The necessity of earth and/or manure salt extraction is a topic you can often find in ancient treatises. Here’s a modern interpretation by Phantom Play.

crude nitre first crop from manure © phantom playCommon earth, grave earth and cow manure. And a device called ESSE, or Earth Salt Self Extractor, as suggested by its inventor. The material is not new for the old hands of the (old) alchemical web, anyway it can be interesting for the beginners, as well as an opportunity to check the differences with the ancient techniques and the alchemical requirements. All the content, including photos, is taken from the expired website Phantom Play.


The Earth Salt Self Extractor & The Extraction of Earth Salt from Cow Manure.

earth salt self extractor © phantom play

The ESSE is an Earth Salt Self Extractor. It is constructed on a wooden frame on the top of which a clothes dryer drum is mounted, and to the bottom the lower portion of a plastic barrel is attached.

earth salt self extractor drum © phantom playearth salt self extractor drum1 © phantom play

The clothes dryer drum has numerous holes which permit the flow of water through the earth.

earth salt self extractor manure © phantom play

The ESSE was loaded with two wheelbarrow loads of decomposed cow manure.

earth salt self extractor add water © phantom play

About ten gallons of well water was added to the ESSE drum to start the extraction.

earth salt self extractor pump © phantom play

A small electric pump was mounted to provide circulation of the extracted  liquid from the lower barrel back to the top of the drum.

earth salt self extractor liquid © phantom play

After several hours of circulating the liquid, the manure extract is pumped into a glass carboy. The solution has a considerable amount of suspended material but has no odor.

earth salt self extractor tub © phantom play

The extracted liquid was poured into a ten gallon copper tub. This was heated by an old gasoline camp stove.

earth salt self extractor liquid tub © phantom play

The liquid was boiled for about eight hours to reduce the volume of the liquid down to about one gallon.The odor was musty but not objectionable. Almost pleasing.

earth salt self extractor liquid tub1 © phantom play

An additional five gallons of water was added to the ESSE drum. This was circulated for a day while the previous extracted liquid was boiling down. The new extracted liquid was then pumped into the glass carboy, transferred to the copper tub and boiled down. Then again, another five gallons of water was added, circulated, pumped out, and boiled down. This was done until the extracted liquid started to look less brownish. The total amount of liquid extracted was a little over twenty gallons.

earth salt self extractor second boiling © phantom play

The manure extracted solution was placed in a four quart stainless steel saucepan and reduced in volume to about 500 ml. The solution is syrupy and has the odor of caramelized urine. Yummy.

crude nitre first crop from manure © phantom play

The first crop of crystals are very fine and have a dark brown color due to a lot of fine suspended organic matter.


The second crop of crystals are also dark but grow into long needle like forms.

crude-nitre-spoon ©-phantom-play

The crude salt melts like candle wax at a low temperature when heated on a stainless steel spoon.


The salt reacts with stainless steel to form a yellow colored deposit with various hues.


After cleaning and polishing, the spoon which was of a silver color, has now been tinged into a golden yellow. This effect has spread around the surface of the spoon even the bottom.

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