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      Use oak blocks in extract making for added flavor, a smoother finish and less "medicinal" alcohol taste. 

       

      Oak blocks for extract making

      Makers of the world's finest wines and spirits have perfected the use of oak in the development of their products. Indeed, the oak cask where the spirit is stored contributes as much to the development of elegant and complex tastes as the origin of the barley, grapes and wheat. A quick online review of many of the finest spirits in the world leads you to these descriptions:

      "Speyside, Scotland - The Balvenie Single Barrel Speyside single malt whisky is aged in a European oak sherry cask for rich taste with elegant oak and subtle spice."
      .
      "Jim Beam Double Oak is first aged in a newly charred American White Oak barrels. Then, we pour it into another freshly charred white oak barrel to mature for a second time. The added interaction with the oak results in a liquid intense in flavor and smooth in taste."
      .
      "An innovative approach to twice-barreled bourbon creates the rich and colorful flavor of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. Uniquely matured in separate, charred oak barrels – the second barrel deeply toasted before a light charring – extracts additional soft, sweet oak character."
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      "The Trapiche Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Oak Cask is elaborated with grapes sourced from the foothills of The Andes Mountains, where the combination of the altitude and generous sunshine produces concentrated, aromatic fruit. The ageing in oak barrels during 6 months adds finesse, harmony and complexity."

       

      Oak is more than just a storage vehicle for fine spirits and wines, it's a flavor enhancer that adds compounds that include aromas of vanilla, clove, smoke and even coconut, which makes the taste smoother and less astringent. This is why oak has become the primary wood of cask makers over thousands of years of experimentation within fine spirit development. 

      Oak cask in vanilla extract making

      There are multiple ways that you can incorporate oak into extract making, and the "right way" is entirely up to you. 

      1. Some extract makers add oak blocks to their finished extracts for 2-4 weeks simply to mitigate any remaining "alcohol taste" (often described as medicinal) from their extracts. 
      2. Some extract makers add oak blocks at the start of extraction for 1-3 months so that the natural tastes of the oak can permeate the extract and blend with the vanilla beans or other components used in their extract making. 
      3. Some extract makers add oak blocks during the entire extraction process so that the full complexity of the oak is manifested in the finished extract.

      Just as vanilla beans, coffee beans and cocoa beans from different parts of the world result in different extract tastes, the same is true with oak blocks. There are hundreds of oak block variations that can each result in a different outcome. 

      When using oak for the first time, we recommend monitoring your extracts daily for smell, since taste and smell are subjective. Some people may love a strong oak presence while others may not. 

      Here are four of the most popular types of oak blocks. Click on the name of each to learn more and purchase yours:

      American Heavy Toast: This oak block is often used for red wines when wine makers are creating a rich, caramelized, carbonized oak flavor. Many extract makers will add this flavor for 1 month to add a subtle, rich taste to their extracts after having added their regular addition of medium oak.

      American Medium Toast: This is a very popular oak block due to its basic simplicity. It provides a soft oak flavor and character without changing the overall taste of the extract. It's a nice choice to simply mitigate the "medicinal" alcohol smell and taste. 

      French Medium Toast: Made from seasoned French Oak and produced in the USA. French Oak naturally has sweeter undertones to provide the benefits of American Medium oak blocks, but with a hint of grapes and dried fruit. 

      Hungarian Medium Toast: This super unique oak is in high demand with commercial wineries all around the world. Its DNA results in a rich, caramelized taste and smell that can make sweet extracts even sweeter, but with a richness that teases of caramel and mocha.   

      VanillaPura Oak blocks are approximately 1 cm square so they will fit into most extract bottles. Recommended usage is 1/4oz of oak blocks (6-10 blocks) for every 8oz of alcohol. Simply place the blocks in the extract with the alcohol and the vanilla beans and wait.

      Here's a video review and discussion from our live event in our private extract-making Facebook group:

      Be sure to visit our extract-making guide center for tips and tricks that will result in the best possible outcome for your DIY extracts. Have questions about extract making? Ask tens of thousands of extract makers by joining our private Facebook group. We hope to see you there soon!