Make You Own Vanilla Extract

  • Make You Own Vanilla Extract
  • Make You Own Vanilla Extract
  • Make You Own Vanilla Extract
Ranking: 4 more votes required!

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 1 votes


  • 1 L jar
  • 1 L vodka
  • 12 x vanilla beans


My jar of never ending Vanilla extract

DIY Vanilla Extract

My favourite flavour in the whole world is vanilla, (hence the electric vanilla thing) turns out I am not alone, with Vanilla ranking as the most popular flavour in the world! David Lebovitz calls it ‘the salt of the pastry world’, and adds it to everything. Coca cola uses tons of the stuff; in fact they are the worlds largest consumers of vanilla extract. Vanilla is addictive (bet you didn’t know that) and it even stimulates the brain! The bouquet alone is so good perfume and air freshener companies mimic it, and candle makers incorporate it into their wares.

I love the way it compliments so many cakes, the way it glides on the palette and brings everything together and don’t get me started on the aroma!! This thing is the design of Heaven!

It punctuates a pound cake, throws a butter cream into the spotlight and moves chocolate brownies form the top 50 to the top 10 with a bullet. And without it? A vanilla slice would just be… well, just a slice. No doubt about it, this spice is the workhorse of the bakery.


Be honest now, how many times have you reached for the cheap big bottle of imitation vanilla over the real vanilla extract? At $1.20 for Imitation and $8.00 a bottle for the real stuff, I can understand.

But what if you could make a better natural Vanilla extract at home, right now today? What if I told you the flavour was stronger and more pronounced complete with seeds ready to fleck your custards?

What if I told you the cost would be lower for a superior product?

What if i told you, you would never run out of Vanilla extract again?

What if I told you the product was healthier (some vanilla products contain coumarin, which can cause liver and kidney damage to name one chemical used)

And what if I told you that this Vanilla extract would outlast you???

Yes that’s right, you will be able to pass it down to the kids long after you are gone.

Well it’s all true, don’t send any money, we’ll bill you later!

Seriously this is such an easy weekend project you will be both amazed at how easy it is to make, and be quite proud of yourself at the same time. Decanting the finished extract makes a fantastic useful Christmas present so lets get started with a quick Vanilla lesson so you can impress your guests!


The Vanilla bean was first cultivated by Mexico’s Totonac Indians; they used it as a perfume and a medicine. The Aztecs conquered them in the 15th century, and as it turned out knew a thing or two about catering. They used the vanilla to flavor and mixed it with their chocolate to create a drink. Next in line for world domination were the Spanish who showed up in the 16th century led by Cortez. He was introduced to the vanilla pod and promptly arranged for it to be exported back to Europe where the elite enjoyed the latest discovery; in 1602 vanilla was used as a flavoring for the first time in its own right.

The bean is native to Mexico, but in 1819 some French, entrepreneurs attempted cultivating the bean on their own islands, the French experiment failed because the vanilla orchid needs to be pollinated by a bee unique to particular regions of Mexico. They came up with an idea of hand pollinating and the plant flourished. This new Intel saw the orchid exported to Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion Island.


Vanilla can be a little expensive, second only to saffron in the spice dollar contest. The reason the price tag is higher is all to do with how unique this spice is.

The vanilla bean is the fruit of one particular orchid (Vanilla plan folia) that thrives in rainforests. Each stalk can take up to 3 years to produce its first flower, and these flowers are usually pollinated by hand, this needs to be done on the exact day the flowers bloom, because after one day the vanilla flower is gone.

Once the bean is picked it takes around 9 months to mature and be ready to be harvested, the beans are then dried and cured turning from green to the dark color we are familiar with. The cultivation process is the most labour intensive food crop on the planet and requires daily care, so that’s why the price is what it is.

VANILLA (and NOT so Vanilla products)

Here’s a quick explanation about the different vanilla products that are out on the market.

