I have a black stout fermenting right now. I added about 8oz of cacao powder in the boil and I'd like to add some vanilla extract, to taste. Can this be done before bottling? Should this have been added in the boil (for future reference)?

  • I've heard that vanila (and many other extracts) are damaged by boiling temperatures and lose most of the flavour, and that it's better to add after any boiling/high temperature cooking will take place. I suppose you could add it now, during fermentation (not sure what the result will be) if you don't want to wait until bottling. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 20:54

5 Answers 5



Some 'adjuncts' (vanilla, coffee, juniper, other alcohols) can be added to the end of the boil but I would say most adjuncts should be separately sanitized, pastuerized, or boiled and then added to secondary after transfer from primary rather than added to the end of the boil.

Vanilla extract in particular would experience significant boil-off if added to the boil. It is ~35% alcohol. If you are adding vanilla beans, that's a different story. You need to find another way to sanitize vanilla beans (I'd suggest crush them and mix with vodka).

If you are adding something that is ~30%+ in alcohol content, you probably don't need to sanitize or boil it. That percentage of alcohol should stay bacteria free on its own. That's why that bottle of rum that you opened in 2005 hasn't molded or gone bad.

If you are adding an adjunct that is not alcoholic, you should consider using a method to sanitize it. Your choices, from most conservative (safe) to least conservative: boil for 5 or 10 minutes; pasteurize (place in heated water @ ~160F) for 5 to 10 minutes; soak in vodka prior to addition (overnight is my rule of thumb); spray with sanitizer (I don't like this option). You kind of have to decide how 'dirty' the object is, whether it is going to be crushed up before going into the boil, etc. to decide what is right.

I recently added 3T of pure vanilla to a stout. It isn't ready so I can't tell you how that amount worked out in the final product. However, we recently sampled the secondary and found the vanilla pleasant and not overpowering. I found ~2.5T (tablespoons not teaspoons) as a suggested amount from several websites. YMMV.

Here are some of my rules of thumb: Alcohols: vanilla, grand mariner, rum, bourbon. Don't boil them or pasteurize them! Add them as is, preferably from sanitary containers. If you are paranoid, you can sanitize the lip of the bottle.

Oak chips: soak overnight in vodka.

Honey: pasteurize @ 160F

Fruit is whole 'nother question...

Hope that helps.

  • Nice work Jeff! +1 for sure
    – Ryan Shdo
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 1:48

I have added flavoring extracts to several beers. I always do it at bottling/kegging time. My advice with extracts is to err to the side of using less. One beer in particular turned out to be almost undrinkable with an overwhelming extract flavor. Do you have a pipette or other accurate method of measurement? Make sure to use it, and write down how much extract you used for future reference.

  • I've never used extract, but it sounds nice. How much do you use in a typical 5 gallon batch? I have a chocolate stout that might benefit from a little extract lift.
    – mdma
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 13:47
  • Yep, I have an eyedropper to transfer the extract. Should I just add a bit, stir and taste? Will the bottle fermentation do anything to the vanilla taste?
    – DorkRawk
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 17:24
  • @mdma: I have found with chocolate extract that which brand you use is important. Smell them to get an idea of the impact they'll have. The second time I used chocolate extract, I used 10ml in a 10 gallon batch. This should be a good starting point. DorkRawk: I was more concerned with measurement than transfer. Is your eyedropper graduated? Yes, I'd advise adding a known quantity of extract to a known quantity of beer and scale up from there. Taste changes after carbonation, but you should get reasonably close. Again, be sure to write down how much you use so you can adjust in the future. Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 22:27

A good way to get some vanilla flavor is to just get a vanilla bean, split it down the middle and put it right in the secondary. I've done this many times and works great.


I made a vanilla stout and I found that 2T of this vanilla extract was too little for a 5G batch. Next time I make it I'll double that amount. The beer was excellent after two weeks of bottle conditioning, but by four weeks the vanilla was almost imperceptable.


I'm in the process of making my first beer that contains vanilla. I bought a pack of 8 beans for $4. I cut two of them down the middle and placed them in the boil for the last 5 minutes. I cut the other six up and partially smashed them. They are soaking in 4.5oz of vodka and I will be filtering them and adding the liquid when I place the batch in secondary. I figured they would fare better than using extract during the boil, so that's why I chose them over using the extract. I'm pretty excited for this batch!

  • sounds like a lot, never done it myself so can't say but wow
    – Ryan Shdo
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 1:50
  • 1
    8 whole beans in one beer?!? WOW. That is going to be a liquid vanilla-delivery-system and not a beer. I love vanilla so I'd be up for it, but be aware that this is WAAAYYY more vanilla than recommended. I did 2 whole beans in a pumpkin lager and it was a perfect vanilla punch.
    – GHP
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 13:45
  • I, too, LOVE vanilla. I'm making a brown ale with a lot of chocolate grain in it. I did take a small taste just before pitching the yeast, and the vanilla was definitely there. It was pretty tasty. I heard from a few sources that vanilla flavor fades quickly with time, and due to poor planning on my part (vacation) this will be going into secondary for about 3 weeks before I can get home to bottle it. I'm going to cold crash it for a few days and store it in the bottles for another 20 days before opening. Also, I'm filtering the beans from the vodka and adding just the liquid to the beer.
    – jsmith
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 14:16

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