Key difference: Vanilla essence and vanilla extract are both flavoring ingredients. Vanilla extracts are made by soaking the vanilla beans in an alcohol and water solution, mainly with vodka, as its flavor complements the vanilla. An essence, on the other hand, can have two distinct meanings. It can either be an imitation extract or it can be highly concentrated form of pure extract.
Essence and extract are both flavoring ingredients. Both are mainly used in a number or recipes to give them the flavoring and/or aroma of the original ingredient. Commonly available essences and extracts are of spices, nuts, herbs, fruits, some flowers, etc. The best known of these are extracts or essences of almond, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, lemon, nutmeg, orange, peppermint, pistachio, rose, spearmint, vanilla, violet, and wintergreen. Vanilla extract is the most common form of extract used.
Dictionary.com defines an extract as a substance separated or obtained “from a mixture by pressure, distillation, treatment with solvents, or the like.” While, as essence is “a substance obtained from a plant, drug, or the like, by distillation, infusion, etc., and containing its characteristic properties in concentrated form.”
While referring to food ingredients, an extract is made by combining oil from the ingredient with an alcohol. This creates a stable, longer-lasting flavoring agent. Alcohol is used as a binding agent for preserving the flavor’s strength. Ethyl alcohol and vodka are commonly used to make extracts, while, alcohols such as gin, brandy and rum may also be used.
Vanilla essence and vanilla extract are both flavoring ingredients. They are mainly used in a number of recipes to give them the flavoring of the original ingredient. The main difference between vanilla essence and vanilla extract is in the manner they are produced.
Vanilla extracts are made by soaking the vanilla beans in an alcohol and water solution, mainly with vodka, as its flavor complements the vanilla. The alcohol then absorbs the flavoring from the vanilla beans over the course of several months. Sugar may also be added to the solution, which results in a dark clear liquid. After several months, the clear dark liquid has a rich aromatic flavor and gives a mild vanilla flavor to the finished dishes.
This type of extract is called the one-fold vanilla extract, which is most commonly available in stores. There are also double and triple strength (up to 20-fold) vanilla extracts available, which are much stronger in flavor. Imitation vanilla extract are also available in the market. The imitation vanilla extracts are a wood by-product, which is usually made by soaking alcohol into wood that contains vanillin. The vanillin is then chemically treated to mimic the taste of natural vanilla. Today, vanilla extracts are the most common form of vanilla used, and the most popular type of extract used.
An essence, on the other hand, can have two distinct meanings. It can either be an imitation extract or it can be highly concentrated form of pure extract; the label on the bottle should specify which. Concentrated essences are essentially very strong extracts that can be twice to even four times as strong as normal extracts.
Whereas, imitation essences are chemically created substances that aim to replicate the flavor and/or taste of the original ingredient. These imitation essences usually do not have the delicacy of the natural flavor; however they provide a close enough alternative that is more convenient then actual ingredients or extracts, especially when the ingredients or extracts are not easily available or are too expensive.
Still, many people find that imitation vanilla essence tends to have an artificially produced taste that does not match with the original taste of the vanilla bean or with pure vanilla extract. These people recommend using vanilla bean, vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract, even though these tend to be quite expensive. In fact, vanilla is actually the second most expensive ingredient after saffron.
Moreover, at times imitation essences tend to be weaker than natural extracts. Hence, many people recommend doubling the amount of imitation essence used as opposed to vanilla extract.
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