How to Finish Your Homemade Vanilla Extract

How To Finish Your Vanilla Extract

I’ve talked about making Homemade Vanilla Extract just a little tiny bit on this site.  You’ve seen:

Just in case you need MORE reasons to make your own Vanilla Extract, here’s a post about All the Nasty Stuff Found in Most Commercial Vanilla Extracts.

But for some reason, I never shared with you how to finish off and bottle your homemade vanilla extract.  Sometimes I forget important details, such as the names of my children and telling you how to finish off your homemade vanilla.  What’s his name – my youngest son – helped me bottle some vanilla last week and we took pictures.  Finally.  (Malachi…his name is Malachi.)

Once your vanilla beans  have been sitting in the vodka (or other alcohol of choice) for 4-6 months, it’s strong and ready to be bottled.  Begin by lining a colander with a coffee filter or thin tea towel.

Place lined colander in a pot to catch the vanilla.  If you don’t, you will have excellent quality homemade vanilla extract running down all over your kitchen table and floors.  Your kitchen will smell great for months, but that will only be a long, sad reminder of the wasted vanilla.  Put the colander in a pot.

Pour contents of your jar into the colander so that the coffee filter can strain all of the tiny vanilla specks out.  The vanilla specks won’t hurt anything, but it’s nice to have speck-less vanilla extract.

Use a funnel to bottle up the strained vanilla.  I have found amber bottles (recommended) Mountain Rose Herbs.

Lay your used vanilla beans on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to dry.  You can then put them into a container of sugar for 4-6 months which will turn that sugar into Vanilla Sugar!

Finally, FINALLY I have shown you how to finish up your vanilla.  And now, if I can figure out how to call my children by the correct names without running down the list of all four boys before I get to the right one, I’d be all set.

This post was originally published November 28, 2010.

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Comments

  1. Julie says

    i’ve read that you can use the vanilla beans a second time with more vodka. Have you tried that?? I’m about ready to bottle my vanilla (on your recommendation!) that’s been setting since August. I used a gallon size Tupperware pitcher that stayed nicely sealed shut. (and I’ve been secretly sneaking some in my own recipes in the mean time!)

    I’m wondering, too, how much per bottle you would figure it would cost you to make the vanilla and bottle and label it? Just roughly…

    thanks for such an exhaustive website. i love it! :)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I haven’t tried to make more vanilla with used beans. I think you probably could, but it wouldn’t be nearly as potent.

    The cost I found (and shared here: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/where-to-buy-vanilla-beans) for four ounces is $1.65, but that isn’t figured in with the cost of the bottle and label.

    [Reply]

  2. Gina says

    I have my extract sitting in the cabinet waiting for the months to pass and I’m so excited! I have never heard of vanilla sugar . . . so I have a couple questions. What kind of sugar would you use and what would you use vanilla sugar for? I’m even more excited now that you’ve told me I can REUSE the vanilla beans!!!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve only tried to make vanilla sugar out of some regular ol’ white sugar I had, and then I’ve never used it. :) My friend who DOES use hers (made from white sugar) makes snickerdoodles and uses the vanilla sugar instead of cinnamon sugar. Brilliant!

    I think you could probably do this with sucanat or maybe organic sugar crystals too.

    [Reply]

    Tammy Reply:

    My friend and I found a fabulous cookie recipe that specifically called for vanilla sugar, so we’ve made our own to be able to make that cookie….but you can use it in anything. Put it in your coffee, put it in cereal…..uses are endless. And, BTW, we made it with regular sugar ad well.

    [Reply]

  3. Sara Smith says

    Just wondering what size amber bottles you have pictured on this post. I am trying to figure out what size (ounces) to purchase. Thanks for the great idea and for these instructions on finishing this project!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I think I have 4 ounce bottles in the pic. I also did 8 and 2 ounce bottles that day. We can go through an 8 ounce bottle in a few months because we bake so much. But, if you’re giving vanilla as gifts to someone who doesn’t go through vanilla very quickly, I’d say go with 4 ounce or even two.

    [Reply]

  4. says

    I was just thinking about how to do this the other day when i was going over the items I had to give as gifts….thanks for sharing how to finish this up..now I just need to get some bottles!

