Vanilla

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BrentR

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Hello,

Over the past several years I have been asked many questions about brewing with vanilla. I will try to address them here in a single page. Please do not hesitate to ask for more information.

1. When to add vanilla?
I recommend adding vanilla after the primary fermentation has already taken place. The alcohol is important for the process of pulling vanilla flavor from the vanilla beans. (this is why all extracts are made with alcohol). Adding vanilla any earlier may damage the compounds responsible for providing vanilla flavor, thus it should be added as late in the brewing stage as possible, but with at least 1-2 weeks time to extract.

2. Should I use whole vanilla beans or vanilla extract?
I typically recommend using whole vanilla beans. This will provide the most natural, full and complex vanilla flavor possible. This also allows you to better control the flavor (both quality and actual flavor) of vanilla you are adding. The flavor of generic store brand vanilla extract is nowhere near as complex or pleasant as higher-end vanilla extracts. The best way thing to do is to use whole vanilla beans. Additionally, when adding extract to your brew, you are also adding 35% alcohol and any other ingredients that might be found in the extract... who wants that!

3. Where to buy vanilla beans?
Vanilla beans can be found in most grocery stores, specialty food stores and online. Prices will range from $20 per bean to $0.50 per bean. I recommend looking for a store with high inventory turnover so that you are sure the beans are as fresh as possible. Grocery stores will be most expensive. Online stores will be the best value.

4. What type of vanilla bean to use? Is bourbon the best?
There are many types of vanilla beans, each has a different flavor. The best type to use depends on the flavor you are looking for. Below is a very quick summary:

Madagascar: rich and creamy
Mexican: bold and smokey, earthy
India: bold and chocolatey
Tonga: fig, raison, cherry
Tahiti: cherry-chocolate, floral aroma
Uganda: very bold, caramelized sugar, brown sugar
Bourbon: this is a tricky one because it really depends on the origin. Bourbon is a general name for the species vanilla planifolia, which includes all of the varieties listed above, except vanilla from Tahiti (vanilla tahitensis).

The most common is the Madagascar vanilla beans.

5. How to use vanilla beans?
Simply cut the bean in half lengthwise and toss into the carboy. Most of the flavor of vanilla is found in the paste on the inside of the vanilla bean, so it is important to expose the center of the bean directly to the beer so that the flavors can extract more quickly than being forced to diffuse through the skin of the bean.


Wow, I hope this helps. Please do not hesitate to contact me with more questions so that I can continue to update this post. My hope is to make this a location to house everything we need to know about vanilla in 1 convenient location.

Thanks again,

Brent
 
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BrentR

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Great question. Most recipes I have seen call for 2 vanilla beans. I tend to lean on the higher side and go with 5.

If you add them during the secondary you can try to sample the beer after a few days of steeping the vanilla to see how it is coming along. If the flavor is not enough, then you can add a few extra beans at that point.

Thanks a lot,

Brent
 

Opus_X

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I'm brewing a porter with a little coffee and cocao nibs. I also plan to add a vanilla bean. If I want just a hint of vanilla, will 1 bean in the secondary for 1 week be enough?
 
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BrentR

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Hi Opus,

I assume this is a 5 gallon batch? I would start with the single bean and then try to sample after 1 week. If more flavor is desired, add a second bean. Because you are brewing a porter there is already a lot of flavor that the vanilla bean will be competing with, so whether it is 1 bean or 2 I think both will be safe and not over powering.

Hope this helps! Let us know how it turns out and what you end up going with.

Best,

Brent
 

Andrewtherooster

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Thanks for the info! Admittedly I'm a little shy about adding vanilla to beer after the second beer my friends and I made (a vanilla oatmeal stout) used vanilla extract and had WAY too much vanilla flavor in it. I couldn't handle it. I recently brewed up a big imperial stout with a friend, and I think we'll be adding some vanilla beans to it, so this info is well-received.
 
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BrentR

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Yea, I totally understand! Finding the right balance can be difficult.

Hey, I see you are in Grand Rapids. So are we! I will be making a delivery downtown in about an hour and could drop off some beans if you need? Otherwise feel free to stop by our warehouse in Comstock Park if you would like to save on shipping (assuming you do not already have beans)
 

Andrewtherooster

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Yea, I totally understand! Finding the right balance can be difficult.

Hey, I see you are in Grand Rapids. So are we! I will be making a delivery downtown in about an hour and could drop off some beans if you need? Otherwise feel free to stop by our warehouse in Comstock Park if you would like to save on shipping (assuming you do not already have beans)
Oh awesome! I won't be able to do it in an hour, but you work for Beanilla I take it? So when we need the beans could we stop by the address on the website and buy them there? I would love to be able to smell them before making a decision on what to buy.
 

dave73ok

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I recently did a bourbon vanilla porter. I used most of two Madagascar beans soaked in Knob Creek for a couple of days before throwing the beans into secondary. I then added that bourbon at kegging.
The beer tastes great, it's rich, creamy, and the flavors are as I intended.

One thing that's got me wondering.....head retention and general carbonation just isn't great with this beer. It's been slow carbing up for a while, and beers I've put on the line since this one are ready.
Is the vanilla to blame? Or the bourbon?
 

brianmot

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hey Brent,

Thanks for this awesome post. I was planning on adding vanilla to a porter next week. The breakdown of the bean flavors really helps.
 
