Want to learn how to make stevia extract from a few simple ingredients? The process is very similar to preparing any herbal tincture and can be achieved in a variety of different ways.
Typically, using an alcohol, like vodka or brandy, as a stevia leaf solvent is the most popular way to make homemade liquid extracts. We'll share a couple ways to do this using vodka for both a raw tinctured stevia as well as a heated non-alcoholic concentrate.
However, stevia extracts can also be created from pure water and glycerin utilizing several techniques depending on your personal preferences.
Most commercial stevia liquid concentrates are made using a combination
of water and glycerine, containing very little alcohol or are
alcohol-free. We personally tend to make our extracts using mostly water and some glycerin as opposed to alcohol-based solutions.
The key to making a good stevia leaf extract is in how long you let it tincture. Stevia requires a short alcohol tincturing time as compared to other herbs and roots. When the leaves sit too long in the alcohol menstruum, the solution can loose some of the sweet components and may develop a residual aftertaste and strong bitter flavor.
Stevia leaf extracts, over the past few years, have become a popular alternative to glycemic sugars for those on a low sugar diet. You can find them in many forms and flavors usually available in 1-2 ounce dropper bottles. They are convenient for adding sweetness to teas and beverages and can also be used with other natural sweeteners in various recipes and are, of course, excellent for sweetening desserts.
Recognized as a valuable sugar alternative, stevia has a very sweet taste yet no absorbable sugar content or calories because of the way the steviol glycosides are metabolized. Using stevia concentrates or whole leaf powders with other sugars like coconut sugar, maple syrup and raw honey, helps to lower the total glycemic index when used in recipes. This may be especially significant for diabetics, overweight individuals or those prone to yeast infections.
Learning how to make stevia extracts is a very satisfying experience and a good way to regulate the quality of your ingredients used. They can not only taste just as sweet as any commercial brand, but are also an upgrade nutritionally speaking, especially when sourced from whole green stevia leaves.
Most all brands utilize highly concentrated and refined extracts of the leaf and, although these are a definite upgrade from the standard artificial sugars, like saccharin and aspartame, they are not exactly created from whole plant elements.
The other thing to factor in when deciding to make your own homemade-style liquid is the considerable savings you will achieve as a result. A two ounce bottle of organic stevia solution can cost anywhere from between 9-15 dollars. When you make the liquid from scratch, you can literally make up to 10-20 times that amount for the same cost or less, depending on materials used.
We usually make our solutions in pint size jars or 3oz bottles, as a little goes a long way as far as dosage. This means that you will have a back stock of liquid that could potential last you for several years. Alcohol tinctures will preserve for many years, while water or glycerin-based stevia's have much less of a shelf life. For this reason we typically use 2-3 ounce jars when using water or glycerin as they don't last as long.
Moreover, stevia liquid concentrates can be additionally flavored to your liking by adding in any number of herbs, flowers and spices when creating your tinctures or extracts.
There are several ways to make your liquid stevia, which can be used by the drops or dropper-full in drinks and recipes. To create these solutions you can basically choose between three different solvents or combinations of all three:
These substances will dissolve the plant material or powder and hold it in
Below we have several recipes on how to make stevia extract using these assorted menstruums utilizing either fresh stevia, dried leaves, ground leaf powder as well as white stevia sugar.
Alcohol tinctures can be created using either the fresh, dried or powdered green leaf or refined extracts. We tend to use fresh and dried leaves only when making alcohol-based solutions.
The green powder and white crystalline extracts are not our personal favorites to tincture, but can be effectively used to accomplish the same results. They do however require less extraction time, usually about 24 hours, to produce a very sweet end result. The green leaf powder can be harder to remove completely from the alcohol as it creates a residue that is difficult to filter out.
The alcohol acts as a solvent to extract the sweet components. We use vodka but you can also use other liquors, such as rum or brandy.
Alcohol-based extracts have a shelf life of 4-6 years, which is one of the reasons it is commonly used for tincturing herbs. Alcohol creates very potent solutions, extracting both medicinal and sweet qualities from the leaf.
