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      Is It Possible To Use Vanilla Beans Twice?
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      Can I use my vanilla beans twice
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      This is a question that comes up quite frequently in vanilla extract making. Given the popularity of vanilla extract Mother Jars and feedback from thousands of at-home extract makers, continued use of vanilla beans for extract making is a great question. We have seen posts of DIY vanilla extract jars with vanilla beans that are more than 20 years old. So yes, indeed, a vanilla bean pod will always have value. But there are some important points to consider. 
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      When a vanilla bean pod is harvested from the vine, it is typically blanched in hot water to kill the outer skin of the pod so it no longer grows and can begin the curing process. This means that no new oils are being produced within that pod. Our goal in extraction is to try and remove every one of the 300+ flavor compounds and oils out of the vanilla bean that we can. 
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      The majority of the vanillin (the sweet vanilla oil) is found in the pod itself, not in the caviar (the small seeds) inside the pod. Extraction is the process by which the vanilla bean pods are macerated and percolated in an alcohol solution to transfer the sweetness from the pod into the solution. 
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      Commercial extract makers chop their vanilla beans before extraction to maximize surface area contact with the alcohol and the pod. This is done to increase the rate of extraction and to maximize flavor of the extract solution. At home extract makers are a little more delicate and tend to carefully slice open their beans or leave their vanilla beans whole when they put them into the alcohol. (The pros and cons of slicing vanilla beans can be found here.) 
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      While most at home extract makers agree that extract is best after a year, some will begin using theirs in just 90-120 days and others will wait up to two years. And when you're extracting at home, our view is that the extract is ready when you believe that it tastes great. (Taste testing methods can be found here.) 
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      Perhaps, for this reason, there is significant debate about whether or not you can use vanilla beans for a second extraction. If you have started using your extract in under one year, then many people would believe that there is still significant value in your used vanilla beans. If you like to wait a full two years before using your extracts, then you obviously have found that there is sweetness to be gained in a second year of extraction. 
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      To those of you that have waited the usual 1 year for your vanilla extract to be ready, we have found that there still is value in your vanilla beans. After one year, in our experience, much of the flavor has been extracted, maybe even most of the flavor. But there is still some value. 
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      We have had positive experiences taking our one-year old vanilla beans and starting a new extract with them, but adding 50% new vanilla beans. In other words, we made 8oz of extract with 1oz of vanilla beans for one year. After that year, we removed the 1oz of used vanilla beans and added them to a new 8oz bottle of vodka and also added 1/2 ounce of new vanilla beans. (Instead of 1 FULL oz of new vanilla beans.) So we had 1oz of used beans, 1/2 oz of new beans and 8oz of new vodka. The result for us was a nice extract, possibly shy on sweetness, but one that we still used and enjoyed in its entirety. 
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      Do used vanilla beans have value for additional extract making? We believe they do and they hold that value for years and years when they are used for at-home extract making.
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      Will used beans create an extract that is just as sweet the second time as it is the first time? We don't believe so. Not without the help of new beans or not without the addition of many, many used beans. Our mother jars, for example are made up of only used beans and they are delicious. However, we estimate that our mother jars are likely 4-5 fold. (Which is to say 4-5oz of used beans for every 8oz of alcohol). 
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      Conclusion: Our belief is that the first extract is the best opportunity for the sweetest outcome, so you want to make sure that you do that first extract carefully, methodically and perfectly if possible. Then, have fun with the used vanilla beans. Try a second round of extract if you would like. Start a mother jar. Or use them for powders, sugars or paste. 
      At VanillaPura, we are focused more on the craft of vanilla extract making, not necessarily on the commercial laboratory science. That means that if you invent a process in your kitchen and you love the outcome, then it worked and we hope you share what you learned with us! If it tastes great, then enjoy using it! If you don't like the taste, then experiment a little more. And we will do our best to have easy-to-find best practices always available on our site to help you improve. 
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      We have tens of thousands of at-home extract makers that speak with us through our social media channels every day, and we do our best to make sure that all of their best practices can be easily found on our website. 
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      Enjoy the sweet journey that you on! And be sure to visit our Extract Making Guide Center for more tips and tricks.