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Essential oils can be extracted from many kinds of plants and are valued for their aromatherapy and medicinal uses. Purchasing essential oils can be very expensive, however, making them at home is much cheaper and still provides a high quality 100% pure product. Steam distilling essential oils at home is an easy, safe, & effective way to extract oil from your favorite plants.
Complete Essential Oils Tutorial Video
This article discusses how to make lavender essential oil using Clawhammer Supply's Essential Oil Distiller Kit. Watch us use it in the tutorial video below.
If you are wondering how to assemble our Essential Oil Distiller Kit - Read this article. This article assumes your distilling kit is already assembled and you are using our 120v Controller & Element Kit.
Step 1: Water
Fill the water boiler with water, this is the boiler that does not have the column and condenser. To ensure you have an adequate amount of water, use the sight glass tube. There just needs to be enough water to cover the heating element, but make sure to account for water loss during the distilling process.
Sight Glass Tube Comes with the Base Model
Once water is in the boiler, ensure the two vessels are disconnected and then set the controller to 100% of power in order to start a boil. Research has shown to get a better yield of oil and hydrosol it is better to add hot steam directly to your plant material rather than waiting for the temperature of the steam to slowly build up over time. This is why the two vessels should be disconnected at this point.
Step 2: Gathering Plant material
Knowing when to harvest lavender plants can affect your essential oil yield. Harvest your lavender plants early to mid spring or when the plants are just starting to bloom. Older lavender plants will yield less essential oil. It’s best to harvest the lavender in the morning just after the dew dries for max oil yield. Cut the lavender 2-inchs above the woody growth, taking the entire stem with you when you harvest them. It’s recommended that you use a harvesting knife, however, a simple pair of hand pruning clippers will also work.
Pro Tip: The faster you get your plant material into the distiller the better, once lavender is cut it begins to dry out and loses its potency.
Step 3: Loading Plant Materials
Insert the false bottom into the base of the plant boiler, this will ensure that steam is evenly distributed throughout the plant material.
Start loading the plant boiler with lavender. Our 8-gallon boiler holds about 2 lavender shrubs worth of plant material, roughly 10lbs. Avoid packing the boiler too tight, otherwise steam will not reach all the material.
Once all the material is packed into the plant boiler, attach the column on top of the plant boiler and secure it with the butterfly clamp. Connect the two boilers once the water has started boiling.
Step 4: Turn on cooling water
After connecting the boilers turn the cooling water on for the condenser.
Step 5: Collect the Hydrosol & Essential Oil
Once the two boilers are connected and cold water is flowing through the condenser column, the plant boiler will begin to heat up. At around 170°F the first drops of fluid will appear, this fluid is a mix of hydrosol and essential oils.
Once the column thermometer reaches 202° a steady stream of fluid will begin to flow. Its recommended that you run the system from anywhere between 45m & 1 hour to get the most product out of your plant material.
Step 6: Separate Liquids
Because essential oil has a lower density than hydrosol, it naturally rises to the top while hydrosol settles to the bottom. In order to encourage this natural separation, we collect all of the fluid in a separatory funnel. This device helps separate liquids of different densities and allows them to be collected without mixing the fluids. If you're interested in purchasing a separatory funnel, you can follow these two links below.
Separatory Funnel: https://amzn.to/3jK2npy
Separatory Funnel Stand: https://amzn.to/2VPC21j
Clawhammer Supply is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links in this article, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Wait about 15-30 minutes after distilling ends for essential oil & hydrosol to completely separate.
Step 7: Collecting & Storing
Using a separatory funnel, turn the knob at the base to start collecting hydrosol. Once all the hydrosol has been collected, turn the knob again to stop the flow of liquid. Using another collection vessel, turn the knob a final time and collect the essential oil.
Essential oils are the most common desired products of distilling, however, hydrosol has recently gained popularity over the last few years as people have been using them as a cleaning additive and using them as natural household air fresheners.
The best place to store your essential oils is in a cool, dry place such as a kitchen cabinet or a medicine cabinet. Is best to keep oils away from direct sunlight or any other direct heat and light sources.