    [Reply]

  5. Sue says

    I thought it GREAT that I wasn’t the only one that couldn’t possibly come up with the correct child’s name. Now I either use a school bell, they have 10 seconds to find me, then I pick out the child I want and the rest can go back to their activity. Another thing I have learned is all children can hear the word “yo” in a deep voice. I sometimes call “yo” when I am not near my school bell, they all come, and I pick out the one I want. Even in a crowded gym after our school co-op, my children come on the word “yo.”

    [Reply]

  6. says

    Laura, thanks so much for your post! I made your vanilla recipe back in August and I am waiting on my delivery of jars. Have you ever put one string of vanilla in each bottle? I think I’ve seen that somewhere. Now I have to figure out how to make labels! Thanks again.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, actually, lately I have been putting one vanilla bean in each bottle…forgot to mention that!

    [Reply]

    Julie Stewart Reply:

    Hi Laura,
    I just finished making my homemade vanilla and already bottled it. My question is, I did strain it but several of the specks came through (I used a coffee filter), but then I realized if I put the bean in the vanilla it will have a lot of specks. I just bottled it with the bean and left the specks in there. I’m really hoping my gift receivers don’t mind:) I’ve already used mine and I don’t mind the specks at all. Is it just a matter of preference?

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Really a few specs isn’t going to matter much, especially once it is baked into a recipe. You can take the time to keep filtering it out or just leave it! Either way it will be delicious and recipes will still turn out yummy. :)

  7. Barbara says

    I used to laugh at my Dad who, when he called for me or referred to me, he listed my brother and sister and sometimes the dog before he got to my name. . . but I can’t laugh anymore, because now I do it too, including the dog.

    [Reply]

  8. says

    Only two boys here, but I still confuse names. Call them by my husband’s name too. Once called out the dog’s name…mommy syndrome I suppose.

    Thanks for sharing this process.

    [Reply]

  9. Damaris says

    Laura I just wanted to thank you for this post. My Mother and I have been intending to do this for months….sigh such good intentions. I do a lot of baking and my father is a minister and my parents try to give a gift to their congergation families each year during the holidays. Since I generally help with this gift, making vanilla is on our list for next year! This year they are gonna get a loaf of my homemade bread and some pear preserves that I made! I can just see a gift bag with a bottle of vanilla and somekind of homemade goodie!
    On a side note I am 32 years old and my Momma STILL calls me by my sister’s name and vice versa….she also combines her brother’s names….Jimmy and David became “Javid” a long time ago…so you are not the only one!
    God Bless, Damaris

    [Reply]

  10. Carla says

    I’m ordering bottles from here:
    https://www.specialtybottle.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=2

    Their prices seem better than those at the places you mentioned, but the shipping is a bit pricey ($15 regardless of quantities I’ve put in) but similar to your listed websites. Anyhow, I’ll update if it is horrible, but I’m hopeful!

    [Reply]

    Kellie Reply:

    I found that site, too, and was thinking of ordering from them. Hope they are ok!

    [Reply]

    Kellie Reply:

    I just received my bottles from Specialty Bottle – they were delivered quickly adn packed well. I can’t wait to fill them!

    [Reply]

    Heather T. Reply:

    I just ordered mine from this site, looking around they are about the best and for me shipping was $13 about average it seems! Hope they arrive well and quickly, I have been putting off ordering and my vanilla is ready, cant wait to give as gifts for Christmas!

    [Reply]

    Angie Reply:

    Thank you!! I just placed my order also for 10-4oz and 1-16oz and the shipping was $11.00. I can live with this price.

    [Reply]

    Kayla Reply:

    I was going to mention this but see that someone already has!

    [Reply]

  11. Erin says

    Actual, my husband is worse at calling our girls by the wrong names than I am. I do it literally about half as often as he does. He never throws in different names (ie mine), but will mix them up, calling jasmin her sister graciela’s name and vice versa.

    Erin
    GymboCraze.weebly.com

    [Reply]

  12. says

    We visited a vanilla plantation in Hawaii, they sell the bottles along with a vanilla bean, we came home and put the vodka into the jar. They suggested adding more vodka once the vanilla was down just a little. They said we could use the bean for quite some time before adding more beans. I now wonder why you’d have to get rid of all those beans???

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Right, it is hard to throw them away, which is why I suggest using them to make vanilla sugar. Plus, my husband and I are researching other things we can do with them. I have heard that you can reuse them for another round of vanilla. I think the vanilla wouldn’t be nearly as potent though…maybe half as much alcohol added to the beans the second time around?? I’ll have to look into it.

