Using an Essence or Flavour still

One great tool to have is a small stove-top pot still that you can use for making your own essences.

Note that previous iterations of this page showed a glass coffee pot being used as an essence extracting still. We strongly discourage the use of glass in any part of your distillation set up. Glass breaks and the last thing anyone wants is alcohol vapor or high proof liquid anywhere near a heat source.

With this, you can either do

  • "alcohol extractions", where you macerate your flavours in alcohol for a while, then distill them off;
  • "water extractions", where you use water instead, or
  • "steam extractions", where you hang the herbs etc in a wee wire basket above the boiling water, for steam to pass through before you collect & condense it.

One great sucess I've had is making my own "smokey peat" flavour for trying to imitate those strong Islay Scotch whiskies like Laguvulin. To make my "essence of compost", all I did was get a handfull of peat (sold at gardening shops as compost - yeah - they look at you strange when you only ask for a handful, not a trailor load, then explain why), put it a a can with a lid, then heat up the can over a flame for 15 minutes. Don't have the lid tight (or else the whole thing can blow up), but just sitting lightly in place. It may smoke a little, so have the fume extraction on, or do it outside. Leave the lid on while it cools, so that the smoke will cool & collect on the peat. Once cool, soak it in some 75%+ alcohol. Distil it off sometime later, to make a fantastic smokey peat essence.

For more about peat, see http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/plants/bryophyta/sphagnointro.html

Motie elaborates ...
    The stuff you want is Peat potting soil. Don't try it in a small container. It will explode. Think of it as a very crude distilation. Your still won't run without a venting of pressure. It's more like the creosote from a very smokey wood fire. If you are familiar with gasification, you will understand the explosion part. When heated in the absence of air, it will give off Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen Gas, along with the smokey stuff and water vapor. These are very poisonous gases to breath, and explosive besides. I'm not experienced at what you are attempting to do, but I do smoke fish and make jerky in a smokehouse.

    If I were to attempt to make a liquid smoke flavoring, I would definitely do it outside. I would build a small enclosed fire in a bucket or something similar, using charcoal or wood. Burn it to a bed of coals. The very damp Peat potting soil would go on top of the coals. A container of some type would go on top of the Peat, and a roundbottom pot full of very cold water suspended just above that. The wet Peat smoke and steam would pass by the container, up to the cold round bottom of the pot above, and condense on it. Hopefully, the drops would follow the bottom of the condenser pot, and drop into the container below. I can't guarantee the method, but that is how I would make my first attempt. This gets away from the pressure issues of a closed, heated container, and away from the production of Carbon Monoxide Gas. Any Hydrogen Gas produced can burn in the fire and be eliminated.

    The moss you have is NOT Peat. If you can't get Peat potting soil, sometimes planting pots are made of compressed Peat. Dry cowpies are what it looks like. Brown, slightly fibrous. Moisture content can vary widely, and is adjustable by you. If you make a slurry, it looks like fresh cowpie without the odor.(Or bits of corn! LOL)


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