Making homemade vanilla extract is so easy. What’s more, it’s 100% pure; no synthetic chemicals or preservatives are used.
Homemade vanilla extract only requires two ingredients; whole vanilla beans and alcohol. Then, all you need is some patience as you leave the precious beans in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 6 weeks to percolate in the alcohol and release their gorgeous sweet, aromatic flavour. It’s best to leave the extract for 3 months to fully develop its flavour.
The question many people ask is how many beans do you need to make a divine bottle of single-fold vanilla extract? According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to be labelled pure single-fold vanilla extract the liquid must contain 13.35 ounces of natural vanilla beans in every gallon of alcohol. Commercial double-fold pure vanilla extract contains 23 ounces of vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol. The FDA recommends the spirit should be at least 35% alcohol (70 proof). Ideally, 40% alcohol (80 proof) should be used.
Most bakers and chefs use vodka to make homemade vanilla extract because it has a neutral taste. For an added flavour boost, you can use white rum, brandy and bourbon.
For the home baker, the FDA requirements equal 0.10 ounces of vanilla beans in every 1 ounce of spirits. If you’re using average-sized vanilla beans, 6 to 8 beans equal one ounce. For plumper vanilla beans, 1 to 3 beans equal one ounce. For smaller vanilla beans, you’ll need 15 or more to make up one ounce.
If you prefer to use a cup measurement, the proportions are roughly 3 whole vanilla beans per 1 cup of spirit (80 proof). Again, this depends on the size of the vanilla bean. It’s best to weigh your beans using a measuring scale to ensure you get the perfect beans-to-spirit ratio for single-fold vanilla extract. If you want a stronger vanilla flavour, double the beans you add to the same amount of alcohol for double-fold vanilla extract.
Here is a table that will help you get started making your own single-fold vanilla extract. Double the quantity of vanilla beans for double the flavour.