Can I Make Extract With Fresh Fruit?
Fresh blueberry extract

The quick answer to the question above is a resounding YES! But, there are some important notes and distinctions to ensure success. Here are the quick ratios:

  1. For 151 Proof Everclear:
    1. 8oz of Fresh Fruit to 8oz of Everclear.
    2. Let sit for 8-12 weeks.
    3. Remove fruit (straining out all moisture) and begin use. 
  2. For 195 Proof Everclear:
    1. 8oz of Fresh Fruit to 8oz of Everclear
    2. Let sit for 8-12 weeks. 
    3. Strain fruit, pressing all alcohol/moisture from the fruit back into the bottle.
    4. Add 4oz of Fresh Fruit.
    5. Let sit for another 8-12 weeks.
    6. Remove fruit (straining out all moisture) and begin use. 

Details about the above ratios can be found below. Have fun! 

Here's a quick video that outlines what we discuss below:

The reasons DIY extract makers use fresh fruits instead of dry fruits are:

  • Fresh fruits are typically less expensive because they haven't been processed.
  • Fresh fruits are readily and abundantly available when in season. 
  • Fresh fruit extract is ready faster than dried fruit extract, because the sweetness from the fruit juice is immediately added to the extract for instant flavor. 

Since extract-making is a rapidly growing art, we learn new lessons and experience new breakthroughs every single day because the general principles of extract making have endless applications. One of those applications is fresh fruit, berry or citrus extracts which are delicious. 

At VanillaPura, we don't claim to be the all-knowing source of everything about extracts. We are aggregators of information and we try to share as much as we can from lessons we learn personally or tips and tricks that we learn from our extract-making pro's in our Facebook group. This is why we talk about "The Craft" or "The Art" of extract making more than just the science. If it tastes good to the maker, and if it has relevant use and applications in our at-home baking, then we want to share it with everyone. So it is with fresh fruit extract that may fall a little bit outside of the normal extract making world. 

There are various types of DIY crafts that use similar techniques as extraction. For example, the term “tinctures” is used quite frequently in extract making circles. Tinctures are like extracts, in that alcohol is used as the solution that “extracts” the flavor from the herb, or bark, or spice. Alcohol content in a tincture can be as low as 20% and much higher than 50%. 

The term “infusion” is used when candies (like caramel squares) are placed in alcohol for some period to create an extract-like product. With an infusion, the product dissolves within the alcohol rather than having its oils extracted. 

An “emulsion” is another term that is used when two differing liquids are combined, like oil and vinegar or a soft candy or sauce in an alcohol. 

We refer to our fresh fruit recipes as “extracts” in that they follow the FDA standard for vanilla extract in terms of the quantity of product being extracted and the minimum alcohol content of 35% that is always used. Our fresh fruit and berry extracts incorporate infusions and emulsions as well since you are adding fruit juice to the solution. However, since we are leaving the fruit skins, rind and peels in the alcohol for extended extraction, we call the finished products "extracts". 
So what's the bad news? Why doesn't everyone use fresh fruit? The answer to that question is simple: Alcohol Content becomes somewhat confusing. 
By adding fresh fruit you introduce moisture into your alcohol solution. So, if you're using a vodka with 35% alcohol (the FDA minimum for vanilla extracts), the addition of grapefruit slices may lower your alcohol content to 15% or 20% and you have essentially just created a grapefruit-flavored vodka. 
It is paramount that you begin a fresh fruit extract with high-proof alcohol or, even better, a 195-proof Everclear. You need to make sure that your alcohol percentage doesn't dip below that important 35% level throughout extraction. 
(A simple hydrometer is a very inexpensive kitchen tool that you may want to purchase if you want to be exact in measuring alcohol content.) 
Depending on the fruit, we begin with varying levels of alcohol content. A quick Google search will tell you how much moisture content is in your fresh fruit. For example, if you Google, "What is the moisture content of fresh blueberries" you will see 86.7% on average. Grapefruit is 91% on average. In fact, most fresh fruit is between 85% - 95%.
Because we are introducing that much moisture (which is simply water) into our extract solution, we need to start with higher alcohol content because you are going to water it down. If the alcohol content dips below 35%, you won't get a quality extract. 
Our goal is to ensure that the alcohol content remains between 35% and 50% during the entire fresh fruit extraction. 
Here are some important tips as you begin your fresh-fruit extract:
  1. For all fresh fruits that are between 85% and 95% moisture content, you need to begin with a 180 proof (90% alcohol content) solution. 
  2. Everclear is tasteless (like vodka) and has varying alcohol content options. We have also seen spiced rums that are 80% abv (160 proof) that would work well for a 1-time extraction. (You will see in point #5 below that in some cases we do two extractions in one extract, so you only want to use 80% abv spirits if you know you will only be extracting once.)  
  3. Add 1 fluid oz of alcohol to every 1 oz (by weight) of fresh fruit. This will give you a final solution of roughly 50% alcohol when you add the moisture from the fresh fruit. 
  4. Fresh fruit can be fully extracted after one to three months (some more, some less), so regular taste testing of your extracts every two to four weeks is important. 
  5. After one to three months, if you still want more taste you can remove the old fresh fruit that is already extracted (straining out the moisture as you remove it) and add new fresh fruit. However, only add 1/2 of the amount of fresh fruit for the second extraction. This will ensure that with the new added fruit moisture, your extract solution stays above 35% ABV. 
  6. Wait another one to three months, taste testing every two to four weeks weeks, until your extract is ready. 
We have made lemon, blueberry, grapefruit, raspberry, peach and orange extract using the methods above. The result in our experience is a fantastic extract in as few as 2 to 6 months in most cases, and these extracts taste great! We have also found that the use of vanilla beans in every type of fruit extract really helps to bind the flavor of the fruit and the alcohol into a smooth, finished, sweet extract. 
Again, our goal here isn't perfect chemistry. Our goal is to share best practices and new ideas that are born every day in kitchens around the world as we all work together to advance the art of at-home extract making. 
See more tips and tricks in our extract-making guide center