There’s a lot of talk in the culinary world about Grade A and Grade B vanilla beans. But, how can I tell which one is which? Does grade even impact taste or quality? The answer can be broken down into two key characteristics: Appearance and Moisture level.
By the end of this article, you’ll have no problem recognizing the characteristics of vanilla beans Grade A and Grade B vanilla beans. We discuss the application of both grades in culinary, gourmet dishes, vanilla extract, and sweet pastries. The vanilla beans in this comparison come from the Planifolia family, harvested in Java, Indonesia.
As a professional chef, manufacturer, or a consumer, having an understanding of the key differences between vanilla bean grades, undeniably will give you a substantial advantage next time you are shopping for bulk vanilla beans or single vanilla pods.
Vanilla Bean Grades Chart
Key Features of Grade A Vanilla Beans
Grade A vanilla beans are often referred to as gourmet or premium-quality vanilla pods. Overall, they are dark brown in color, oily, plump, and caviar-rich. This Grade of vanilla beans ranges from 6-8 inches in length and plumps a higher moisture content of up to 28%.
Wrap a Grade A vanilla pod around your index finger, and you will notice how flexible it is. However, if this test is done with Grade B, you will cause small cracks within the pod. It’s because the Grade A beans possess a higher moisture content compared to the Grade B vanilla beans. In other words, Grade B vanilla pods are dryer.
Fun Fact: the more vanilla oil (higher moisture content), the higher the vanillin content. Planifolia Grade A beans range from 2.25 – 2.5 (with high vanillin content, Planifolia vanilla bean is just as sweet as Madagascar vanilla beans or bourbon vanilla).
Gourmet vanilla beans are the prime ingredient in high-end recipes. This includes gourmet desserts, sweets, or custard at restaurants/resorts that cater to a more sophisticated clientele who want premium ingredients and an authentic vanilla flavor profile. In order to get the vanilla flavor, cut open the vanilla pod from end to end. Then, use the knife’s non-sharp side, scrape the caviar, and apply it to ice cream for a rich natural vanilla flavor profile.
Related article: How to Cut Open or Split Vanilla Beans
Retail Bulk Vanilla Beans For Sale
When you walk by the spice aisle, you notice the skyrocketing prices for 2 vanilla pods in a glass container (last seen for $23!). But what Grade are we buying at your local grocery stores? That is gourmet vanilla beans. As consumers, we get more from single bean pods, which is perfect for retail.
However, business owners do not typically use gourmet bulk vanilla beans for vanilla extract despite its higher vanillin content. Most of the time, Grade A vanilla beans are not considered extraction grade vanilla beans. Hence, it may not be worth the cost to produce a vanilla extract with Grade A bulk vanilla beans. This might happen simply by using Grade B bulk vanilla beans can result in the same flavor profile.
Equally important, if you’re trying to cut costs in making vanilla extract, shifting to Planifolia vanilla beans instead of bourbon vanilla beans/Madagascar vanilla beans is worth considering. It’s because the price of Planifolia vanilla beans is way lower than bourbon vanilla beans/Madagascar vanilla beans. The high vanillin content in Planifolia vanilla beans is a cost-effective way to incorporate the same heavy vanilla taste in your homemade vanilla extract.
Pro Tip: Even after cutting vanilla pods open, the vanilla pods hold the vanilla oil. Thus, dip the pods in alcohol and enjoy some homemade vanilla extract.
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Grade B Vanilla Beans Key Features
Grade B vanilla pods are often used for mass baking and are widely known as extraction-grade vanilla beans. You can expect its natural, earthy vanilla flavor profile and floral aroma to satisfy your expectations. Specifically, grade B vanilla beans range shorter in length (at least 5.5 inches), dark brown in color, and fairly less plump than gourmet vanilla beans.
As the extraction grade vanilla beans, Grade B vanilla pods contain lower moisture, between 20% – 24%, and hold a high vanillin content of 2.20. Thus, Grade B vanilla beans from Indonesia are the best option to make vanilla extract at home or in mass production where a vanilla flavor requires its presence to get its full flavor as a liquid based.
What Grade of Vanilla Beans Should I Use?
For gourmet cooking or baking, we suggest you apply Grade A bulk vanilla beans (high-quality vanilla beans). However, if you want to experience homemade vanilla extract or for manufacturing purposes, Grade B bulk vanilla beans (extraction grade vanilla beans) should be more than enough to get the vanilla flavor profile your customers are looking for.
How Many Vanilla Beans Per Kilogram (2.2 LBS)
As a high-quality vanilla supplier in Los Angeles, we frequently get asked from bakers and chefs who order vanilla beans in bulk, “How many vanilla beans are in one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds?”
Just like coffee or any other natural commodity harvested from the soil of this world, it is uncertain that every vanilla pod will be exactly identical. But we can assure you precisely the same weight, moisture content, and high vanillin content.
Approximately, 280-320 grade A and grade B vanilla beans weight to 1 kilogram of vanilla beans or 2.2 pounds.
Based on our 11 years of farmer relations, we have become one of the most reliable vanilla suppliers in the US. You can expect the highest quality vanilla beans in bulk with high vanillin content and higher moisture content in our online store. That’s why we cut the middlemen and supply directly to you.
We have helped many businesses cut costs on ingredients. For this reason, we can help you save on high-quality vanilla beans in bulk and other spices in bulk too. Visit our vanilla catalog or request a quote of vanilla beans in bulk today.