DIY – How to make your own Vanilla Extract

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Have you ever wondered if it is cheaper to make your own vanilla extract?Blog-Vanilla Extract Funnel 2

We were quite curious about the real savings, and we’ve wanted to try making our own extract for a long time. We also thought that homemade vanilla extract would make great holiday gifts. Since we are in gift giving season, we thought it was the perfect time to test a recipe and determine the savings.  Here’s what we discovered.

Vodka isn’t a stock item in our home, so it was easy to start from scratch and figure the actual cost per jar. We wanted to use them as part of our Christmas giving this year so we made a lot! If decent vodka is a regular in your kitchen, you could whip up a small single kitchen batch whenever you had good vanilla beans on hand.

In my recipe research, I landed on 6 – 7 Vanilla Beans per cup (8oz) of vodka. Yep, it’s that simple!Blog- Vanilla Extract Supplies

What you need:

Bottles & lids
Beans
Vodka
Sharp paring knife
Cutting board
Funnel

Choose your vessels:

I wanted a variety and wanted to consider clear vs. amber and volume (some of our friends go through vanilla more quickly!).

I liked the UV blocking characteristics of our Amber Boston Round Jars (8oz) and their geeky polycone phenolic lids. They look and feel official. If you don’t need to see the lovely hue of your extract, these are the best choice. Amber Jars & Phenolic Lids

I also liked the ability to see those gorgeous Madagascar vanilla beans, so I chose 2 other clear jars – the 8oz Woozy Bottles and the 12oz Vinaigrette BottlesVanilla Extract Funnel Both of these had an opening that would fit with the Dripper Plug Orifice Reducer. I also wanted to use a lid with a plastisol liner to be sure the contents remained as fresh as possible.Blog- CT Lids and Dripper Plugs

Sourcing your Vanilla Beans:Blog-Vanilla BeansBulk is usually better, but it’s worth knowing that the source is also high quality. We took a tip from Marisa McClellan, of Food in Jars, and purchased the beans through Beanilla and were happy. Pricing was reasonable and shipping was fast (free if you spent enough), and the quality of the beans was impressive! They carry a wide range of beans, so you can have fun choosing which will work best for your plans.

*UPDATE – Since the publish date of this post, the cost of Beans has increased, significantly. When we did this project, I’d ordered a pound of the grade A  beans – which equated to 120 or so very large beans – for around $75.   As with any product sourced from limited growing regions, availability can have a somewhat dramatic impact on the cost in the global markets. Grade B beans, which come at a lower price point, will work just fine for extracts. If you click on the “learn more” portion of each bean variety, you can quickly see the price breaks with the increase in quantity. Splitting a larger order with some friends will save you significant $$.

Vodka:

A mid-grade, high proof vodka is sufficient. It is important to note that most vodka is gluten free. However, if gluten is a concern, you may want to reference this gluten-free vodka list.  If you don’t want to use vodka, rum is a good substitute.

DIY Vanilla Extract Recipe:

Start with clean bottles and lids.

Carefully slice the vanilla beans lengthwise. I like to keep the top part intact – they’re a little easier to handle that way and I think they look a little fancier.Blog - Splitting Beans

If you’re using shorter jars like the Amber Boston Round Jars (8oz), the bean will need to be cut in half. Blog - Splitting Beans for Amber Jars

Place the proper amount of beans into your jars, 6 – 7 Vanilla Beans per cup (8oz) of vodka.Blog - Beans into Jars

Using the funnel, pour the vodka into the jars, being sure that all vanilla beans are covered. Blog-Vanilla Extract Funnel 2

If you are using the Dripper Plug Orifice Reducer, carefully insert it and then cap it tightly. Blog-Dripper Plug ExtractGive each jar a good shake and store them in a dark place. It helps the process if you shake them every so often.

Blog - Vanilla Beans at workSavings:

What did it cost per complete bottle of Vanilla Extract?

*Please see the update earlier in the post regarding the changes in costs…while you’ll still see some savings, the cost of the this project will be higher than stated below because of the significant jump in the vanilla bean market. As a reference, at the time of the prices stated below, most grocery stores were selling a pack of 2 vanilla beans in a range of $8 – $12 depending on the source/quality.

Including the bottles & lids, vanilla beans and vodka, the costs are as follows:

I know I’d pay much more than this for a bottle of vanilla extract at the store. This was so easy to pull together, so much better than store bought vanilla and will look so much prettier once the kiddos lovingly create and attach their hand crafted tags and notes.

