More clues would be helpful:
What was your ratio of beans to alcohol (weight or number of beans / how much vodka)? How long has it been? Did you split or chop up the beans before soaking? Were the beans fresh or had you used them for something else before?
I recently did this myself. I used probably 30 vanilla beans to a quart of vodka. Try finding the vanilla beans in bulk online--I paid $20 for a whole pound of vanilla beans, and I still have a bunch leftover for other things. Before placing the beans in the vodka, slice lengthwise and scrape the seeds out. Add the seeds and bean shells to the vodka and let sit for a month or so.
Sounds about right to me although it'll be even better at 6 months.
The FDA regulates commercial vanilla extract. To duplicate single fold (strength) extract you must use 13.35 oz of beans to 128 oz (1gal.) of 40 % alcohol (80 proof). There are 6-7 beans per oz typically. So for 1 quart of vodka you need 20 beans. Thirty would result in extract that is a bit stronger. Chop or split the beans, shake regularly and keep in a dark room temperature spot. You can use the extract after 4-6 weeks. If you have questions contact me at steve@bostonvanillabeans...
I'm not sure it's at all necessary -- or desirable -- to duplicate the legal minimum standard although it certainly does stand as a benchmark. You won't, however, reach it using the numbers above.
This chemist's reading of FDA Sec. 169.3 notices a 25% or less moisture content specification. The beans I purchase typically come in around 30-35% meaning an adjustment to approx. 15 oz. / gal. is necessary for top grade beans or as many as 27 / qt. using the 6-7 / oz. figure quoted.
Extract grade beans vary so much it's even more difficult to estimate the number of beans but, for the sake of discussion, let's say they're 10 / oz. which would work out to around 33 per quart.
Further, the regs call for the finished product to contain all the extractives from the beans. Since the extract continues to strengthen well past 4-6 weeks, we know the total possible strength has not been achieved during that time period. As stated, the extract will be better at 6 months.
"A" grade: 1 oz. beans per 8 oz. clear rum or vodka
Extract grade: 7/8 oz. beans per 8 oz. clear rum or vodka
Split the beans (no need to scrape but chopping them into 1/4" pieces can help when it comes time to decant). Best after 6 months.
The moisture content has absolutely NOTHING to do with the flavor of the extract. Even a 10% variation in moisture content will not be detectable by the average person when the extraction is done. As a start it is best to begin with a know authority's recipe for extract. That way everyone is on the same page. Most cooking recipes are tested with single fold extract. Granted there will be further extraction after 6 weeks but 90% of the extractives are in the alcohol. There is no harm in adding a bit more vanilla (1 oz per cup of alcohol is about 14% stronger, we recommend 24 grams or about .8oz). But cooks should be aware that too much vanilla will cause a sweet recipe to taste "cakey".
Agreed we should be on the same page. I therefore politely refer you to FDA Sec. 169.3 (b) for an authoritative explanation of moisture content in relation to bean weight.
To meet specs, the 13.35 oz. figure must be adjusted for moisture content. Quoting from the regs: "One unit weight of vanilla beans containing 33.25 percent moisture amounts to 15 ounces."
Please note our formulas (the ones based on weight) are functionally equivalent for low moisture beans.
Hmm...wondering why you chose vodka? I use Everclear. Last time I did it, which was the first time ever, I put 8 Madagascar vanilla beans, cut into 1" pieces, in a pint of Everclear and set on the windowsill. Wish I could remember for sure, but I know it was at least a month before I used it, and the flavor is incredible. I just started a second batch (since half the first batch is now history, LOL), but I need more beans. I have heard that the TYPE of bean (geographic origin) does matter - do you know where your beans came from?
Laboratory tests show more vanillin is extracted at a lower level of alcohol. Also, the more alcohol, the harsher the product will taste. Clear rum and vodka just happen to be close to ideal.
Light, especially sunlight, is destructive to the flavor. That's the reason commercial extracts are sold in dark brown bottles. Heat will also affect the flavor.
You can find information about vanilla types and growing regions here:
In short, the cultivar is far more significant than where the beans are grown.
To make PURE Vanilla Extract you need to be concerned with the ratio of bean weight (ounces) you are using to volume of alcohol & alcohol %. If you're not using correct % all you are making is Vanilla flavored vodka. Here is some info that will help. http://beaninthebottlevanilla...
Here's some more info: http://beaninthebottlevanilla...
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