The answer to this question: It could be less than one V. Pompona vanilla bean or more than 20 grade-B V. tahitensis vanilla beans. Which is why vanilla bean weight (not count) must be used when making vanilla extract at home.
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This is one of the most common questions we are asked. There is so much misinformation online about how to make vanilla extract and many retailers sell vanilla beans by bean count, instead of by weight.
This is the #1 reason that extracts fail. This is also why we do not sell vanilla beans by count. We want your extracts to turn out great every time.
Per FDA instructions, the recipe for pure vanilla extract is 13.35oz of vanilla beans in every 1 gallon of 35% alcohol. That equates to .83oz of vanilla beans for every 8oz of 35% (70 proof) alcohol. To make it easy to remember, (and to account for higher moisture content in grade-A vanilla beans) we round up to 1oz of beans for every 8oz of alcohol.
This picture will help to demonstrate why bean weight (and not bean count) must be used.
These are 5 different types of vanilla beans. From left to right:
- V. pompona from Peru
- V. planifolia from Madagascar
- V. tahitensis from Ecuador
- V. pompona from Mexico
- V. bahiana from Mexico
The Peruvian V. pompona is huge. 1 bean can weigh more than 1oz. The Madagascar V. Planifolia is the most common vanilla bean. 1oz of moist grade-A Madagascar beans can be as few as 4 beans or as many as 10. 1oz of dry grade-B Madagascar beans can be as few as 6 and as many as 15.
V. tahitensis vanilla beans from Ecuador, Indonesia and other regions can be small, as picture. 6-12 grade-A beans may give you 1oz, or 10 - 20 grade-B beans of this variety will give you 1oz. On the other hand, some species of V. tahitensis beans from Tahiti and other South Pacific islands can be as large as a Peruvian V. pompona.
The V. pompona from Mexico is much smaller than the V. pompona from Peru. 1 bean may weigh 1/2 oz. The V. bahiana is similar to the Mexican V. pompona, and often a little smaller.
Can you see why bean count is problematic? No two beans are the same. And since our goal is to make sure your extracts turn out great every time, we want to help you get started the right way.
For more tips and tricks about extract making, be sure to visit our free extract-making guide center.