How to Store Vanilla Beans
Gourmet quality vanilla beans should be flexible, ideally with an oily sheen, and they should smell rich and fragrant.
It helps to keep the beans in the heavy plastic packaging they arrived in when mailed. You can then put the beans and packaging in a glass or plastic jar or box.
Store in a cool dark place like a cupboard away from the stove or, even in a closet. If you live in an area that is both hot and humid area, the beans can be stored in a glass jar without the plastic packaging. Beans are most comfortable when the temperature ranges from 60 degrees F (15.5 C) to 85 degrees F (29 C).
Don’t store in the refrigerator or freezer! Although some customers have reported success, we don’t recommend it. The beans can dry out or rot depending on the humidity in the refrigerator. They typically become hard and the oils will dry out in the freezer.
Depending on how long Bourbon or Mexican beans are stored, they may develop small vanillin crystals, which are sometimes confused with mold. Take one or more beans outside to the sunshine. If they glitter in the light, you have natural vanillin crystals, which means they’re extremely high quality beans. The crystals are edible.
If, however, the beans smell badly and the white, powdery substance doesn’t glitter, it’s mold. You can “rehabilitate” the beans if the mold hasn’t permeated all the beans. First, separate out any beans with mold from the clean beans. Wipe the beans thoroughly with a paper towel or clean cloth. Now, wipe them very carefully with a damp towel. Allow the beans to dry completely and place them in a clean freezer bag and store them separately from the uninfected beans. If the mold reappears, they should be thrown out.
Sometimes you will see brown streaks on the packaging. These are the volatile oils on and in the vanilla beans. You do want to make sure that the beans aren’t sweating in the packaging because the room where they’re stored is too warm or too humid. Conversely, you don’t want too dry an environment or the beans will dry out. Even if beans become dry over time, they will rehydrate if they are put in a warm liquid. For instance, you can still use dry beans by heating them in cream or milk if you are making ice cream, custards, puddings, etc. They can also be used for making extracts. Very dry beans can be ground in a clean coffee or spice grinder. Remove the tips at each end of the vanilla bean before grinding for best success.