When I make my vanilla extract at home, how many beans do I add to my spirits?
The following chart will summarize what you need as a starting point. This is for single-fold extract. If you enjoy the added sweetness of double-fold extract, simply double the amount of beans.
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.
Using the FDA’s math, you need roughly .10oz of vanilla beans in every 1 oz of spirits.
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 like to keep your beans whole and don’t want to cut them, it means that you will usually have either too few or too many ounces of beans in your spirit. At home, that is absolutely fine.
On average, there are 6-8 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.)
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. Most importantly: Have fun!