Alembic for making essential oils and flower waters
It is called Alembic (al-ambic) and it is a distiller from copper. Do you know what I will be using it for? Correct! For plant waters and essential oil distillation 🙂
There are two types of distillation: regular and steam distillation.
In the regular distillation, plants are placed in the pot with water directly and heated quickly. It seems it is better to soak them in the water 1 to 2 days (according to my guide to distillation I got with my Al-Ambik)
In the steam distillation the plants hang over the water and the steam flows through the plant material and thus releases essential oils and other substances.
My alembic can be easily used also for steam distillation, as it has a long “neck”, where I can put plants over the water.
Indeed, distillation apparatus can look different, but this one is also very nice to look at! And it seems that copper has some special antibacterial properties and is one of the preferred materials used for distillation pots.
Here, I drew for you a small scheme of how the steam distillation in alembic works:
I add some photos and observations:
I tried to distill lavender and lemon zest, although lemon essential oil is extracted by pressing, I heard that distilling it gets rid of photosensitizing substances (again, not sure if this is true, did not check yet).
The distillation takes few hours in order to get few decilitres of distillate (by this I mean water with essential oils), so you definitely need a system of cooling which uses running water.
I placed the pot on the fondue stand and heated it with gel for fondue.
Essential oils are the first to come, indeed mixed with flower water. Then even if you distill longer you won’t get more essential oils. There was more essential oils from fresh lemon zest than from dried lavender but this was expected.
It is good to catch the drip out of the distillate into the pots with bottleneck so that it does not evaporate. Do not expect to get a lot of essential oils, it is really just a very thin layer on the top. However, you can still use the flower water for making your cosmetics or soaps, or even for cooking!
Well, distillation of essential oils and flower waters is quite a craft on its own and there is a lot of things I have to learn yet.
There are also different types of distillers, before I tried distillation using a pot, a lid and a lot of ice, but that I will share some other time 🙂
And where to buy alembic?
In the US: