How Vanilla Is Processed
When the beans come in to the Nielsen-Massey Vanilla plant in Waukegan, Ill., they are inspected by looking, touching, and smelling, and then released for production. They’re separated into batch sizes and, for vanilla extract, are sent to the milling machine, which splits the beans. The split beans are loaded into stainless-steel extracting tanks with a capacity of up to 1,300 gallons.
Water and alcohol are circulated over the beans, and the finished vanilla is filtered into one of the holding tanks to await bottling.
"We use a cold extraction process because the flavor comes from the essential oils and heat would burn off those esters. So, from bean to bottle is about three to four weeks and it takes 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans to make one gallon of vanilla extract," Matt Nielsen says.
"Vanilla flavor is a subjective thing. Most consumers like Madagascar Bourbon, while pastry chefs favor Tahitian vanilla. It all depends on the application," Craig Nielsen says.