Vanilla beans are essential in many recipes. The rich aroma of this tropical fruit can take your favorite desserts to a whole new level. But when you shop for these beans, you will find different varieties. This includes Grade A and Grade B beans of vanilla. While both types come from the same vanilla pods, they differ significantly.
If you want to know more about the grades of vanilla beans, you are in the right place. We will dive deep into this Grade vs. Grade b vanilla beans comparison. This way you will know everything about their uses in cooking, prices and many other aspects.
Table of Contents
What are Grade A Vanilla Beans?
Before getting into the key differences between these vanilla grades, you should know that grading vanilla is based on specific factors. These are mainly the looks and moisture levels of the beans. Grade A can be further subdivided. There are beans categorized as grade A-1 and grade A-2. But what exactly are Grade A beans?
These are simply beans with higher water weight. So, they do not look very dry due to the increased moisture level. The average moisture levels in these beans range between 25% and 35%. This type of bean carries many other commercial names. It is known as gourmet, black, or prime beans.
These beans are not harvested till they are ripe. This means reaching a length of 17 cm. This is necessary to get a bean full of vanilla seeds and sufficient levels of vanillin.
So, based on this definition, Grade A-1 beans have higher levels of moisture that range between 30% and 35%, while Grade A-2 have lower levels. Regardless of moisture content, you can identify these beans by their extremely dark color with some reddish stripings.
These beans are highly prized in the cooking world, not just because of their higher vanilla sugar content. They are easy to cut open and scrape out their seeds. These look like vanilla caviar.
What are Grade B Vanilla Beans?
Grade B vanilla beans are typically drier; their moisture levels are below 20%. This type works best as vanilla extract. They are highly resistant to breaking and scraping. Despite all these unattractive qualities, these beans are widely used. Their affordability is the main reason behind their widespread.
You will love the Grade B variety if you want a moderate-quality vanilla extract in large quantities. It won’t cost much, and there will be many beans to get your homemade vanilla extract. However, the Grade B variety is not desirable to smell. Moreover, It has limited uses.
It doesn’t go without saying that Grade B vanilla is not the worst type of beans. You might come across vanilla extracts with poorer quality than those of grade b.
Differences between Grade A and Grade B Vanilla Beans
The entire process of making vanilla might not matter to many people. Still, the nature of recipes may require a specific type and a more complex vanilla flavor. This is why you need to know the differences and your cooking needs.
These two products are very different in their appearance. The Grade A variety has a moist and plump shape, whereas the Grade B variety looks dry and thin. Moreover, grade B vanilla beans can look cracked.
The Grade A vanilla bean pods have a very dark color that you might see as black. In reality, however, they are extremely deep brown. Moreover, there are a few deep red strips. Grade B vanilla beans are slightly lighter in color, but they are still brown. They are also totally free of red striping.
The sizes of both prime beans are different. The plump vanilla beans are longer and more prominent. They can exceed a length of 17cm. The other vanilla species are only 10 cm long.
4. Moisture content
This is the other significant difference between these two varieties. Grade A has way more moisture that reaches 35% of its weight. The other product can have an average between 12% and 20%.
There are better Grade B beans with a moisture level of 25%, but these are not very common in this variety.
Grade A is a multi-purpose variety. This type of vanilla is produced to be used in many recipes. These natural vanilla beans are used to extract fresh vanilla bean caviar. This caviar can be used as a topping for ice cream and flavoring cupcakes.
Aside from adding to sweet recipes, this type of vanilla bean can be used in aroma therapy. Grade B vanilla beans have fewer uses. They are more commonly used as extracted vanilla beans.
Grade A vanilla beans are more expensive than Grade B varieties. Grade A bean pods are not categorized as affordable. You can pay around $25 for a couple of gourmet vanilla beans in a tight container.
7. Beans Count
When you shop for either Grade A or B vanilla beans, you typically buy them by the pound. However, a single ounce of the first product will give a different number of beans than the second. An ounce of the former will only give you around 7 beans, whereas the exact weight of the latter will provide you with around 21 beans.
The difference in the bean count is associated with the difference in their water content.
There is a big difference between Grade A and Grade B vanilla beans regarding reusability. Both can be reused multiple times in the vanilla extract-making process. But the difference lies in the number of times.
The Grade B variety can be reused around 20 times, while Grade A beans can only be reused around 10 times.
Grade A vs. Grade B Vanilla Beans: are they the same?
Grade A and Grade B vanilla beans are somehow similar but not identical. Both give a natural vanilla flavor, but the vanilla flecks of gourmet pods are richer and more intense.
The extracted vanilla beans, on the other hand, have a less sharp taste and aroma. They are also dry and do not contain caviar. Yet they are more affordable and easier to obtain.
Grade A beans are the most common type in restaurants and top-notch bakeries. Grade B, on the other hand, is a great solution for DIY vanilla extract enthusiasts.