Which Cannabis Extraction Methods Are Best?
There are over 113 cannabinoids–and 550 natural chemicals–in the cannabis plant. Some, like THC and CBD are quite well known. Others, like terpenes, are less well-known. Different products require different elements of the cannabis plant. That’s why cannabis is distilled: to separate and isolate the various parts of a cannabis plant for different products and applications. A pharmaceutical company is going to need different elements of cannabis than a company that produces recreational concentrates.
Rest assured, however, that there is an extraction method for cannabis that will fit your needs. Read our explanation of the different methods below.
Cannabis Alcohol Extraction
The cannabis alcohol extraction method is one of the most popular and widely employed methods. Alcohol is used as a solvent, or a liquid that will dissolve the chemicals in cannabis. The process is rather straightforward. The ease of acquiring and working with lab-grade ethanol offers another advantage to this method. In terms of labor and power costs, ethanol based cannabis extraction offers the lowest price point out of all the extraction methods. That being said, this Cannabis extraction method is excellent for those producing either very large volumes or very small volumes of concentrate.
The way cannabis is extracted using alcohol is simple: cannabis is soaked in the ethanol-based solvent for a period of time. The soggy plant matter is filtered from the liquid and discarded. The liquid is then evaporated, leaving the extractor with their concentrated cannabis compounds.
There are, however, inherent challenges with alcohol-based extraction. For example, ethanol has inherent polarity. This means that, when exposed to water, the alcohol could accidentally contaminate the distillate with chlorophyll, which leaves a bitter, earth taste in the concentrate. Although ethanol extraction is performed at a regular atmospheric pressure, the temperature during the evaporation process must be carefully controlled.
Despite the labor intensive end-stages of this extraction method, alcohol based extraction offers two distinct advantages: it co-extracts the most valuable compounds in the cannabis plant, and leaves no chance of contaminating the final product with toxic chemicals.
CO2 Cannabis Extraction
CO2 cannabis extraction, though a relative new-comer to the world of marijuana concentrates, has risen to industry prominence in short order. Overall, CO2 based cannabis extraction is one of the most popular cannabis extraction methods. It functions by using CO2–or a stronger hydrofluorocarbon–in combination with high heat and pressure, to separate the valuable cannabinoids from the ‘plant matrix,’ or raw organic material.
This is accomplished when CO2 attains a ‘supercritical’ state, or a unique chemical state where the carbon-dioxide is simultaneously liquid and gas. This supercritical CO2 is pumped into a vessel containing the cannabis plant material. When these two materials come into contact, the trichomes in the cannabis break down. The combination of supercritical CO2 and cannabis matter is shifted into another vessel, where the CO2 liquifies. The concentrate is filtered and the liquid may be reused. The small amount of CO2 remaining on the concentrate evaporates naturally, leaving the final product completely solvent-free.
CO2 cannabis extraction wastes very little reagant and also allows for high-yield extraction. Plus, the temperature and pressure settings can be tweaked to promote the extraction of different chemical profiles from the cannabis plant.
The primary problem this method poses is the barrier to entry and the delicate equipment required. Supercritical CO2 is unstable and an expensive laboratory set-up is required to safely produce CO2 extracts. Furthermore, there is an element of danger, as the high temperatures and pressures can cause ignition or explosion.
Butane or Propane Cannabis Extraction
Butane extraction is not unsimilar to CO2 extraction, in that it requires volatile chemicals and specific heats and pressures to produce the final concentrate, known as butane hash oil. Essentially, the raw cannabis plant material is mixed with liquid butane in a specially heated and pressurized chamber. The butane peels off the cannabinoids and terpenes at a high quantity.
Then, this mixture is introduced to a vacuum, which turns the butane from liquid to a gas. The gas evaporates and one is left with the concentrate, which is either butane hash oil or ‘shatter,’ a solid form of cannabis concentrate.
The final result of butane cannabis extraction is rich in cannabinoids and terpenes, yet for the reasons we will delve into below, this is likely the most dangerous cannabis Extraction Methods.
First of all, butane is intensely volatile, especially when gaseous. The chances of a lab fire or explosion are significant if the process is undertaken carelessly. Moreover, it is entirely possible for butane to contaminate the extract. The presence residual butane can be mitigated through the use of circulators, but all butane hash oil must be laboratory tested to ensure that the concentrate is uncontaminated with toxic chemicals.
The potential for contamination makes this extraction method less than ideal for medical suppliers of cannabis products. That being said, the yield and chemical profile of the extract is desirable and the cost to entry is low.
Solvent-free extraction is a modern classification for traditional cannabis processing methods that go back thousands of years.
First of all, there is ‘kief.’ Using grinders and sieves, the trichomes or ‘kief’ which looks like a fine powder, shakes off the plant matrix. Kief is rich in trichomes–the valuable chemical compounds unique to cannabis that define the plant’s natural life and uses.
Hash can also be created rather simply, using a pair of traditional techniques. There is ‘water hash,’ where the plant matrix is deposited in special bags, which are then placed in ice-water. Because cannabis is non-water soluble, the water separates the valuable compounds from the plant matter. This material is collected and dried. The other technique involves breaking the buds down to a very fine consistency, over screens. This finely-powdered concentrate is then pressed into bricks of hash.
A more modern take on solvent-free extraction is employed in the production of rosin. Rosin is produced in a way evocative of CO2 extraction, in that it employs heat and pressure to isolate the cannabis concentrate. It does not, however, require the use of any solvents which negates the chances of even a microscopic chemical contamination.
Rosin, with its distinct, syrupy consistency, is very expensive to produce and results in rather low yields, relatively speaking. Those drawbacks may be mitigated, however, by the purity and cleanliness of the cannabis extraction process.
One World Pharma Inc and Cannabis Extraction Methods
One World Pharma (OTCWB: OWPC) will not only dominate the Colombian cannabis production industry, we will offer state of the art cannabis distillates, too. Using a combination of the techniques above, OWP Colombia will produce and export medical- and industrial-grade cannabis extracts for a variety of industries.
OWP’s concentrate production is yet another reason to invest in Colombian cannabis today!
For more information, visit our website here.