How Many Vanilla Beans Do You Need When Making Vanilla Extract

Slofoodgroup Team March 19, 2022

The truth about how many vanilla beans you need to make pure vanilla extract

Over and over we seem to get asked how many vanilla beans do I need to make vanilla extract? It is a valid question, one that is multifaceted with many correct answers. You see, vanilla is kind of funny like that it plays on our senses and not every vanilla bean is exactly the same.  If you look online in places such as Youtube, Pinterest or other search engines, you will find the answer to this common question to be quite vast. Some users may say you need four or five vanilla beans per cup, others may say you need slightly more or slightly less. The truth of the matter is you need different amounts of vanilla beans based on how much vanilla extract you inten to make and what grade vanilla beans you intend to use. 

Why do you need a different amount of vanilla beans based on the grade of vanilla beans you are using?

Different grades of vanilla beans have different moisture contents. Gourmet grade A vanilla beans have an average moisture content of 30-35 percent for most planifolia vanilla such as Madagascar vanilla, Ugandan vanilla and Mexican Vanilla beans. According to code of federal regulations for the standard of identity of pure vanilla extract a minimum amount of .93 ounce of vanilla beans would need to be used per cup of 35 percent alcohol.  

Extract grade B vanilla beans have an average moisture content of 23-27 percent and you need a minimum of .83 ounces of vanilla beans to every one cup 35 percent alcohol. Extract grade vanilla beans are quite easy to find, at times cheaper than gourmet vanilla and usually have minor cosmetic blemishes on the vanilla bean. The most common extract grade B vanilla beans you can find online are from Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. 

 How do you know which type of vanilla bean to use? We recommend choosing whichever vanilla beans suits your fancy. There is nothing wrong with using one grade of vanilla over the other. All you have to do is simply adjust the weight of vanilla beans needed by .10 percent up or down. Choose the vanilla bean that is right for you. 

When making vanilla extract you should always use the weight of the vanilla beans rather than the count

Yes, we know it is easy to say that to make one cup of vanilla extract you will need ten vanilla beans but how true is that statement? The answer is it is not true at all. At best, it is a guess or estimate based on a users experience but is it really based off facts or guidelines established to ensure the integrity of pure vanilla extract? We are not saying anyone is intentionally trying to misguide you or mislead you but ten vanilla beans does not always translate to the minimum set standards for extract of vanilla. Think about it, not all beans are the same length, not all beans are the same width, and not all beans are the same weight. All these factors can influence your outcome. The most accurate way to ensure consistency when making vanilla extract is to simply use a scale and the weighted approach. 

Still not sure how many vanilla beans you need to make vanilla extract at home, follow these simple steps to find out just how much vanilla you will need
  1. Decide how much vanilla extract you want to make (1cup, 1 quart or one gallon etc) Each requires a different amount of vanilla beans.
  2. Determine the strength of vanilla extract you want to make. One fold, meaning single strength, double fold meaning, double strength (also requires double the amount of vanilla) and triple fold meaning, triple strength (requiring tripe the amount of vanilla beans).   
  3. Head on over to our handy vanilla extract calculator page  and select the amount of vanilla you wish to make. The calculator gives the options to select by the amount of vanilla you may already have or the amount of vanilla extract you intend to make. 
  4. Choose the type of vanilla bean you want to use to make vanilla extract. Grade A or Grade B, it is up to you. Most people choose vanilla beans from Madagascar but there are many other wonderful varieties of vanilla beans out there. You may wish to try more than one. 
  5. Allow the vanilla beans and alcohol to do the work. You cannot rush the process. Making vanilla extract at home takes a little time. We suggest a minimum of 90-120 days of aging but many users prefer to let their vanilla age for a year or more.
  6. Join our DIY vanilla extract and baking group on facebook. Here you can connect with other like minded individuals to talk vanilla and baking.  

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