If you are working on a tile sink or other hard surface,
LINE IT WITH A TOWEL and also line your washing sink with some of that
plastic liner availiable from the grocery store.You don't want to
be amazed at how easy it is to break
LOADING THE BIOMASS FLASK
It's Ok to use any consistancy of plant matter in the
biomass flask™ with exception of powder. Powder may clump and cause the
bottom opening to plug, or it may just "fall in" and get into the boiling
flask. If you're distilling rosemary, for example, you'll be able to just
cram the flask full and distill!, because it's big and bushy. But if
you're using cut plant matter or finer consistancy material, you might
want to insert the little stainless steel screen disk that we provide into
the bottom of the flask, so the plant material doesn't clog the hole or
fall down it.
In any case, STUFF THE FLASK FULL!!
Assembling the backplate/support rod holder/ hardware
The backplate is provided as a heat-shield to prevent
line-of-sight infra-red heat from the hotplate from heating up the
reciever as the distillation process continues. Screw the back plate on
to the rear of the hotplate using the two #8 screws provided.
Clip the stainless steel rod provided into the spring clamp on the rear of the hotplate as shown, and then assemble the two clamps to the support
rod and placing them high up on the rod. Leave the screws snug but not
Place the square wire mesh pad centered on the stove
heater-coils, ceramic side up.
Putting the Glassware together
Ground glass joints
will freeze together if not properly lubricated!
3 small packets of
Silicone joint grease compound have been provided. Before
assembling any of the ground glass joints, it is recommended that you
first put a tiny dab of grease on the male end and wipe it into a line
using a toothpick or your finger. Then assemble the joint, twist it gently
into it's socket, rotating it at least one rotation to spread the grease
around. If you have the right amount, the joint connection will rotate
smoothly and become slightly "clear" to the eye. Too much grease- it will
spin with very little friction and you'll have grease mushing out
everywhere; too little and the joint will not become "clear" as you press
on it and rotate it, and it will feel sticky. It actually takes
very little grease to do the job. The amount in the vial may seem small,
but it should last at least a month or two with daily use of the
Glass and clamps setup
Start by filling the boiling flask about 2/3 full with water (a
little more is OK but no more than 2/3 maximum). Since you're distilling
the water, tap water is OK, but you may want to use distilled or purified
water so you don't get things like chlorine vapors coming into your
biomass™ . Grease the biomass flask™ joints and assemble the
biomass flask™ to the boiling flask (pre-loaded with plant material of
Place the biomass flask™ on top of the boiling flask,
center the flasks on the burner, and secure the flasks using the 3 finger
clamp, attached to the top neck of the biomass flask™.
grease both ends of the steam transfer tube and drop it into the top of
the biomass flask™. Clip the condenser to the transfer tube using the
provided red plastic "Keck" clamp.
Last, FILL the receiver™ (preload
it) with distilled water- close the stopcock and pour in enough water to
make it come out the drain tube.
IF YOU DO NOT PRELOAD THE
RECEIVER™ WITH DISTILLED WATER...
As the distillation process
begins and receiver™ fills up, the water level will pass the bottom level
of the outlet pipe. You will likely have a small quantity of essential oil
floating on the surface in the receiver™ by now, and you'll notice that a
small "plug" of it gets caught in the receiver™'s outlet pipe. This oil
will be lost into the hydrosol collection flask and will not be easy to
SO preload the receiver™ with water, and now using the green
keck clamp, assemble it to the condenser. You may want to use the second
mechanical clamp provided to hold it in place to the stand/support rod. If
you've done it correctly it will look like the photos. The backplate
should stand between the heater coils and the receiver™, so that heat
radiating from the heater does not have a "line if sight" path to the
receiver™. (this keeps your distilled oil cool)
Place the 500mL
catch flask under the receiver™s' drip tip to catch the first hydrosol that
comes off during distillation. It's best to position it so the drips hit
the rim of the flask, so they don't splash as they drip into the water...
OR if you are not interested in keeping the hydrosol, you can place the
whole still on the edge of your sink so the hydrosol simply drips into the
drain and goes away.
WATER FOR THE CONDENSER
The best thing you can do is to
use a bucket of ice water and a small "fountain" pump to pump chilled
water through the condenser. Water goes IN THE BOTTOM and OUT THE TOP. Tap
water will work just fine, but the experts say chilled water is better,
and it conserves this precious resource. In any case, it only needs to be
a trickle, but IT MUST ALWAYS BE MOVING. Once the distillation gets
underway, ou will be able to tell if your flow is enough by feeling the
temperature of the water coming out...if it is cold to luke warm, your
flow is enough. If it's warm or hot, turn up the flow.