    [Reply]

  13. AmyR says

    I got to your site 2 or so months ago and am planning to do this next year for holiday gifts. Not feeling so patient because it sounds SO cool!

    [Reply]

  14. Charlotte Moore says

    My vanilla has been in the making since August. I am so curious how it will taste. It sure smells good.

    Our oldest son hated when we called him the wrong name. Now he has 3 children and he does the same thing. HA!!!!

    [Reply]

  15. says

    Someone asked about labels. I have the most fabulous labels and they came from Laura’s friend Char. She had me look at her designs which are fabulous and then made me wonderful labels. I sell my vanilla at the summer farmers market. MY 4 ounce bottles are the best seller and I sell them for $10. The labels are adorable.
    The business owner is Char and here is her address
    Char Huskins, Delight-Designs.com

    By the way, I make alot of vanilla sugar and sell that also. I use it for snickerdoodles, on hot cereal and buttered toast. It is also great in coffee!

    [Reply]

  16. susan says

    i just love that you can’t remember your kids’ names. i have 4 little girls (a female dog and a son) and some times go through all the names before getting the right one. i usually get frustrated w/ my mom brain and say “whichever one you are”

    [Reply]

  17. Marie says

    Thanks for this I needed a reminder about getting my “stash” ready for christmas! And you answered my question about whether or not metal will affect the vanilla!

    [Reply]

  18. Rachel says

    Ok, regarding the vanilla sugar. Could you go into a little more detail please? Some more questions:
    1-Can I put them in my dehydrator to dry out and if so on what temp. and for how long? Or is it just a quick drying out on the counter overnight thing?
    2-After they’re dry, do I grind them up before putting them in a container of sugar or just whole?
    3-How much sugar (ex: sugar pds. per amt. of dried beans) do you place them in?

    I wonder if this would work with stevia powder or liquid? I like flavoring my yogurt with stevia and vanilla.

    Thank you for humoring me and my “dunce hat” questions!
    Rachel in Ga.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I think just drying on the counter for a couple days is plenty. Using a dehydrater might be a little too much trouble, but that’s just me. You don’t have to grind them before putting them in with sugar, just put them in whole. It will be easier to get them out later!

    I’d say use 10-15 pounds of sugar for 80 beans (which is how many I pull out of my gallon jar).

    I’ve never tried it with stevia, but what a good idea. I would imagine it would work, and what a great idea to use it in yogurt for instant vanilla yogurt!

    [Reply]

  19. says

    Thanks Laura for posting this a long time ago. I put my vanilla canisters down in the basement in June and just yesterday poured it up. I bought the vanilla beans from amazon and the bottles from specialty bottles and the labels from Char. Everything turned out great. One thing I’d throw out there is don’t label the jar until the vanilla is in there because invariably the vanilla will get on your label. I also ordered the 4 oz jars and I underestimated how many jars I’d need. Just a heads up for everyone. Just so ya know Laura… all my friends think I am so brilliant for making my own vanilla…but I always point them to your site as my inspiration. Blessings from Kansas!

    [Reply]

  20. says

    I’m also making my own vanilla – thanks for the recipe! Just curious…How do you prepare your bottles? Do you wash them or sterilize them before you pour in the vanilla? Thanks again!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve not been too particular about the bottles, but I think running them through the dishwasher to sterilize them or maybe boiling them for a short time on the stove is plenty.

    [Reply]

  21. Sue says

    I was also wondering about sterilization. I was thinking of just boiling the bottles to be safe. I found a great website -http://www.fillmorecontainer.com/Jars/ that seem to be the cheapest by far as I am also making vanilla extract as gifts this year.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I think running them through the dishwasher to sterilize them or maybe boiling them for a short time on the stove is plenty.

    [Reply]

    Gina Reply:

    Sue,
    I looked at the site you suggested because I am looking for the best deal on jars as well. They don’t seem to have any amber jars though. Laura says it should be stored in amber bottles (the dark glass) although I cant remember why! I wasn’t sure if you saw that so I wanted to catch you before you got the bottles!

    [Reply]

  22. Tammi says

    If selling your vanilla how do you seal your jars? Thank you.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I purchase plastic seals from SKS bottles – the go on with a heat gun very easily!

    [Reply]

  23. kara says

    How do you know when it is done? I started mine shortly after I read your article…it still smells like vodka! It has been 5 months so far….please advise!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Others have had similar experiences. All I can think of is that it needs to be shaken more frequently to see if that will help get the vanilla beans more “activated”. Hope that helps!

