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      Common Problems With Finished Vanilla Extract
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      Two vanilla extract jars
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      You've been waiting for what seems like forever for your DIY vanilla extract to be ready, but you are noticing a few problems. Maybe it isn't getting dark, or maybe it's still too "boozy" with a strong alcohol scent. Perhaps you don't like the taste and now you're not sure what to do. Are the beans ruined? Do you have to throw it all out and start over? We hear these same questions every day in our Facebook Group, so we thought it might be helpful to have a few, quick answers here so you don't need to worry. 
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      We'll write this in a question/answer format, so you can go right to the question you have and find your answer. Let's begin!!
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      I don't love my extract right now. Can it be saved or do I need to toss it?
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      Answer: Don't throw it away! Most of the time it can be saved and there are very few exceptions. Take a deep breath and keep reading. There's probably a solution below.
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      My vanilla extract isn't getting dark. Why?
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      Answer #1: Time. If your beans have only been soaking for a few weeks, just give them more time. Here's a great summary with pictures of how your vanilla extract will look at week 1, 2, 3....all they way to 52 weeks. Most people agree that 1 year is the best amount of time for extracts. 
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      Answer #2: Vanilla beans. Make sure you have enough vanilla beans. You need at least 1oz of vanilla beans in every 8 fluid oz (1 cup) of alcohol. There are typically 6-8 vanilla beans in 1oz, so if you have too few, just add a few more in and keep waiting. 
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      Answer #3: Alcohol. If you have enough beans, then you may not have the right alcohol. You need to use alcohol that is between 35% and 50%, which is 70 proof to 100 proof. Too little alcohol content and it won't extract. Too much and it will damage the vanilla beans.
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      If your alcohol was below 35%, then simply remove your beans and add them to a fresh bottle of the right kind of alcohol. The beans should still be OK since very little will have been extracted.
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      If you have them in a solution that is more than 50% alcohol, or 100 proof (like Everclear that isn't diluted), then you may be in trouble. This is the one instance where the beans may be damaged and unable to be extracted. You will likely need to start all over. Don't despair entirely! You can still use your vanilla beans to make vanilla sugar, vanilla paste or to start a mother jar, as they will still have some sweetness. The extract, however, may need to be thrown out. 
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      My Vanilla Extract Still Smells Like Alcohol. It's Too Boozy. Why?
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      Answer #1: Time and techniques. Refer to answer #1 above for more details, but you may just need more time. Also, refer to the other answers above to make sure you have enough vanilla beans and the right kind of alcohol. 
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      Answer #2: Alcohol is normal. Remember that all "Pure" extracts are required to have a minimum 35% alcohol content, which is just as much alcohol that is in hard liquor. Alcohol is needed for extraction. Since this may be your first time making extract, you may notice characteristics that you didn't before in your store-bought "pure" extract. (Note: If you're accustomed to artificial extract that isn't pure, then the alcohol may be new to you.) 
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      Answer #3: A tasting medium. In the same way that snow cone syrup is too concentrated to drink by itself without the ice water of the cone, vanilla extract is equally concentrated and also needs a medium. Most people don't like the taste of extract by itself. Conduct a taste test using milk or whip cream to truly taste how the extract will taste in your baking and cooking. Instructions on how to conduct a taste test can be found here. 
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      My Vanilla Extract Still Smells Boozy After 1 Year. Why?
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      Answer #1: Time, alcohol and bean quantity. Please see these answers under the first question above to make sure that your recipe was made correctly. 
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      Answer #2: Dark spirits take more time. If you used bourbon, whiskey, dark rum, brandy, cognac, tequila or even some light rums, the strength of the spirit is great and often requires more extracting time. Some people will let their bourbon vanilla extracts sit for up to 2 years to really make sure that the sweetness of the vanilla bean comes through. 
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      Answer #3: Use oak blocks. Many DIY extract makers use oak blocks to help mitigate the alcohol taste of their extracts. Oak has natural inherent vanilla characteristics that can help absorb the strong alcohol taste and smell and you may find that they are a solution. 
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      I'm Not Sure Where to Find Accurate Extract Information.
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      Answer: We all need an extract making friend who has "been there and done that". For this reason we started our Facebook group that has 80,000+ DIY extract makers ready to answer your questions 24.7. If Facebook isn't your thing, we are on Instagram, Reddit, YouTube and TikTok as well. You can also access our comprehensive guide center, right here, with all of the most popular topics that have been discussed in our social media groups over the years. 
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      You aren't alone and your beans and extracts can most-likely be saved by following the instructions above!
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      Have fun, enjoy the journey and HAPPY EXTRACTING!!