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  • Writer's pictureAmy

Hydrosol Distillation - Step by Step

Hydrosols are scented waters that contain the magic of botanicals. They are the product of wild and locally harvested plants steam and/or hydro distilled with care and consideration.

For a little insight into the process, I've outlined the 5 steps I go through when making a hydrosol.

Step 1. Prepare the still

This involves washing the still with unscented detergent, rinsing well and checking for any plant matter or blockages. I then fill the still with fresh water and run through without the condenser on, in order to sterilise the system with steam. Once steamed, I'll switch the condenser on, in order to cool the steam, and distill pure neutral water.

Step 2. Collect plant matter

Early in the day I'll carefully harvest whichever botanicals I hope to use in the distillation. I collect from a variety of plants in order not to harm any one in particular, often asking permission to take from them before doing so. I like to sort through what I've collected looking for bugs, dead or rotten parts, or anything that might mar the distillate.

Step 3. Hydro distillation

For our hydrosols, I tend to prefer hydrodistillation, submerging the plant matter in the pot of the still. Occasionally I'll pack the column as well, although I tend to use this more for when I my focus is yielding an essential oil. I find this means more of the volatile compounds are left in the distillate. I pack the pot with plant matter, cover with water and begin the distillation by sealing the still.

Step 4. Collect the distillate

After some time, the distillate appears. This is the first expressions of our hydrosol! I love how the room begins to sing with fragrance. Collecting small amounts and checking the pH, I'll run the distillation until the pH starts to rise. Then it's clean up time.

Step 5. Clean the still

First I bottle and store away the hydrosol and remaining lower quality distillate (which I have many uses for!). Then, when the still is cooler, (or using my welding gloves), I empty out the plant matter and hot water and run clean cold water through and over all parts of the still. I love taking the still outside and seeing the light dance on the copper. It really is a thing of beauty!

Hydrosols have many varied uses - from therapeutic skin/hair care, medicinal preparations, mood setting, ritual & intention practices, to simply making your spaces, clothes and linen smell good. They are especially refreshing in summer and last longer when kept cool, or in the fridge.


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