Methods of Cannabis Extraction and The Role of Hydrocarbon Extraction

There are more than 550 compounds present in cannabis. Extracting the compounds (THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, and terpenes) and discarding the unnecessary plant matter is becoming extremely popular. The goal of the cannabis processing is to extract the plants THC or CBD into a concentrate. Cannabis extraction is important because it allows for creation of a safer, stronger, and more versatile range of cannabis products. Extracting the important compounds and removing any chemicals or compounds that could negatively affect the user’s experience results in a higher-quality cannabis product.

What is cannabis extraction?

THC and CBD extraction targets compounds in cannabis raw material and separating the oils (rich with TCH and CBD) into a usable form. There are oils found in the cannabis plant called trichomes, and extraction removes those oils while retaining THC and CBD, along with terpenes, all of which are the medicinal parts of the cannabis plant.

What products are made from cannabis extract?

Using a more concentrated form of the cannabis plant results in creating a wide range of products. Different cannabis extraction methods need to be used depending on the end goal, and the main products made with cannabis extraction include:

  • Tinctures: cannabis-infused liquid 

  • Kief: resin glands 

  • Hash: concentrated kief

  • Shatter: a brittle glasslike extract

  • Vaporizer cartridges of oil

  • Wax/Dabs/Live Resin

  • Rosin (Solventless Extraction)

  • Edibles

How to Extract CBD

There are a variety of ways to tackle cannabis extraction. Each method has its pros and cons, and knowing those specifics is vital if you have a specific end product in mind. The most common methods are:

 

●  Hydrocarbon Extraction: Already used in the food and perfume industries, hydrocarbon extraction for cannabis has been growing in popularity. The plant matter is introduced to butane or propane (or a mix), and as evaporation occurs, a more concentrated collection of the cannabinoids remains. This method is ideal for creating strong THC and CBD products, while still preserving the flavor from the original plant.  This process is recommended if the consumer wants all of the flavors of the plant and exceptionally pure product.

 

●  C02 Oil Extraction: This method is also very popular in the food and drink industries, and it's a very environmentally-friendly option. Supercritical C02 is heated up to supercritical temperature and then passed through the cannabis raw material. A potential drawback to this method is that it needs a lot of specialist equipment, but it's a good method for creating oils and waxes.  And the extraction method is perceived to be a safer method without use of volatile hydrocarbons. 

 

 Ethanol Extraction: For this method, the cannabis plant is soaked in ethanol, extracting the THC, with the ethanol, and then is refined for a purer extracted product. This process is recommended for extracting bulk THC and/or CBD to produce crude oil, mostly for edibles. 

 

ICE Water Extraction: This solvent-free method uses freezing water, submerging the plant, and then stirring it. This allows the trichomes to separate from the cannabis plant. Then, the water is passed through several filters and screens to produce the final product. This is a quick and easy method, but the potency may be significantly lower than other methods, and efficiency is the processing method is lower.

What is Hydrocarbon Extraction?

Fundamentally, hydrocarbon extraction involves using a hydrocarbon, such as butane or propane, to remove the sought-after chemicals found in cannabis plant matter. Butane is the most popular option, although pure propane or a combination blend of both propane and butane can result in different final products.

Propane vs. Butane Extraction

The main difference between using propane or butane for cannabis extraction is the temperatures. Butane has a boiling point of -1°C, making it very easy to control vapor pressure. Propane has a boiling temperature of -43°C, which means significantly higher vapor pressure. A blended solvent, usually around 70% butane and 30% propane, is commonly used because it provides the light extraction process of butane while allowing for more skillful manipulation of the output product.

The Hydrocarbon Extraction Process

The hydrocarbon extraction process has five steps:

1) Plant Matter Quality Assessment

2) Primary Extraction

3) Refining

4) Concentration of Solution

5) Final Purge of Concentration

Benefits of Hydrocarbon Extraction

Hydrocarbon extraction or butane hash oil (BHO)  is popular because it comes with benefits that other extraction methods don’t. Using hydrocarbons is very low-cost, and it's also very efficient. The most popular reason for using a hydrocarbon extraction method is because the end product is more potent and it preserves the flavor of the original plant better, while the process itself is very safe.  Cannabis connoisseurs prefer BHO.

Cannabis Extraction Equipment

A cannabis extraction setup will generally need the following of cannabis extraction equipment:

  • Vapor Recovery Systems: Vapor recovery systems are designed for n-Butane and Butane/Propane blends. They are an engineered system to safety and performance perfection resulting in high quality results. Also, the vapor recovery systems are ergonomic, durable, and simple to maintain. 

  • Filter Dryer: Because all plant material contains water, during the CBD extraction process, water may transfer to your solvent (e.g., butane), which can ruin the recovery pump. To prevent this, a filter dryer is essential. Filter dryers will eliminate this problem and are designed specifically for extraction done with hydrocarbon closed-loop systems. 

  • Distillation, Vacuum Ovens, and Pumps: CBD distillation uses heat and vacuum ovens and pumps to separate the CBD from less desirable compounds, such as fats and waxes. Vacuum pumps are a necessary piece of equipment required for proper hemp distillation. After extracting the CBD, it must undergo an evaporation process so that only the desired material remains. 

  • Rotary Evaporators: The rotary evaporator plays a crucial role in the extraction process because it efficiently removes extraction solvents by evaporation, without harming the product. Typically, the rotary evaporator is used in post-extraction refinement or recovery after ethanol extraction. 

Hydrocarbon extraction is a low-cost and efficient way to get more from your cannabis plants. Here at PDXGold, we have the essential high-quality equipment to support your hydrocarbon extraction. If you have any questions about the process or equipment used, please contact the PDXGold team today at (503) 783-6550, or drop us an email at contact@pdx.gold.

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