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Why Does Vanilla Make Food Smell and Taste So Good, But Tastes So Awful From the Bottle?

Vanilla beans are the seed pods of a shiny green orchid and one of the most expensive spices in the world. Vanilla is so popular it’s now found in many foods we consume every day — from ice creams to chocolate to salt and sugar — but what is so special about it that makes it such a staple ingredient?

The answer lies in its unusual properties: vanilla can be used as both a food additive and as an aromatic essence. As well as having strong, distinctive flavour notes, vanilla also has an intensive aroma that can be potent enough to attract pollinators from up to 100 feet away! This powerful aroma has led some people (particularly those who enjoy smelling vanilla) to use it as a perfume and cologne.

Vanilla is a fragrant plant, and the seeds are the source of its distinct flavour. To extract the essence of vanilla, the pods are smashed open and the aromatic oils released. The thin, milky liquid that remains inside the pod can be used to flavour foods. There is no set amount of extract you need to add when cooking with vanilla — one teaspoon or less of pure vanilla should do — but it is important not to overdo it as this will cause a bitter off-taste in food.

If you’re a fan of the taste of vanilla, but hate the idea of using food to flavour your drink, try adding a vanilla pod or two to your mug or glass. Brewed for a few minutes with freshly boiled water, vanilla will often give hot drinks an aromatic lift.

How is vanilla extract made? Vanilla extract is actually very easy to make at home; you don’t need any special equipment—just some beans and good quality vodka.

Vanilla is a fairly strong flavor, so it can be a bit overwhelming when concentrated. But you’re mostly tasting the alcohol. You can make your own extract by soaking vanilla in vodka, in case that gives you an idea.

The beans contain about 6% moisture, give or take. I’d figure that this moisture is mostly water, but at any rate, the volume of liquid is much smaller than the mass of beans. So if we have 100 g of vanilla extract, that works out to be 10 mL of vodka and 0.6 g of vanilla per gram of extract.

The table below says that (dry) vanilla beans contain between 0.5% and 2% vanillin, or 0.2-0.4% vanillin per gram bean weight (the values are averages). This means it takes roughly 8-16 g of whole beans to get 1 mL of vanilla extract; a little less than half a bean will do it.

Vanilla Beans % vanillin by weight 0.5 5 1 4 8 2 4 16 3 5 24 4 6 32 5 7 40 6 8 48 7 9 56 8 10 64 9 11 72 10 12 80 11 13 88 12 14 96 13 15 104 14 16 112

The basic equipment needed to make vanilla extract is: a few empty vodka bottles, some clear glass jars or other bottles, and a box grater. The measurements here are given in milliliters (cubic centimeters).

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That alcohol is vastly diluted in the recipes you normally use vanilla in. A percentage of it (but not all) might also cook off. (It’s a myth that all alcohol cooks out of recipes.) There’s also usually sugar in those recipes, and other masking flavors.

Vanilla extract is around 35 percent ethyl alcohol, which has a harsh, biting flavor.

Whiskeys and other distilled beverages contain even more alcohol, of course (usually 40 percent), but they are lovingly produced by time-honored flavoring and aging processes that soften the harshness.

“Pure vanilla extract,” in order to be labeled as such, must be extracted from real vanilla beans.

But the chemical that gives the beans most of their great flavor and aroma is vanillin, and chemists can make vanillin a lot more cheaply than the vanilla plant (an orchid) can. Synthetic vanillin is used commercially to flavor baked goods, candies, ice creams, and such. It’s identical to the natural chemical, and is the main ingredient in imitation vanilla flavoring.

Real vanilla extract is so much more complex than just plain vanillin, however, that it doesn’t pay to buy the imitation stuff, especially since you use so little of it and it keeps forever. More than 130 distinct chemical compounds have been identified in true vanilla extract.

Even better for some applications is a whole vanilla bean, obtainable for a few dollars in an airtight glass or plastic test tube. The bean should have a flexible, leathery texture, rather then being dried out and hard.

The vanilla “bean” is not a bean, by the way; it’s a pod. Beans are seeds, whereas pods are fruits that contain seeds. The vanilla flavor and aroma are mostly concentrated in the pod’s seeds and especially in the oily liquid that surrounds them, so for the most intense flavor as a recipe ingredient, slit the pod lengthwise with a sharp knife and use the seeds, scraping them out with the back of the knife blade.

The pods are also aromatic and flavorful, however, and should not be discarded. Bury them in granulated sugar in a tightly sealed jar for a few weeks, shaking the jar periodically. The sugar becomes infused with the flavor of vanilla and is great in coffee or for flavoring baked goods.

Why is vanilla extract not drinkable?

Vanilla extract is regular vanilla extract, and is not meant to be drunk.

The basic vanilla bean is expensive but it doesn’t need to be. A pod or two of beans will do just fine and you won’t sacrifice flavor or scent (which can be great additions).