Be sure to
plug the hoses on snugly... a hose popping off in the middle of a
distillation is a good way to make a real mess! Small hose clamps may be
used and are a good idea as long as they are tightened carefully so as not
to break the glass. BASICALLY THAT'S IT
Turn on the condenser
water, Make sure the stopcock on the receiver™ is CLOSED, Turn the hotplate
on FULL HIGH and let it rip!
THE DISTILLATION PROCESS
As the water heats up and
starts to boil, you'll see steam starting to finally come out the top as
the bionass flask heats up. This takes about half an hour. Eventually
you'll finally see that first drip make it's way down the condenser and
into the receiver™. Then you'll see a layer of oil starting to form...
there it is!! You will likely find that with many plants, the bulk of
the oil comes off in the first 10-20 minutes, and the remainder takes 2-4
As the process continues, the oil layer
will grow, and when it's all done, you simply turn everything off and let
it cool down, remove the receiver™, carefully drain off all the water you
can by slowly opening the stopcock, and when the water's gone and the oil
layer has just barely hit the bottom, quickly close the stopcock.
then like to clamp the receiver™ to the support rod and let it hang there
for 10 minutes or so, to allow any oil stuck on the sides to make it's way
down and join the big puddle. Then finally, open the stopcock and drain
the oil into a vial.
I usually just swirl a lot of soapy water
around in the parts, and use a bristle brush to clean everything. It's all
pyrex, so it can also be put in a dishwasher. It's a good idea to first
wipe as much of the joint grease out as you can with a paper towel or
kleenex. Otherwise just treat it as any other glass item and wash it as
you will. BE CAREFUL to not clunk the glass against the sink... those
plastic liners are nice for safety... most glassware is broken during
cleaning!! If the flasks bump into a hard object like a tile counter or
porclean sink, they may develop little tiny "star" cracks. These are
dangerous- they can be repaired, but if left un-noticed, they can easily
cause a flask to crack or break apart at the most inconvenient time, like
when it's full of boiling water...BE CAREFUL WITH THE
I've found that using a chopstick or a pair of medical
Forceps is helpful in getting plant matter and stems out of the biomass
flask™. Shaking it in a plastic trashcan also works well to remove finer
Guk in the boiling flask that builds up from the
mineral deposits of your tap water can quickly be removed with a swirl of
muriatic acid (pool acid) or dilute hydrochloric acid. BE CAREFUL with
these acids, they are dangerous.
OPTIONAL COMPONENTS can be purchased for the following
If you wish to do a
"Hydrodistillation" instead of a steam distillation (the biomass is simply
stuck right in there with the boiling water instead of in a separate
flask) use the long hydrodistillation adapter (availiable as an optional
component) in place of the biomass flask™, and then set the still up the
same as you would for steam distillation. An insulating jacket is supplied
to cover the adapter so it allows the steam to go all the way up to the
top without condensing. Mix your biomass in with the water in the
boiling flask and proceed as normal.
More "Classic" distillations
require the use of a thermometer in the process, and a slightly
different setup using additional optional components.
In this case,
put the liquid to be distilled into the boiling flask, put the optional
thermometer stillhead™ in the top of the boiling flask, and set the
condenser up diagonally, with the optional drip tip dripping into the
The bioamss flask,
steam transfer tube, and receiver™ are not used in these distillations.
ALWAYS USE BOILING CHIPS... turn the heat on and as things get going,
turn it down until the rate of drip out the condenser is about a drip or
two per second. Watch the thermometer as the distillate starts coming
over, you'll see the thermometer shoot up to it's published boiling
temperature. As long as the temperature stays there, you're collecting
what you want. When all of what you are collecting is gone from the
boiling brew, the temperature will often take a dip, distillation will
stop for a moment as the temperature of the boiling pot increases, and
then it will all resume at a higher temperature. This signals that it's
time to stop at this point, or you'll now be diluting your prized catch
with stuff you don't want!
If you're not well versed in the art of
distillation, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO EVERYONE who
is interested in venturing even the slighest amount beyond what's
described in these instructions....it is a book about basic chemistry
laboratory practices and how not to blow yourself up in doing them. It's
fun to read because the author is surprisingly funny as well as
informative. You may not think you need to know anything about chemistry
to distill essential oils and other things, but while this book is aimed
at the college lab student, it's chock full of little tidbits that will
help you understand what you are doing and how to do it safely. It's
availiable from Amazon.com. Clicking on the name of the book
will take you to the appropriate Amazon webpage:
Organic Chem Lab Survival Manual
By James W. Zubrick
It's WELL worth every penny!!!
Last, in case you're interested in "boiling" and what it actually means, here's a little page of interesting info: