Author Topic: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?  (Read 2879 times)

Online Lazy Ant Brewing

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How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« on: April 13, 2016, 02:49:49 PM »
I bought a package of vanilla beans to put into a brown ale.  My plan is to soak them in some vodka for a week or two and add them after primary fermentation is completed to the bottling bucket. I'll taste a small amount added to a sample of the fermented beer and then scale up the amount to add to the batch just prior to bottling.

My question: Is there some special way to prepare the beans before adding them to the vodka? Break them or peel them, or crush them? This is new to me and any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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Offline Pinski

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2016, 03:05:44 PM »
I like to split the beans and scrape the seeds and goo into a shot glass I'll usually chop the beans just a bit so they fit and add just enough vodka to cover completely.  Cover that with saran and set in a dark cupboard at room temp for a few days and the wonderful aroma will let  you know when its ready.  Has worked really well for me.
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Offline pete b

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2016, 03:30:11 PM »
Anything that exposes the inside of the bean: simply split, split and chop, scrape into liquid...
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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2016, 04:07:42 PM »
Personally I hate the effect of adding vodka to my beer.  I split the beans lengthwise, scrape out all the gunk inside and add both gunk and beans to a secondary and rack the beer onto it.  Since vanilla faeds quickly, I leave the beer on the beans until it's a little stronger than I think I want it to be, then rack and package the beer.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2016, 04:10:01 PM »
Personally I hate the effect of adding vodka to my beer.  I split the beans lengthwise, scrape out all the gunk inside and add both gunk and beans to a secondary and rack the beer onto it.  Since vanilla faeds quickly, I leave the beer on the beans until it's a little stronger than I think I want it to be, then rack and package the beer.


Same here. I'd rather use the alcohol in the beer to make a 'tincture'. I like that I can pull when it's just where I want, too.
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Online Lazy Ant Brewing

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2016, 04:17:03 PM »
For those of you  adding the beans to a secondary, I think it's a hassle sanitizing equipment to take repeated samples, risking oxidation and possible contamination.

I'll try the vodka first then see how I like it.

Thanks for your input.
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Offline blair.streit

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2016, 04:27:55 PM »
Personally I hate the effect of adding vodka to my beer.  I split the beans lengthwise, scrape out all the gunk inside and add both gunk and beans to a secondary and rack the beer onto it.  Since vanilla faeds quickly, I leave the beer on the beans until it's a little stronger than I think I want it to be, then rack and package the beer.
Denny send me a link if I'm asking you to repeat yourself, but can you tell me what you don't like about adding vodka? I've been playing around with tinctures here and there but haven't heard enough discussion about potential negative effects to feel informed on the subject.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2016, 04:47:20 PM »
Can't speak for Denny but it's just personal preference for me. I've never had an infection from dry hops, vanilla beans or coffee beans and I've brewed since 1992, and none of those get steeped in vodka. So the infection argument is a moot point for me, as well as an extra step. Though I realize you can dose a pint and scale up, I like the approach of adding something to secondary and pulling the bag when the flavor is just where I want. Much as some of the coffee aroma is lost from cold steeping coffee beans as compared to dry beaning in secondary, I choose to infuse the flavor of any addition directly into the beer with no middle man. Again, just personal preference.
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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2016, 04:59:02 PM »
For those of you  adding the beans to a secondary, I think it's a hassle sanitizing equipment to take repeated samples, risking oxidation and possible contamination.

I'll try the vodka first then see how I like it.

Thanks for your input.

I have never contaminated nor oxidized a batch by that method. You don't need to take repeated samples...one or 2 should do it.
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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2016, 05:04:06 PM »
Personally I hate the effect of adding vodka to my beer.  I split the beans lengthwise, scrape out all the gunk inside and add both gunk and beans to a secondary and rack the beer onto it.  Since vanilla faeds quickly, I leave the beer on the beans until it's a little stronger than I think I want it to be, then rack and package the beer.
Denny send me a link if I'm asking you to repeat yourself, but can you tell me what you don't like about adding vodka? I've been playing around with tinctures here and there but haven't heard enough discussion about potential negative effects to feel informed on the subject.

At least in my own beers, I can detect the alcohol heat from the vodka.  I know Drew is a big fan of tinctures, so maybe it's just my problem.  But since just tossing the vanilla (berries, mushrooms, etc.) works so well, I just don't see the reason for the vodka.
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Online Lazy Ant Brewing

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2016, 05:07:49 PM »
Thanks again.  Maybe I will try adding to the secondary.
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Offline Pinski

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2016, 10:31:33 PM »
add just enough vodka to cover completely.

~1/2 to 3/4 an ounce in 5+ gallons hasn't added heat to my big, dark beers.
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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2016, 03:45:19 PM »
add just enough vodka to cover completely.

~1/2 to 3/4 an ounce in 5+ gallons hasn't added heat to my big, dark beers.

I don't deny that it might be something in my method.  There are so many people who swaer by tinctures that it seems it must be me.  OTOH, I haven't found a need for them, either, so I don't really have any incentive to try again.
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Offline Pinski

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2016, 04:01:55 PM »
add just enough vodka to cover completely.

~1/2 to 3/4 an ounce in 5+ gallons hasn't added heat to my big, dark beers.

I don't deny that it might be something in my method.  There are so many people who swaer by tinctures that it seems it must be me.  OTOH, I haven't found a need for them, either, so I don't really have any incentive to try again.

Absolutely, if a less complicated method produces good results, there's no sense complicating things. 
What I find appealing about the tinctures is that I feel I get better extraction by "pulverizing" the beans a bit and soaking in the alcohol. Second, there is the debatable peace of mind that comes from the sanitizing properties of the alcohol. Third, when the tincture is added to the fermenter it is not in any way bound in a bag, so at least in theory I more readily achieve a uniform dissipation of the flavors with no surface area constriction. When I add vanilla, its dark beer, and I like to be intense initially so that I still get character as the beer ages. The last beer I made using this technique just netted scores of 43 and 45 so while I may be tool for bringing that up, I'm feeling pretty good about my process. YMMV.
Steve Carper
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Offline brewinhard

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Re: How to prepare Vanilla Beans?
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2016, 05:49:08 PM »
add just enough vodka to cover completely.

~1/2 to 3/4 an ounce in 5+ gallons hasn't added heat to my big, dark beers.

I don't deny that it might be something in my method.  There are so many people who swaer by tinctures that it seems it must be me.  OTOH, I haven't found a need for them, either, so I don't really have any incentive to try again.

 The last beer I made using this technique just netted scores of 43 and 45 so while I may be tool for bringing that up, I'm feeling pretty good about my process. YMMV.

I don't believe that is tool-ism. I do believe that it helps us as homebrewers to confirm we are headed in the right path with a recipe or process.  Some like to compete, while others are fine without. It is all a part of honing our craft and why else would there be a judge certification program then? Congrats on those scores, BTW. Did you get lucky with any medals on those?