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Grades of Vanilla Beans

When the curing process has been completed, vanilla beans are graded for quality. Beans are separated according to length, plumpness, color, shape, appearance, and moistness. Better quality beans demand a higher market value.

The qualities, or grades, of vanilla beans are as follows:

Whole, uniform, fine, fatty, oily pods. Deep, dark, chocolate brown in color. No defects, blemishes, or galls. Pleasant aroma, pliable with good moisture content, about 8 inches in length. The finest of all beans.

Similar in quality and characteristics to Prime grade beans, but slightly less fatty.

Slightly smaller than Prime and 1st grade, and not as fatty. Dark brown in color with a good aroma. About 6-7 inches in length.

The pods are not uniform; they are thinner, twisted, and not as pliable as higher grades. The skins tend to be harder with a low moisture content. Reddish-brown in color with numerous galls. Fair aroma; about 5-6 inches in length.

(Ordinary) pods may have numerous galls, are reddish in color, and have no distinguishing characteristics.

The lowest category which contains all pods that cannot be classified into one of the above categories. Pods are of varied lengths, are very reddish in color, and are hard and dry with low moisture content.

These six grades of beans are used to classify the Bourbon Madagascar variety. The Mexican grades are very similar to the Bourbon. There are six corresponding grades of "split" beans (beans whose skins have split during the curing process). Manufacturers generally use a mixture of several grades and, sometimes, a variety of bean types when making Pure Vanilla Extract.


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