The Distillation Process


The Distillation Process

Each plant has a unique distillation process that we have developed based on a combination of research and personal experience. The steps below are an overview of our general process. 


Locate and harvest material

We gather up the material (which is often a waste product by someone else, like an invasive plant, logging slash, an unwanted landscaping plant, etc.) and find a suitable site to set up the still.


Process the plant material

We often use a combination of hand tools and simple portable machines to cut the material into smaller pieces. The purpose is to remove unneeded material such as thick branch stems. For many conifer species, shredding the foliage allows the steam to better penetrate the cell walls, which greatly increases yields.


Pack the plant chamber

We pack the plant material into a stainless steel 55 gallon barrel with an airtight lid.




Fire up the boiler

Our boiler is made from a repurposed stainless steel keg, We fill it up with water and bring the water to a boil with a propane burner. The steam is directed into the 55 gallon drum (filled with plant material).


Condense the Steam

The plant chamber now begins filling up with steam, the volatile compounds in the plant (essential oils) get all excited by the steam and vaporize as well. The steam exits through a pipe exiting out through the lid of the plant chamber, and passes through a series of narrow stainless steel tubes. These tubes are immersed in cooling water. As the steam and vaporized compounds dance around in these narrow tubes, they come in contact with the cool tube walls. By the time they reach the end of the tubes, they are pretty tired and by this point have condensed back into a liquid.

This is the most classical step of steam distillation, and how we are able to harvest the steam (and essential oils).


Separate and collect the essential oils

Essential oils don’t mix in water. Most of the oils that we distill are less dense than water. As the condensed steam drips out of the narrow tubes, we collect it into a large glass container. A distinct layer of essential oil floats on top of the water, allowing us to collect pure essential oils.


Refill the plant chamber

We designed the still so that we can quickly refill the still with new plant material, so that we can run multiple batches in a day. This allows us to process large amounts of plant material quickly, and saves energy by only having to heat up the boiler once. 


Rinse and Repeat!!

Once we have finished distilling a batch of a certain plant species, we clean out the still so that we are ready for whatever we decide to distill next! 

Read more about our specific essential oils here.