distilling herbs

distilling herbs

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Kettle feast

Saturday the 2th of july I held a party celebration to inaugurate my new still.
To do so I used the lavender I picked in Ulvenhout the week before. The lavender (Lavandula angustifolia var.litte lady) was well dried in the past few days. 
The weight of the dried lavender was 2.7 kg. I had failed to weigh the freshly picked lavender, especially as the lavender was still wet from the drizzle.
The percentage essential oil is therefore only to be calculated derived from the dried lavender
With this amount of lavender  the still was filled 1/3
After closing of the kettle and fill the bucket with lukewarm  coolingwater it was the moment to lit the burner. Here we have had an official moment for toasting with homemade elderflower champ.   This super liquor made by Catharina tasted good!
For the distillation I  used a glass  Florentine vase. That would be easier for me during  the distillation, and it made the separation of hydrosol and essential oil visible for the guests.
It took over half an hour before the water in the kettle began to boil, and ten minutes later the first distillate started to run. At the beginning of the distillation, there was little to see
But gradually a thin layer formed of oil on the hydrosol in the Florentine vase.  From almost colorless to light yellow the essential oil was changing in color. Also the  fragrance tof the oil produced was changing during the destillation. 
What was remarkable was that while distilling the cold bucket of lukewarm water I had filled before did not need adding coolingwater. The top of the bucket was hot, the middele medium hot and the bottom cold.
Essential oil is transferred from the Florentine vase in a separating funnel
After two hours distilling when the party gaining momentum came, I turned off the burner.

The yield was about 70 mL. After transferring from the Florentine vase in a separating funnel ...
... after filtration there was remaining 60 mL of lavender oil.
after the distillation of lavender
To let the  kettle cool down faster, I removed the lid, and the water
was released from the boiler drain. The distillation was successful beyond my expectations and without having to regulate temperature and water supply
Now I know that if the still is completely filled with the dried lavender  200 mL of essential oil can be made. The party could really begin!

Testing the inox still

Before the new INOX still could be used you have to carry out a normal waterdestillation for testing and cleaning the still.
The cooling bucket could be connected to the tap gardena fittings.I
 filled the kettle with 3 buckets (30 liters) hot tap water
The coupling between the boiler and the cooling bucket was screwed together.
And the lid edge of the boiler was sealed with aluminum tape.

The lid does not close off steam in the boiler, so sealing with tape is important!

After all these preparations  the gasburner under the boiler was being lit.
After more than 35 minutes the water in the kettle was boiling and the thermometer rose to 100 degrees Celsius. The first distillate dropped from the cooling bucket.
For controlling the temperature of the distillate in the steam distillation I bought a digital thermometer. This themometer has a minimum and maximum alarm limit you can set.
Allowing me to keep an better eye on the temperature.  I found out that the cooling bucket has a large cooling capacity. 
I will thave to ake this into account when I an going to proceed a steam distillation. The bucket must   be filled with tepid to warm water before I start distilling.
I had now for the first time the possibility to use an essencier, this is a sophisticated Florentine vase which can separate oil and hydrosol from each other.
This separation can be set continuous during the distillation. I expect that I can use  the essencier because the new still has enough capacity.
The test was successful! Now a can run a real steam distillation.

A new INOX still!

Last year I thought about a new to build still,  with a bigger capacity for making more essential oil.    I  purchased a pan of 150 liters. The pan should be the basis of the distillation kettle
 designsketch  (steam) distillation boiler and cooling bucket, capacity 75 liters plant material

That was the beginning of a project that is now successfully completed.

First I thought about the design and sought examples of stills. The examples below are professional stainless steel (INOX) stills.

