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      Most people will say yes, but many like it in just 90 days. 
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      We say it's ready when you think it's ready.
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      .At home extract making is an art, a craft. As such, makers of DIY vanilla extract deserve a little leeway to refine their craft and cater it to their needs, tastes and opinions. What tastes great to some, my not to others and the more tasting, refining and tweaking we do collectively, the more experience we gain to zero in on best practices. 
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      When a new extract maker asks the question, "Does it really take a year or more for my vanilla extract to be ready?" the majority of responders will answer with a resounding, "YES!". That is usually because through years of trial and we have learned that the best extracts typically require a year of extraction in your home. Extracts with smokier spirits (like bourbons and rums) can sometimes require up to 18 months or two years. 
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      There is no FDA or other governing body extract regulator that says it needs to extract for a year. There isn't a extract sheriff that says it must be a year, or else. But there are many experienced at home extract makers that have been making extracts for decades and most of them (not all of them) will tell you that one year is best. 
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      It's important to note, however, that we have heard from hundreds (maybe thousands) of extract makers that stated that their extract tasted great after just 90-120 days. And if it did taste great to them, who are we to say it didn't? Imagine enjoying your favorite meal and, after you were finished and fully satisfied with the taste, someone told you it tasted poorly. But you loved it! So who are they to say you didn't love it? 
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      Those of us that say to wait a year only recommend doing so because we have all tried our extracts at 90 days, 120 days, 180 days, 9 months and a year, and we all believe that you really hit the sweetest point at that one-year mark. 
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      Perhaps a better choice of words would be, "If you think it's delicious at 90 days, wait until it hits 365 days. I think it's even sweeter!" It's 100% up to the maker to determine when it's best. We do recommend taste testing it before use and, if you don't like the taste after 90 days, wait a little longer and taste test it again however often you choose. 
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      Can you make vanilla extract and give it away as a gift when it's only 30 days, 90 days or any amount of time less than a year?
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      Of course you can! In fact, we've done so many times, usually with a small note that says something like, "This extract was made with love on X date. Just like you, it will continue to get sweeter with time. Use it now or, for extra sweetness, store it in a cool/dark place until its birthday. Enjoy!" 
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      So why does it take a year, and commercial extractors can make it in days? 
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      The answer is pre-processing, pressure and sometimes heat. Commercial extractors preprocess their beans usually by grinding them for maximum surface area contact with the vanilla bean pods and the alcohol. Then they apply both extreme pressure and/or heat to expedite the process by which the vanillin oils are extracted from the bean pod. 
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      This fast process will result in a traditional vanilla taste that you will be accustomed to if you have used commercial, pure vanilla extract your entire life. The pre-grinding of vanilla beans also makes it difficult to use the beans for sugars, pastes and powders after extraction. 
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      A slow, natural extraction process will reveal more tastes and flavors. Each vanilla bean pod has over 300 flavor compounds, and slow extraction will ensure that none of them are lost as they often are with expedited extraction. 
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      Taste test it yourself at the end of a one-year extraction, compared to a commercial brand of pure vanilla extract. You will never go back. 
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      Time is the single most important ingredient to proper extraction, in the opinion of many extract makers. Remove time and you may remove some sweetness as well. 
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      The choice is yours. If you love the taste after 90 days, then use it at 90 days. If you can muster up some patience and wait a little longer, you will find that those amazing vanilla beans will reward you with added sweetness relative to extended extraction time. 
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      Happy extracting!!
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      Visit our extract making guide center for more tips and tricks about extract making in your home.