How to make a steam distiller from a teapot and some plumbing parts

This doesn't work very well, feel free to try to improve or elaborate on the idea. I think I'm going to get started on a copper based model next weekend.

Why would you need a steam distiller?
-Steam distillation is the main method of separating essential or volatile oils from plant material, however commercial steam distillers cost around $400 and essential oils cost a lot too. With this Instructable you can start producing essential oils for less than $40.
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Step 2: Materials

Picture of Materials
To build the distillation apparatus you will need,
-A teapot (or any vessel that will generate steam)
-A piece of pipe that will fit over the neck of the teapot.
-An elbow joint (same width as the neck pipe).
-Reducers (I'm not sure what the actual name for these is, they make the width smaller, these aren't necessary if the condenser pipe fits with the elbow joint).
-Another wide tube or pipe (this will be the outside of the condenser and needs to be shorter than the condenser pipe)
-A pipe that will fit inside the wide tube (this is the condenser pipe)
-Lots of innertube or some cement (for sealing the condenser
-Bronze wool (or some other filter material)
-Thread tape (not necessary but helps)
-A coat hanger and weight
All of these except the outside of the condenser should not leach in steam (use galvanized pipe),

To distill essential oils you will also need the material that contains the oil, this can easily be bought, found or grown. And something to collect the oil in.

(Sorry that there are no pics of the condenser stuff)

lgcamp1 year ago
Hey, here's a great plan for a distiller:

And it's cheap too! Very simple design. Just uses a cooking pot, a bundt pan and a domed lid.

Be sure to read the info below the graphic!
ALogan972 years ago
How quickly does this condense? I need something that can condense steam somewhat quickly (enough to fill a large thermos halfway to 3/4 of the way full within 5-20 minutes), but don't want to spend $800 on a condenser that would probably be too big to fit into my system anyway. And did you ever do that copper coil condenser?
try a colling ring or really thin copper piping raped around the in side of the thermos like bewtenn the 2 walls
fearofsquirrels (author)  ALogan972 years ago
It doesn't condense very quickly at all and I'm afraid that it wouldn't be able to fulfill what you're trying to do. In fact, this whole Instructable's pretty flawed, I've been meaning to take it down for years but, like building the condenser, it's something that I've never actually gotten around too. Sorry about that.
PKM5 years ago
It looks like you might have melt from the condenser ending up in your final product. The traditional Liebig condenser doesn't try to contain the "cold" (water), it pipes it off and recirculates it. I would suggest you extend the narrow condensate pipe further out of the end of the condenser, so you can be sure all that ends up in your collection vessel is condensate; add another vessel to catch the water that comes out of the condenser, and pipe additional cold water into the top. Ideally you want to pipe cold water into the bottom of the condenser and remove it from the top, but then you are getting into making serious glassware- this should be a decent compromise.
The problem that I see is the design of the aq condensor , you need water to flow though the outer tube. The second is try using wo pieces of pipe for your steam area. using two pieces will allow for a screen to be put in that will put a clear passaqge to your material
fearofsquirrels (author)  PKM5 years ago
I think that I'm going to make a copper coil condenser (maybe next weekend) and then update this instructable with it
lemonie5 years ago
What were you trying to extract that is supposed to be dark blue? Condensers a a bit of a pain, see mine?

fearofsquirrels (author)  lemonie5 years ago
I'm trying to extract yarrow flowers, for mosquito repellent. I'm going to build a copper coil condenser when I get the $$$ (I'm broke for now). How were you able to bend the copper without it kinking? I heard you have to fill it with water and freeze it first.
At the diameter I used (8mm) you can bend it so far without significant flattening, step 2 shows how I did it (roughly).
I wouldn't expect the Yarrow extract to be blue, but I think you may be able to extract with (cold) alcohol as an alternative.

fearofsquirrels (author)  lemonie5 years ago
I'm pretty sure that the yarrow essential oil should be blue

And I want to get the essential oil, so I can't do a alcohol extraction (it would pull out other stuff and be hard to concentrate). And to do a solvent extraction for essential oils uses a lot of costly solvents and could leave impurities.


Hmm, it's a mixture - best wishes with the steam distillation. The only thing I've ever distilled that was coloured was diazomethane, so if I can find any Yarrow I might have a go. L
fearofsquirrels (author)  lemonie5 years ago
Yarrow grows everywhere where I live (In Illinois, near Chicago) and It grows in a ton of other places, so does catnip which can also be distilled. Find a site that lists some wild plants in your area and go huntin, who knows what you'll find. However Yarrow looks a little like Hemlock (So I've been told) so make sure you find Yarrow. Yarrow or Catnip make excellent mosquito repellents, but Catnip attracts cats and smells kind of funky, so I use Yarrow. -mitch
Side note, Don't use THIS setup for distilling your bug repellant. specifically since the catnip extract is probably destined for injestion(by cat or person, either way).

An unfortunate side effect of running STEAM(or very hot water) through galvanized pipe is that Zinc Carbonate ends up dissolved in the product. In old water pipes, it's not much of a problem specifically because it is so dilute... but you're distilling! It's not gonna kill you or anything, but might cause some irritant issues with your lungs/stomach/skin if any significant quantity is inhaled/ingested/applied.
fearofsquirrels (author)  ironsmiter5 years ago
Thanks for the info, I guess I'll have to try an all copper setup, maybe use a glass jar for holding the material, attach it directly to the kettle and then hook it up to a copper coil condenser. Would there be any problems with the lid on the mason jar? (You're supposed to boil it so I don't think it would leach). I'll need to totally redo this instructable
mason jar lids should be no problem. Any NEW lids are "plain steel". Antique lids MAY be zinc coated however. Don't need to redo the 'ible. It's pretty nice for what it is and what it does. What I would advise is, when you go to make your new setup, write another ible on it! or, if it seems too similar to lemonie's ible, just post it as a slideshow, and add a link to the slideshow as step 7.5 But that's just me.
How to bend copper tubing depends mainly on the type of tubing you have. If it comes already coiled, it's soft drawn tubing, and if done slowly and carefully, you can just bend it by hand. Too sharp a bend and it will kink, but for a coil, you should be fine. They also make "bending springs". Literally, a coilspring that has an inside dia JUST larger than the outside dia of the pipe. Slip it on, and bend away. around $20 at most plumbing stores, but worth it for a kink free coil. The easiest method for bending HARD tubing(comes in straight pipes) is to fill the tubing with SAND, cap both ends, then bend it on a pipe bender. With hard tubing/pipe, you're still only gonna be able to get LARGE diameter bends. But just so you know, I've never been able to get a tighter bend than a two foot diameter, without kinking at least once.
Sandisk1duo5 years ago
(can't click on boxes inside boxes)
fearofsquirrels (author)  Sandisk1duo5 years ago
? I don't think you're supposed to click them, just mouse-over them.
well, i can't do that either
fearofsquirrels (author)  Sandisk1duo5 years ago
What boxes are you talking about? The ones in the image? Can you do it on other instructables? I'm not really sure what you're trying to do. -mitch
step 4 pic 2
fearofsquirrels (author)  Sandisk1duo5 years ago
Oh, I'll fix that. Thanks, -mitch
Now this is a freaking Hack! I Love it.