When I make my vanilla extract at home, how many beans do I add to my spirits?
How were these numbers calculated?
The FDA says that for extract to be “Pure” you need 13.35oz of vanilla beans in every gallon of spirit. The FDA also says that the spirit needs to be at least 35% alcohol, which is 70 proof. The FDA also says that the beans should be less than 25% moisture content, which is usually grade B.
Using the FDA’s math, you need roughly .83oz of vanilla beans in every 8oz (1 cup) of spirits.
If you purchased your vanilla beans by the ounce, then the simple, rounded column above makes it easy to figure out how many beans to add to your spirits. It's easy to remember that 8oz of spirits is a cup, so use 1oz of vanilla beans in 1 cup of spirits. That method is easy to remember and will never let you down!
It's also important to note that most at-home extract makers use grade-A vanilla beans instead of grade B for a number of reasons. When using grade-A vanilla beans, rounding up from .83oz to 1oz of beans in every 8oz of spirit will off set the dilution that may occur to your alcohol with the added moisture content from grade A. Another reason to stick with the "1oz of beans for every 8oz of spirits." It works for both grade A and grade B.
Weighing the beans on a kitchen scale is always the best way to make sure you get the bean-to-spirit ratio accurately. However, if you don't have a scale you can estimate the weight by counting the number of beans. But there are drawbacks.
On average, there are 6-8 V. planifolia Madagascar vanilla beans in an ounce. (While this is “average”, larger vanilla beans may be just 1-3 beans/oz and smaller beans could be 15+ beans/oz.) As such, going by bean count alone is the least scientific way to make extracts because no two beans are the same size. We include average number of beans in this chart only because it is such a common question. We recommend bean weight, not bean count, for the most predictable outcome.
Here's an image of several vanilla beans. You can see the size difference of each, demonstrating the importance of weight, not count.
The nice thing about making your own vanilla extract is that you can add more or less beans as you'd like. You can try different beans with different flavors. You can blend beans. You can try different spirits. Taste test your extracts regularly to make sure you like how the taste is developing. Most importantly: Have fun!
Here is a quick video of how to make vanilla extract in less than 10 minutes:
Visit our comprehensive extract-making guide center for more essential extract making tips and ongoing education.