Vanilla extracts: Alcohol vs Alcohol-free
There seems to be an ongoing fixation on alcohol-free vanilla extract in the raw food world. To one aspect of it, I can understand the approach to a sense of ‘purism’ of it, though, I find it somewhat over-emphasised and exaggerated, causing people to fanatically searching out of their way for it with very little understanding. So let me share with you what I have learnt from Rully, a lovely vanilla-expert-lady from the company I work for, whom I have been endlessly consulting (or annoying her) with, in choosing superior vanilla bean types for Q’s extracts and whole beans.
The development of alcohol-free vanilla extracts is really for those who cannot or do not wish to tolerate alcohol into their diets (i.e. halal labeling purposes). Alcoholic vanilla extracts do not mean they are inferior to alcohol-free ones; on the contrary, they are far more superior in terms of the extraction process as well as being the best carrier substance for its aroma.
Both versions undergo the same initial process of extraction using alcohol; water based solution in the extraction process is sometimes used for certain ingredients, however, using water solution on vanilla to extract it is almost as good as wasting it (kind of like.. having purchased a new clothing item and get it ruined the first time you wear it out. It’s heartbreaking). Where the processes of the two kinds differ, is in the finishing step. To make the extract alcohol free, a solution of propelyne glycol (or sometimes glycerol) is added. Then, there you have it.
The drawback in alcohol-free vanilla extract is the loss of its aroma. Try smelling the two together if you ever get the chance to, and you’ll notice the big difference.
So unless you really must (or wish), there is no real value in using an alcohol-free extract.
And if you really think about the servings of it..
Standard alcohol content in vanilla extracts: 35%
1 teaspoon = 5 ml = (*0.35) = 1.75ml of alcohol
1 tablespoon = 15ml = (*0.35) = 5.25ml of alcohol
Will you really be affected?