The different types of stills

Simple distillation stills

Simple distillation stills are solely used by essence manufacturers; they may be direct fire or steam- powered, with more or less significant detailed modifications based on the location and scale of production. Let's briefly explain the various parts of an apparatus, using the swan neck still (fig. 217) as a model.
This apparatus consists of four main parts: the retort, the head, the swan neck, and the condenser or coil. The retort or boiler is made of tinned copper and extends into the furnace to about three-quarters of its height, where it is equipped with a rim to hold it in place; a socket with a screw cap is fixed on this rim (a), used to introduce liquid to replace the evaporated one without interrupting distillation. The retort of the direct fire apparatus usually has a circle for supporting the hot water bath; it also has two handles for ease of handling. At the bottom of the retort, a round grid with holes and feet is placed, supporting and distancing it 8 to 10 centimeters from the bottom.
The hot water bath is a vessel made of copper, only tinned on the inside; it is supported by the retort, fitting almost completely inside it; it has two rings for sealing, one connecting it to the retort and the other to the head. It is completed with a hermetically sealing cover.
The head is a piece made of tinned copper on the inside; its shape resembles an inverted funnel. It is equipped at each end with a copper collar ring, one fitting the retort or hot water bath, and the other attaching to the swan neck.
The swan neck is a copper pipe forming a half-circle, connecting the still to the condenser: it is complemented by a sleeve used when distilling with a hot water bath.
The condenser or coil is a long tube made of tin or copper; its upper end is connected through a collar ring to the swan neck in a hot water bath.

Bain Marie

Uniqueness of the coil

The condenser or coil is a long tin or copper tube; its upper end is connected to the swan neck by a collar ring called a lens. The coil is enclosed in a canvas with two handles; at its base, there is a tap. Cold water enters through a funnel placed at its lower end, and warm water flows out through an overflow hole at the top of the vessel. Finally, at its lower end, there is a swan-necked spout for collecting the distilled product condensed in the coil. The coil is placed on a solidly constructed brick mass or oak trestle.
In the production of essences, the importance of the condenser or coil is significant; it can either have the shape of a coil as described in the apparatus we've just detailed, or a tubular bundle shape. The tubular condenser consists of a cylinder containing a system of parallel tubes; the vapors from the retort pass through these tubes, while the cylinder is constantly supplied with cold water; alternatively, the water flows through the tubular system while the vapors enter the cylinder and are condensed there. The condensation of vapors in the condenser is attributed to cooling.
For condensation to occur, the vapors release the heat they absorbed to the cooling water; the water absorbs this heat and becomes warm. Hence, it needs to be continually refreshed; it should not exceed 70 to 80° when it flows out of the apparatus. The amount of heat needed for a liquid to vaporize decreases as the atmospheric pressure decreases. Therefore, distillation will take place at a much lower temperature in the masonry basin or sheet metal furnace.
The smaller stills can be heated with gas as well.

colonne à fleurs

The Soubeiran system


To avoid having to seal the joints of the retort to the hot water bath and the hot water bath to the head, the single rings are replaced with locking rings, sealed by a rubber washer.
The Soubeiran system (fig. 218), added to the ordinary hot water bath still, consists of a pipe carrying steam formed in the retort beneath the grid at the bottom of the hot water bath. The plants to be distilled are placed on this grid, subjected only to the action of steam.
The perforated hot water bath (fig. 219) is a hot water bath where the ordinary portion inserted into the retort is pierced with holes. It is used when producing aromatic waters by boiling plants, seeds, etc.
These substances, not in contact with the walls of the retort, cannot burn or stick to it. Furthermore, they are more easily replaced when exhausted by removing the perforated hot water bath. The flower column (fig. 220) is a cylinder the same diameter as the hot water bath, fitting it and the retort, containing grids to support the flowers above the vapors rising from the hot water bath or the retort. When making scented alcohols, the column is placed on the hot water bath filled with alcohol, and the alcoholic vapors passing through the flowers extract their scent. For making aromatic waters, the column is placed on the retort; the steam then captures the flower's fragrance.
The extraction vessel is placed below the flower column to collect and expel the viscous materials of the flowers, which if carried by the distillate, would negatively impact the alcohol or water taste, producing an inferior quality product.
between the perforated hot water bath and the flower column. Like the latter, it prevents plants from soaking in water but does not allow the use of extraction vessels and does not feature separate grids.
Builders manufacture a multipurpose hot water bath still called a mul-tiple use still, which functions as both a simple still and a hot water bath still for distilling essences, aromatic waters, spirits, as well as a round-bottomed basin, flat-bottomed basin, and hot water bath basin for melting fats, ointments, etc.
There are also "small model" stills for hobbyists, allowing for the production of orange blossom waters, rose waters, etc., in small quantities from home, as well as essences from all plants. They can be fitted with a metal grid to hold the flowers or seeds placed in the still, or a hot water bath.
There are, of course, many other models of stills that we cannot delve into here.

soubeyran system