There is Oil in my Vanilla Bean Bag. What can I do with it?
vanilla bean oil in the pouch
When we began our vanilla bean journey in 2016, we had no idea that there would be so much discussion about oils in the vanilla bean bags. We have learned that many of our extract makers remove the beans and then fill the bag with sugar to absorb all of the oils left inside to make a sweet vanilla sugar. And it's wonderful!
This focus on oils in the bags has led to several questions an observations such as:
  • Should I expect oils in the bag if I order grade B vanilla beans? 
  • Some of my vanilla beans have more oil than others. Does less oil mean they are lower quality? 
  • Can I get more oil out of the beans before I put the beans in alcohol for extract? 

Grade B Vanilla Oils

Grade B vanilla beans are preferred by many extract makers for extract making. They are light on moisture (sometimes dry and brittle) which means that if you purchase your vanilla beans by weight, you will get more beans in each ounce. This means that more beans will be used in your extract. In addition, grade-b is less expensive. (More on the pros/cons of Grade A vs. Grade B can be found here.) 

Given the dry nature of most grade-B vanilla beans, you should not expect to get many oils left in your grade-B vanilla bean bag. Sometimes it's possible to get grade-B vanilla beans that still have some level of oily pliability, but it should not be the expectation. However, they can still be used to make vanilla powder and vanilla sugar, just not by putting sugar in the bean bag.  

Some beans have more oil than others. Why?

Differing oil levels


Vanilla beans are a fruit. Like bananas or peaches, they will be different from harvest to harvest. Some vanilla beans (like The Chiapas) are naturally oily almost all of the time, while others can be very oily in one harvest and less oily in others. They will still meet grade-A criteria, but may not excrete the oils similarly in each batch. 

It's also important to note that time in the pouch and the way that the beans are pouched will also affect how much oil is left in the pouch. For example, if vacuum-sealed vanilla beans are stacked within the pouch, more pressure is applied to the beans in the center when vacuum sealed which can result in more oils being pressed out of the beans. 

If the vanilla beans are vacuum sealed side by side (and not on top of each other), less pressure is applied per bean under vacuum sealing and less oils will be pressed out of the bean when sealed. 

Is There a Tip to Get More Oils Out of the Beans and Into the Pouch?

vanilla sugar

Yes there is!

If you ordered grade-A beans and would like more oils left in the bag before the beans go into the alcohol for extraction, use a rolling pin and press the beans while still in the pouch. This will give you a little more oil in the pouch without damaging the vanilla beans.

If you have a vacuum sealer at home, you can also open the pouch, stack the beans inside the pouch and then re-seal the pouch a second time to apply more pressure to the beans to try and excrete more oils. Let the pouch sit for several days you will begin to notice oils if this process is working. 

Finally, you can open the bags and fill them with sugar while the beans are still in the bag to have the sugar absorb the oils directly from the bean for two weeks. Your beans can still be used for extract. Just wipe away the sugar that is stuck to the bean with a paper towel. If some sugar goes into your extract, it will only sweeten the final flavor and will be just fine. 

All beans (grade A and grade B) have many uses beyond their oils being used as sugar sweeteners. Oil in the bag is not a measure of quality, it's simply of visual queue of the structure of that particular batch of beans and an indication of how that specific pouch was produced. 

Be sure to visit our extract making guide center for a comprehensive summary of our most frequently asked questions about vanilla extract making and more. 


Empty Madagascar Pouch

 Vanilla sugar