Table of Contents:
- Introduction: What is Cannabis Oil Extraction?
- A Short History of Cannabis and Hemp Extraction
- What are Cannabinoids? (THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, THCV, etc.)
- Biomass: Starting with the Right Stuff
- Extraction Process Overview (Derivatives and their Processes)
- Strategic End Product Market Opportunities
- Common Extraction Methods and Technology
- Extraction Equipment and Systems
- The Practical Science Behind Extraction
- Types of Viable Business Models
- Top 10 Questions (and Answers) from the Experts
- Cannabis Extraction Glossary of Terms
- Industry Resources and Links
Top 10 Extraction Questions – FAQ
Answers to Frequently Asked Extraction Questions
Got a question? The answer may be here. The following are the top 10 questions that our sales team consultants are asked on a regular basis.
- What is the difference between Ethanol extraction, CO2 extraction, and Hydrocarbon extraction?
- What are the differences between processing cannabis and hemp?
- How often can I re-use ethanol solvent before discarding it due to crossover batch concerns?
- Can I continuously reuse the recovered ethanol just by adding a fresh pure portion to compensate the losses? Or, after a certain number of extractions does it need replacing with a fresh batch?
- Why do I need to process at such low temperatures?
- With ethanol extraction, do you see extractors wanting to work below -40°C? Do you have a chilling solution or recommendation if they do?
- Is the mill size of biomass important? What is your recommendation?
- Can I run fresh-frozen material in an ethanol extraction machine?
- Are your Ethanol Extraction Systems “Turnkey”? Automated?
- Why are your systems “batch” and not continuous/automated?
- Can you tell me what ancillary equipment and accessories are required and recommended to operate a full ethanol extraction operation?
1. What is the difference between Ethanol extraction, CO2 extraction, and Hydrocarbon extraction?
- Ethanol Extraction is high throughput (more-so than CO2 and hydrocarbons), and perfect for making distillate and isolates at scale. Ethanol binds to terpenes, rendering them unusable. Many producers add terpenes to their ethanol distillate if that is their desire. Ethanol processing requires a C1D2 control area.
- CO2 has a lower throughput than ethanol but utilizes an inert gas for processing as opposed to a liquid solvent or explosive gas. CO2 allows the processor to capture terpenes prior to extraction for later use. CO2 raw extract requires a fair amount of post-processing to remove lipids, fats, and waxes, but this can be repurposed into topical ointments. CO2 operates off of high pressure and varying temps, but no volatile compounds. As such, it does not require a control zone.
- BHO/Hydrocarbon is lower throughput (like CO2), but allows the processor to capture all major terpenes and cannabinoids in one fell swoop. Hydrocarbon extraction generally utilizes BHO (Butane) or Propane as a solvent, so requires a C1D1 control zone for explosive gasses. BHO is best for “dabbable” concentrates such as Dabs, Sauce, Shatter, Diamonds, etc. which are gaining popularity with consumers.
- Learn more about the differences between different extraction methods.
2. What are the differences between processing cannabis and hemp?
Cannabis and hemp require different efficiencies. Cannabinoid yield from cannabis is generally much higher than that of hemp because hemp contains less oleoresin than cannabis. This means that you need much more biomass or plant material to glean out similar amounts of oil.
3. How often can I re-use ethanol solvent before discarding it due to crossover batch concerns?
If you are continually extracting from the same biomass source/lot, you can re-use the reclaimed ethanol many times over. Generally, expect to experience about 3% ethanol loss per extraction run in the CUP system, so you will need to top off about 0.5 to 0.75 gallon per run. You should generally switch to fresh ethanol once you switch biomass lots. At the end of the day, it’s up to you and local/federal regulations on how to proceed. Many cannabis extractors continue to reuse their reclaimed ethanol regardless of what lot or strain they are processing.
4. Can I continuously reuse the recovered ethanol just by adding a fresh pure portion to compensate the losses? Or, after a certain number of extractions does it need replacing with a fresh batch?
Replacement of ethanol is not necessary unless your local jurisdiction dictates replacement after a batch or lot of biomass. We recommend continually topping off with fresh ethanol.
5. Why do I need to process at such low temperatures?
We recommend chilling your process ethanol to -40C prior to extraction and freezing your biomass if possible, to increase the efficiency of your process. This will allow you to capture cannabinoids while minimizing the extraction of fats, lipids, waxes, sugars, and chlorophyll. Should you decide to process at room temperature or higher, you will need to invest in more post-processing equipment and SOPs for color remediation and winterization.
6. With ethanol extraction, do you see extractors wanting to work below -40°C? Do you have a chilling solution or recommendation if they do?
We do receive questions from clients who want to chill their ethanol below -40°C. However, we cannot recommend operating at temperatures lower than -40°C as the seals on our CUP Series units aren’t rated for temperatures lower than that. Technically, the seals operate safely down to -50C, but the clients that want to process at lower temperatures are often targeting -65C and beyond!
Our DC-40 will not chill lower than -40C, but we do offer an option from a different company that can chill to true cryogenic temps but, again, we don’t recommend using ethanol colder than -40C in our CUP units.
7. Is the mill size of biomass important? What is your recommendation?
Mill size is extremely important for extraction in our CUP centrifuge extraction units. Powdery material will contaminate your tincture and unbalance your CUP unit. A mill size that is too large will reduce your extraction efficiencies, that’s why we recommend a mill size of 1/8 to ¼ inch.
8. Can I run fresh-frozen material in an ethanol extraction machine?
We do NOT recommend extracting fresh/frozen cannabis in our CUP Series extractors as this will add water to your process ethanol, reducing your efficiencies.
9. Are your Ethanol Extraction Systems “Turnkey”? Automated?
Our extraction and distillation equipment are components for a larger process and, as such, are not turnkey or automated. We prefer batch processing over larger, turnkey, systems as this allows for redundancy should one part of your process fail. We understand that downtime equals money lost. In their current form, our systems are not automated, but a full front-to-back suite will only require 2-3 processors to run.
10. Why are your systems “batch” and not continuous/automated?
Full front-to-back, all-in-one solutions are available from other companies. However, if one component fails within an all-in-one solution, the entire lab will be down and lose money until the entire machine is repaired. With individual components a lab can continue to function while the point of failure is isolated and repaired. If your extractor goes down, you can still evaporate and distill. If distillation goes down, you can still extract, evaporate, and process crude. And, if you have multiple extractors, if one goes down, you can still extract with your remaining units while the broken one is repaired.
11. Can you tell me what ancillary equipment and accessories are required and recommended to operate a full ethanol extraction operation?
Just a some of the ancillary equipment pieces that we recommend are:
- A walk-in freezer,
- A filter skid (for filtering your ethanol solution between extractions),
- Rotary evaporator or “rotovap” and decarb reactor to round out a full production suite. You will be able to bypass the rotovap and use your reactor for evaporation and decarboxylation should you purchase the right one.