I'm amazed at how superior your vanilla is!
- Des, The Grommet
I opened the bottle of your vanilla extract last weekend to bake some cookies and the difference in taste is extraordinary." – Judy

How Do I Store Vanilla Beans, Extracts, Powder, and Paste?

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Enough customers have asked us this question that I realized that although I’ve mentioned this information in passing in blogs, we needed a blog that addresses this important question. My hope is that this will assist all of you who aren’t quite sure about the best way to preserve your products.

Vanilla Beans
Gourmet quality vanilla beans should be flexible, ideally with an oily sheen, and they should smell rich and fragrant. A lot of people have been surprised when they first purchase vanilla beans from us as they’re accustomed to the dry beans in the tube or other packaging they’ve purchased from the supermarket. Very likely they were flexible and oily when they arrived at the market, but the low humidity and bright lights make vanilla beans dry out very quickly.

So how do you store them? It helps to keep the beans in the heavy plastic packaging they arrived in when mailed. You can then put the beans and packaging in a glass or plastic jar or box. Store in a cool dark place like a cupboard away from the stove or, even in a closet. If you live in an area that is both hot and humid area, the beans can be stored in a glass jar without the plastic packaging. Beans are most comfortable when the temperature ranges from 60 degrees F  (15.5 C) to 85 degrees F (29 C). Don’t store in the refrigerator or freezer! Although some customers have reported success, we don’t recommend it. The beans can dry out or rot depending on the humidity in the refrigerator. They typically become hard and the oils will  dry out in the freezer.

Depending on how long Bourbon or Mexican beans are stored, they may develop small vanillin crystals, which are sometimes confused with mold. Take one or more beans outside to the sunshine. If they glitter in the light, you have natural vanillin crystals, which means they’re extremely high quality beans. The crystals are edible.

If, however, the beans smell badly and the white, powdery substance doesn’t glitter, it’s mold. You can “rehabilitate” the beans if the mold hasn’t permeated all the beans. First, separate out any beans with mold from the clean beans. Wipe the beans thoroughly with a paper towel or clean cloth. Now, wipe them very carefully with a damp towel. Allow the beans to dry completely and place them in a clean freezer bag and store them separately from the uninfected beans. If the mold reappears, they should be thrown out.

One last detail. Sometimes you will see brown streaks on the packaging. These are the volatile oils on and in the vanilla beans. You do want to make sure that the beans aren’t sweating in the packaging because the room where they’re stored is too warm or too humid. Conversely, you don’t want too dry an environment or the beans will dry out. Even if beans become dry over time, they will rehydrate if they are put in a warm liquid. For instance, you can still use dry beans by heating them in cream or milk if you are making ice cream, custards, puddings, etc. They can also be used for making extracts. Very dry beans can be ground in a clean coffee or spice grinder. Remove the tips at each end of the vanilla bean before grinding for best success.

Vanilla Extract
Vanilla extract contains 35% alcohol by law, which translates to 70 proof. What this means is that extracts typically age and become more mellow and pure-vanilla-extract-h2flavorful over the next year or two, assuming you haven’t used it up already. Extracts do best in temperatures from 55 degrees F ( 12.8 C) and 80 degrees F (26.6 C) and away from light. Store in a cool, dark cupboard away from the stove or oven.

Why we use plastic bottles for extracts in pints, quarts and gallons. While glass bottles (especially dark colored glass bottles) are the optimal container to store extracts, from a seller’s point of view, this works well only in small sizes. Restaurant and bakery kitchens typically purchase vanilla extract in pints-to-gallons. If a glass bottle shatters in a kitchen, everything shuts down while the glass is cleaned up. Anyone who has had a bottle or drinking glass shatter knows how small the shards can be and how far those shards can travel. Commercial kitchens want everything possible in plastic to avoid this dangerous issue. As a result, we bottle pints, quarts and gallons in plastic.

The second reason we use plastic is because glass is heavier and more fragile than plastic. As a customer this means your package is more likely to arrive intact and for less money than if we used glass. Feel free to decant the extract into a glass container if you wish. The plastic is food grade, but it will keep as well in glass as in plastic.

Ground Vanilla Bean Powder
Store ground vanilla bean powder in the same way you would store vanilla beans. The ground powder typically keeps its flavor for at least a year if stored properly.

Vanilla Pastevanilla-paste
Vanilla paste is a combination of a triple strength extract and ground vanilla bean powder. Although it contains natural sugars, it does not have added sugar. As a result, it should be stored in the refrigerator once it has been opened. As long as the paste is kept in the original container, it will typically last at least a year in the refrigerator.

Natural Vanilla Flavor
Our natural vanilla flavor is a blend of pure vanilla extract and natural vanillin derived from plants other than vanilla. It should be stored in a cool, dark cupboard in the same way as pure vanilla extract.


Patricia Rain
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Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.
Patricia Rain
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Comments (6)

  • Yann


    How long does the vanilla extract stay good for – opened and unopened?


    • Patricia Rain


      In the US pure vanilla extract must contain 35% alcohol by law (Standard of Identity). This means that the extract is 70 proof. As a result of the alcohol, vanilla extract ages in the same way that Scotch, Whiskey, etc. age. It will continue to mellow and become richer for about two years. At that point it stabilizes. There is no expiration date placed on vanilla extract. My hope is, however, that you will use it and enjoy it in lots of recipes as this assists the smallholder farmers who depend on the sale of vanilla beans for their survival.


      • Patricia Rain


        Catrina, the Clear Vanilla from Wilton is not extract at all. It shouldn’t be labeled as extract due to Standard of Identity Laws. It is imitation vanilla made from chemicals in a laboratory. While pure vanilla extract will color frostings and cakes slightly, look for extracts such as ours, which contain no caramel coloring and you will have minimal coloring to white cakes.


  • Catrina


    What is Clear Vanilla Extract? I took some Wilton cake decorating classes and we had to use the clear vanilla extract so things like white cake will stay really white. Is it real extract? If so, how do you make it?


  • Sarita


    How can I turn the vanilla bean in to the white powdery form


    • Patricia Rain


      Sarita, you can’t as they are two different ingredients. Ground vanilla beans create a brown powder. Synthetic vanilla creates a white powder. If you want a white powder, you need to purchase imitation vanilla powder.


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Why do our customers love Rain's Choice vanilla?

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

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