What is the Vanilla Bean Co-Op?
The Vanilla Bean Co-Op is operated by our retail store at IndriVanilla.com. When IndriVanilla is ready to place an order for vanilla beans, we invite Co-Op members to also pre-order at a discounted price. The best prices we offer will always be through the co-op. We never have “extras” from pre-orders, because any additional beans we order are earmarked for IndriVanilla.com. The retail prices are more expensive, but the beans are vacuum sealed, and ship within about 3 business days, rather than the longer turnaround time of pre-orders.
What is the difference between a co-op and a retail store?
What is the difference between a co-op and a retail store? Vanilla Bean Co-Op members pool their money to make a large group buy when our retail store purchases vanilla beans. We collect preorders and then place one large order directly with our suppliers in the vanilla producing countries. These pre-orders can sometimes take several weeks to process and ship and are purchased “sight-unseen.” You need to have a little patience and trust for the Co-Op orders to be filled. When we receive the large group shipment we quickly inspect, sort and repackage the shipment to individual orders and mail them to you directly. We take cost and time saving measures (such as packaging individual orders in zip top bags) and turn those savings back to you in the form of lower priced beans. Co-Op members do pay a small “buy fee” with each purchase which covers our costs. In comparison, orders to the IndriVanilla.com retail site are filled with in-stock beans, vacuum sealed, and shipped within a few days. Because of the convenience, special packaging and quicker turnaround time, you pay more at the retail store. If you are the kind of person who likes to see what they are buying and need your purchases quickly, you’re probably better off using our retail store at IndriVanilla.com.
Where are you based and how did this all begin?
We are a small family-owned business in Hyrum, Utah, USA. Hyrum is a very small town located in the northern Wasatch mountains. Our retail site, IndriVanilla was created in 2011 and the Vanilla Bean Co-Op in 2018. In November, 2019, Sara Fifield Anderson bought the business and started working with vanilla bean suppliers from several countries. The Co-Op had roughly 2000 members and our first shipment of beans was made up of 103 orders. The growth of the Co-Op and expansion of our retail site started in earnest in early 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the coming year, the Co-Op grew to over 60,000 Beanies and Sara had to meet the demands while dealing with the challenges of the pandemic.
What Quality Vanilla Beans Does the Co-Op Offer?
We work hard to offer the best quality beans available. Most of the beans we sell are grade A, which means at least 13 cm long. If they are other than grade A, that will be indicated on the Co-Op order form or on the website. We do sometimes get shorter “extract grade” beans that are slightly less expensive, but make equally good vanilla extract. If you are looking for extra long beans, you can look for the “gourmet” length beans on the retail site.
We use fair trade practices, paying the asking price for our vanilla beans. We vet our reputable suppliers to connect directly with farmers. We avoid using “spice traders” and allow farmers and suppliers to set their own price structure so they can earn a livable wage.
How does a Vanilla Bean Co-Op order work?
Our orders are collected on a pre-order form. Open orders are announced on the Facebook group. The money is pooled and sent to a supplier overseas to purchase a bulk order of vanilla beans which are shipped to Sara. Sara and her team re-package the vanilla beans for each order and ship them via USPS. A tracking email is issued when the package leaves Sara’s house.
How do I place an order?
Ordering with the Co-Op is a 2-step process:
NOTE: The only payment methods we have for International orders are Square, PayPal, or requesting an invoice. Etransfer, a common payment method in Canada, is not available in the US.
How do I know if my order went through?
After you have submitted your form, Google should send you a copy of your order form (check your spam email). This is confirmation that your order has been submitted. Your payment method (PayPal/Square/FB Pay/Invoice) should also give you a payment receipt. Those two items are your order confirmation.
You can also use the individual order look-up tool, linked on the Vanilla Bean Co-op Resources Page which updates twice a day, so might need to give it a little time to catch up. Payments may not show up as matched for a bit longer.
What if I made a mistake on my order?