    [Reply]

    ann Reply:

    when i read this question, i wonder if the person got weaker beans – ones with less vanillin. so, i think i would probably buy a few more beans (maybe 1/8 – 1/4 lbs.) from a different source and add them in and let it sit a few more weeks/months. i also plan on putting extra bean in my finished product and bottling it about a month before gifting it. that should make it nice and strong!

    my beans come in 2 days. i got both tahitian and madagascar. i plan on trying vodka, light rum, dark rum, cognac/brandy, and bourbon. i may also try making a small amount of double, triple and quadruple strengths. though that may be a later experiment. i am trying to make the “concentrate” that i have bought in grenada. it is the best vanilla i have ever tasted!

    [Reply]

  24. says

    I made the vanilla for gifts this year, but I left the vanilla beans in the 4 oz bottle from specialty bottle company. The lables I designed on the computer and cut them out with my cricut. After they were full I decopaged them onto the bottle. They were really cute and everyone loved it. I gave it to my patients for Christmas. Thanks for the inspiration!
    I just did a 1.75L for me! I am looking forward to baking with it :)

    [Reply]

  25. says

    I think I’d like to make this and give some as a Christmas gifts this year but it is only February. Do you know how long the finished vanilla will last in the amber jars?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    The finished product will last for many years in the amber jars or bottles, so making it now will be just fine for Christmas!

    [Reply]

  26. Sara says

    So, I made my vanilla extract up in the beginning of August, but haven’t gotten around to straining it yet. Have I waited too long? Or will it be doubly extra strong vanilla?

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    It might be “extra strength” but if that is the case you can just use less in your recipes. :)

    [Reply]

  27. Cindi says

    Sara,
    I am in the same boat as you. Meant to get around to it for Christmas gift, then life got in the way. Planning on bottling them up in 2 weeks over spring break…can I still safely say to people “double strength”?

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Yes! It is still double strength! :)

    [Reply]

  28. says

    You can actually re-use the same beans up to 3 times. Just top off the vodka and re-brew. If you’re worried about potency, throw another 1 or 2 beans into an 8oz bottle just to be safe- but I have made vanilla up to 3 times with the same beans without any potency issues. Hope that helps.

    [Reply]

  29. Trudi says

    Hi Laura – sorry if you’ve answered this before, but I couldn’t find the answer anywhere on your site. Regarding putting vanilla beans in the finished bottles of extract . . . I’ve read that you have to make sure that the vanilla beans are always covered with the vodka (or whatever you’re using) otherwise the uncovered part of the bean can get moldy. Obviously the level of vanilla in the bottle goes down as you use it and uncovers the bean. Because of that I’ve not put beans in my bottles when giving as gifts or selling. I don’t want someone to wind up with mold in vanilla that I’ve made! Alcohol is a preservative, so I’m confused as to how the mold could start. Any input?

    Also, did you ever get around to trying to reuse your beans and find whether the potency was diminished?

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Laura hasn’t had a problem with mold in her vanilla…She also,
    unfortunately hasn’t gotten around to reusing the beans yet! :)

    [Reply]

  30. Jessica says

    Just found your site! I love it and this post! I am new to homemade things so I am very excited to start a new…experiment :) As for sealing to sell, what plastic seals did you use from SKS? Apparently I don’t know what to call them because all I am finding are plastic caps. Thanks for your help and wonderful inspiration!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Ah, I guess I wasn’t sure what to call them either. Just found them – they are shrink bands! http://www.sks-bottle.com/340c/C6.html

    [Reply]

  31. says

    I love this and will soon try it! I realize that not all homemakers are home-schoolers, but as I was reading I thought this would make for some GREAT math time. How many liters to a gallon? How many Ounces in a gallon or 1/2 gallon? How many bottles of vanilla do we get from a gallon of Vanilla? What is our total cost for the vanilla we made per bottle counting everything we bought to make it? How much is bottle from the store? Did we save? How much? And I am sure at there are other questions to ask.

    When it comes to vanilla sugar which I thought to be marvelous in so many ways. You could use the vanilla sugar for any recipe that calls for sugar and vanilla. You would no to NEED to add vanilla and if you did it would just be a stronger flavor.

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    That is a great idea!

