Distilling water is a time, labour and resource heavy process (that took me a while to perfect!) So this is basically a product that does the work for you, uses less energy and makes a fair amount of end product for the time taken though for someone new to distillation some of the info might be a bit surprising.
What is distillation and what are the uses?
Distillation for water is basically the process of heating water to boiling point (100 deg C), maintaining that level or higher and siphoning off the steam, that steam is the distilled water. As the liquid has become light enough to separate from the main body and lift, it does so without all the heavier properties and additives generally found in natural or treated water. Hence it doesn’t contain the natural minerals, metals and nutrients of mountain/spring waters (so it’s actually purer than ‘pure’ water or perhaps ‘empty’ would be another term) nor the chemical concoctions, heavy metals or things like fluoride added to or falls into water from runs offs or rain for example.
Distilled water has many uses and is commonly used for cleaning equipment/tools; many associate it with industrial use (and it’s certainly easier to produce in such places as a machine bi-product from all the heat) but there are many home uses. It can be used for cosmetic making, home remedies, brewing, necessary for some cleaning equipment like some steam cleaners and irons, and perhaps sterilization of eating/drinking items. I’ve also come across some folk who use it for the cleaning their fish tanks.
It is fine to use distilled water for food, it’s simply water and hydrates and helps the body, but of course it needs to be accompanied in a nutrient rich diet if it’s re-mineralization and vitamins you’re after. That is particularly true for exercise or low blood pressure (feeling light headed/faint) – where mineral water, coconut water/juice or something other rich liquid would be more suitable.
The Machine and Using it
I bought mine from eBay for approx £100 nowadays it’s approx £85 and upto £270 on Amazon. Unfortunately mine needed a universal adapter for the plug so remember to check about that if interested. This version is plastic on the outside and stainless steel on the inside but metal finish ones are also available.
1) The distiller itself separates to:
* The head with nozzle for steam to pass through and a connection wire to attach it to the..
* Main body to hold the water
* Power cord/plug
2) Within the nozzle is a replaceable filter
* The filter is made from activated carbon (rolled sheet types: >400), commonly used for high level filters activated carbon is different from regular burning or drawing charcoal and is used for various things including detoxing, digestive aid and in some cases poison control. It can strip the body of the good/helpful metals/minerals as well as the heavy metals (like some consumable clays – notably bentonite and zeolite – but also very beneficial).
* Extra filters can be bought separately and the rate of change depends on how frequently the distiller is used.
3) A separate jug/container to catch the steam – sits around the nozzle and comes with a cap. Mine was plastic which I didn’t like so used a different container but it state it was high heat resistant plastic.
4) Washing up liquid/detergent
This was the easiest method of distillation I’ve come across because all it took was filling the main body with tap or mineral water to the line, putting the head on, attaching the lead between the head and body, adding the power cord and plugging it in! (Whilst remembering to put the water container under the nozzle.) It had a start/on button but not a finish/off one as it automatically stopped itself but it could be ended early by switching off the mains/socket. This is the only method I’ve seen where you can leave the water unattended, multi-task, actually sit down if you want and get distracted 😉 and come back later. It’s very convenient. (That doesn’t mean leave the property and forget about it though! It’s not a slow cooker.)
It can also be run continuously all day according to the manual, with only a short cooling period between each go. I never tried that but have heard that it works fine that way. Personally when I used it multiple times a day I let it cool down quite a bit first just in case and to prolongue its life span.
The time involved to make this doesn’t sound appealing but this machine was marketed as very energy efficient using very little electricity.
