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Vanilla beans - how to use?

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reeflections

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I'm about to start a 5 gal strawberry/ vanilla batch.
16lbs frozen strawberries
15 oz golden raisins
vanilla bean(s)

A couple questions for those that have used vanilla beans in the past:

1. I'm looking for more than a touch of vanilla flavor but I still want to taste the strawberry. How much bean? - I have 4-5" grade B beans

2. Should I add the vanilla during the primary, secondary, or aging stage?

3. Read on another thread here that the vanilla keeps getting stronger with age. Would it be a good idea to taste often and remove the bean(s) when the taste is right?
 

Scooter68

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For a two gallon batch of Peach Vanilla I used 1/4 of a bean. It was more than enough. The vanilla taste dominates, but it's still good. I would suggest adding after fermentation - during aging and split the batch. Use vanilla bean in only one half of the batch. For 5 Gallon batch, if it was me doing it, I'd use 1/8 of bean in each of two one gallon carboys. If you have a 3 gallon carboy put the other 3 gallons in there with no vanilla. You can taste test over the aging period and you will probably find you will have plenty of Vanilla to go around OR you can always add it to the 3 gallon batch if you are happy after a couple of months. I think I had mine in there for about 4 months total, or maybe 6. It can't be undone but you can always age a little longer and add it in for the extra aging time.
As far as prepping the vanilla bean - I tried scraping the bean not much good but I did split the bean open.
 

reeflections

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For a two gallon batch of Peach Vanilla I used 1/4 of a bean. It was more than enough. The vanilla taste dominates, but it's still good. I would suggest adding after fermentation - during aging and split the batch. Use vanilla bean in only one half of the batch. For 5 Gallon batch, if it was me doing it, I'd use 1/8 of bean in each of two one gallon carboys. If you have a 3 gallon carboy put the other 3 gallons in there with no vanilla. You can taste test over the aging period and you will probably find you will have plenty of Vanilla to go around OR you can always add it to the 3 gallon batch if you are happy after a couple of months. I think I had mine in there for about 4 months total, or maybe 6. It can't be undone but you can always age a little longer and add it in for the extra aging time.
As far as prepping the vanilla bean - I tried scraping the bean not much good but I did split the bean open.
Thanks Scooter! Well that sounds like a good plan. I think I'll give it a shot.

From what I have read, grade A beans are soft and better for splitting/scraping, while the grade B (like I have) is dry and doesn't split and scrape so well. I think I'll just chop 'em and bag 'em.

.
 

Scooter68

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Yup My single bean was too dry to scrap but I was able to cut it lengthwise. Not sure how much good that did. I ended up putting the rest of the bean in old vanilla extract bottle with everclear and now I use a few a drop or two to flavor my coffee now and then.
 

Scooter68

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Nope - I put it in once the wine is through fermenting and is already protected by Alcohol, Acidity and K-Meta.
 

Ty520

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I would suggest more than the 1/8 of a bean. Whenever I add vanilla to my meads,I typically do 1 bean per gallon for 2 months to make it noticable.

Splitting the bean will help infuse it faster, but is not necessary. I make vanilla extract with whole, un-split beans, and I can reuse them over and over. It may actually be better to not split it so you can control the infusion more slowly.
 

Scooter68

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With strawberry I would most definitely NOT use a lot of vanilla bean unless you want vanilla bean wine with a hint of strawberry. You can always add more but you can't take it out once it's in there. I make my peach wines with at least 6-8 lbs per gallon of RIPE peaches with plenty of flavor and still that 1/4 of a vanilla bean pretty much dominated the flavor of a 2 gallon batch. It's Vanilla-Peach wine and I enjoy it but the flavor that is ever present is vanilla not peach. Strawberry is likewise not an overpowering flavor so it too could be easily overwhelmed by any other flavor.
 

reeflections

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From what I am reading here and elsewhere, it would seem that the amount of bean needed may have a lot to do with the quality of the beans. And maybe something to do with personal taste.

My strawberry is just about to go into 2ndary so it is still vanilla free, but I have taken 4 gallons of apricot that are just into aging and racked it to a 3 gal and a one gallon carboy. I put 1/2 bean into the one gallon to kinda do what @Scooter68 recommended. If it doesn't seem strong enough to mix with the 3 gallons after some time, I'll add more. If it's too strong, I'll add less to the3 gallons and have a little vanilla wine to drink or add to something else. I bought 10 of these beans (graded as B) so my early experiments with the apricot and strawberry should give me an idea of how much to use in the future.

I will also take some of these beans, which I have re-vacuum sealed, and infuse them in some 190 proof. That infusion would likely make figuring out how much to add more accurate no?
 

Scooter68

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From what I am reading here and elsewhere, it would seem that the amount of bean needed may have a lot to do with the quality of the beans. And maybe something to do with personal taste.

My strawberry is just about to go into 2ndary so it is still vanilla free, but I have taken 4 gallons of apricot that are just into aging and racked it to a 3 gal and a one gallon carboy. I put 1/2 bean into the one gallon to kinda do what @Scooter68 recommended. If it doesn't seem strong enough to mix with the 3 gallons after some time, I'll add more. If it's too strong, I'll add less to the3 gallons and have a little vanilla wine to drink or add to something else. I bought 10 of these beans (graded as B) so my early experiments with the apricot and strawberry should give me an idea of how much to use in the future.

I will also take some of these beans, which I have re-vacuum sealed, and infuse them in some 190 proof. That infusion would likely make figuring out how much to add more accurate no?
Not sure the infusion of 190 proof will do much that you can use for judging That infusion will begin the extraction process but how long and how much flavor... that's a tough one to answer. After thinking about it really I believe the second best method is the split batch process. I believe I left my beans in there for at least 6 months starting right after fermentation finished. That would also be the time with the Alcohol level in the wine is high enough to aid with extracting the flavor.

