Properly aging vanilla extract is very important, but it is often overlooked and/or misunderstood. It has become even more relevant as the market has transitioned from synthetic vanilla domination to natural vanilla bean extracts. A focus on quality means that many consumers have started their own vanilla bean extracts, whether from scratch or by purchasing vanilla bean kits. It is natural to focus on the first steps of combining all of the ingredients, but the later steps are equally important. I’ve decided to create this post dedicated to sharing the best methods for aging vanilla extract.
Wondering what makes a tasty extract? Check out my Best Vanilla Bean Extract Guide.
Use Quality Vanilla Beans
Aging vanilla extract properly requires starting with quality vanilla beans. If you are still looking for vanilla beans, you should check out our Grade A+ Madagascar Vanilla Beans by clicking the picture above. Great vanilla beans make great vanilla extract!
Properly Aging Vanilla Extract | Guide
Many of you are reading this post because you are considering making your own vanilla extract, or you have already created it. I highly respect this decision, small batch and homemade vanilla extract are high quality and can be customized to fit your flavor.
This aging process does not just pertain to making your own vanilla extract. You can also use this guide to verify that any purchased vanilla bean extract has been aged properly and is ready to be used in your next recipe. Neglecting the aging process will likely ruin the extract, which results in a big waste of time and money. The bottles that I have tasted early still had an overpowering alcohol flavor and made me feel like I could breathe fire. Follow these simple steps for aging vanilla extract to guarantee that smooth & sweet vanilla flavor that will take your recipes to the next level.
Steps for Aging Vanilla Extract
- Choose correct bottles
- Store in cool/dark place
- Shake periodically
- Age for the proper amount of time
- Check appearance & taste
Choose Correct Bottles
Aging vanilla extract properly begins with choosing the right bottle. The bottle should seal tightly and should not allow leaks. Many bakers recommend choosing brown or darkly colored bottles to minimize the amount of light hitting the extract. We’ve found that clear bottles are fine as long as they are stored in a cool/dark place. Confirm that the bottle is closed tightly and will not allow leaks before moving onto storage.
Store in a Cool/Dark Place
Always make sure to store the vanilla bean extract in a cool and dark place. A constant temperature will help the extraction process continue. I also suggest keeping it out of reach of little ones, if you have kids. I learned this the hard way when our young son discovered a bottle of our extract and accidentally broke it. Fortunately, nobody was injured with the broken glass. It was a pain to clean up, but it did spread the wonderful vanilla aroma all over our house. Learn from my mistake and store your bottle up high and handle with care.
We recommend shaking the bottles by hand every 1-2 weeks during the aging process. We usually shake each bottle vigorously for 1 minute. This helps in several ways. Shaking helps agitate the compounds and speed up the extraction process. It also helps distribute the flavor throughout the bottle evenly. This step also gives the chance to check the appearance of the mixture to estimate how much longer it needs to age. The color will darken over time as the flavor is extracted over time.
How Long to Properly Age Vanilla Extract
This is perhaps the most valuable section of this post. We have continuously experimented to determine the optimal amount of time for aging vanilla extract. Aging vanilla extract an insufficient amount of time will result in a harsh taste as the alcohol dominates the flavor profile. The hundreds of natural vanilla compounds need time to extract and strengthen.
I recommend aging your vanilla extract at least 4 months. The extracts we sell are packed with vanilla beans, which makes them smoother than other brands. If you use a decent amount of quality vanilla beans (3+ per 8 oz), 4 months should be sufficient. If you use fewer beans, you should wait closer to 6 months. We’ve found that the extract flavor continues to improve even up to ~ 1 year of aging, then it levels out. Proper storage techniques will keep your extract tasting good for years to come.
Check the Appearance & Taste
The time has come and you believe your vanilla extract aging is complete. You will still want to validate your feelings before using it in your next recipe. Shake the extract as mentioned above to distribute the contents evenly, then check the appearance. The color will vary slightly based on the bottle and ingredients; however, it should be on a scale from dark amber to very dark brown. Our bottles are extremely dark brown once they hit the 4 month mark, and they are ready to go.
After shaking, you should taste a small amount to gauge the flavor. It will be apparent if the mixture is ready for use. If it tastes harsh like a strong mixed drink with a bit of vanilla flavor, it is not ready. If it is ready, it will taste like smooth vanilla, and the harshness of the alcohol will have dissipated. This bottle will be ready to use in your next vanilla recipe. Be patient and use good judgement, and you will end up with that great vanilla flavor and aroma.
Aging Vanilla Extract | Conclusion
Hopefully this post has helped you become an expert at aging vanilla extract, or at least made you feel more confident! Just take your time and do it right. Getting in a hurry or rushing things will negatively impact flavor in the end. Following these steps will result in a delicious vanilla bean extract that can be used for years to come!
Alcohol plays an important role in aging. Discover which types are the best in my Top List of Liquor for Vanilla Extract
Vanilla Bean Extract Kit
If you are looking to make your own vanilla extract, or you would like to give the gift of flavor to a friend/loved one, you should check out our Vanilla Bean Extract Kit by clicking the image above. It contains everything you need to make a top shelf vanilla extract (except the liquor, due to regulations). It makes a perfect gift, and the recipient will think of you every time they bake a delicious recipe.
Do you have experience with aging vanilla extract? Is there anything that you feel is missing from this post? Please share your knowledge by posting a comment below. Your unique perspective helps add value to our Lone Goose Bakery Community, and I thoroughly enjoy reading them & responding.