The Curing Process of Vanilla Beans

Dr. Daphna Havkin-Frenkel

Bakto Flavors, LLC

Edison, NJ


The prized flavor of cured vanilla beans is the world most popular flavor, used in foods, beverages, and cosmetics. The vanilla flavor is obtained by curing mature-green vanilla pods (beans), a process for converting flavor precursors to their final flavors, glucovanillin to vanillin for example. Curing is initiated by a Killing stage, a process aimed at disrupting cell and tissue organization to allow contact between previously segregated reactants, using heat, freezing mechanical damage and other methods. Killed beans are then held at around 50 C and high humidity (Sweating stage) to drive enzymatic and non-enzymatic processes, such as oxidation leading to the expression of the complex vanilla flavor.


To date, around 700 flavor components have been identified, chief among them is vanillin. In traditional curing Sweated beans are sun-dried in the open (Drying stage), a lengthy and labor-intensive process accompanied by some flavor loss to the drying environment. This is followed by a Conditioning stage, entailing holding dried beans in dry darken conditions to bring the flavor signature to completion. A new working concept makes use of mechanical drying at concrete temperature, as replacement of the traditional Drying and Conditioning processes. This method, combined with mechanized Killing and Sweating, is significantly shorter and cheaper than the traditional curing process. Importantly, this approach was shown to result in high quality cured vanilla beans. This new industrial curing method was already implemented by some operators and is expected to gain traction, because it provides high quality and cheaper beans, and the consistency of a product from controlled mechanical process rather than variability of environment-governed curing proses by the traditional method.

Dr. Daphna Havkin-Frenkel has unique qualifications. She holds a BS and an MS in Agriculture to a Ph.D. in Food Science and an MBA from Rutgers University. Dr. Havkin-Frenkel has over 25 years of experience in the area of flavors, mainly vanilla. She has published extensively in the area of vanilla biotechnology and has been invited to worldwide symposiums as a speaker on the subject. Daphna organized the first international congress on vanilla in Princeton, NJ in 2003, and the second in Cannes, France, in 2004. She has also run a vanilla course/program at Rutgers and other universities around the world. In the past, Daphna divided her time between Rutgers University, doing research on the development of new vanilla products, and Bakto Flavors, manufacturing and marketing a new line for the gourmet and cosmetic industries. Today, she is CEO of Bakto Flavors and travels worldwide to help producers grow, cure, extract, and develop new products from vanilla. Over the years, Daphna has acquired in-depth expertise on FDA regulations for vanilla, working with companies to help them understand how to prepare and label their vanilla products in food.