How Vanilla Extract Manufacturers Bring Vanilla to Our Kitchens

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People have known about the unique taste of vanilla since the time of the Mayans and the Incas. Sweet and mild, yet aromatic, vanilla is one of the most popular cooking spices in the world. Besides its unique flavor, it has many health benefits, making vanilla extract one of the best baking ingredients.

Vanilla extracts are simple solutions of alcohol and water containing vanilla beans of different kinds. That's what gives them unique and complex flavors. Whether you opt for Madagascar vanilla or extracts made of Tahitian vanilla beans, a purchase from a trustworthy manufacturer today can elevate your culinary creations to the next level.

How Vanilla Extract Manufacturers Produce Extracts

It takes a while until beloved vanilla extracts come to your kitchen cabinet. Although they seem simple, the manufacturing procedure behind these vanilla products is complex and long-lasting. But the final result is worth it.

Here's how vanilla extract manufacturers make vanilla extracts:

1. Growing Vanilla Seeds

Vanillas belong to the Orchidaceae plant family, growing tall and thin in vines. After the blooming season, this plant develops a fruit, that is, a pod, which extends for about two months. But it's ready for harvesting only after nine months when it's firm and dark green.

Due to its tropical roots, this plant usually grows in countries in the equatorial belt. Most producers import seeds from Madagascar and Mexico, taking care that these are organic and non-GMO. Depending on the flavor profile extract manufacturers want in their vanilla products, they can opt for different bean types.

Types of Vanilla Beans:

  • Mexican Vanilla Beans: The best type of vanilla comes from Mexico, where it started its journey to the world centuries ago. These beans are produced in small quantities, and the seeds are thick, meaty, and loaded with a mellow yet complex flavor mix of spices, coffee, and chocolate.
  • Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans: Named after the land of origin, not alcohol, Bourbon seeds are small but with a rich, creamy, and full taste of real vanilla and floral undertones. These flavors go well with berries, dried fruits, apples, and caramel, as well as some savory foods like eggs and fish. Madagascar is the industry leader in vanilla export, so most extract producers use Madagascar vanilla beans.
  • Tahitian Vanilla Beans: These usually come from Polynesian islands, where they grow long and flat with fewer seeds than other vanilla plants. Due to a lack of vanillin, Tahitian vanilla has a milder vanilla aroma, but it's full of undertones of cocoa, caramel, and licorice. It's great for cooking, and perfume producers also appreciate this aromatic compound.

2. Preparing Vanilla Beans for Processing

Bourbon Vanilla

Vanilla producers do most of the job with vanilla pod preparation before shipping it to companies that'll turn it into pure vanilla extracts. This process includes the following steps:

  • The beans must be fully ripe fast before being processed. Suppliers achieve that by soaking them briefly in boiling water. It takes about ten days for natural vanilla flavors (enzymes) to "awake."
  • The next step is fermentation, which is necessary to add some moisture to vanilla beans. It's a combo of rolling these pods in a wool blanket at night and exposing them to the sun during the day. After two months of fermentation, it takes another month for the beans to air dry.
  • The grand finale of vanilla bean processing is known as conditioning. It's usually performed during shipping, which takes about a month. It's the last stage before vanilla beans reach their full flavor potency.

3. Producing Pure Vanilla Extracts

After 12 to 14 months, the beans arrive at manufacturers' plants. Vanilla extract producers usually have a network of organic vanilla suppliers to ensure supply quality and consistency.

The extraction procedure doesn't last as long as bean preparation, but it includes several steps, too:

  • The pods get into grinding machines that crush them and expose fragrant seeds.
  • The grounded matter then goes for a quick "bath" to remove everything but the pure vanilla.
  • Vanilla gets into the alcohol and water solution. Some producers use heat to shorten this process from about eight weeks to only 48 hours, but it can destroy most flavors in the extract. Cold extraction is better since it preserves tastes, but it's costlier.
  • Some manufacturers add sugar, caramel, and sweeteners, but that can't be a pure extract.
  • After extraction, the liquid is filtered out and ready for packing and storing.

The final result is a pure vanilla extract, which came a long way from a vanilla bean. This product undergoes strict U.S. FDA law: It must have at least 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans in a gallon of water and alcohol mixture (ratio 65% to 35%).

4. Packing and Sending Products to Food Distributors

Bottles with aromatic extract and dry vanilla beans on table

Reputable vanilla extract producers use glass bottles for packing their high-quality products. Glass is a natural material, unlike plastic, and it doesn't leach. It means this fragrant liquid won't change its taste even if you use this ingredient for your culinary experiments and baked goods only once in a while.

The final product is then sent to retailers and end customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Shelf Life of Pure Vanilla Extract?

Pure vanilla extracts with little-to-no sugar don't have an expiration date. They don't go bad but age, of course, if you store them properly.

Is There Artificial Vanilla Extract?

Some producers make artificial vanilla blends and concentrated artificial vanillas, but the term "imitation" must be clearly stated on the product label. Shoddy companies might endanger the industry gold standard for high-quality vanilla extracts, so always choose reputable manufacturers.

How Can You Store Vanilla Extracts?

Pure vanilla extracts won't go rancid or lose their flavors if you keep them in a cool, dark place after bottle opening.

What Else Can Be Made of Vanilla?

Trustworthy companies have a full line of pure vanilla extracts, but they can also make other products, such as vanilla bean pastes, syrups, flavored sugars and powders, and even imitation vanilla.

Wrap Up

Reliable vanilla producers can turn a simple vanilla bean into a pure extract that many people like to add to their food or beverage. Making this culinary ingredient full of flavors is a long-lasting process, but the result is worth it, especially when you buy high-quality extracts now from credible producers who keep their standards high.


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