We recently added a lovely swing top bottle line to our offerings! They’re called EZ Cap Bottles , available in Amber, Cobalt and Flint; in both 16oz and 32oz! We chose to use the clear (also called Flint) so that the warmth of the vanilla could shine through.

EZ Cap DIY Vanilla Extract Fillmore Container

 

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23 Comments

  1. Posted November 20, 2014 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous! This is on my to-make list this season.

  2. Jo
    Posted November 23, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    How long does it take for the vanilla to be extracted?

    • Lisa
      Posted December 3, 2014 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Most recipes say at least 2 months.

    • Ellen
      Posted October 13, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      A minimum of two months, but I let mine go at least six months, nine is better. Sometimes the vodka gives too much of an alcohol taste, so if I add an extra bean or two and steep the beans around nine months, it’s strong enough that I can cut it with a little water to mellow out the sharpness of the alcohol. I started a batch last October that I’ll cut a bit and give as gifts this Christmas.

  3. Teri Kretzer
    Posted November 29, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Do you have plans to carry the bail top bottles?

    • Posted December 2, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Hi Teri,
      We don’t currently have any plans to carry bail top bottles. Thanks for asking.

  4. Kat
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I’ve found that a quality bourbon makes an excellent vanilla extract. Be sure to start these soon for christmas gifts – takes at least 2 months for a good concentration. As you use your extract, you can top off the jar with more alcohol occasionally for a never-ending bottle. Yum!

  5. Jeff king
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I have made it for years only I use grain alcohol 190 proof it comes out much stronger vanilla taste and scent

  6. Barbara
    Posted October 31, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I made my extract first with vodka, but my second batch was made with BRANDY. I will never go back to vodka! The brandied vanilla extract is richer, and much more flavorful. A teaspoon of it in after dinner coffee is just heavenly. I use it as I would any other vanilla, in everything. My homemade ice cream (I make the base in a quart Ball jar, to chill it fast) with brandy-extracted vanilla is the absolute best! Just buy a pint of inexpensive brandy and forgo the vodka, as it is harsher ny far.

  7. G$
    Posted December 4, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    USE RUM!!!

  8. Ron
    Posted December 4, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Dark rum or light rum

    • Posted December 4, 2016 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Hi Ron, It will really depend on your personal preference & budget. There are many recipes out there that use both, or a combination of vodka and rum.

  9. Kathy
    Posted December 6, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    How long does the vanilla last? Does it get stored like store bought vanilla?

    • Posted December 6, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Hi Kathy, If you mean the vanilla extract, yes, you can store it like store bought vanilla. If you mean the beans, also yes! 🙂 Most reliable sources will give you a ball park shelf life. Quality beans will last quite a while…I have some from last year that I’m still working through and they’ve been just fine.

  10. Lindsey
    Posted December 6, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    So, you don’t cook the alcohol out? Is vanilla extract that you buy in the store just vanilla alcohol? Is there a recipe where you can cook the alcohol away?

    • Posted December 6, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Hello Lindsey, No, the alcohol is still there…that’s what facilitates the extraction of the flavor. (As a reference: McCormick’s Vanilla has 41% alcohol) The ingredients of store bought vanilla extract will vary, the most common additive being water or sweeteners…the reason many prefer to make their own. I’m not aware of any recommended method of removing the alcohol.

  11. Amanda
    Posted December 6, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    What is the shelf life for a bottle of this

    • Posted December 7, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      It’s more likely that you will use it before it shows signs of getting old. Many continue to top off their jar with more alcohol once in a while, some add vanilla bean pods that they’ve scraped seeds out for another recipe and keep the jar going for years! The properties of the alcohol should allow it to last a long long time. If you’re concerned about leaving your bean in too long, you can always remove them or swap them with some fresh ones…it really will depend on the quality of the bean and how it stored.

  12. Linda
    Posted December 7, 2016 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    Can the vanilla get old? Should it be discarded after awhile?

  13. Debbie
    Posted December 13, 2016 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    I use good brandy. Great vanilla

  14. Tina Barnhart
    Posted August 29, 2017 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone tried to make a LARGE batch in ONE container and then divide it up into the bottles 2-3 months later -without the bean?

    • Posted September 11, 2017 at 6:06 am | Permalink

      Hi Tina, You could certainly do that…especially if you didn’t want to have any flecks in your extract.

  15. Lisa
    Posted October 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I love making my own vanilla. I went to our local big box club that has a liquor store and bought a Huge bottle of whipped cream flavored vodka to use. (That was a little embarrassing!) Since I only bake with my vanilla it seemed to compliment the flavor!
    I used 8oz and 16oz Clear Boston Round Jars and everyone raved about them. 🙂

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