Sunday, December 20, 2009

Vanilla Extract Project: Failure

So, I went to check on my vanilla extract project and found it to be a failure.

Oh yeah, they look fine from far, but look closer and you'd see this:

Um... what? Is that mold in 80 proof vodka??
(I made the image a little smaller so you don't have to see the detail in its gross glory.)

Just like that, $50 down the drain. I don't really know what went wrong here but I made this little image of some possibilities:

I'm still surprised that mold can grow at all in 80 proof vodka. I accidentally knocked one of the bottles over without any spillage so I don't think it's the airtight issue. Although, it looked like a lot of recipes I found online used mason jars. It doesn't really make much sense for it to grow mold just because it wasn't covered all the way, especially since only the submerged part grew. And the vodka? It's vodka.

I'm thinking it's the Rodelle beans. What do you guys think? I don't know what else to change for the next time I try this.


  1. How gross! At least you discovered it before you gave them away!

  2. I've made this before. Basically what I do is fill a mason jar completely with whatever alcohol I have on hand. Brandy works wonders! You should slice the beans in half or just chop them up roughly. (I usually use 6 beans to 2 cups of alcohol) and cover completely with brandy (or any 80-100 proof alcohol). Keep the jar in a dark cool place. Give it a good shake everyday for 8 weeks. You may have to add more alcohol to cover the beans every now and then. When making tinctures (extracts) you have to keep a sharp eye on your brew to ensure everything is covered. Hope this helps! It is possible you didn't fill your bottles enough or shake them. I'm sure it would work next time if you planned on giving it another go. I would also suggest using mason jars for ALL extracts being made and THEN poor the finished product into decorative bottles. This eliminates any problems that may occur by using bottles first rather than the jars.


  3. I'm sorry this didn't work out. It seemed like a great idea. I hope you figure it out for next time.

  4. Hi Shanna - Don't worry, it's not mold - your project is not a failure at all. This is exactly what happens when you soak any type of vanilla bean in alcohol. Rodelle's beans are great. Due to the alcohol, the skin of the bean starts to break down and the seeds of the vanilla pod come out of the skin. Here is another example of what happens:

    Keep going with your project - you'll probably want to add more beans to the vodka. Technically, you'll want to do about 11-12 beans per 750 ml of alcohol to make extract inside of vanilla infused vodka.

    Are you planning to give the bottles away as gifts?


  5. Innnnnteresting. Better luck next time!

  6. :( sorry to hear about the money wasted... did you follow a recipe? Boo.

    On a lighter note, hoping you had a very merry little Christmas...

  7. Mold grew in vodka?!? I've only seen it done with the beans being chopped and fully covered (similar to waht Tash said).

    Good luck with the next attempt!

  8. I cannot remember if you sterilized the bottles? I would run the mason jar through the dishwasher to sterilize it before putting anything in it..


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