If you typed your address wrong or submitted too many order forms, you can make corrections through the “Individual Order Look-up” tool on the Vanilla Bean Co-op Resources Page. Click the box by an incorrect address and choose “edit.” If you have a duplicate unpaid order (it will be white) that you want to cancel, you can also do that there. If you have not paid enough, go ahead and submit the rest by the same method you used before. If the payment is not matched or overpaid, you can reach out to Kathryn Fifield Espenschied or Kristin Husbands Fifield for help getting that solved. Overpayments of more than $5 are refunded, but overpayments of $4 or less are listed as credits. You can use these credits toward future orders, donate them to one of our favorite causes, or reach out to an administrator for a refund. We ask you to reach out because it's a lot faster for us to manage it this way. We are absolutely NOT "keeping" your money and will issue a refund at any time, we just need you to request it.
Can I track my order?
You can watch the status of your order by clicking on the “Individual Order Look-up” link on the Vanilla Bean Co-op Resources Page. You will enter your email and a password of your choice to see the status of your order. The look-up site is updated regularly (but not instantly) so wait a day or two before checking again. Payments may take up to 7 days to reconcile and update to the look-up site. The look-up will show your order details including the shipping address you entered. You can update shipping addresses on this form. Your order line will turn green when we reconcile your payment and purple when we prepare your package for shipping. For other questions regarding payments or errors/typos on your order form, send a FB message to Kathryn Fifield Espenschied.
When your order ships you will receive an email from Indrivanilla@gmail.com with a USPS tracking number.
How long does it take for my beans to come?
Each order has a listed “estimated turnaround time.” This is listed on the order form and also on the Vanilla Bean Co-op Resources Page under “Co-op Order Status”. Some orders are true pre-orders where we purchase the beans before they are even harvested. These may take several months. Other orders may come more quickly, but you can expect to wait at least four weeks, usually more. This is the reason the beans cost less on the Vanilla Bean Co-op. Orders require patience. If you would like to get beans faster, you are welcome to purchase from the retail site at IndriVanilla.com.
Do you ship outside the USA?
Yes, we will ship Internationally and to APO/Military delivery (Military addresses are priced the same as US shipping). Shipping pricing is listed on the order form, but the rates for 2021 can be found on the chart below:
2021 International Shipping Rates
Amount Canada Rest of World
0-7 oz $9 $15
8-15 oz $11 $27
16-31 oz $14 $44
32-47 oz $17 $44
48-63 oz $24 $60
Is there a risk in ordering through the co-op?
We've worked with our suppliers long enough to generally know what to expect, but there's always a bit of inherent risk when purchasing something from overseas without being able to see or handle the product.
Here's some things that may potentially happen:
Things that will NOT happen:
Sorry, in the event that we get hit by a freak meteorite or get attacked by zombies, we can't guarantee we'll get you your beans. Pretty much every other eventuality, though, is covered.
What happens if my order is damaged or has quality issues?
We guarantee the beans will arrive to you without mold. If they do have mold on them upon arrival - the day you get them from the mail - take a picture and contact Sara Fifield Anderson and we will find you a solution (Either re-ship the beans or offer a refund). We ship via USPS First Class mail for all shipments less than 15 ounces, which does not have insurance, but is significantly more affordable than any other shipping option. Due to the lack of insurance, we will cover the beans if they are permanently lost or arrive damaged. Typically we will issue a refund if they are lost or damaged. If you have damage, please send a message right away. We will need photos, so don’t do anything to the beans until we have gotten back to you. Please note, the package your beans arrive in (usually a zip top bag) is not intended for long term storage so plan to take your beans out of the packaging as soon as they arrive.
What should I do if I didn’t get the amount I ordered?
We try very hard to make sure orders are accurate, weighing them at least twice before they go into the beloved purple mailer. All orders are filled using kitchen scales. By ordering you accept that the scales used are - to the best of our knowledge - accurate. We check the calibrations on them regularly, but they are still standard scales. Moisture loss is something that does happen (Especially in warmer weather). If you have beans that have lost more than ½ ounce per 4 ounces of beans in transit, contact Sara Fifield Anderson. If your order is short, you must contact the admin team for a solution prior to processing the beans. We will need photos and videos, so don’t do anything until we have gotten back to you.
