Lavender distillation

Is there any difference between lavender 'essential oil' that is obtained via distilling FROM copper or a stainless steel vat?  Assume everything else is the same in this example, just the lavender vegetation is put into either a copper vessel or a stainless steel vessel, then it's distilled as usual. 
I am skeptical that there is a difference, but I've been wrong before ;)


  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Unlikely there would be any noticeable difference.

    What are you expecting the lavender essential oil to do?
  • I'm not expecting the lavender E.O. to do anything. I just think it's untrue when producers of it claim that it's WAY better if it's distilled in copper versus stainless steel. They give the old line 'it's traditionally made this way, therefore it's better', you know, THAT sort of B.S. 
    I merely wanted to have someone who has more chemistry in their background than I have to give either back up my suspicions or squash them. 
    Thanks Perry (spouse-man & I love listening to the B.B. podcasts)
  • johnbjohnb Member, Professional Chemist
    Having worked for a company that distills a number of essential oils, including lavender, I can say that almost all is distilled from stainless steel. There are/were a few artisan lavender distillers in Grasse (France) but most cashed in on selling their copper stills when the market price of copper was at a high.
  • I also use stainless steel,  in my kitchen, distilling my small crop of lavender. Thanks for the info :)))! 

  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    in principle the copper could act as a heterogeneous catalyst for oxidation/decomposition reactions, which could alter the composition of the essential oil; steel would be relatively unreactive

    however, whether or not this actually occurs in practise is another matter
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
  • johnbjohnb Member, Professional Chemist
    Completely off the subject but, I'll let you know a secret.

    Mitcham lavender oil (which was grown not far from where I live in the UK) had the reputation of being the finest lavender oil in the world. The secret that the Mitcham growers had was to add a small amount of acetic acid to their freshly distilled oil.

    This addition had the effect of "sweetening" the oil by removing grassy and green notes and, over the long term, increasing the content of linalyl acetate (characteristic note of lavender) by reacting with the some of the linalool present.

    At the perfumery companies I worked for, this trick was used in their high quality lavender based creations. I am passing this on as I don't want this secret to be left on dusty shelves and lost for posterity.

    It is not something to be done in a hurry. It can take upwards of a year to show a positive effect.
  • I only have access to store-bought vinegar, 2% acetic acid.  Do you know  what the   final acetic acid concentration that was added OR would you have to kill all of us if you divulged this info :(

  • @johnb thanks for sharing :smile: 
  • johnbjohnb Member, Professional Chemist
    900 - 100% concentration of acetic acid is required used at a level of up to 5% in the freshly distilled oil. Vineger would not be suitable.

    My point in posting this was to spread information rather than suggest a practical means of "improving" lavender oil. It may well be that your lavender has a good linalool/linalyl acetate ratio and low "weedy" off notes.
  • be killing all of us, as I had  feared? Phew! ;)
  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    That high a concentration of acetic acid is flammable. Just FYI.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • apersonaperson Member
    @johnb ;

    thats a great tip, thanks for sharing!


    regarding copper vs ss, copper has better heat transfer; besides the "possibility" that copper is acting as a catalyst, its entirely possible that the distribution of heat interacted with the extraction.

    I know for a fact, that at least one medicinal botanical extraction, showed marked difference in activity, when replicated using the original copper equipment.  as I recall, lavender was one of the components.

    I would not put it above the pale, that the copper has some beneficial effect. 

    about four years back.  it was quite interesting work.

  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    This thread is two years old.
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • apersonaperson Member
    old articles, come up in google. 

    the specificity of the container used to do the distillation, of merit.

  • DoreenDoreen Member
    Why exhume all these old threads?
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