English model:

 French model: http://www.alambic-inox.com/materiel/alambic.html

After I had made the design I contacted an experienced stainless steel welder .
That was quite a quest. I ended up with Roy Lemmen and make an appointment.http://lassersmetaalbewerking.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

Roy has extensive experience in boilers and was enthusiastic about this assignment.
 Here are some pictures taken in his workshop

steamholes in the lid

top welded on the lid  


The difficult part was the cool bucket. The spiral in the bucket to be mounted was made by a specialist found by Roy. The delivery of the spiral has taken quite some time, but the results are worth it.

distilling kettle top with lid and thermometer socket 1 / 2

  mid-grid in the distilling kettle

The distilling kettle is diveded in two parts by a grid. In the lower part the water boiling will generate the steam. The upper half (75 liters) is for the plant parts.

cool bucket

The cooling bucket has an input and an out-let for the cooling water wich can be closed with a crane.

The spiral runs from  1 / 2 inch thread and can be linked on the still. All parts are maded of high grade INOX.

cooling coil in the bucket

.Now it needs testing with a water distillation!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

distilling pine and douglas fir

The first May week was also due to weather, an excellent opportunity to return to distill. In January I was started distilling pine.


On Thursday, May 5 biked to the  Chaamse bossen for cutting pine and Douglas fir.
Before that I got permission from the forester to do so.
 These were tiny little pine trees that had come up spontaneously along a bridle path. 
Of the saplings I have cut young inflorescence branches with needles and cut the stem and placed in the ditch next to it.

This I continued until I had collected a full folding crate
I also have the Douglas fir trees cut from a number of medium and low tree branches. Cut off small twigs with needles. Also from this species I have collected a folding crate.
I started distilling one day after on Friday.  
The branches of the pine were cut into smaller pieces.
And weighed an amount of 1.5 kg ..................
....................... which could fill the alembic completely.

I started the distilling. Soon came the first oil. With this distillation, after reading a few books by Jeanne Rose (http://www.jeannerose.net/), I also focused on making hydrosol. My starting point was to make from 1.5 kg of pine up to 3 liters hydrosol; the distillation process was run slower.
I used empty wine bottles with screw caps  to collect the hydrosol after I cleaned them thoroughly.
After this I distilled again 1.5 kg of  pine. Sunday, May 8, I continued to distill the Douglas fir.  I distilled twice an amount of 1,5 kg of  fine cut Douglas fir.
 I have filled 6  (properly cleaned) bottles with the hydrosol.

During the distillation the oil was not directly comming over  like the pine. But gradually during the distillation process. After filling three bottles (750 mL) with hydrosol. oil was still comming so I went over distilling for another hour to increase oil yield.


Scots pine, Pinus sylvestrus: 3 kg - 6 liters hydrosol and 6 mLessential oil  (0.2%)
Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii: 3 kg - 5.5 liters hydrosol and 12 mL essential oil (0.4%)
Regarding the literature data, I could only find pine:

Pinus sylvestrus: needle branch inflorescence from 0.1 to 0.8% pine needle from 0.5 to 3.0%
 Douglas fir after distilling
Therefore I consulted Robert Seidel of the Essential Oil Company (USA), how you can achieve a higher yield of oil.  Robert has been a distiller for quite a while now and has its own company and recently he is focusing on distilling coniferous trees.
Robert Seidel;  summerschool Syros Greece 2005
He mailed me tback hat he uses branches with a maximum diameter of 1 inch and chattered them with  a chopper.  This plantmaterial is distilled until no more oil comes on, and then after one night to leave in the alambic is being distilled again.
Robert Seidel http://guerilla-distiller.blogspot.com/ 
With this method, he ensures that the wax coating to the needles disappears and is thereby more oil can be released by distillation from the needles.  Resulting in a higher yield of oil. Something to try  myself!
I have measured the acidity(pH) of the hydrosol. According to Jeanne Rose is a good hydrosol has a pH of 5 (weak acid) or slightly lower. 
The pine hydrosol had a pH of 4.4 and when I measured the spar hydrosol  I found a pH of 4.2.
Now find a purchaser who needs some freshly made hydrosol!