The major variations between Grades of vanilla beans stem from two key factors: moisture content and appearance.
Grade A-1 beans are very dark in color, pliable and moist with an moisture content ranging from 30%-35%. These are the highest grade vanilla beans offered in the industry. A-1 beans are great to split lengthwise and scrape out the “vanilla caviar” inside the pod (the pod can be saved and used for infusions).
Grade A-2 beans are dark in color, with slight reddish hues or stripes in parts of the bean. The moisture content of these vanilla beans range from 25%-30%. A-2 beans are great for infusions, extract making (split them at home), or to split open lengthwise to scrape out and use the “vanilla caviar” inside the pod.
Grade B (or Extract Grade) have a deep reddish-black coloration, and up to half the pods may be partially or fully split or have cuts along the bean. They are aromatic, but a noticeably drier than the other Grades, and have moisture content range from 15%-24%. Grade Bs are useful for extract making, infusions, or grinding.