Understand the different Vanilla Grades

How to choose the right Vanilla Grade for your need?

Imagine stumbling upon a fantastic cookbook that's bursting with delicious recipes, especially those featuring your beloved ingredient, vanilla. You carefully select a handful of recipes and decide to order vanilla beans online. However, when you reach the sales page, you find out there are different varieties and regions of beans, along with various grades. Suddenly, the excitement from the new cookbook turns into overwhelm as you question, "Is one bean better than another for different recipes?"

I won't leave you pondering any longer. The answer is, "yes." The various grades of vanilla beans are each ideal for different uses, though they can be substituted in a pinch.

So, what distinguishes Gourmet Vanilla Beans from Grade A or Grade B vanilla beans, and why aren't they suitable for all recipes? Let's explore these differences a bit further.

By keeping the same SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) from 1 producer, we can shrink the different grades of vanilla beans to mainly two key distinctions:

  1. Moisture
  2. Appearance

Now, let's delve a bit deeper into these distinctions.

A 'Gourmet' and Grade A Vanilla Bean possess a significantly higher moisture content (30-33%) than Grade B Vanilla Beans (25-30%). Consequently, the flavor in a gourmet and Grade A Vanilla Bean is more diluted, but it transfers to the dish much quicker. 

Grade B also called 'extraction grade' vanilla beans. As the name implies, extraction grade vanilla beans are commonly used for making vanilla extract. This is due to their lower moisture content, resulting in a highly concentrated vanilla flavor. Therefore, ounce-for-ounce, Grade B vanilla beans provide more of that sweet and earthy flavor, but only if steeped in liquid for an extended time period.

Renowned chefs typically prefer Gourmet or Grade A vanilla beans in their cooking because the higher moisture content allows the vanilla flavor to infuse rapidly. Whether crafting a savory cream sauce or a delectable dessert, Gourmet or Grade A beans are the preferred choice for quickly infusing flavor into a dish.

But how can you distinguish between the two grades of vanilla beans by sight alone?

In simple terms, Gourmet and Grade A beans are the more aesthetically pleasing. They are free from imperfections, with a dark, chocolatey brown color that may occasionally exhibit reddish hues. They are mostly uniform in size, longer than extraction grade, and visibly oily. Due to their moisture level, around 30-33% they are plump and more pliable.

On the contrary, Grade B beans are slender and dry to the touch. They typically have a reddish-brown appearance without an oily sheen. With a moisture level around 20%, they are more likely to split or crack if bent due to their dryness. Imperfections such as splits, cracks, or sunburns almost always categorize beans as Grade B.

Grade A beans are often labelled 'prime' vanilla beans that mostly has lighter weight than a Gourmet Bean on the same Size that signalized higher Vanillin Content and Seeds Quantity in the Gourmet Bean. 

The labels for different grades of vanilla beans can be misleading. Although Gourmet and Grade A may sound more enticing, it isn't necessarily the better choice. Always consider what you're preparing and the time available for infusion.

Now armed with knowledge about each bean's qualities, you're ready to experiment with new recipes using your beloved spice, Vanilla Bean.

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With this newfound knowledge, which grade of vanilla bean will you choose, and what delightful creation do you plan to make?

The Sweet Symphony of Vanilla
Origins, Varieties, and Culinary Delights