Essential oils and hydrosols

Would you like to exchange your experiences of distilling essential oils and hydrosols with other people? Please observe our forum rules (see Helpful tips on use).
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June 2018:

It has now been an unbelievable 16 years (!) since the last major change to the website and forums. When you think that two to three years are an eternity for the Internet sector, that is really something. In any case, there has been so much going on in terms of technology that it has become urgently necessary to completely redesign not only the forums, but also the entire website, from scratch and bring the programming up to date. Naturally, along with this we also introduced various new features; for example it was high time we allowed pictures to be uploaded with a forum post too or enabled users to subscribe to the forums via RSS feeds. And of course we have subsequently included pictures that are saved on external websites and were then integrated here using an img tag, so that no valuable information is lost. In any case, we hope you continue to have fun swapping experiences and trying things out.

Juni 2002:

At this point, we would first like to extend a big thank-you to all the users of our specialist questions for their lively involvement. Without you, we could never have developed such an informative and high-quality reference guide in such a short time (the first post dates from April 8, 1999). The large number of posts and high numbers of visitors made it necessary for us to develop the specialist questions ourselves using PHP and MySQL (at last no more annoying advertising banners!). During the course of this, we have hopefully introduced several improvements.

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Below are a few rules so we can maintain the high quality in the future as well.
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So, that’s it. We hope you have a lot of fun swapping experiences, reading, posting and naturally also trying things out afterwards. Dr Malle & Dr Schmickl Dr. Malle & Dr. Schmickl

Methanol

Alan am 04.08.2004 18:03:33 | Region: CH
Does anybody know what to do to prevent the production of methanol during fermentation?

RE: Methanol

Willi am 14.09.2004 13:00:02 | Region: Bavaria
Yes, to work as clean as possible, no rotten fruits, no leaves etc.
Methanol derives from woody parts of the mash. So when you make a mash from marc (the residue of filterpressing grapes for making wine), the mash and also the distillate will contain a relatively high amount of methanol, because of the lots of pits. You can test this very easily: compare a very cheap grappa with an expensive one. The cheap one has a high amount of Methanol, therefore it will taste much hotter than the expensive one.

RE: Methanol

Bernard Deham am 16.02.2005 03:21:42 | Region: Thailand
It is unfortunatly not possible to separate methanol from ethanol, the percentage of methanol depends upon the material (kind of fruits) you are using.
For instance avoid apples with a high amount of pectine.

RE: Methanol

Dave am 24.02.2006 11:05:04 | Region: Australia
It is very easy to separate methanol from ethanol.

Methanol has a lower boiling point (65 deg C) than ethanol (78 deg c), and it therefore comes out of the still as "heads".

Just discard the first part of the distillate (that will smell like nail polish), or wait until the temprature is > 75 deg C, and Bob's you're uncle!

RE: Methanol

Harrell Sellers am 11.07.2006 15:53:52 | Region: USA - South Dakota
The above post is correct. If you're just making ethanol, then you should distill more than once. The second (and third and fourth) distillation is to separate the aldehydes, ketones and methanol from the ethanol. Watch your temperature carefully. Do it slowly. You should see a plateau in your temp. vs. time curve when the methanol starts coming off. Toss it.

RE: Methanol

Butch Taylor am 26.02.2008 17:01:49 | Region: USA
The above information for making the distillation "cut" the minimize the carry over of methanol to the product is dependent on temperature and patience. In distilling with a reflux column you want to drive the heat under the pot to get a slow gentle reflux in the distillation column. By doing it with patience the plateau the previous post indicated will very easy to spot. Butch

RE: Methanol

Michael Williams am 08.07.2011 22:42:20 | Region: UK
I'm afraid it's not that easy. Ethanol and methanol form a so-called azeotrope when mixed. I'll spare you the technical details; it basically means the two liquids together have a different boiling point than the separate compounds.
If you try to achieve separation through distillation, both alcohols will evaporate at the same temperature, meaning you won't get any separation. The same effect occurs with a certain volumetric mixture of alcohol and water, which prevents you from getting 99.9% pure alcohol through distillation.
Also, methanol doesn't really smell like nail-polish in my opinion; I believe you're confusing it with acetone on that point.

RE: Methanol

Ton am 06.09.2011 07:58:47 | Region: Netherlands
Methanol is NOT an azeotrope with ethanol, nor water according to:

Chris Barsby, “ Methanol Brochure” Alberta
Gas Chemicals Ltd. Technical memo
No.850220, March 7, 1985

RE: Methanol

Bernard Deham am 02.04.2012 16:00:58 | Region: Thailand
So dear Einstein, you manage to get a 100% vol alcohol by normal destillation because water and ethanol do not form an azeotrope mixture...
You must be the only and unique one on the earth!
Tell us the secret, please...

RE: Methanol

Bernard Deham am 02.04.2012 15:55:39 | Region: Thailand
I've just discovered this message. Of course eliminating heads, as everybody knows, eliminates part of unwanted components like methanol, but far away from all of them. So I consider this kind of message completely irresponsible and unprofessional.
It is, with usualal stills, IMPOSSIBLE to completely eliminate methanol from your destillate. To avoid methanol, produce ethanol from a mash containing sugar, no fruits! All fruit spirits like Williams etc. contain methanol, up to 5%... Nobody dies from it, just a hanghover if you drink too much of that stuff.

RE: Methanol

mike am 11.05.2013 13:08:25 | Region: usa
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azeotrope_(data)

if i understand this properly, and we assume our what your distilling is a mixture of some percentage of methanol, some percentage ethanol and some percentage water (and some random shit)

this shows that methanol forms no azeotrope with either water or ethanol, suggesting it should come off the heads of the distilate, however ethanol and water do form an azeotrope at 95.5% so that the best your going to do with a stil..

also as a little parity:
http://www.solvent--recycling.com/azeotrope_1.html

specifically lists water and methanol as "non-azeotrope", as they are a firm specializing in solvent recovery (in this case recovery methanol from water) i would suspect they would say something about loss here.

not a professional, just geeky

RE: Methanol

flow in am 14.07.2013 07:42:32 | Region: new zealand
geeks rule the world :)

if you have a reflux column and you drive it gently, with well controlled top temperature (i have counter current cooling in mine to nail it to the spot), then you should get all (or beyond measurement of what's left, anyway) the meths off by holding the top just above the boiling point of meths.

the water/ethanol (the azeotrope limited mixture) that is left will be held further down the column.

you'd also get a bunch of esters and acetones and other lighter and yuckky things coming off. bring the temperature too high and you'll lose the volatiles that define the flavour (for whiskeys, rums and other such things).

if you have a column like mine then you'll notice temperature fluctuations increase as you run out of the lighter fractions.

npo matter how good the column, unless you play with pressures too, you'll never get over the azeotrope minima at 94ish percent for ethyl alcohol.

RE: Methanol

GIORGOS am 23.07.2013 13:04:14 | Region: GREECE
actually, modern distillate analysis shows that distillation of fruit mashes is a very complex procedure;and the law "the first to come out is the one with the lower boiling point" does not apply. In the case of methanol, to be correct, a particularity in chemical properties of this substance, produces the effect that this substance is actually more difficult to separate from water than alcohol. This means that, in the contrary of what most people believes, the excess of methanol is actually a tail product, rather than a head product (but methanol is product during the entire proccess).