How to Make Incense: Step-by-Step
Making incense is really quite simple, and outside of sheer enjoyment and motivation it
requires just a few basic things:
1) Incense Recipe (or a pinch of this and that)
2) Fresh Natural Aromatic Ingredients
3) Mortar & Pestle / Grinder
4) Measuring Devices
5) Jars for storage
Once you've gathered these together, you're ready to begin making incense.
All incense making begins with the creation of a "loose,"
"non-combustible" mixture. This is simply the combination of two
or more ground, granular, powdered, and/or chipped natural aromatic
ingredients (herbs, flowers, seeds, spices, woods, bark, gums, resins, etc.)
Loose incense mixtures will rarely burn on their own, hence the term
"non-combustible," and so they'll need a heat source to release their
fragrance; more on this later. First lets create some incense, then we'll
decide how we want to heat it.
This section will take you through the step-by-step process of making
your own loose incense and once
its completed, you can either heat it as is, or continue on to make incense
sticks, cones, molds, pellets, or trails. So gather your enthusiasm, tools, and ingredients and lets get
started making incense...
How to Make Incense: Step-by-Step
(photos coming soon)
|Step 1 - Measure, Grind, and Measure
Measure each ingredient in your recipe either by weight using a scale
(the preferred and more consistently reliable method), or by volume using measuring spoons and cups.
If using a weight scale, to make small recipe
batches it's best to use a scale that measures by
the gram (preferably by the tenth of a
gram: 0.1 gram).
If measuring by volume, use spoons
that measure 1/4 TSP, 1/2 TSP, 1 TSP, and 1 TBSP. Measuring cups can
also be used for making larger batches of incense.
TBSP = tablespoon
In both cases, roughly
measure the ingredients in their whole form first, then grind each and
make your final measurement once the ingredients are ground. ***This
is an especially crucial step if you're measuring by volume.***
each ingredient separately using a mortar and pestle (absolutely required for all
gums and resins) and/or a
hand-crank grinder or mill.
If you're making loose incense, incense trails, or
pellets, then grind all ingredients to a small granular
form, about the consistency of sea salt or coarse sand. You may powder it
all if you like, but it's not required.
If you're making
sticks, cones, or molds, then all ingredients must be ground to a
very fine powder. This allows the sticks, cones or molds to burn
more reliably and evenly. Sift the ground powders though a small
metal sifter/strainer to make sure all larger grains have been
Gums & Resins:
Freeze slightly gummy resins for 15 to 30 minutes prior to grinding for faster, easier,
and more efficient grinding. Very soft gum resins like labdanum and elemi
are best frozen overnight.
Resins must be ground or powdered in a mortar and pestle.
They will clog, destroy and ruin any grinder, mill, blender,
processor, etc. you put in their path. The old fashioned way is still the only way. There are expensive commercial-grade grinders that could do the
job but this web site is about making incense for personal use.
We prefer using a large solid granite mortar and pestle for the
heavy work of grinding resins. Some soft gum resins may stick to the
granite so freezing the mortar and pestle as well as the gum resins
prior to grinding can help prevent this.
For gum resins that soften
very quickly even when frozen, like labdanum, galbanum, and elemi, we
prefer using a "seasoned" Molcajete mortar and pestle. A Molcajete is
a traditional mortar and pestle from Mexico made from
porous volcanic rock which you "season" by grinding in pre-soaked
white rice to coat the pores. This helps prevent soft gum resins from
sticking to the walls.
Tip: Adding the powdered woods or spices portion of a
recipe, if any, to the soft resins as you're grinding them can help keep the
resin mixture dry and separated.
Woods can be very difficult to powder and doing so can be a
path of great patience and attention.
If you're making incense sticks, cones or molds, it's
often easier to purchase woods already in powder form.
If you're making loose incense, it's okay to use
small wood chips about the size of grains of rice. Powders work well
too but aren't necessary to make and heat a loose incense mixture.
To grind woods use a small hammer and wood chisel to
chip the wood into smaller and smaller pieces. Once into very small,
rice-size chips or shavings, woods can then be ground into powders
using coffee grinders or grain mills,
manual or electric.
These are usually easily ground in coffee
grinders or mills, either electric or manual. Though sometimes hard,
whole pieces of ingredients like cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, musk seeds,
etc. are often best ground in a mortar and pestle first and then run
grinder or mill. Experiment with what works best for the ingredients
Orange, lemon, lime and other citrus peels
can be ground from the fruit by rubbing a cheese grater across the
peel of the fruit. Scatter cut peels on a screen, wax paper, cutting board, or
cardboard and let dry, turning occasionally. These dried peels can then be used as is for
making loose incense, or can be ground into powders in a coffee mill
for making incense sticks, cones or molds.
Dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, plums, quince,
etc. can be used alone or soaked in wines and drizzled with honey then added to incense mixtures to create incredibly delicious
soft kneaded incense pellets
|Step 2 - Mix
the final ground and measured ingredients together as one mixture and
grind it around a bit in the mortar and pestle to help "merge" the aromas.
|Step 3 -
Heat & Test
Congratulations, you've now made your very own
"loose," "non-combustible" incense! You're ready to heat it
and enjoy the fruits of your labor (and the labor of the many who
harvest, grow, and bring these ingredients to us all).
Even if you plan to continue on and make kneaded incense
pellets, trails, sticks, cones or molds with this incense it's best to stop
right now, heat it and see if you enjoy the aroma and/or energy of the incense. If it's not to your approval, make adjustments
before moving on.
There are three basic methods you can use to heat
your loose incense mixture; you can use
or an incense stove. Click on each title to learn more.
|Step 4 - Make Adjustments
Once you've heated your
loose incense you can make adjustments to the recipe to suit your own
tastes and desires. This is a completely subjective step in the
process of making
incense and so only your own nose, instincts, and
experience can guide
Continue testing and adjusting the recipe until
you're completely happy with the results.
|Step 5 - Finished or Moving on?
If you want only a loose incense blend for your uses
then congratulations you're done! You've made your very own all natural incense... enjoy!
Click here for information on how to heat your
Scoop the entire mixture into a glass jar, seal
it closed, label it and let it stand at least overnight in a dark, cool space (a
drawer or closet usually works well). The aging process allows the entire mixture to
"synergize," or merge together as one complex aroma. Aging
for several days or weeks will create a more matured, blended, and
An unglazed ceramic pot and lid is the ideal
storage container. Since ancient days such pots have been buried
near streams to age incense for months and even years.
If you want to make incense pellets, trails, sticks, cones or molds, there's a
little more work to do... and now you're prepared to move on to the steps
necessary for making those types of incense.
Click below for
step-by-step guides for making each type of incense:
Making incense sticks, cones, or molds
Making incense pellets
Making incense trails
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