What if my beans get lost in the mail?
If your order seems to be lost in the mail (Tracking has not updated for awhile), please contact your local post office first and file a missing package claim with USPS. If the package goes a full 3 weeks (6 weeks for International Orders) without a tracking update, contact the Admin team and we will look into it further. We have found that very often, as soon as we issue a refund, the package will arrive. It is much easier for you to send the payment back to us than it is for you to send back an extra shipment of beans. Rest assured, if your beans don’t arrive, you won’t be out the money. We will cover them. We ship via USPS First Class mail for all shipments less than 15 ounces, which does not have insurance, but is significantly more affordable than any other shipping option. Due to the lack of insurance, we will cover the beans if they are permanently lost.
What is the best vanilla bean?
No question about it! The best variety of vanilla bean is the one you have. Each variety is different. Some have more potent flavor, some have more caviar. Some are fruity and light and others have more depth. Each variety is slightly (or greatly!) different from the others. It’s fun to get to know each kind. Here's a link to a summary of bean profiles.
How many beans are in an ounce?
The size of each bean varies and there is no specific magic number per ounce. Some beans are short and plump, others are long and skinny. Due to these variations, it is hard to get a bean/oz estimate. Generally for long/luxury beans there are 5+ beans per ounce, and for shorter extract grade beans there are more than that. We have seen as few as two and as many as twenty in an ounce. Grade A beans tend to hover in the 8-12 beans per ounce range. Each bundle in this photo is one ounce.
What can you do with vanilla beans?
Make vanilla extract! Look further in the FAQ’s to get instructions. But don’t stop there! If you have whole beans, you can use the caviar (seeds inside the pod) in recipes such as vanilla bean ice cream, pudding, etc! Just scrape or squeeze out the caviar and add it to the recipe. You can put the pod back in alcohol to continue extracting, or use it to flavor sugar or salt. Let the beans dry and put them whole or ground in a jar of sugar or salt for 2-weeks or longer and you have vanilla sugar or vanilla salt. You can also completely dehydrate the beans and grind them into vanilla powder which can be used in place of extract in baked goods. After your extract is finished, you can re-use the beans to make a second batch of extract (it usually takes more beans for the second batch). Eventually, they lose their potency, but by then you’ve had a lot of vanilla love.
How should I store my vanilla beans?
Vanilla beans are an agricultural product and can spoil just like fruit or veggies if not properly attended to. Please plan to store your beans safely (not using the transportation baggie they are shipped in). We recommend submerging beans in alcohol - this keeps the beans soft and supple and prevents mold growth. Do not store beans in the refrigerator or freezer. You can also vacuum seal the beans which is not a permanent storage method (like alcohol) but will extend the shelf life for 6 months or so. We guarantee your beans will arrive without mold, but are not responsible if they go moldy due to improper storage.
Vanilla Bean Profiles
How many beans do I need to make extract?
The FDA requires 2.64 ounces of vanilla beans/bits per 750 mL (approximately 25 fluid ounces) of alcohol to define a “single fold” vanilla extract. As a co-op we recommend 2-3 oz of beans per 750 mL or 1 oz of beans for 1 cup of alcohol. A lovely extract can be made with slightly less beans but may take longer to come to a usable strength. Double fold vanilla is made using twice the beans to alcohol ratio and is a very deeply flavored and rich extract.
Alcohol is sold by fifths, handles, pints, gallons, and a lot of other measures. It can be confusing, especially for Beanies who don’t drink. Here’s a link that Kathryn Fifield Espenschied made up to help decide how many ounces of vanilla beans you need to make extract. You can find it here.
How long does it take?
There are a lot of variations that could play a factor in when your extract will be ready. If using the basic method of just dropping your beans in the liquor, it will take at least 4 months and up to 18 months. The longer it sits, the better it gets.
