supplies/craft_supplies/edibles <br> <br>They are grade A but I'm sure that the vendor could check for grade B for you as well. She also has Cardamon available which costs a fortune when buying it from the supermarket.
Thanks, this is a useful Instructable for me!
From Kuhlmom: Great instructible! I use waaayyy more than 6 beans as I prefer to make &quot;double strength&quot; vanilla - as I am from the &quot;if some vanilla is good, then double vanilla is better&quot; camp. I ordered my last batch of beans from a prominent dealer online, but have also ordered from ebay with good results - watch the grade they're selling... Also, this time I made a second bottle using rum - which is absolutely decadent - possible uses: pound cakes or creme brulee where the rum undertones would be delightful! Also, while your extract is brewing, don't forget to make some &quot;vanilla sugar&quot; with your leftovers! YUM!
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I used to make vanilla vodka by leaving a couple of beans in a handle for a few weeks. Yum.
I started a fifth of bicardi and the beans 20 year or so ago and even now I have a little left. I left in the beans until they started to get exposed and it did get stronger and stronger over time, I still have one bean in the bottle, I left it because it looked cool and nothing gets stale in that amount of alcahol it just gets pickled I think. haha.
<p>If you use clear jars or bottles to soak the beans why not cover them with a brown paper bag to keep the light from getting in?</p>
Can you use a beer bottle? (boiled clean)
I actually do use beer bottles for most of my extracts. I have a bottle capper (and caps) so I can seal the bottle fast, cheap, and air-tight.
I'm planning to use brown beer bottles. Where can I get a bottle capper and caps for them? Or is there another way to seal them properly?
Any homebrew store. Or a site like morebeer.com<br />
For those who use vodka to make their vanilla extract, what kind of vodka do you use?
<p>I use Tito's Handmade Vodka, it&nbsp;is produced in Austin at Texas' first and oldest legal distillery.&nbsp; It's made in small batches in an old fashioned pot still by Tito Beveridge (actual name), a 45-year-old Geologist, and distilled six times. It is a little more expensive, 12.00 a pint but it is worth is as you will be using this extract for years! Good luck...<br /> &nbsp;</p>
The bottle in the picture above is Smirnoff, triple distilled vodka; that's what I usually have in the house, so that's what I'm using. I just received my beans and will attempt making this shortly.
That sounds like a fun project! Really awesome instructable too. I know it depends on where you get your beans, but it looks like a gallon of extract would require anywhere from $20-$50 dollars of beans. Is that close to accurate? Also would you consider everclear or 151 thinned down with some water. I generally don't like to use vodka as the alcohol of choice, but I'm curious how others might work.
There isn't a high-proof pure grain alcohol available where I live, but it should work if you thin it down. Vodka is the alcohol of choice because it has a neutral flavor. Other liquors can be used, but they contribute flavors of their own. Commercial extracts use a neutral flavored grain alcohol (vodka), but you are free to use rum, brandy, whatever. I stick to vodka because I can always add a hint of brandy, rum, etc to whatever I'm baking.
hello ian, can you please tell me how i can dilute the concentration of my 95% proof vanilla extract without making it cloudy? i have tried cutting it with purifyed water, 20ml vanilla extract with 20ml water and it turned out cloudy. thanks for your help totanaca
I'm sorry, I'm not sure. My extract is kind of cloudy anyways, can you live with cloudy extract?
Hi, i just want to know why have to scrapes up all the goo from the inside
thank you for your informative site. one question; the extract i made has been macerating for 3 months in 90% alcool. after reading your text i realize that at least half the alcool would've been better. i tried mixing a small quantity with purified water and the extract turned cloudy. any idea how to lower the alcool level without cloudiness? an answer would greatly be appreciated! thanks again!
heyy, nice job with all the reviews, but i have a question...can you make this WITHOUT the vodka?? thanks for the help.
Thorough, detailed, and I can't think of a single thing that could be improved. Bravo, my good sir.

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