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How to choose, store, & buy vanilla beans

Choosing/Buying Vanilla

Vanilla beans come in many different grades and sizes and what you choose will depend on what you need your vanilla for.

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For most purposes, such as baking vanilla cupcakes or vanilla ice cream you will need plump, pliable, Grade A beans. When choosing your vanilla beans, a good test is to see if you can tie it in a knot or bend it in half.

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                            Your beans should bend in half without snapping like the one on the right

What you will often find from vanilla beans in supermarkets is they will snap or won’t be very ‘bendy’. This is often because they have been re-packed, and sitting on the shelf for months or years and not stored correctly. You can also have this same problem from beans you buy individually in jars sitting on a counter top. The jar is re-opened each time someone buys a bean and the beans are exposed to air. Good vanilla beans should also feel oily to touch. This is the vanillin which gives vanilla its aroma and taste.

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If you are buying beans individually you should look for longer beans as you are getting more for your money. However, buying two 16cm beans for the same price as one 18cm bean is going to give you a greater yield. Longer beans are far more expensive as there are fewer of them so you will pay a premium. My best advice is to buy your beans by weight and in bulk.

There is also a difference between the two main vanilla species which you can read about here. Basically, vanilla tahitensis has a sweeter aroma which is perfect for desserts.

If you are using your beans to make vanilla essence, vanilla paste, vanilla powder, vanilla extract or vanilla sugar you may be able to use lower grade or older beans.

There is also a difference between the two main vanilla species which you can read about here. Basically, vanilla tahitensis has a sweeter aroma which is perfect for desserts.

 

Storing Vanilla

Vanilla should be stored at around 18-20 degrees celsius out of direct sunlight, preferably in the dark. If kept in a cooler environment the vanillin may begin to crystalize, and you will notice white dots on the vanilla. This doesn’t cause any harm to the vanilla and once in a warmer environment the crystallization will disappear.

If kept in its original vacuum sealed packaging, vanilla will last many months or years. If all the beans aren’t used they can be vacuum sealed again, or stored in an airtight container however they will start to lose their moisture more rapidly. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer try putting the beans in a zip lock bag and rolling it up to get all the air out. All vanilla sold at Vanilla & Co is packed in vacuum sealed bags.

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Dried or hard beans still have many uses and should not be discarded. If immersed in hot liquid you will find the bean will re-hydrate and be pliable once more. Once split this is also the best way to impart the most flavor.

Written by Vanilla&Co . — March 21, 2013

Comments

Maria:

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and advice. That has been very helpful

September 17 2016 at 08:09 AM

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Vanilla & Co is a specialty food importer. We are one of the largest suppliers of gourmet organic Vanilla Beans in Australia. Selling to wholesalers and restaurants for over 12 years, you can now buy vanilla beans directly from us, the importer. We ship throughout Australia and Internationally.

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