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Essential Oil Steam Distiller

Modern RootsI go through a lot of essential oils with the products I make and sell at my Modern Roots Store. I grow my own medicinal herbs and plants to get the best quality and highest yield without the use of pesticides or other nasty who-knows-what 'Big Ag' uses these days. Much of my herbs go directly into my soaps, lotions, conditioners etc. But I want to extract the precious oils from them too. So, on this blistery winter day – with dreams of summer lavender, I came up with a contraption to do so ... and the Modern Roots Essential Oil Still was born.

I was pressure cooking some chicken stock when I was watching the pressure gauges thinking ... the steam that escapes and that's inside the pressure cooker could really be used to steam anything, but what could I attach it to to get the job done – and in a smaller quantity? Simple really. Other than blowing myself up, of course.

What you need:

– 10 feet of 3/8-inch copper tubing. Wound into two coils – you can easily manipulate this or buy it pre-rolled.

– 1 smaller pressure cooker (4 quart to 6 quart); you could use bigger but quality, effectiveness and time are all important so I like to control it in smaller amounts. *NOTE: I LOVE me some thrift shops but in this case I bought a new one to make sure all the safety valves, etc., work well to prevent me and my kitchen from getting blown to smithereens. Of course it would smell lovely, so that would be a positive, but let's try to alleviate problems like this from the get go.

– plastic container, or wash tub for cold water – tall and skinny so your copper coils fit into it. It's better to have your coils at the bottom of the container because cold water is heavier or denser than warm water.

– plumbers putty

– 3/8-inch clear or threaded tubing

– glass jar to catch lavender water and oils

 –Syringe – meat syringe works good

See slideshow below for more in depth descriptions.

Copper tubing

Copper tubing

Plastic tubing – a small piece, about 3 to 4 inches will be needed from this.

Plastic Tubing

Plastic tubing, cut and fitted over one end of the copper tube.

Plastic tube attached to copper

Metal fastener/tightener to tighten down to the pressure cooker – you may or may not need this.

Metal Fastener

3 to 6 quart pressure cooker

Pressure Cooker

Oblong pail (if your copper coils fit into a pail you already have, use that).

Oblong Pail

Lavender buds (or any plant you want to extract oil from).

Lavender Buds

Tea pot – to pour hot water over the plant/buds.

Tea Pot

Jars to catch lavender oil and water


Assembly is pretty straight forward. Attach the tube (there is a video below to watch) – which you've attached to the copper pipe – to the pressure cooker. Cut this to size. It should fit snug and erect but not too long so that it bends over. Tighten with the small clamp. Add lavender or plant you want extracted to the pressure cooker, add boiling water (about 3 times the amount of plant you have – 4 cups lavender = 12 cups boiling water). Keep in mind dried plants or herbs will require more than fresh plants.

Place the coils in the tub of cold water with ice – as this warms you will need to add ice and/or replace the water with cold water as it heats. Place catch jar at the other end to catch the oils and steamed essential water. Set up as in picture below. Cover and set heat to medium high. If it begins to leak once started, seal with plumbers putty around the tube/pressure cooker area. Placing a bit of downwards pressure on the copper pipe attached to the pressure cooker helps it to seal better as well.

Process Set Up

See video on how it works here!

Now you can syringe the oils off the top or siphon them away from the water underneath. The lavender water or essential water you have left is great when used in vinegar for an all-natural fabric softener, as a room air spritzer, or as a sheet and bedroom freshener. Most essential oils are anti-microbial and anti-fungal so they actually kill the nasty in your homes.

When I distill in my house. I know that the air is getting a nice cleanse and it leaves a wonderful scent throughout the house. Talk about some spring cleaning!

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