If using the hot method, where you heat the alcohol or warm the jars it could be ready in as little as 12 weeks, but still may take six months or longer. Shaking your jars regularly to agitate and mix the alcohol around the beans will also speed the process to some degree. Never heat your alcohol under pressure. This is not safe.
What is the best alcohol to use?
As a co-op we recommend 80-100 proof alcohol, which is the same as 40%-50% alcohol by volume. You should never use less than 70 proof (or 35% alcohol by volume), and it is not recommended to use higher than 100-120 proof. If you choose to use 190 proof Everclear, you will need to dilute it with distilled water or you may end up with crunchy dried out beans. For a non-alcoholic extract, you can use food grade glycerin. There are recipes in the files section on the Vanilla Bean Co-Op Facebook page.
Sara Fifield Anderson made a clever flow chart to help Beanies decide what kind of alcohol to use for making vanilla extract. It is especially helpful for those who do not drink and are not familiar with the nuances of different spirits. The chart and other resources are in the “files” section of the Co-Op Facebook page or you can link to it here.
Can I mix bean types or alcohol in my extract?
Sure! Your creativity is your only limit in mixing beans or mixing alcohol bases. As long as you keep your alcohol at 80 proof or 40% alcohol by volume, the sky's the limit. Mixed extracts will often have a greater range and depth of flavor as the different beans each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some suggest extracting the beans separately at first and mixing at the end but there really is no “wrong” way to do it.
What is a Beanie?
If you love vanilla beans, you are a Beanie. It is a term of endearment and one that we proudly claim. Beanies not only love vanilla beans and all things vanilla, but we love our fellow Beanies. We especially love sharing what we are doing with our beans and seeing what others are doing with theirs. If there is anything lovely or of good report about vanilla beans, we want to yak about it for sure.
How do I ask questions?
You’re in the right place! The FAQ section is where to go first to try to find an answer to your question. Next, do a search on the Co-op page by using the little magnifying glass icon and typing in a few words. Chances are, whatever your question is, it has been asked before.
If all else fails, post a question to the group and get ready for a ton of answers!
How can I get or give help?
The Vanilla Bean Co-op is a happy and friendly place. We depend on and appreciate any help you can give to your fellow beanies. We have a mentoring program in the Facebook group where you can either volunteer as a mentor or ask for someone to mentor you. Click on “Mentorship” on the top of the page. Respond with comments on the posts, but always remember to keep it kind.
Why was my post not approved or my comment deleted?
The Vanilla Bean Co-Op is a busy group and we have a small and wonderful group of moderators who help keep things organized and easy to read. We don’t approve every post because it would overwhelm the page. In order to keep the newsfeed more streamlined, we often tag you in a post where your question has been answered, or direct you to post your excitement in a place with others like it. Don't feel bad if your post is declined - we LOVE to hear from you! (Post a delicious photo of a vanilla treat for a sure-fire way to get approved. ;) )
Comments or posts that use foul language, are political, or hateful in any way will be removed.
What is a mother jar?
A "mother jar" is simply a big jug that has lots of beans and booze. Often smaller amounts of extract are poured out of the mother jar into smaller containers for day-to-day use while the large jug stays tucked away to continue the extracting process. When the alcohol level dips from use, more alcohol is added to top off the jar. The strength of the extract weakens briefly but continues to strengthen as it sits. Vanilla beans can be removed from the mother jar and scraped for caviar, or put in jams/custards etc. New beans are occasionally added to keep up the strength. Mother jars are often a higher ratio of beans:alcohol - like double, triple or higher folds. Search “Mother Jar” on the co-op page for more ideas from your fellow beanies.
Is vanilla affected by light?
According to the Merck index, vanillin, the aromatic chemical in vanilla, “slowly oxidizes somewhat on exposure to moist air” and is “affected by light” (Merck Index. 1976, p. 1275).
Vanilla beans should be kept out of direct sunlight and ideally stored behind a closed door.
How can I safely speed up the extracting process?
