Brewing and vanilla; two of our favorite words!
In the homebrew community, there is a growing trend of using vanilla in a range of different types of vanilla-based beers, along with other crazy and new concoctions being formulated with this incredibly versatile spice.
In this post, we wanted to answer a question we see asked a lot, which is around the topic of how much vanilla you should be using for your brewing.
What type of vanilla bean product should you use for homebrews?
If you’re just starting out with your brewing at home, you might have taken a look at some of the vanilla-based products online and are faced with the question of whether or not to buy whole vanilla beans or vanilla extract; you’re not alone.
The quickest and only way to respond to this question is with a resounding no to using extracts in your brewing and a huge yes to buying whole vanilla beans to use instead.
If you are considering purchasing your vanilla beans in bulk - we’ve put together a quick guide of how many vanilla beans you get per pound that you can reference via the link. As long as you ensure you store the vanilla beans correctly, they will last for a very long time. Aside from this, you can use any additional beans to make your own homemade vanilla bean extract that you can give as a gift or simply keep in storage for your own personal use.
What type of vanilla bean is best for home brewing?
Now that you know which type of vanilla product to buy, you need to decide on the best type of vanilla beans to use. The most popular are, Madagascar, Tahitian, and Mexican but there are more.
If you’d like to learn more about the various qualities and profile of each option, take a look at this post about the different qualities of vanilla beans from different regions.
For some, there is an obvious choice, but for other homebrew enthusiasts, there is an element of testing and try as they established which beans work best for their brews on an individual level.
The Beauty of Vanilla and Home Brewing
Vanilla is readily available in a range of stores and online shops as an alcohol-based liquid extract. Essentially, the extract is a result of the flavors and aromas being extracted from whole vanilla beans after they are macerated in ethanol. The most dominant of vanilla’s many compounds is vanillin. Now, because vanillin is quite costly, most of the vanilla flavors we find in everyday products will come from inexpensive artificial vanillin, usually lignin, which is a byproduct from another sector.
One of the great things about brewers is the value they place on quality. Sourcing the finest ingredients and working hard to create the perfect blend is simply just part of the process. A good brew takes time and most brewers appreciate why this is and have a certain expectation of their ingredients being authentic and not artificial in any way.
When vanilla is used as a flavoring agent in beer, it’s typically found in winter brews and seasonal brews that come out in the cooler months. There’s no denying that the sweet aroma of vanilla pairs exceptionally well with other festive spices, such as cinnamon, as just one example.
Vanilla can and is often added at any of the many stages in the brewing process. It is typically added post-fermentation, right before the packaging takes place, or at the final stages of the boil at the whirlpool stage, prior to the transferring of the wort for fermentation. Whole vanilla beans may also be added into a firkin or pin during cask conditioning in order to flavor a beer. They can also be used as a dry spice in the fermenter.
How Much Vanilla Should You Use for Brewing?
- For a particularly heavy vanilla beer in a 30 bbl tank, you should be using 1oz of beans (which equates to roughly ten beans) per bbl.
- If you want a noticeable vanilla flavor that doesn’t overpower the beer, you should be using 0.6oz of beans (which equates to roughly six beans) per bbl.
- For a vanilla bear with a light vanilla undertone, you should be using 0.3oz of beans (which equates to roughly three beans) per bbl.
(Typically most of our brewers are ordering at least 1 pound of our Madagascar Grade A vanilla beans for their brewing)
As the brewing enthusiast or expert will have you know, they work best when they have the freedom and flexibility to get creative with their brews. As such, the above is merely a guideline to follow and should by no means limit your creativity with your vanilla beer creations.
We hope you have fun trying, and encourage you to share your results with us!