Whether you are a beginner or an experienced baker, it is always important to begin by choosing quality ingredients. The same is true with vanilla, so we have decided to write this article completely dedicated to the Best Vanilla Bean Extract. Choosing the correct extract can make our break your recipe, but don’t stress! All of the details you need are included on this post. I’ve written about what factors help determine quality, and how you can tell whether a given extract is “the real deal.”
I’ve gathered this information through personal experience and from our wonderful Lone Goose Bakery team. Ready??? I know I am, let’s get started!
Lone Goose Bakery Vanilla Bean Extract
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BEST VANILLA BEAN EXTRACT | GUIDE
Our Lone Goose Bakery email is full of community members asking questions about vanilla extract. People ask for general info, factors that determine quality, and product recommendations. This section has been built as a guide to help readers answer these questions without having to contact us (but always feel free to send us questions). Don’t be overwhelmed; I’ll make sure to make this process as fun and easy as possible. I’ll include my personal experience, so you know you aren’t alone. This topic is definitely worth your focus.
What is Vanilla Bean Extract?
Vanilla Bean Extract (VBE) is a versatile product that allows us to add the wonderful taste of vanilla to our recipes. It consists of two primary ingredients, vanilla beans and liquor. The liquor is responsible for extracting the flavor from the vanilla bean and dispersing it throughout the bottle. It takes several months for the extraction process to be completed properly. Some benefits of vanilla bean extract over other forms of vanilla include:
- Flavor – Extracts that are aged properly have a consistent flavor profile that remains stable.
- Price – The cost of extracts can vary widely, but it is usually reasonable compared to more concentrated forms (such as vanilla caviar).
- Versatility – The liquid form of the extract makes it easy to add to any recipe. It is concentrated enough to pack a punch, but it also remains easy to accurately measure.
- Shelf Life – Quality vanilla beans are notorious for having a short shelf life. The extract extends the shelf life of the bean by several years.
Start with Quality Vanilla Beans
The best vanilla bean extracts all start in the same place; they source quality vanilla beans from a reputable source. I cannot over-emphasize this point, Quality Beans = Quality Extract. Some companies use cheap beans in their extracts, and it leads to a bland flavor profile. We use top quality (Grade A+) vanilla beans sourced from Madagascar. You can immediately tell they are quality due to their plump appearance and sweet aroma. Make sure your extract uses beans that are Grade A or above.
It is also important that the extract includes enough beans. One of the most common mistakes I see from competitors is that they sell large bottles of extract that contain only 1 vanilla bean. Our smallest bottle is 4 ounces, and it contains 3 of our premium beans mentioned above. This means that our extract is much more flavorful and concentrated versus others.
Choose Desired Liqour/Spirits
Vanilla Bean Extracts come in many different variations. One of the most customizable areas pertains to the type of liquor that is chosen to complete the extraction process. There are many “experts” that believe that one type of liquor is better than all others. I believe that there are many quality choices, and you should base your decision on personal preference. As a general rule, you should stick to extracts with the following types of spirits:
We always recommend utilizing spirits with at least 40% alcohol (80 proof), but I know others that have used 70 proof without noticing negative consequences. We choose not to use “bottom shelf” cheap spirits because they often contain undesirable ingredients.
Vodka is the most popular, and it is used in a majority of the mass produced extracts. It is a popular choice because it is cheap, clear, and is the most popular liquor in the world. Traditional grocery store extracts were all made with vodka. Many of the smaller vanilla vendors have avoided vodka to help offer new options, including us @ Lone Goose Bakery.
We have primarily used Brandy in our first several generations of extracts, and we LOVE it. This has an interesting story behind it. A couple members of our dedicated team previously owned a small town bakery, and they were given a delicious bottle of VBE. It was supplied by an old man that had been making it for decades. He has a secret method of preparation and always used Brandy. This inspired us to take his experience and launch our own extract with Brandy.
We have decided to branch out and offer extracts made with Bourbon. Bourbon is a type of Whiskey that must meet several standards, including being made in America, being stored in oak barrels, and containing zero additives. VBE’s made with whiskey usually have a more complex flavor profile due to the “wooden” taste of the liquor obtained during the aging process. Many people believe this whiskey flavor blends perfectly with vanilla, and the resulting extract is both smooth and sweet.
I recommend starting with either brandy or vodka vanilla bean extracts unless you thoroughly enjoy the taste of whiskey by itself. Whiskey/bourbon VBE is a unique flavor experience that can be an acquired taste for some.