If you want a little extra kick and want it to be drinkable, don’t worry about extra flavors, use alcohol-free vanilla extract that only adds a hint of vanilla, and doesn’t add extra sugar as well. You can find it at many grocery stores in the baking aisle (in the spice section).

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How do you make your own vanilla extract? First, get some vanilla beans. Even better, get a real vanilla bean; it’s likely to be tastier and less sugary than most commercial extracts.

Then, place the vanilla beans in a bottle. Some people fill up their bottles with vodka or whatever alcohol they want to use first, then add the beans and cap them with a lid. I just went ahead and put my whole jar in the freezer and then added my vodka.

The general rule of thumb is that you need twice as much alcohol as beans when making your own extract but I have seen different opinions on this topic (read why).

How do you make vanilla extract taste better?

This is the tricky part, because it just needs to be done in a fancy way.

You want to infuse the alcohol with vanilla and make it “smell better” in your mouth. It’s a good idea to chill your concoction before jarring it up, so that vapors can escape from the liquid and you can smell them. Vapors are more pleasant when you cool them down, so ice is great for this (in fact, an icy fresh-vanilla drink is a great treat).

It usually takes 2 weeks to get vanilla extract good enough for me to use; I’m impatient. Start by freezing a full vanilla bean. I had a few beans left, so I put them in my freezer and let them freeze solid.

When it’s frozen and smooth, whack it with a hammer. The frozen-log should break into little pieces, which you can then use to grate the bean itself. You don’t want any big chunks of bean; all you want are little bits, like teeth, that you can scrape off the bean with your finger or the back of your knife. The result should look something like this:

Scrape as much of the bean out as you can with as little damage to its skin – some is good for infusing alcohol.

What happens if you eat vanilla extract?

If you eat vanilla extract, don’t worry. It really isn’t that toxic to eat, and most people will feel fine.

In fact, you might be a little disappointed to find that the whole reason for eating it is that it doesn’t taste as good as it smells. It’s not because of the alcohol content; your body can process a lot more alcohol than you’ll ever get into your mouth by eating vanilla extract.

It tastes bitter and has an awful aftertaste – the flavors are just a lot stronger than they ever appear in cooking or baking recipes.

You can use it as a vanilla sugar, though. Add a little water to your extract (for example, “1 teaspoon extract to 1 tablespoon water”), heat it up to dissolve the sugar, and pour into warm cupcakes when you need a little extra vanilla flavor. This is sometimes called a “ice candy” or “drop candy” for the way it looks when you pour it into the cupcakes.

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Can vanilla extract get you drunk?

Unless you were planning on drinking vanilla extract, you shouldn’t try getting drunk off of it. It’s very strong stuff and will make you sleepy, but not tipsy.

It will make you sleepy. A side effect of vanilla bean pod extract is its sedative effects, which are intensified by the alcohol in the extract. The good news is that it doesn’t really affect your “drinking ability” or anything else; it just makes you a little more tired than usual when you drink the shots of vodka that are supposed to be added to make the whole process work.

But if you really want to get drunk off of vanilla extract, try using real vanilla beans. The alcohol content is a lot higher in the pods than it is in the extract and gives you the same feeling of drunkenness.

Vanilla extract frosting?

Absolutely! I’m a big fan of vanilla frosting and have been since I was in middle school. A good ice cream cake uses about 12 ounces of icing, so that’s about 2 cups, or enough for 10 servings. It’s a soft, spreadable consistency to create more manageable layers (for example, 1 cup icing for 3 cup frosted cake).

Can vanilla extract get you high?

Vanilla extract is not a drug, even if it smells like one. You can also use vanilla oil (which is less alcoholic than vanilla extract) in a vaporizer or oil burner to help relieve stress and anxiety and to help you relax. Vanilla oil is also great for headaches, especially if you rub a few drops on your forehead.

You can find plenty of good vanilla oils on Amazon – just make sure that anything you are wearing when you inhale it is either unscented or made of natural materials (organic cotton, for example).

Will vanilla extract show up on a Breathalyzer?

It can. The alcohol in vanilla extract is strong enough that it will show up on a breathalyzer and most experts would be able to smell it on your breath, too.

How many calories are in vanilla extract?

Vanilla extract contains about 8 calories per tablespoon. It doesn’t have much fat or carbohydrates in it, but a little sugar is likely added during the manufacturing process (a 25 gram/1 oz serving has 1 gram of sugar). The carbs are mostly from sugar. It also has potassium, chromium, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, and riboflavin – all of which are good for you.

Vanilla extract is a great way to add flavor to your vanilla-flavored cooking – whether you are using it to make a homemade cake or a homemade ice cream. It adds tons of flavor and really helps the taste of your dishes shine. Homemade vanilla extract is also a great way to make sure you aren’t buying alcohol to add some of your own extract.

Vanilla extract is very easy to make, with only two ingredients and a lot of alcohol. You can make it in your own home with just two jars and a few basic supplies. If you have the time and the tools, you can crank out enough vanilla extract for baking that will last you at least 6 months (and save enough money that it makes up for your time).

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