Essential oils are extracted from hundreds of different types of plants. From lavender and peppermint to spices like ginger, these oils are extracted using a variety of methods including steam distillation and cold pressing. As demand for essential oils increases, so does the price of each glass bottle. Fortunately, you can make many essential oils right in your own home at relatively affordable prices. Here, we’ll show you how to make your own oils using an essential oil distiller with an easy to follow step-by-step guide.
How to Make Essential Oils Using A Distiller
Step 1: Get a High-Quality Still
To properly distill essential oils in your own kitchen, you’ll need the right tools. You can find an essential oil distiller kit that contains everything you need for a few hundred dollars. We recommend using a copper essential oil distiller for the best results. Copper stills boast natural antibacterial properties that can help keep bad pathogens out of your distillate. Copper also offers even heating and helps to draw out the purest fragrance of your oils.
Step 2: Gather Plant Materials
Harvesting the plant you want to use for your essential oil is a critical step in the process. You can use rinds, petals, leaves, bark, and spices to produce essential oils.
Every plant is different so harvest times and techniques will vary depending on what type of essential oil you are trying to make. You’ll need to do plenty of research to find out the best ways to maximize your harvest. Pay attention to things like harvest season, harvest time (morning versus evening), and handling techniques. You’ll also want to check if you need to dry the plant material or if you can use it fresh to make your desired essential oil.
Whatever plants you decide to use, make sure they are organic and free from pesticides. This is especially important if you’re using an essential oil still to create food-grade oils. You can grow your own plants for essential oil distillation or source your plant materials from a reputable grower.
Step 3: Prepare the Distillation Equipment
You should thoroughly wash all of your essential oil distiller equipment each time you make new oils. This includes using new cheesecloths or filtration systems for each new batch of oils.
Step 4: Distill the Oils
We recommend using gloves, eye protection, and an apron or other protective covering when distilling oils. Always distill oils in a well-ventilated room and stop the process if you feel light-headed. Make sure to use distilled water not tap water.
Turn the boiler or heat source on and fill the distiller with the recommended amount of water for the type of essential oil you are distilling. In most cases, you’ll fill the distiller anywhere from 35 to 50 percent full. Pack the plant basket or plant column full of your plant material. Make sure to pack it in as much as you can. Essential oils are highly concentrated forms of the plants they’re derived from so it’ll take a lot of plant material to produce a normal-sized bottle of essential oil.
Secure the plant column in the distiller and connect it to the condenser coil. The condenser chamber should be cooled, if your set-up doesn’t account for that, make an ice pack to cool the condensing chamber.
As the water begins to boil, the steam rises up to the plant materials, which release vaporized water and oil. These substances make their way through the condensing chamber and then to an oil separator or extractor. During the distillation of essential oils, you’ll need to adjust the heating element or hot plate to turn down the boiling water as the oil begins to flow.
Step 5: Collecting the Oils
From the separator, you’ll need two different catching containers: one for the hydrosol or water solution and one for the essential oils. Make sure to use glass or metal containers and not plastic. The hydrosol was commonly discarded during the essential oil production process, but today, many home distillers use the hydrosol as well. For example, distilling rose petals will create a hydrosol of rose water as well as rose essential oil. Both of these substances have extensive uses and can be stored for later use.
Step 6: Storing
Essential oils should be stored in dark glass bottles or stainless steel containers to preserve their integrity. Make sure each container has an airtight lid and keep the containers in a dark, cool cabinet out of direct sunlight. Most essential oils can be kept for up to two years.
Master Essential Oil Extractions With These Steps
The steam distillation process is relatively easy to master given the right tools and enough practice. Essential oil distiller kits make the process exponentially easier. You don’t have to set up a jerry-rigged distillation apparatus like moonshine stills. Instead, these distillation kits have everything you need from a copper alembic with a separatory funnel to a specialized basket for holding plant matter.
Distilling essential oils enables you to create your own oils using aromatic plants. These oils — such as lavender essential oil and rose oil — can be used in aromatherapy, tinctures, or applied topically to the skin with a carrier oil. Using the right equipment and a centuries-old water distillation method can help you whip up lavender oil and other high-quality oils in anywhere from 6 to 24 hours.