All about ethanol extraction

Published May 28, 2019 01:34 p.m. ET
Credit: Natt Boonyatecha

At one point, it was easy for brand new companies to establish themselves and become successful with little more than a small variety of dry bud flowers available for purchase. Now that legalization is sweeping the globe; the industry is evolving into one that almost requires marijuana concentrates as a staple item to survive in the market. Though legalizing cannabis has been viewed as a massive victory for all involved, the prices of dry herb had begun to fall long before the legal industry had a chance to even begin, especially in Canada. Now thousands of manufacturers from all over the world have begun mass producing marijuana tinctures, concentrates, and other new and exciting marijuana products which result in much more of a financial benefit per pound.

As technology advances, so do the industry leaders who have begun to convert into ethanol extraction facilities to meet the increasing demand. Here, we will explain what ethanol extraction is, how it is done, the difference between it and the leading competing method CO2, and the benefits of ethanol extraction.

What is ethanol?

Ethanol is grain-based alcohol that is colorless, flammable, and highly volatile. It is also the element that is added to many of your favorite brews, is used for fuel, and you guessed it, a solvent. Ethanol currently holds a class 3 status from The Food and Drug Administration, which translates to a low risk for chronic or acute poisoning during the processes required to manufacture weed infused products.

What is ethanol extraction, and how it is performed by the professionals

Unfortunately, the average person will not be able to perform this task in any safe way so we won’t explain precisely how you could attempt to perform this method of extraction for yourself, but we can give you a basic rundown of how it works. The cannabis plant materials are washed in an ethanol bath that instantly begins pulling the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial components into the fluid. Thanks to how absorbent the marijuana plant is, almost 30% less solvent is required than any other method that is currently available. The ethanol is than squeezed from the plant materials before it is spun to recover all the ethanol from the mixture. Though the whole process is slightly more complicated than that, the basics are the same as any other cannabinoid extraction method, with the main difference being fewer residues left behind, and in some cases much more marijuana concentrate as the result of all that hard work.

Ethanol VS CO2 extraction techniques

The most significant differences between CO2 and ethanol when they are used for the extraction of marijuana concentrates are the temperatures they can be completed under, and the priority that each provides for particular cannabinoids. Ethanol allows for a broader range of different components to be extracted at once and works no matter what the temperatures might be. CO2 must be performed under cooler temperatures and allows for a more specific harvest of cannabinoids while leaving much of the terpenes and lesser known cannabinoids behind.

Benefits of ethanol extraction

  • Simple
  • Can be performed in either hot or cold temperatures with minimal effects
  • Time saving
  • Uses less solvent when compared to other methods of extraction
  • Perfect for small batches (required by regulation)
  • Efficient at extracting the terpenes from cannabis

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