Note – as with a filter jug the manual said not to use the first batch, to throw it out to remove anything left from the manufacturing and packing processes (in this case that does sounds like a waste, I can’t remember if I listened or just washed the insides first…)
This obviously handles very hot water (upto 160deg C) so take care when removing the head. It only feels warm from the outside but I found it best to lift the head at an angle lest getting a blast of steam in my face/on hands. You can leave it a few minutes to cool a bit first – it’s a bit like a metal kettle in that I find I’m more likely to get burned by the initial steam from one of their spouts than a plastic one…
Bear in mind that you can’t use more or less water than the line marked, that might sound obvious but there’s quite a few appliances that are ‘flexible’ and the difference doesn’t impair their performance so much. This one has a maximum time limit and does not have a lot of extra space in the main body so extra water could cause too much steam or gushing and too little could mean burning the heating element. I’m not saying use a spirit level and check the meniscus but don’t be over or under zealous 🙂
Apparently if you put warm-hot water in it the production time is automatically shortened (as per the principles of cooking in various room temperatures i.e. taking longer in cold and shorter in hot places) again something I never tried but also something I was a bit reluctant about. For example my Soylove (milk/tofu/soup maker) takes less time when used in successive rounds but it isn’t exactly the same each time. Also whilst both have temperature controls it’s not something I wanted to test since I had to use an awkward universal adapter, different to the one I usually use, on the plug a few times and it got in the way of the socket switch meaning I had to manually turn off the distiller, and if I wasn’t on time the steel at the bottom started to burn.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Distilled water itself should not produce lime scale but the production of it causes the water to separate so there will be some ‘dirt’/scale left over after using the machine a few times. I remember the recommended cleaning protocol being quite time consuming and more than I expected. Basically the manual said to use their recommended detergent only (how helpful, not) to not only clean the inside but the outside plastic of the distiller (yeah how long would that last). I just wiped clean the outside.
For the inside it recommended rinsing each day after using which was fine and once a month do what I call a ‘deep clean’. That involved putting a little detergent inside, filling it with hot water (I never used boiling) and switching it on for about 20-25min (with no on/off button that meant directly turning the switch off at the socket). Discard that soapy/dirty water and rinse with clean.
The distilled/water container could be washed like a regular plastic bottle not needing the ‘special’ detergent. I actually never used the detergent anyway since I couldn’t tell whether it was vegan friendly or not and just used a gentle alternative instead, never had any problems with that.
Take care not to submerge any part of the distiller or get any water into the head – so when doing the normal rinse just pour the water inside the main body, swish, throw out and wipe; don’t put it in a sink/bowl of water.
It was recommended to change the filter every 2-3 months, which I could understand given they were very small and if used frequently but I saw them as an extra (and great) level of filtration so I changed it at 6 months. It’s not required for old fashioned distillation and more on the reverse osmosis side where the filters tend to be a lot bigger and the process slower.
How does it hold up against regular/traditional home distillation methods?
For some great and easy to understand methods of distillation take a looksee here: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Distilled-Water
The average output is 1liter per hour for 4 hours. That’s pretty average for traditional distillation as well depending on the materials used and room temperate however since those are variable I can get 1.5l an hour or 2 if lucky but that said the opposite it also true, so it’s hit and miss. At least this way you know you’ll get 4l at the end of 4 hours (unless you’re in the mountains and it takes more energy and longer just to heat up to standard room temp) rather than possibly 3l after 6 hours using a traditional method in Winter. If you’re in a hot place the temperature sensor should shut it off if it gets too hot and your overall production time should be shortened.
As aforementioned with traditional methods you tend to have to be on your guard, it takes some getting used to and experimenting to get a formula that works for you and build up a ‘time awareness’ as it needs consistent checking and topping up as the water is converted into steam, then allowing for the temperature to rise again and being as quick as possible if using multiple containers so as not to break the chain for too long and wasting. It’s long, hot work, and can be sweaty and messy work. Plus cleaning up all the time is annoying.
All in all I’d say this type of distiller is better for newbies and people who use a lot of distilled water and/or frequently. Also for those who can’t do heavy lifting; this is a few kg in weight when full but it’s nowhere near as much lifting as other methods. Whereas those who need it once in a while it may be better to use a modified method from the above link (those are designed for making enough to store so some people may prefer scaling down or using varied equipment from what they’ve already got at home) and since appliances in general are not easy to dispose of.
Advantages: Consistent results, energy efficient, doesn’t need supervision.
Disadvantages: Quite heavy, not so easy to clean.