Tincture concentrates go through the same extraction process as the straight tinctures, but also employ the use of heat to "concentrate" the stevia sugars and evaporate the alcohol content. There are pluses and minuses to this procedure. For those sensitive to alcohol, you won't have any in your drops of liquid, but the down side is that heating the stevia destroys a lot of its nutritional content. It really depends on what is more important to you specifically, as you will be sacrificing one for the other.
The measurement requirements are fairly loose when it comes to making stevia tinctures, the more leaf you use the sweeter it will obviously be. We generally try to fill a pint size jar full of fresh leaves or use about 3/4 of a pint jar of dried leaves as they have less water content. Alternatively, you could also use both fresh and dried leaves in the same tincture, if you only have a small-sized plant.
To concentrate the sweet qualities and remove the alcohol content you can heat the filtered tincture over a low flame for 20-30 minutes in a glass pot. This will create a thick dark and sweeter syrup-like consistency. It is important not to boil the alcohol as it will reduce some of the sweetness. Alcohol concentrates won't last as long as straight alcohol tinctures, because the alcohol acts as a preservative. They will usually have a shelf life of up to three months or longer when refrigerated.
To make a stevia liquid solution using straight water, we tend to use either the green powder or a white powdered extract. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Green leaf powders are higher in nutritional components and are a whole food sugar that is potentially better for the body long term. However, these powders, ground from the dried leaves, do tend to have an strong aftertaste.
This dark green version can be made by infusing the powder in hot water or making an unheated solution, depending on your preference. We prefer using freshly ground dried stevia leaves and opposed to purchased pre-powdered leaves.
The white stevia sugars, like the one from Omica Organics, dissolve better in water and don't need to be filtered out, plus they are more palatable for some people. You also don't need to use as much per recipe as they are highly concentrated in steviol glycosides. This type of liquid concentrate is very simple to make and does not require a hot water infusion.
Although this variety is closer to manufactured stevia liquids, it is much cheaper to make yourself.
When making water based stevia solutions it is sometimes good to use a little bit of alcohol or glycerin to preserve it.
To make glycerin stevia tinctures we use dried leaves but you can also use the fresh leaf, powder or white extract. Vegetable glycerine, or glycerol, is a clear, odorless liquid with a sweet taste and the consistency of a thick syrup. It is commonly used among herbalists as an alcohol replacement when tincturing herbs. It is a 3-carbon sugar alcohol similar to xylitol and the erythritol sugar found in Lakanto sweetener.
Using glycerine as a solvent, instead of alcohol, might be more appropriate for those with alcohol sensitivities. Glycerine-based liquid stevia generally has a shorter shelf life than alcohol, but will usually last a year or more especially when refrigerated.
Because it is soluble in water, it can also be used as a preservative when making water-based solutions. When purchasing glycerine it is important to use high quality organic glycerine derived from plant fats, not animal fat like tarrow. (Source) Mountain Rose Herbs has one of the best we have come across.
It is also possible to add various flavor filled herbs and spices to homemade stevia extracts. This is very easy to accomplish by simply incorporating them into any of the recipes above before the tincturing process.
This may include the natural flavors of cinnamon stick, orange peel, star anise, fennel seed, vanilla bean, lavender blossom, cacao bean, rose petals and fresh mint leaves. Alternatively you can also use food grade essential oils or naturally flavored extracts.
We always promote growing your own foods and superfoods whenever possible and there is nothing quite like harvesting your own fresh stevia to make your tinctures and solutions.
The stevia plant is well tolerated in many semi-arid climates above freezing temperatures. It is an easy plant to grow and is naturally resistant to many potential pests and diseases. Because the seed is harder to germinate directly, with about a 10% success rate, we usually advise purchasing a seedling start or using a cutting from another plant.
Sometimes starts are available at local nurseries, depending on where you live, but they can also be ordered by mail. The leaves are harvested after the summer months when they are at their prime. It usually dies back with the first hard frost, but leaves will develop at the base of the plant the following year if temperatures don’t get too far below freezing.