TWO OR THREE LITRE ALEMBIC

The alembic is the glassware that is most important in either the spagyrical or alchemical works. Without this apparel, you cannot make the spirits that are so important in our Art. Today, it is not easy to find a master glassmaker that can make an alembic just as the ones used by our old Masters.

In certain cases you can use a copper alembic, but when it is necessary to make a distillation of acid spirits, the alembic will have to be of good Pyrex glass.

The 2 or 3 litre retorts are very voluminous and more difficult to find.

Therefore you will have to seek a master glassmaker that can manufacture you a glass alembic.

A cucurbit is a balloon of round or conic bottom known as an Erlenmeyer of 2 or 3 litres with short lap. The helm is a little more difficult to do. The master glassmaker uses a Pyrex glass spherical balloon and heats it near the lap and pushes it inside creating like this, a concavity where the condensed liquids are deposited. For a 3-litre cucurbit, the balloon of the helm should be 1,5 litre.

Then he will adapt a conic tube (horn) of 25 cm of length in the concavity of the helm so that the condensed liquids deposited in that concavity can be drained to the exterior. At the tip of that conic tube he makes an IN19-mm polished male.

At the lap or neck of the helm, an IN45-mm polish male joint is adapted and in the cucurbit a female joint also of IN45-mm. If the cucurbit goes of a larger capacity, the polish joint should be of IN70-mm. Most of the times it is here that the difficulty arises. Because it is necessary to have an appropriate machine to do these polishing and some artists don't have it.

The receiving vase will be made of a 2 litre spherical balloon with a short lap and a female polish joint of IN29-mm. Since the beak of the conic tube (horn) of the helm is a 19-mm joint, an adapter has to be made that allows the connection among the two. This adapter has a 19-mm female polish on one end and a 29-mm male polish on the other end.

The receiving balloon will have in its belly an air hole, without which the alembic would explode because of the excess pressure inside.

There are some who say that we are too conservative in our use of apparels similar to our ancestors, but the truth is that we have not found yet appropriate substitutes that can make the same work in the necessary amounts.

He who makes it with conventional apparels is welcome to tell us the process and the equipment used, because if it is viable it will save us a lot of money.

The same happens with the circulators or incubators, which at present are constituted by two vases. The inferior vase can be 1 litre glass Pyrex balloon with round bottom or an Erlenmeyer with female polish of IN29-mm. The superior vase usually has the half of the capacity of the inferior or 500-ml with high lap and a polish male of IN29-mm.

The superior vase will have in its top a capillary air hole to avoid that, with the interior pressure, the superior vase jumps and breaks. A circulation takes days and sometimes months to do and because of that, it is convenient to have two or three circulators available.

Also a 500-ml retort with tubulure (horn) will be indispensable for us to make certain metallic tinctures and the vegetable First Being that cannot be done in another vase.

Usually in the retort, the beak of the tubular (horn) doesn't have a male polished end. It is convenient to order one of IN19-mm and later to use an adapter for the receiving vase that, in this case, can be a 500-ml spherical balloon with short lap and with a female polished end of IN29-mm with a small air hole in its belly.

As a source of heat, there are two alternatives. The more economical ones would be an electric oven or heating plate with a temperature regulator as used in the chemistry laboratories.

A small gas stove can also be used. In this case you will have to use an iron pot, enamelled, for a sand bath. Choose a pot sufficiently large, but not in excess, and put in sifted fine sand and well washed.

Place a layer of sand first in the bottom of the pot. Then you place the cucurbit in it and after that, you will put the remaining sand so that it reaches the height of two or three centimetres above the bottom of the cucurbit.

Also it is convenient to place aluminium foil around the part of the cucurbit that stands out of the pot. This is to prevent the glass from breaking due to the temperature difference and also to avoid the condensation of liquids on the walls of the cucurbit and to conduct directly to the helm, all of the vapour that emanates from the matter.

You will need, also, an appropriate support for the receiving balloon of the still as used in the chemistry laboratories.

This way, you will have a complete alembic that will allow you to distil the spirits that will be needed in your works.

The ideal would be that you also have an identical 6-litre alembic because to distil 50 litres of wine spirit, vinegar or essential oils of a plant in a 3-litre alembic is not very practical.

Without this apparel, you cannot make the spirits that are so important in our Art. Today, it is not easy to find a master glassmaker can an alembic just as ones used by old Masters.

Rubellus Petrinus