    [Reply]

  32. Linda says

    Thanks for this, I will definitely use your helpful hints for finishing and making vanilla sugar! One question, can you use the beans to make vanilla splenda? My husband is a diabetic.
    As for your kids names…. my poor boys had to wait for me to go through 4 brothers, numerous male cousins and the dogs until I got frustrated and said…. you know who I am talking to! LOL

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I don’t know if that would work or not, as I have always avoided splenda since I don’t trust it to be a safe sweetener alternative. You could maybe try it and see, in just a small amount as an experiment. :)

    [Reply]

  33. says

    Laura, I have a ? I just came across ur site I love it I’m going to try making the vanilla I go through a lot of vanilla I opened my home based bakery last yr I love it I couldn’t believe I can make my own and it will b great also I am going to try to sell it also when I go to shows when I sell my cake and cookie pops my ? Is can I make clear vanilla ? How would u make that? Can u help me do u no how I buy it and it is expensive I buy Madagascar vanilla pure that’s all I buy its got the best taste ever so that is what I bought in the beans to.I bought the jars also the 4 oz and instead of doing a gal I bought (5) 40 oz jars so it won’t take as long to get done hope u can help me I did buy the amber glass jars my hubby wanted me to buy plastic my vanilla I have now it is Madagascar it is in a plastic bottle but it is amber but I did buy glass.Can u tell me y glass? Thanks so much Sandy

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve never made clear vanilla, so I’m not sure! I do prefer amber glass, but plastic will work. :)

    [Reply]

    Rebecca Reply:

    Any clear vanilla is imitation.

    [Reply]

  34. Deborah says

    I am making some vanilla and it is taking a long time to strain it with a coffee filter. Do you find the same problem or have you got a quicker method? Thanks for all you do for us. Love, love your site.

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    Laura hasn’t used anything else…it is possible that a tea towel would work. Or maybe cheese cloth that is layered a few times…:) Just some ideas.

    [Reply]

  35. Kat says

    Thanks for the great info! I just ordered vanilla beans and can’t wait to get started. And PS, I grew up being called Joan..June..Jean…. before they got to my name. It’s Kathryn. Seriously. Not even close. I was the odd man out, name-wise. But I’m not scarred for life :)

    [Reply]

  36. Emily says

    What type of container do you recommend to use to make the vanilla sugar? I would like to give it as gifts along with the vanilla. Also thinking about cute teaspoons. Do you have any ideas and/or websites? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I make it in a jar. I think giving it as gifts in small jars with little teaspoons sounds like a very cute idea!

    [Reply]

  37. Denise says

    Look at http://www.containerandpackaging.com for the bottles. Their overall price and shipping was a lot less expensive for the 8oz. The minimum is a case of 12. To get the 4 oz doesn’t seem to have a minimum and they are 44 cents each. You do have to order the caps as an additional item in your cart. So don’t forget.

    [Reply]

  38. Tracey says

    Happy Mother’s Day today, Laura. I’m so glad you share your ideas and knowledge about happy homemaking.
    I am the proud ‘parent’ to two 78yo ‘teenagers’–my mom and dad. My mom was an excellent mother and homemaker and is finally reaping the benefits of her work, that is training me in the art of homemaking.
    I am ready to strain off my homemade vanilla extract and plan to start a new batch with the sale offer from Olive Nation. Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

  39. Rebecca says

    U loose a lot of potency when u strain! I only strain my vanilla for doing frosting so there isnt dark spots. Otherwise i leave it all in.

    [Reply]

  40. Lana says

    I keep two bottles going all of the time. When I have used all of the vanilla from one I refill it with vodka and start using the other one. It is working great and the vanilla is plenty strong. I do not strain. Sometimes I see vanilla specks but we don’t mind since we know what it is.

    [Reply]

  41. Tina says

    Thank you so much for posting this! We did this last year as Christmas gifts, and they were a huge hit. I ended up using a turkey baster to fill the bottles because I couldn’t find my funnel. It went so fast and easy with the turkey baster.

    I have a question for you…I just found a jar I forgot about in the way back of my pantry floor where I was keeping them. I started the batch in September, so it’s been going on 10 months. Well past the 4-6 months you recommend.

    What do you think? Is it ruined?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    It’s totally fine – go right ahead and use it! :)

    [Reply]

    CHERYL Reply:

    Actually, vanilla reaches its peak at 2 years old so the longer you let it sit for, the better it gets.

    [Reply]

  42. Tara says

    When the vanilla is done should it smell like I imitation vanilla? If it still smells like vodka does that mean it isn’t done?

    [Reply]

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