Vanilla is generally sold in 2 or 3 different grades. The grade of a particular vanilla bean is determined according to the size, moisture level, and appearance of the bean.
As a buyer of vanilla, the grade you select depends on what you intend to do with the bean. The difference in price is not very great, and what difference there is is based on how many such beans there are in the harvest.
Simply put, Vanilla grades are not related to the quality of the bean at all. A Grade A bean is not a better bean, it is simply better suited to a particular purpose.
A premium quality vanilla bean, no matter what the grade will be intensely fragrant, a bit oily, and free of contaminants or mold. A bean that does not meet these standards will not be offered for sale.
Choosing a Vanilla Grade
The choice of which grade to buy is a matter of how you intend to use the bean.
- Grade A beans are the best selection for any recipe that calls for the use of the vanilla caviar. These beans are the softest, plumpest beans, and so will have ample quantities of pulp inside. Grade A beans are also the bean of choice in any application where the appearance of the bean itself is important.
- Grade B beans are best for use in making extract: they have a lower moisture content and therefore are a more concentrated source of vanilla flavor. Grade B beans are selected for appearance too, so would be the bean of choice whenever the bean itself is on display, such as in a vanilla extract kit.
- Extract Grade beans are the bean of choice for professionals who need a high-quality source of vanilla flavor without the requirement that the beans be pretty. For example, if you wanted to make vanilla paste, extract grade beans would be a good choice. This grade of bean is usually not available as it is purchased in bulk by a few of our wholesale customers.
Our Vanilla Grading Standards
Every producer of vanilla will have their own standards they use to grade their vanilla. We produce 3 grades of vanilla, based on internationally-recognized standards:
- Grade A: these beans will have the best appearance: they will be whole, straight, unsplit, free of blemishes, and a minimum of 16cm in length and 3.7g weight. They will have an approximate moisture content of 30%.
- Grade B: these beans are also selected for appearance: they will be whole and straight, but some minor splitting is allowed. The minimum length of these beans is 12cm with a weight of at least 2.8g with an approximate moisture content of 25%. They will be supple, though generally not as soft as the Grade A.
- Extract Grade: these are the beans that did not measure up to the appearance standard of grades A and B. Beans that are not straight, too small or too split. Extract grade beans must nevertheless meet our standards of suppleness, fragrance, and general quality.