{How To} Distill Homemade Vanilla

****Updated with more info on Reusing beans for more than one batch of vanilla and the film at the top of my jars … scroll down for the info.****

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In my rabid searching of the Internet for fun DIY projects and inspiring projects I came across Bethany Actually’s tutorial on homemade vanilla which looked super easy and completely worth the effort.

Distilling homemade vanilla

I looked into the suggested link from Bethany’s blog about where to buy the bottles and decided to ask friends on facebook if anyone might be interested in ordering with me. Shipping was quite expensive for only 12 bottles so I figured if we could order a few more and disburse the cost we might be ahead before we even begin.

Thankfully I got 3 other friends, Donielle, Jill and Katie to combine efforts and order bottles together.

Then I found the vanilla beans on amazon and Katie and I ordered them to split since we only needed 20 beans for the vanilla recipe. We ended up getting 60 which left us each with 10 extra beans to use however we wanted … I added some into a cookie recipe, used them in my Raspberry Charlotte and still have some left over to use in baking. Yum!

SO … now that we have everything we need … let’s make some vanilla!

Distilling homemade vanilla

Gather your beans, vodka, and bottles.

Distilling homemade vanilla

And have a funnel and glass measuring cup near by.

Distilling homemade vanilla

I started by cutting all 20 of my beans into 3 parts each, then made 12 piles with the vanilla bean pieces for each bottle.

Distilling homemade vanilla

Put the beans into the bottles until all the bottles have their beans!

Distilling homemade vanilla

Distilling homemade vanilla

Measure 1/2 Cup Vodka into the glass meassuring cup and pour through funnel into each bottle, repeat until all bottles are full. Close with caps.

Distilling homemade vanilla

Distilling homemade vanilla

Distilling homemade vanilla

Distilling homemade vanilla

Distilling homemade vanilla

Place in a sunny sill to distill for up to 4 months.

Distilling homemade vanilla

Distilling homemade vanilla


**A few notes: Mine have been sitting in the sunniest sill of our apartment for about 2 1/2 weeks and are very amber in color already. They also have a small amount of film at the top and I’m really hoping that it’s just because of the denseness of the distilling vanilla in the sun and not because something green and unfriendly is growing. Right now, I’m going with it’s part of the process. I’ll let you know.**

UPDATE: The film at the top of my jar was just the teeny little vanilla seeds inside the beans collecting at the top (and bottom) and was nothing to be afraid of. I have since reused my beans for more vanilla. I found for this process I can only reuse my beans once (so I get two batches out of one jar with the same beans). Reusing them more than that and the distilling takes a VERY long time for the amber color to set in.

I’ve also heard that you should put the jars (to distill) in a cool, dark place. Which is the opposite of what I did/read when I did this the first time. In the end, I don’t know how much it really matters. Vanilla is still vanilla. It’s wonderful and taste amazing. I can definitely tell the difference in my baking.

21 thoughts on “{How To} Distill Homemade Vanilla

  1. Love the picture of the bottles in your window. It reminds me of those crazy specimens that my science teachers used to keep in their classrooms in high school!

  2. Still distilling wonderfully – the film at the top has nothing to do with mold or growing things – all is working out and looking good. They’ll be amber enough in time for Christmas cookies!!

  3. a friend told me that you can refill your bottles with vodka after you are done with the “first” batch and reuse your beans…have you heard of that??

  4. I hadn’t heard that – great to know! Once I’m done I’ll try it and see what happens. That’s a great way to get even more monies worth out of the vanilla beans!

  5. Not sure, Elizabeth – so sorry! I think if you googled it you might be able to come up with something – or you can always just make the vanilla but have a “do not use until” date on it.

    Hope that helps!

  6. We make our own vanila to use in our cereals. You can experiment with various “spirits”. I’ve had great, usable, results in only 6 weeks. And Yes you can “reuse” your beans, just the resulting batch will be a tad weaker.

  7. Hi,just to note that you performed an infusion. To distill you would have to have heated the alcohol until it evaporates and allowed the steam to condense. This would give a more colourless product, but unless you catch all the distillate would probably lose most of the vanilla flavour. Since vodka is so high in alcohol, there is very low risk of ‘unfriendly’ things growing.

  8. It appears by the looks of your bottles that you didn’t cut your beans open first and empty out the seeds like other recipes I saw online. Is that true? And if so, did it change anything?

  9. I just made my own batch — the recipe I found said to split the beans down the middle and just put them in.
    So used a paring knife to cut them, then I folded the beans in half and each 4oz bottle had 3 full vanilla beans in them.
    (I didn’t remove the seeds)
    I bought my beans off amazon (same link that you provided) and I used these bottles (http://www.containerandpackaging.com/item.asp?item=G057) with the coordinating black caps.
    So far, my vanilla has been looking good!

  10. Jodi, I got redirected to this blog from another recipe site and I’m excited to try this for Christmas gifts! One question though, would you leave the beans in the bottles as you gave them out, or strain them first? I’m just wondering what (if any) negative side effect there could be from using this in baking without straining? Thanks!

  11. Anthony – thanks for stopping in! I left the beans in the jars (and even reused them for another round of distilling) – I loved how it added a few beans to each recipe. Made the vanilla richer. If you don’t like that (think vanilla bean ice cream with the specks) then I would strain it – but there’s no harm in keeping them there.

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