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I bought myself an Alembic Still and I now smell like Eucalyptus Oil :)

July 17, 2017

You cannot believe the excitement in my house right now. I honestly didn’t think that I’d get essential oil so fast and for it to smell so divine (maybe I’m a little bias) but Oh My God it does and I’m in heaven!

I have wanted an essential oil still for a long time but as is often the case with life, there was always something else to buy before I could justify this but this year I just thought, stuff it, this is going to be super cool.

The set-up I’ve got is fairly basic, portable and relatively cheap at under $700 for the whole shebang.  There is a 30 litre water boiler with a hidden element (very important),  the Alembic dome to increase the pressure in the still and the copper condensing arm along with pipework to cool the vapours ready for collecting.  I got mine from  the Country Brewer in case you are interested.

With regards to finding material to distill I am lucky enough to have our 50 acre property Fox Hill Hollow as a resource.  I am currently working on turning the place into an education and writing venue for my customers but as with all major infrastructure projects, this is taking a bit of time and so while I wait for the buildings to be finished I thought I may as well start working on the educational products of which Essential Oil is one.

Our little piece of heaven is chock-a-block with a variety of Eucalyptus species, most of which I’m yet to identify. In fact I am still not sure what I’ve just been distilling, think it’s Blakelyi Red Gum (The tree is just in the picture) but I will be sending it off for analysis to see if a bit of chemical fingerprinting can help me in that regards.  In any case these leaves smell good and we’ve got lots of them!

Last weekend I collected a bag full of Eucalyptus leaves, harvesting them from a tree that was being eaten from the inside by termites and had to be felled.  I ended up with around 3Kg of leaves which doesn’t sound like much weight but it did look to me to be a lot of leaves.

I still have a lot of questions with regards to the best way to collect, handle and pre-treat (if any) the leaves prior to distilling them – is keeping them for a week after picking the best idea? Is 3Kg enough?  What should the water to leaf litter ratio be?  How much pressure is best?  But as with most things I do, I decided to just give it a go first then look into the details later – I do advise most of my clients to do the same to a certain degree,  learning by doing seems to work well for me.

Anyway, I set the still up, opting for 25 litres of water and my 3Kg of leaves dropped straight into the still, then I left it a while as I had to go out (for a cup of tea with a friend) hence the set up picture being in the day and the distillation process being at night.

Basically once the vat reaches around 55C the condenser needs to be activated by turning on the water. The temperature then rises quite rapidly towards 99C with the first oil coming off somewhere around the 65C mark and continuing throughout.  Again I have so many questions including how long the distillation process usually takes (when do you give up?) and whether the oil quality changes over time during distilling – is the first ‘press’ best etc.

It took around 30-40 minutes or so for the temperature in the still to go from 20C to around 55C when the action starts to happen.  I didn’t quite know what to expect but once the liquid started to condense in my vintage milk bottle I started to get quite excited.  I totally did the happy dance when, around 15 minutes later the air was filled with a sweet and aromatic eucalyptus oil aroma, an aroma that I’d created and was now collecting!  AWESOME.

This was my first glimpse of the sweet nectar coming off and below I sit like an excited little kid in my old PJ’s and raincoat. I just wish I’d have done my hair and make-up…..

I could not believe how quickly the oil started to come and how much there was!  I was fully expecting to get 1-2 grams of difficult-to-collect oil  and have so far got 18g and probably have the same again left to collect.  That’s an approximate yield of 1.2% which isn’t too bad considering the average yield for essential oils is around 1-2% and I haven’t exactly got this mastered yet!

As per usual with me I hadn’t really thought through what I’d do with the oil or this equipment other than use it as a teaching tool but on seeing and smelling the oil and realising how exciting and rewarding the whole process is I might just put ‘become an essential oil farmer’ onto my ‘to-do’ list. After all, with all of those trees it would be rude not to.

What I am sure of though is that I’m going to send some of the first batch to my mum, dad and sister back home and give another bottle to my sister here.  Fox Hill Hollow Eucalyptus has landed and I couldn’t be happier.

Amanda x

 

 

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2017 10:33 pm

    you can send some my way 🙂

  2. Jane Campbell permalink
    July 19, 2017 3:44 pm

    Ooh! That looks like fun!

Trackbacks

  1. Let the Essential Oil Distilling Begin! – Fox Hill Hollow Blog

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