Our first batch contained Bulleit Bourbon. We do not have a relationship with this company and simply chose it because of its gentle/smooth taste and sweet flavor profile with hints of nutmeg and toffee.
When you think of the best vanilla bean extract, rum might not come to mind. This liquor, known for its sweet taste of the Caribbean, can be used in extracts to create a unique flavor profile. Rum is created by distilling sugarcane, which is then filtered to remove impurities. We recommend using clear rum if you want a simpler flavor profile that doesn’t compete with the natural vanilla taste. We have not used rum in our extracts, but look forward to using it in the near future.
Small Batch vs Large Batch
One area of vanilla bean extract quality that is often overlooked is the difference between small batch and large batch extracts. Some companies are so massive, the creation of their extracts is completed by machine alone. Other companies focus on smaller batches to ensure quality. Fortunately, the market is moving towards supporting more of these small operations as customers discover the substantial difference in quality. We love sharing the pictures of our extract, because you can definitely SEE the difference in quality.
We decided early on that we would avoid the machine approach at Lone Goose Bakery. Our small batches to enable us to focus on each bottle. We inspect each individual vanilla bean (vanilla pod) and cut each one by hand to free the powerful vanilla caviar. Bad beans don’t make the cut… pun intended! The caviar is the primary source of the delicious vanilla flavor. Evidence of this process exists on the picture above. The vanilla beans/pods are all cut vertically, and the caviar is visible as the black substance held inside.
Storing and Aging
Once the vanilla extract is bottled, it is not the end of the process. The best vanilla bean extract is properly stored in a dark climate-controlled area. It is extremely important for the extract to age for an appropriate amount of time. The time can vary based on the size of the bottle relative to the number/concentration of vanilla beans. As a general rule, you should verify that the vanilla has been aged for at least four months. The longer the extract is allowed to age, the smoother and more flavorful it gets.
The batch of VBE that we are currently selling has been aged for 6 months. We pack our extract with vanilla beans/pods, so it is bursting with flavor. We consistently test sample bottles in each batch to ensure quality. Our lovely team also shakes the bottles every 1-2 weeks to disburse the flavor evenly.
The price for vanilla bean extracts can vary widely. Our extract isn’t the cheapest, but it towards the low end of our competition. We believe the price is fair, especially considering the amount of vanilla we use relative to the competition. It is imperative to remember that the best vanilla bean extract will last longer than cheap imitations.
Our VBE is much more concentrated than others due to the amount of vanilla packed into each bottle. We use over 3x the amount of vanilla as our competition, which means our customers can get away with using less extract in each recipe. This leads to our bottles lasting much longer. Our bottle is loaded with flavor, but the price is still reasonable!
DIY Vanilla Bean Extract
Everyone has the ability to make VBE themselves, but it can be a headache acquiring all of the ingredients and having to learn how to put it all together. We decided to create a DIY Vanilla Bean Extract Kit to give our customers the chance to make their own extract.
While creating your own extract takes time, it makes you more familiar with this wonderful ingredient. The more you learn about VBE, the more you appreciate and respect it. Another benefit is that you can customize the extract to fit your personal preferences, such as choosing your favorite brand of liquor for the extraction process.
The instructions closely resemble the same process we use to make our own extracts. Whether you keep it for yourself or give it as a unique gift, our VBE Kit will be a wonderful addition to insert the power of vanilla to future recipes.
I’ve always loved vanilla, and it has turned into even more of a passion as I’ve learned more about it. I have personally spent time on every aspect of vanilla bean extracts. From researching, sourcing the best beans, creating custom batches of extract by hand, to marketing and selling our Lone Goose Bakery Extract, I have had a thoroughly enriching experience. This is a perfect example of a product where quality matters, and you usually get what you pay for. We’ve all made the mistake of buying a cheap product to save money and later regretted it. Avoid making this mistake by taking what you’ve learned from this guide and applying it to your next purchase.
BEST VANILLA BEAN EXTRACT | CONCLUSION
I hope that this post has helped you discover what factors can help determine the best vanilla bean extract. Always remember, the best recipes always start out with the highest-quality ingredients. The factors mentioned above all work together to create a vanilla flavor profile that will keep you coming back for more.
Questions or Comments?
Do you have questions or comments about choosing the highest quality vanilla bean extract? Is there something that you feel has been left out? Help make our community a more valuable resource for others by sharing your unique perspective. Please include in the Comments section below, and we will be sure to respond. We read and appreciate each one. Your experiences will make us all more knowledgable.