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BrentR

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Hi Dave,

How much bourbon did you add to the beer? The bourbon has a MUCH higher chance of killing your yeast than vanilla. Vanilla should not effect yeast at all. I fear that the bourbon killed a fair percentage of yeast and prevented carbonation. Either that, or the incredible aroma of the bourbon and vanilla side tracked you and somebody forgot to add priming sugar :)
 

dave73ok

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I force carbonated slowly over a couple of weeks in a keg. I added about a cup of bourbon.
This beer is more of a 'dessert beer' for me than anything, so it's not really that big of a deal.....but it's the first beer I've had this issue with.
It DOES smell great, though! :)
 

dave73ok

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That's what I was curious about. I bought them from the co-op....they dried out a bit over the course of a month, so I rehydrated them in the bourbon. I didn't notice an oily sheen on the bourbon, though.
 

bkasten12

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Thanks for all the great info on Vanilla Beans, I am getting ready to add some to a brew too. Though I have read in some forums to scrape out the middle of the bean, is there pros and cons to doing that?

Brian
 

stikks

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Good mornin` all,I have a vanilla cream ale ready to rack to secondary.I used 2 oz
extract at flamout and was thinking of adding 1 oz. to secondary or bottling.Which
addition would you recommend?

thanks
 

KYB

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Good info. If you are going for quality, get quality beans. I tried brewers best beans once, they were worthless. Yes good beans are expensive, but definitely worth it.
 

karmak

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Some interesting reading on different vanilla beans and their composition.

http://www.fantastic-flavour.com/files-downloads/composition-vanilla-beans-link.pdf

My chef side speaking: I would recommend buying in bulk from online suppliers. Easiest way to get a nice variety of fresh beans without all the mark up. I like to make my own vanilla sugar by splitting the beans and rubbing the insides clean with fresh sugar. Repeat with a dozen pods and store (with empty pods) in a airtight container. Continue to rub sugar into the already empty pods every few weeks while the sugar draws out the vanilla compounds into the sugar. I like to use way more pods than necessary to flavor the sugar so that there are lots of black beans to sugar in each teaspoon. Then leave it alone for a few months. The bean stems will eventually become brittle sticks that can be thrown into a custard base to make an awesome vanilla ice cream.

Back to beer, I'm interested in the effects of taking a small amount of bourbon to a boil and steeping vanilla pods in it before adding to the wort (after primary). The idea is to extract more complex smoky flavors out of the bean without killing it with heat, and also chasing some of the alcohol out of the bourbon before addition to the wort. Thoughts?
 

Fisherttm

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Thanks for the great post just brewed a Porter and was wanting to put some Vanilla in the secondary and this helped out quite a bit with some questions I had.
 

celticinnbrewery

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Hey thanks for all of the good info! I have a milk stout in the primary right now, and was looking at adding both cacao nibs and vanilla beans to the secondary to create a sort of dessert beer. I want the vanilla to be present, but not overpowering. Also, I have heard that vanilla does well in bringing out other flavors like chocolate. Anyways, I was wondering what your thoughts would be on the number of vanilla beans to use and how long to leave them in the carboy?

Thanks,
~ CIB
 

BrewCityBaller

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Thanks for the great info Brent, just placed an order for some Tahitians. Planning on adding them to my smoked cherry porter brewing tomorrow.

My only question is, do the beans need to be sanitized? I see a lot of people in various forums talking about soaking in bourbon or vodka? Planning on adding two beans in the secondary for at least two weeks.
 

awshucks5

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Do you not need to sterilize the beans before putting them into the beer? I know you can soak/steep them in some sort of alcohol beforehand but is this necessary?
 

CA_Mouse

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I soak them in Vanilla Vodka. Adds a bit more vanilla and the vanilla helps pull more of the chocolate from the cacao nibs. For my Chocolate Vanilla Robust Porter, I used 4oz of cacao nibs, 5 vanilla beans and enough vodka to cover them. They have been marinating for nearly 2 weeks (started them the night before I brewed). I will be racking the Porter onto them this weekend and letting them sit for a week, then I will be putting the CO2 on it. Should be ready just in time for Christmas Eve.
 

Disc

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does the type of alcohol matter? I am looking to use rum to draw out the vanilla for a pumpkin porter recipe. Also would I be shooting for too many flavors, I'm going for a spiked pumpkin coffee type flavor.

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CA_Mouse

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does the type of alcohol matter? I am looking to use rum to draw out the vanilla for a pumpkin porter recipe. Also would I be shooting for too many flavors, I'm going for a spiked pumpkin coffee type flavor.

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I have used spiced rum for a couple of my Sour Ales to add that little bit of spice character. Just remember that you are talking a very small amount of rum to a fairly large amount of beer, so unless you are talking .5 gallons or more, it will not be significant.
 

rocketsan

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Great thread, thanks!


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butterpants

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Thanks for this thread. More talk about bean sanitation /cleaning.... assuming you weren't steeping in high ABV spirits

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rmowry

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I just brewed up a one gallon batch of cream ale that I'm going to add vanilla beans to do you think one bean will be to much I'm adding it in the secondary after slicing scraping and soaking it in vodka


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