You do not have to heat the alcohol, but it will speed up the extraction process if you gently heat it before pouring it over your vanilla beans. It needs to stay below the boiling point of the alcohol to be safe.
Another method you may see people use is to gently heat their closed jars of extract in a warm water bath. As far as we know this method is safe as long as jars are not left unsupervised or placed directly on a strong heat source. A Sous Vide immersion circulator heats a water bath to an exact temperature (130 degrees for extract) and circulates the water around the closed bottles so they are gently heated for a few hours and up to 48 hours. NEVER HEAT ALCOHOL UNDER PRESSURE.
Do you split the beans when making extract?
It is not necessary to cut or split the beans. It will make the process go faster, but to preserve the caviar (seeds inside the pod) you can leave the beans whole and just submerge the beans in the alcohol. After scraping the caviar from a bean for use in a recipe, the empty pod can be put back into the extract to keep going.
We do suggest you keep the beans entirely submerged in alcohol. Ends poking out above the level of the alcohol are not making extract and have the potential to mold. You can fold or bend the beans in your jar to make them fit better.
Are your vanilla beans organic and/or fair trade?
Vanilla orchids are too delicate to tolerate synthetic management. Therefore, essentially all vanilla beans are organic. Due to the expense of getting certified organic, very few growers seek this certification since their growing methods wouldn't change. Our vanilla beans are organically grown, but not certified so. Likewise, we use fair trade methods, but have not paid to have an official fair trade certification. We always pay asking price for our products, which allows farmers to set their own prices and earn a living wage.
Abuse of group Admins is not allowed and will be met with removal from the group. Mutual understanding is required. We will try to give good customer service, but this is a co-op, not a retail business, so please do not abuse that privilege and the great prices you find here. Always read the directions on forms and follow them carefully. Kindness is always appreciated.
Weights and Measures.
All orders are filled using kitchen scales. By ordering you accept that the scales used are - to the best of our knowledge - accurate. We check the calibrations on them regularly, but they are still standard scales. Moisture loss is something that does happen (Especially in warmer weather). If you have beans that have lost more than ½ ounce per 4 ounces of beans in transit, contact Sara Fifield Anderson. If your order is short, you must contact the admin team for a solution prior to processing the beans. We will need photos, so don’t do anything until we have gotten back to you.
Lost Mail/Shipping info.
If your order seems to be lost in the mail (Tracking has not updated for awhile) please contact your local post office first and file a missing package claim with USPS. If the package goes a full 3 weeks (6 weeks for International Orders) without a tracking update, contact the Admin team and we will look into it further. We guarantee the beans will arrive to you without mold. If they do have mold on them upon arrival (The day you get them from the mail) take a picture and contact Sara Fifield Anderson and we will find you a solution (Either re-ship the beans or offer a refund). We ship via USPS First Class mail for all shipments less than 15 ounces, which does not have insurance, but is significantly more affordable than any other shipping option. Due to the lack of insurance, we will cover the beans if they are permanently lost or arrive damaged. Typically we will issue a refund if they are lost or damaged.
If you need to cancel a pre-order when the order form is still open, we can do that. If the order form has closed, it is too late to cancel your order as we have already made a commitment to the suppliers to purchase those beans. If you have an extreme situation (Job Loss, Sickness, Death, etc.), contact us, as some exceptions can be made.
All orders are filled in Sara’s home. She does her absolute best to keep allergens limited when vanilla beans are exposed- covering them before baking anything with flour, etc- and fill orders on a separate countertop away from any crumbs or other food items, but we do consume all allergens in our home, including gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, etc. If you are extremely sensitive to certain allergens, send Sara a Facebook message, and she will be happy to tell you more about the measures we take to prevent cross contamination so that you can decide if you would like to order or not. I guess the right declaration is “Produced in a facility that also produces wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, etc.”
No Reselling of Beans.
We do not allow direct reselling of beans purchased through the co-op. However, feel free to make things with your beans or vanilla extract and sell as those as you choose.