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 .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!
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 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.
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:
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