Vanilla Extract is made with vanilla beans, alcohol and water. Some extracts contain sugar, corn syrup, caramel, colors, or stabilizers. Adding 20% or more sugar to new extracts can take the harsh edge off an unaged extract.

Vanilla extracts made with premium vanilla beans and no sugar give the freshest and cleanest flavor.

Vanilla Flavor is pure vanilla made with glycerin or propylene glycol instead of alcohol. (It’s an alcohol free alternative, but the taste is different)

Vanilla Paste: this is a mix of vanilla seeds, vanilla extract and sugar. Just be careful to check how much sugar is added, some contain 30-40% while others are as low as 5%, this can change the balance of your recipes.

Vanilla Powder: this is vanilla extract that has been dried and mixed with a cornstarch base.

Imitation vanilla contains synthetic vanillin. made from synthetic chemicals, eugenol, coal tar and waste paper pulp that are chemically treated to mimic the “vanilla flavor”. Some brands also contain Coumarin. which is used as a blood-thinner and pest poison, aren’t you getting enough chemicals as it is???

OK we are just about done with our Vanilla lesson, just a few more things. Some bottles with have ‘fold’ written on the front so what is a fold?


A fold is a US measurement used to determine the strength of a batch of Vanilla.

A single fold has 100 vanilla beans (12ozs) to a gallon of alcohol

A double fold has… Beuller? Beuller?

Yep that’s right, 200 beans to the gallon. Pick anything of the top shelf!


The main regions regions that produce vanilla beans are Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico and Tahiti. You can also buy vanilla from India, Kenya, Guatemala, and even Australia.

Bourbon Vanilla

Bourbon vanilla or Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla, is the term used for vanilla beans from Indian Ocean islands such as Madagascar, the Comoros, and Réunion. About 75 percent of all vanilla beans come from the Madagascar area. They are the thinnest type of pod and are rich and sweet. Bourbon vanillas have the familiar vanillin flavor that we associate with vanilla ice cream and other vanilla flavored desserts and beverages. They are rich in natural vanillin & smooth, rich & mellow flavor accented with a long sweet, vanilla-aroma finish. Use Bourbon vanilla in baked goods, ice cream and anything where a traditional vanilla flavor is desired. In the 1800s, the French developed large plantations on Reunion Island, known at the time as the Isle de Bourbon, hence the name Bourbon.

If you are looking for the flavors of your childhood, look no further.

Mexican Vanilla

Mexican vanilla, has a rich flavour, the beans are scarcer than Bourbon beans. Mexican vanilla beans have a unique flavour, featuring a spicy and woody fragrance and more subtle taste.

Tahitian Vanilla

Tahitian beans actually come from a completely different plant variety, called vanilla tahitensis which has very little vanillin content – but are high in certain “anisyl” compounds. The beans are shorter, thicker and darker and contain more water and oil. Tahitian beans provide a stronger aroma & instant vanilla flavor burst – they are floral, fruity, anisic & bold with a smooth flavor. The texture of its caviar is very interesting; it is extremely gooey, stringy and moist. Many pastry chefs use Tahitian vanilla due to its lively, soft, fruity flavor.

Mexican beans have a smooth, strong, rich fragrance and flavor. They have caramel notes and a distinct earthiness to them.

OK, now that we are officially up to speed, lets get ready to DIY Vanilla!


One jar- a wide neck is easier to manage, a darker colored bottle like amber, black or green colour is best because it keeps the light out

12 Vanilla beans

One bottle of Vodka -40% is best 35% is the standard alcohol requirement, premium vanilla extracts often contain a higher percentage of alcohol in order to extract more vanilla flavor from the beans, this will produce and extract that is 70 proof!

The reason we are using vodka as the alcohol “base” is because it is tasteless and allows the vanilla bean to shine through – you can use rum, which adds a slightly sweet taste or bourbon or cognac. However, these all change the taste and produce a flavored extract, the classic base to use is vodka, it provides a neutral alcohol base for the vanilla flavor


1 Sterilise the jar, chopping board and knife and allow to dry.

You can do this by putting the jar into the dishwasher; the heat will kill any bacteria. Alternatively you can boil in a pot of hot water or pour boiling water into your jar.

