Specialist Questions - Spirits, Essential Oils, Vinegar

Would you like to ask us about spirits, essential oils and vinegar? Please observe our forum rules (see Helpful tips for use).

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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Helpful tips on use:

Below are a few rules so we can maintain the high quality in the future as well.
  • This is a moderated forum. This means that anyone can write whatever they want, and the post will also be saved, but the content will only be published once it has been reviewed by our editorial staff, or deleted if necessary. Therefore, there is no point in posting the same contribution multiple times simply because it doesn’t appear immediately.
  • If you would like to see the most recent posts (irrespective of the topic), click Show the latest posts.
  • The forum is very comprehensive, and many topics have already been dealt with extensively. Therefore we recommend using the search function or alternatively the advanced search function before you add a new post in order to avoid having posts with the same content.
  • After you add or answer a post, you then have a chance to change the text you have written. So read through your text again carefully after saving it and click on “Change post” if necessary.
  • If you ask a question, then also expect an answer. Think about this as well when you are wording your question. Hardly anyone will answer vague questions such as “How do I distil schnapps?”, “No oil comes out; what am I doing wrong?” or “The vinegar isn’t fermenting, why?”.
  • The three topic areas, i.e. distilling spirits, distilling essential oils/hydrosols and making vinegar, are divided into three different websites. Each website contains the two forums “Recipes” for all the topics concerning fruit and recipes, and “Discussion” for all the other topics related to distilling spirits, essential oils/hydrosols or making vinegar. If we find posts that are unintentionally in the wrong forum, we will move them to the right forum. These posts have not been deleted, just moved.
  • ANY TYPE OF ADVERTISING WILL BE DELETED WITHOUT EXCEPTION! This also means seemingly “innocent” posts such as “I have a question about...” or alternatively “Does anyone have experience with...” followed by links or pictures to any external shops.
  • The same applies to bizarre posts which most likely come from drunks or don’t have the remotest thing to do with the topic area, e.g. football or “Where can you burn CDs here?” They will be deleted without exception.
  • All forums are STRICTLY ANONYMOUS; so never give any real names or addresses.
  • Any attempt to make personal contact will be deleted immediately.  There are now numerous social networks for this purpose.
  • The authors’ IP addresses are NOT saved!
  • E-mail addresses are not passed on to third parties or used by us in any other way.  You enter your email completely voluntarily and it functions more or less as your ID. In contrast to most other forums, we don’t require any registration or any type of login to be able to participate. Therefore it might happen that a pseudonym is unintentionally used by two people, so there has not been a mix-up in the entries.
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
  • Question 11

    Emerita | Venezuela, 31.07.2020 10:56:23

    Hello, first I want to congratulate you for your website, it is very educational, I have learned a lot about plant distillation, especially in the discussion part with the questions and answers. My question is as follows: 1) to distill geranium should I use it fresh or dry? 2) should I cut it finely? In my country there are some plants that do not flower, for example mint and rosemary (this last plant I only found a wild rosemary, which they commonly call criollo, which if it flourishes) 3) these plants, even if they are have not flowers, can obtain a high yield of essential oil?

    Thank you in advance, regards, Emerita

    Thank you, we appreciate your comment about our homepage!
    ad 1) both is possible, although you should dry it first, at least a bit, otherwise you might face the issue having a kind of pulp in the kettle instead of tiny pieces.
    ad 2) yes, in general you should cut the plant material finely, beware of exceptions, like the one mentioned in ad 1).

    ad 3) yes, also these plants can also be used without flowering.

  • Question 10

    Emerita | Venezuela, 13.07.2020 01:27:42

    I have a copper distiller, at the beginning of the distillation colorless drops of essential oil and hydrolate, but after half an hour of distillation a few drops come out of the dark copper tube; Dark colored drops of OE are observed on the surface of the hydrolate. That color can be copper oxide? Why does this situation occur?

    This could be caused by three reasons:

    - the inner parts of the still were not properly cleaned before distillation, especially the condenser and distillate tube.

    - tiny particles (a kind of dust) of the plant material are carried by the steam flow up to the condenser. This could happen if using dried material.

    - the content has burned, in this case you should notice an according change in smell of the distillate.

  • Question 9

    dparks | United States (Tennessee), 11.07.2020 15:09:06

    Are your e-books able to be downloaded (to computer) and used off line, or are they only accessible through your website by logging on and viewing them while online? Thank you in advance, diane


    Yes, they are able to be downloaded (PDF) and to be printed offline, without any connection to our website or the internet in general.

  • Question 5

    Pam | UK, 28.06.2020 09:31:41

    I just had another one of my 55 gallon drums start leaking.  (I have lost 80 litres at one time from my taps or barrel rings breaking.)

    I use all new rings each year but I am still having problems.  Do you know of a better system which would work better than these crazy 55 gallon plastic drums?