The best option would be to simply make your own vanilla extract and add that to the wine once that extract is finished. That process is much like you infusion process but I'd check into the details to be sure. (Ty520 can probably give you directions on that.) That full extraction process is likely to be more efficient than adding the bean to the wine. Not as 'fun' but perhaps a more accurate method. That would allow you to wait until the wine is aged and ready to bottle before adding it. Then you can do a bench trial just as for back-sweetening to get the amount right. Again not as much fun but still probably more accurate and efficient.
 
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reeflections

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Not sure the infusion of 190 proof will do much that you can use for judging That infusion will begin the extraction process but how long and how much flavor... that's a tough one to answer. I still believe the split batch process is the best route. I believe I left my beans in there for at least 6 months starting right after fermentation finished. That would also be the time with the Alcohol level in the wine is high enough to aid with extracting the flavor.

The other option would be to simply make your own vanilla extract and add that to the wine once that extract is finished. That full extraction process is likely to be more efficient than adding the bean to the wine. Not as 'fun' but perhaps a more accurate method. That would allow you to wait until the wine is aged and ready to bottle before adding it. Then you can do a bench trial just as for back-sweetening to get the amount right. Again not as much fun but still probably more accurate and efficient.
I guess I used the wrong term? What is the difference between infusing the bean in 190 proof alcohol and making a vanilla extract?
 

Scooter68

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In reality I don't think there is much if any difference. For a source of alcohol you could use vodka or everclear. Here's a couple of links to help but in the end who's to say which is best. I would think everclear would be the purest alcohol but vodka get mentions as well I would wonder if different brands of vodka might change the flavor.


 
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reeflections

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In reality I don't think their is much if any difference. For a source of alcohol you could use vodka or everclear. Here's a couple of links to help but in the end who's to say which is best. I would think everclear would be the purest alcohol but vodka get mentions as well I would wonder if different brands of vodka might change the flavor.


Since my last post I have been finding several links as well, including the two you listed.. I'm under the impression that Everclear 190 is a bit faster to make, but has too much alcohol flavor for some of the uses, like things that are not cooked so the alcohol wouldn't evaporate. I guess for wine it wouldn't matter much - especially if you keep the ABV in mind from the start.

I like the idea of making one large batch extract and removing the beans so, with some experimenting, you would know how much to use more accurately. As you said, like back sweetening.
 

Ty520

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Since my last post I have been finding several links as well, including the two you listed.. I'm under the impression that Everclear 190 is a bit faster to make, but has too much alcohol flavor for some of the uses, like things that are not cooked so the alcohol wouldn't evaporate. I guess for wine it wouldn't matter much - especially if you keep the ABV in mind from the start.

I like the idea of making one large batch extract and removing the beans so, with some experimenting, you would know how much to use more accurately. As you said, like back sweetening.

Also consider using rum or bourbon - maybe not necessarily for this wine, but others in the future. They can lend some pretty wonderful flavors. Using 40-60% alcohol would be less harsh and astringent as well.
 

Scooter68

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Rum or Burbon will definitely change the flavor of the extract. The second site states that in their description of the process.
The first site I listed notes that the FDA requires commercially produced extract to be at least 74% alcohol by law. Take that for what it's worth.
 

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If you are making a vanilla extract, how much would the flavor be different from a commercial vanilla extract? I'm just wondering if it makes a difference.
 

Scooter68

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A lot depends on the contents and quality of the commercial product vs the homemade product. In the links I posted previously on this thread, one commercial baker said that the home-made extract the author of the article produced was significantly superior to the commercial products.

The real question is what the best method to extract the most flavor from the beans? Additionally there might be a concern if the extract contains any oils that are not water soluble. I don't have the answer to these two questions but I think the are the most critical to how to get the best flavor into your wine.

As to the effect of everclear on your wine - I don't think you are talking about using very much extract in a 5 gallon batch I would very surprised if it took more than 1 or at most 2 ounces of a good extract to provide the flavor in the wine. Two (2) ounces of everclear is not likely impact a volume of 640 ounces
 

Raptor99

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The real question is what the best method to extract the most flavor from the beans? Additionally there might be a concern if the extract contains any oils that are not water soluble. I don't have the answer to these two questions but I think the are the most critical to how to get the best flavor into your wine.
Oil does not mix with water, but oil does dissolve in alcohol to some extent. That's why vanilla and many other extracts include alcohol. The commercial vanilla extract that we use for baking is 35% alcohol. I know that in the case of herbs, some flavors dissolve in water while others are oil based, so they dissolve in alcohol. So I think that the alcohol in the wine might dissolve some of the oils, which is often where most of the flavor is concentrated. I don't know whether you would get more flavor by soaking the vanilla beans in everclear to make your own extract. That would be an interesting experiment to try.
 

reeflections

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I don't know whether you would get more flavor by soaking the vanilla beans in everclear to make your own extract. That would be an interesting experiment to try.
I'm gonna try it tomorrow when more beans arrive. My reasoning is for more accuracy. Dropping a bean into the wine is a shot in the dark. @Scooter68 's method off separating a couple of gallons for the beans and then mixing them back to taste one one way of having more control and I'm trying that now with some apricot. But I like the idea of having a known strength of extract so it can be added like back sweetening so I am gonna do that too. Time will tell.

How well the oils will mix? We'll see. But I think they will be pretty much dissolved in the 85% alcohol and mix in with no problem. Seems that has a better chance than dissolving in the wine alcohol of 10-15%.

Of course I'm guessing. :rolleyes:
 
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