2 Slit the vanilla beans down the centre with your knife titled at a 45-degree angle, run the knife along the bean so that it scrapes up the seeds also known as the caviar and scrape the beans into the jar. Cut the beans into quarters, which produces more surface area, which translates into more flavour. This also enables the beans to sit better in the jar. You can play with the flavor mix using different Vanilla beans.

3 Top the jar up with vodka

4 Date your project, either use a sharpie and date the lid or make it part of your artwork on the jar.

4 Keep in a dark place and allow your project to steep.

5 Shake daily for the first week, after that give the jar a good shake weekly.

This method is a slow cold macerating process that gently extracts the pods treasures turning your crystal clear vodka into a dark brown syrupy liquid the old fashioned way full of thousands of eye catching seeds. Commercial extracts speed the process up by chopping, macerating and boiling the pods with alcohol and water, this method produces a different flavour. The commercial extraction process takes around 48 hours to complete. (Yours will take a little longer :)

You can use your extract after 4 weeks; it will be really nice at the 6-month mark and even better after that. Your extract is like a fine wine that will keep maturing and developing with deeper and richer tones. Do not refrigerate, instead keep your jar in a nice dark cupboard away from any sunlight.


It’s like its alive isn’t it? To care for your extract there are just a few little things you need to do. As the level on your jar drops, top it up every now and then with some fresh vodka. When your extract reaches the 6-month mark, the beans will have given their all and be ready to remove. If you used a wide neck jar this is easy just use some sterilised tongs to remove the old pods and replace with fresh Vanilla pods that have been split lengthways and have had the seeds removed just like you did 6 months ago. If you are using a narrow neck jar pour the extract into a sterilised bowl, remove the pods and use a funnel to return the extract to the jar.

I bought a nice old jar for my vanilla. It cost a bit more but I thought if its going to be around for awhile why not give it a proper home?

The old pods can be dried and then blitzed in some sugar to create a fantastic vanilla sugar that can be used in any of your sweet baking. Don’t try to blitz the used pods before they have dried properly, the fibres will wrap around your food processor and clog it.

You can take a leaf out of Darren Purchese’s Sweet Studio book and create Vanilla Powder, here is his technique. Darren dries the pods in an oven or dehydrator and once they are completely brittle blitzes them in a spice blender. He uses it in sponges or other baked products but not in ice-cream or custards as it dis- colors the milk too much.

Vanilla powder

1 Dry the pods

2 Roughly chop the pods

3 Place the pods in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and blitz to a powder

4 Store in an airtight container.

Well I will let you get to it, the earlier you start, and the quicker your brew will ready to accentuate your cooking.

Happy Baking!

Here are some links if you want to do some homework

The Vanilla company

Vanilla Servoluc

Leave a Review

Leave a rating

  • just have to work out how to grow vanilla in a temporate climate and I am set lol. Very informative … I have directed this entry to my Chef lol


    by Helen Minns on 14/05/2013, 13:06
    Helen Minns
    • Thanks Helen, you can some vanilla pods on ebay, it’s quicker :)


      by ELECTRIC Vanilla on 14/07/2013, 21:36
      ELECTRIC Vanilla
      • I am a locavore … I might be able to stretch my region to FNQ … maybe lol


        by Helen Minns on 15/07/2013, 20:12
        Helen Minns
  • Ranking: 4 more votes required!

    Rated 5 out of 5 based on 1 votes

    1 person has cooked this

  • Categorised under

  • ELECTRIC Vanilla

    Rob Bradbury is a former pastry chef, and today helps marginalised children around the world with freedom, water and shelter etc through an organisation called Greenaid. He is married to the beautiful Assunta, Dad to Amy, Timothy and Peter (and Ricky the Beagle) and in his down time loves to ...

    Other recipes     Profile

    ELECTRIC Vanilla is a professional chef

  • Similar Recipes