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Traditional Alembic Pot Still


Traditional Alembic Pot Still

Copper Alembic with Lavender field

For Making Hydrosols from Plants in Your Garden

Frequently asked questions

The design for the Alembic distiller goes back approximately 2000 years.
Credited with the design is a Jewish woman from Alexandria, Egypt. Maria was the alchemist's name. She has been credited with many and varied designs for apparatus used by alchemists to practice their art and science. Among Maria's designs is the water bath distiller, this apparatus is memorialized as the "Bain Marie" in her honor.

The Alembic distiller was used in the separation process, A necessary step for those experimenting with certain types of alchemy. The Spirit of the plant (essential oil and aromatic components) was separated in this fashion from the Body (fibrous material) of the plant. This apparatus is still valid for the very same purpose today. You can make hydrosols and small amounts of essential oils from the plants you grow in your garden. Hydrosols are also known as "Flower Waters".

Making hydrosols is a simple process.


Copper Alembic distillation unit

Plant material (peppermint leaves, lavender flowers, pine needles etc.) is placed in the retort ("pot") along with water. It's best to have the plant material free floating in the water. If packed with too much plant material , you run the risk of burning your plant, resulting in very poor quality hydrosols. Plant material can also be packed into the onion.

After filling, the onion is placed on top of the retort. To seal the joint between the retort and the onion against steam leaks, the traditional method is best. Make a dough from rye flour. Some will make the dough to the consistency of paste, and smear it over the joints. Others will make a dough as if to make bread. The dough is then rolled into a rope. The rope is then pressed over the joints to make the seal. If a steam leak is discovered, it is easily plugged with more dough. You must use rye flour, other flour will crack when dried by the heat of distillation.

The retort with onion is then place on a burner. Stove top or electric hot plate. For making hydrosols, the water must be boiled. The Bird's Beak is then attached to the condenser using the pipe fitting attachedThe condenser is then filled with cooling waters. You will note the "serpentine" inside the condenser. The serpentine is a tubular copper coil. Steam produced in the retort travels through the Bird's Beak and enters the serpentine coil. The coil is surrounded by water, which will cool the steam inside the serpentine. Once the steam is cooled, it reverts back to it's liquid state. The waters flow from the tube at the bottom of the condenser. Capture the hydrosols in the container of your choice. You may wish to filter the hydrosols. For this purpose, a coffee filter and a funnel will do the trick.

Parts of the copper alembic distiller

These copper Alembic distillers are made in the traditional fashion using riveted unions. In the factory, the unions are covered with a mixture of linseed oil andrye flour. DO NOT scrape this mixture off. This will not effect your hydrosols. Your very first distillation should be with a mixture of rye flour and water. Add approximately 1 pound of rye flour and water to the retort. Boil the water and distill the mixture for about 20 minutes. Immediately after the distillation, flush the interior of the retort, the Bird's Beak and the serpentine coil with water. Don not allow the water and rye flour mixture to dry. If a leak in the riveted unions should occur (this is very rare) the problem is easily remedied with a mixture of rye flour and egg white. Simply make a paste and plug the leak on the inside of the retort.

In your waters you will find water soluble fragrant compounds that have been distilled from your plants. You may also find small amounts of essential oil floating on top of your waters. The hydrosol can then be used in your laundry water, in the steam iron, and for making your own refreshing fragrant sprays.

Alembic distillers are available in 3, 5, 10 and 20 liter sizes.

These 3, 5, 10 and 20 liter Alembic Distillers are complete with a thermometer

Thermometer on your alembic distiller

The Essential Oil Company is a direct importer of fine hand hammered copper Alembic distillers, we handle all Customs fees, import and airport taxes.

When you purchase from ready stock, you do not need to deal with Customs authorities.

For shipments directly from Portugal , the purchaser is responsible for all taxes, freight and Customs duties.

Download instructions in PDF

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