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Best Vanilla Bean For Extract?

Hiya! So I have decided to make my own vanilla extract.
I have heard many good reviews of the ebay seller "Vanillaproducts" and he has very good prices to boot!

My only thoughts is, I have no idea about the different types of vanilla beans. What grade do I need? Do I want Madagascar Bourbon or Tahitenis? Does length matter when I'm buying buy weight?

Also, while you are here, let me ask about Vodka. (I'm 18, so no drinking for me yet, but my parents are fine with using it for cooking/baking) We live in Oregon, so grocery stores are not allowed to sell anything except wine/beer/guiness. What is a good inexpensive brand of vodka? (My family doesn't drink) Can I get away with an inexpensive bottle or do I need midgrade?

Thank you very much :)

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  1. I make my own extract with the cheapest vodka I can find -- all you really need is a neutral-tasting alcohol to extract the flavor compounds from the vanilla.

    I use Tahitian vanilla beans because it's what I can buy where I live...but it largely comes down to your own personal preference -- the two kinds have slightly different flavor profiles, so make it with whichever you like best. And yes, you could make two small batches to find the one you prefer.

    (I put 2-1/2 beans, split and scraped, in a 200ml (about 3/4 cup) bottle of store-brand vodka (37.5% alcohol, or 75-proof) -- in about 3 weeks (shake every day or two) I have very good vanilla.

    1. I prefer to use dark rum. Right now I have about 3 dozen pods in a glass jar standing in 2 inches of dark rum in the pantry. The rum will be flavored by the pods in about a month or longer and the pods will remain fresh and plump for any number of uses. Ideally your vanilla beans should stand in alcohol for at least 2 months. And if you want to speed up the process snip a tiny bit off from each end of the vanilla pod. The pods will act like a straw and suck up a small amt. of rum infusing the seeds and the liquid extract will become even more intense in flavor.

      2 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        that's why I split and scrape the beans -- shortens the infusion time enormously, and gives you little flecks of vanilla beans in your goodies -- which is a good thing (most of the time)

        1. re: sunshine842

          I follow this method right from the purchase of the pods. Works great!

      2. If you can get B Grade Beans they are cheaper and are fine for extract. They tend too be dryer and not as pretty but the flavor is fine.
        As stated above most Vodkas( as long as they are not flavored) are fine as well as Rum.

        1. I have done mine in vodka and in rum. I preferred the rum extract but it does make it a little less "pure" of a flavor since the rum has more taste than vodka (I use Bacardi white rum). When I have done it with Vodka I have used Absolute but you could easily do it with a Smirnoff which is a little less expensive. I don't know if I would do it with a really cheap jug vodka since some of those can actually have a really harsh taste to them I find and you would still have that background flavor in your vanilla.

          As far as beans. The type of bean is totally up to you. I like Tahitian but it has a bitt of a more floral aroma/taste to it than Madagascar beans. The difference is very subtle so you would be happy and easily recognize either as vanilla.

          The larger and plumper beans are the more expensive beans. You don't need either of those qualities for vanilla extract. So go with the least expensive beans you can. The vodka will "re-hydrate" a dry bean and if the bean is too long you may have to cut it anyway to fit in the bottle you are using. So no point there.

          I use WAY more beans than most extract recipes call for when I make mine but I'm not patient when it comes to the waiting part and I like a really strong vanilla flavor. I was also fortunate enough to buy my beans in bulk while I was in Tahiti so they were very reasonably priced. I haven't bought commercially produced extract in probably 5 years now.

          Its fun to do. Enjoy!

            1. I have been making my own vanilla for about 10 years now and use the cheapest vodka I can find. I have found out the more vanilla beans you use the better the flavor and I do use madagascar beans that I have purchased through ebay. The tahitian beans seem more subtle to me. I have wanted to try the rum but does the rum flavor come out in the food? I cut the beans into 1" pieces and then split them and put them into the vodka, date the bottle, and put it away in a dark cabinet and from time to time take out the bottle and give it a shake. All the good bits come out and infuse the liquid and it smells heavenly. I usually wait about a year before I use it and always have a few bottles "brewing" in the cabinet.

              1. For what it's worth, Cook's just did a taste test and declared that the McCormick Madagascar beans in Supermarkets are the best, and that you only need one bean per 3/4 cup of vodka to make the extract. They used Smirnoff and say an expensive vodka is not necessary, and tell you to heat the vodka (obviously not too hot or you will drive off the alcohol) first and pour it over the cut, split and scraped bean. They tell you to shake daily and the extract will be ready in about a week.

                Have not tried any of this myself.

                2 Replies
                1. re: acgold7

                  interesting on the heating. Makes sense, though, and I'll have to try it when my current bottle starts to run dry (actually probably before that -- the holiday baking season will be upon us before too much longer!).

                  1. re: acgold7

                    This website offers a systematic way of making vanilla extract:


                    I think that your bean to vodka ratio is way low. As the website states, McCormick's industrial processes are more efficient than home brewing. Also he doesn't recommend heating the vodka, and it will take 6 months, not a week, to come up with an extract.