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.


The latest entries in all the forums can be conveniently received via RSS feeds. You have the option of subscribing to RSS feeds in your browser, accessing a special feed reader, or displaying the feed on a website. By subscribing to or integrating an RSS feed,you receive short information blocks with the last 10 entries of the forum you have subscribed to. To find an RSS reader, simply google “RSS reader”. Here are two examples of add-ons to the Chrome browser: Feedbro, offered by Nodetics https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/feedbro/mefgmmbdailogpfhfblcnnjfmnpnmdfa?hl=de This reader does not require registration. Or RSS Feed Reader, offered by feeder.co https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/rss-feed-reader/pnjaodmkngahhkoihejjehlcdlnohgmp?hl=de Available for Chrome, Safari, iOS and Android, registration required. To receive the feed, click on the RSS icon on the right, above the forum, under “Enter search term...”.

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 13

    Emerita | Venezuela, 13.09.2020 15:28:40
    Hello, how are you, could you clarify the following doubts:
    1) Once the hydrolate has been packaged for later use: is it kept refrigerated or is it kept at room temperature?
    2) Chlorine in drinking or tap water: does it affect the quality of the hydrolate?
    3) The distillation of a non-aromatic plant (without essential oil) is also called a hydrolate?
    4) Could you tell me the percentage of essential oil that you recommend for soaps and shampoo?

    Beforehand thank you very much.

    Saludos cordiales


    ad 1) At room temperature if there was an oil layer on the top. In this case the hydrosol is durable, even if the oil layer has been removed.
    ad 2) Yes, since this is distillable, you can smell it in the distillate. Thus, take chlorine free tab water or groundwater instead. Note: all dissolved minerals, salts, and lime do not evaporate, thus you will end up with purified distilled water, even if the water was not drinkable before distillation. Any microorganisms are no problem for the same reason.
    ad 3) Yes, if you use water. In case of alcohol it's an alcoholic spirit.

    ad 4) These values you can find in our book "The Essential Oil Maker’s Handbook"

  • Question 12

    Emerita | Venezuela, 18.08.2020 07:13:59

    Hello, to store hydrolats, can you use transparent plastic containers?

    I also want to clarify that in question 11, I wanted to say that by reading the part of the forum, especially specialized questions, knowledge is acquired about the essential oil distillation process. Thank you.


    No, since essential oils are able to dissolve certain types of plastic. Hydrosols still contain a certain concentration of essential oils.

    knowledge is acquired about the essential oil distillation process

    Yes, you're absolutely right!

  • Question 14

    Jos | Brasil, 14.08.2020 13:51:22

    How can i bring the distil to 96% instead of 92%?

    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 13

    Leon | United States, 13.08.2020 05:40:30

    I need 150 proof grain alcohol to wash my vape coils. How much 190 proof alcohol do I need to mix with 1 litre of 80 proof to come as close as possible to the desired 150 proof required?

    First convert the unit US proof into %vol (ABV, alcohol by volume):
    190 US proof = 95 %vol (ABV)
    150 US proof = 75 %vol (ABV)
    80 US proof = 40 %vol (ABV)

    Now use our calculator "Mixing", I have done this for you, the link with your values is:

    1.00 liters with 40.00 %vol
    mixed with
    1.75 liters with 95.00 %vol
    2.75 liters with 75.00 %vol

  • Question 6

    Sen | India, 07.08.2020 08:36:25

    For starting culture, apple mesh should be with 15 brix ? yeast to be added or not.


    Yes, 15 Brix is a good value. Add yeast to this mash. Wait until the alcoholic fermentation is finished. Add the starting culture with vinegar bacteria only to a finished fermented alcoholic mash. If you have apple juice (not a mash with solid parts), it’s easier to produce vinegar. In this case you don’t have to add water, just add the yeast. If you have a mash with solid parts, filter first before adding the starter culture for vinegar fermentation.

  • 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.

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