DIY Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract always seeems to cost an arm and a leg. And vanilla beans? Forget it – I think we’re looking at like $9+ for a few beans in the Albany, NY area. Not exactly wallet friendly.

That all changes.

I found Vanilla Products USA on eBay and read some pretty good reviews of them on eGullet and other sites online. I figured I’d put in an order with them and see what I got. I purchased 1 lb of Tahitian Grade B beans and 1/2 lb of Madagascar Grade B beans.

Shipping is $5 per item. They say the knock off $2.50 for each extra item, but I got charged the full $10 for shipping. I don’t know – shipping charges confuse me sometimes. Maybe it was if I’d ordered 2 orders of 1# beans. Plus they throw in free stuff depending on how much you spent, and I got a quarter pound of Tahitian Grade A beans, too.

1.75 lbs of vanilla beans for under $40. Insane. And the shipping was super quick. I think they’re based in Pennsylvania, so I had them by the end of the week.

Hell yeah, vanilla bean bender! Wait, no – this is just how we start out our extracts. Have you ever made vanilla extract? Do you want to know how to make vanilla extract? Well, I hope you do, ’cause I’m tellin’ ya.
I’ve made extracts before with spent bean shells, and it’s pretty awesome stuff. Beats the pants off of what you’d buy. All it takes is a little time. I cleaned off a few ball jars and bought some rum and vodka.

The rum based vanilla extract makes a nice little addition to cocktails. It’s also a nice gluten-free option.

You can see my beans all lined up in a little row. Tahtian Grade A on the left, Madagascar Grade B in the middle, and Tahitian Grade B on the right.

Can you tell what kind these are? These are six beans of Tahitian Grade B! I really couldn’t tell much of a difference between Grade A & Grade B. I figured six or so beans was a good amount for a quart jar.

I sliced each of my beans in half (well, as close to half as I could. Some are jagged strips) and popped them in the jars before covering them in booze. Lucky little vanilla beans.

I also boiled some rubber lid things to keep my extracts from spilling all over the place. Hey, I know our household. Albany John and I are clumsy as all get out. If it can spill, fall, or drop – it will.

I labeled them with the amount/kind of beans and the kind of liquor in each bottle. I’ll let them sit for a few weeks and then check them out. Obviously the smaller guys are going to be done pretty quickly. I’d give the little recycled extract bottle on the very left about a week or two before checking it.

I would have made more, but I ran out of rum and bottles, and was running low on vodka. Now I need to find some more glass jars or bottles. Where can I find them for cheap?

I thought these would make nice gifts, but the quart ones are a little awkwardly large: “Hi, thanks for having me over/doing something nice. Here’s four cups of vanilla extract. Enjoy!” I think pint glasses or smaller amounts would be nice.

  1. Jen said:

    Burch Bottle in Waterford has some neat jars – all shapes, colors and sizes. I bought bottles there for some homemade holiday gifts. I found ordering from the website a little confusing so I recommend going there. It's a weird set up but you can find anything and everything there.

  2. B said:

    2010 was the year of vanilla extract Christmas from my roommate. According to her research, if you add more vodka when the jar is half empty or so, you can keep it going close enough to indefinitely.

  3. Third Auntie said:

    Look at their site again re shipping. It says you need to request a corrected shipping amount. Something about Ebay calculator doesn't work with their shipping prices. (“Unfortunately, the eBay shipping calculator cannot handle this type of shipping discount, so you will have to request a corrected combined invoice from us after placing your order to get the shipping discount.”)

  4. JMP said:

    The co-op has bottles or you could order a big batch from SKS in Watervliet. (

    Unfortunately, you can't just pick the bottles up from SKS directly. I've tried and spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone arguing about it. Or if you're near an ikea, they usually have them too.

    And you should definitely try the kahlua next. My mom and I have been making it for years.

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