    Yes, the vapor of the acetic acid is quite aggressive. Every iron part in the fermenting room will rust after a while. This is why the iron rings of your drums are such unsafe, even if you don’t see they are rusty.

    You should use a flat polyethylene tank, a kind of trough. Equipped with a drain cock if possible. Cover these containers for example with bed linen and fix it with a cord. Such a construction doesn’t contain any iron parts.

    I know this construction sounds strange, but this is the same as Pasteur already suggested about 200 years ago: fermenting containers for vinegar should be flat, so there’s a large contact surface of the liquid to the air. We’ve noticed the same (but at a small scale): the lower the filling level of the container, the faster and more stable the vinegar fermentation and therefore the less susceptible against infections.

    So if thinking about a new type of vinegar fermenting container: search for something made of e.g. polyethylene that is flat, the upside should be completely open. Cover the upside with a kind of bed sheet or fine network made of plastic.

  • Question 8

    Alyson | canada, 28.06.2020 09:20:59

    I thoroughly enjoyed the oil distillation course - thank you!

    I had forgotten to ask you a question; I am wanting to make some body and room mists. Previously I have made these on a base of distilled water but given our perfume recipe was on a base of alcohol, would you recommend the alcohol base to be more effective? Would the alcohol base hold the scent of the essential oils better than a distilled water solution?

    Thank you, we feel honored that you enjoyed our course!

    No, not the alcohol base, but the drop of thistle oil holds the scent better on your skin. The thistle oil is a kind of fixative. Industrial produced perfume contains another kind of fixative. Room mist doesn’t need a fixative.

    In fact you can use for both, room and body, all three bases: alcohol, water, or oil (yes, perfume can also have an oily base). Instead of water you can use the hydrosol of course.

  • Question 12

    Jos | LA, 28.06.2020 08:32:32

    how can i bring the distil to 96% instead of 92%? because i can not put the 92% right back because of vacuum. 

    Since 96 %vol is the azeotrope of ethanol and water, it’s very difficult, not to say impossible, to reach 96 %vol with the gear of home distillers. If you distill under vacuum conditions, it’s even worse.
  • Question 7

    Usertype | Houston , 04.06.2020 16:55:56

    how do i estimate the amount of ingredients needed for oil distilling?

    I guess florals depending on how light or heavy

    I think


    As a role of thumb make the still as full as possible. The weight depends on the type of plant, how fine the material was chopped, and if dried or fresh. Whereas the volume is always the same: the filling volume of the still.

  • Question 4

    Brian | Europe, 23.05.2020 14:56:44

    Hi, Ive started making vinegar. I have an apple cider unfiltered vinegar as starter. And i added red wine to it. I checked it yesterday and there is a perfumey smell from the mixture. What caused this and can it be saved?

    Thanks Brian


    This could be a sign of the fermentation start. "Glue-like smell" is difficult to describe, it's quite pleasant, yes, it's a kind of perfumey smell. Anyway, wait for another 2 or 3 days, thereafter a thin layer of mother-of-vinegar (or the lack of it) will show for sure if fermentation has started or not.

  • Question 11

    Charles | Bangkok Thailand, 06.05.2020 12:06:31

    Sorry for my bad english in advance.

    I'm planning to get into home distilling so I think i should start practicing fermentation first so I tried to make pineapple wine. I've fermented 5L pineapple pulp with sugar add at SG=1.100 using Lalvin 71B yeast in air lock bucket and the fermentation is stopped and finished after 3.5 days with Final SG= 0.992 which is about 14% abv. Is this normal? why the fermentation period is so short? now I've filtered out all the pulp and let it sit for the dead yeast to settle and will bottle it. Is this action reasonable?

    Thank you


    Within a normal ambient temperature range (common room temperature or a bit cooler), it's not possible to reach 14 %vol. within 3.5 days. I don't know how long it takes at temperatures above, for example 27 °C, I've never tried. But even then, 3 days seems to be quite short.

    Filter only if you want to keep the wine and want to enjoy it without distillation.

  • Question 3

    Senthil | India, 30.04.2020 18:06:14

    I started 2 liter mash  with 3.5 PH and 15 brix ( added sugar as per your tables in book)Fermentation completely stopped 13th day,On 15 th day I checked brix was at 4 but no more sign of further fermentation.Now I am ready for second stage of

    fermentation,Can you Please help me out for the nutrients to be added in this stage.
    Is your mash an apple mash? If yes, it’s not necessary to add any nutrients, apples have enough of them. You have to add nutrients if you want to ferment pure, distilled (and diluted) alcohol.
    The easiest way to add nutrients is to add apple juice. Not a fresh one, but from the supermarket, pay attention that the juice doesn’t contain any preservatives. I don’t know which brand mark of apple juice is available in India, but a “common” apple juice from supermarket is perfect. We add 1 liter of juice to approx. 10 liters of fermentation medium.
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