A company will use extraction methods to separate the different parts of the cannabis plant and then remove them from the unwanted plant material. Several chemical methods can be used to divide up the plant into its parts to create extracts, which consist of concentrated compounds.
The cannabis plant has at least 113 cannabinoids in it, such as THC and CBD. But a producer might also want to make an extract that has a range of other compounds in it. This is known as a whole plant extract. There are more than 550 chemicals in the plant, such as well-known and lesser-known cannabinoids and the terpenes.
Before you learn more about the methods of extraction used, remember that these extraction techniques involve chemistry, not cooking. To perform one of these methods safely and correctly, you would need to have real lab equipment and analytical skills.
Many times, the reagents that you use can make for some dangerous situations. That means that many of these techniques require the right safety equipment, including fume hoods. It is also important that you do the process correctly so you can make a safe product for human consumption. You would need to confirm the results using analytical testing at an independent lab. And no matter what kind of reagent you use, you can add extra cleanup time and cost to the process. This is why it is often best to purchase already made extracts.
Alcohol Extraction Techniques
With several popular methods of marijuana extraction, you use a solvent, like alcohol. The marijuana plant material will soak in the alcohol, which is usually ethanol. Then, the plant material will be removed, and the remaining liquid will be filtered. A form of evaporation will be used to remove the alcohol.
One of the challenges of using this method is that solvents, such as ethanol, are inherently polar. That means that they can mix with water and dissolve chlorophyll and other molecules. It is important to remove this chlorophyll from the extract since it can leave a bitter taste behind.
This technique can be done at atmospheric pressure. However, the temperature will be controlled carefully, particularly during the evaporation process. It can take some time, which means you have to do it carefully to avoid danger. Ethanol is very flammable.
One benefit of using this type of extraction is that it will not leave any harmful residual chemicals behind in your extract. And it lets you extract every component that you want, especially the terpenes and the cannabinoids.
CO2 Marijuana Extraction
CO2 extraction is another popular technique. Instead of using alcohol, this method lets you remove the marijuana components from the matrix of the plant using carbon dioxide. Both high heat and pressure are used to make the substance supercritical. That means that it will be both a gas and a liquid at the same time.
The cost of the equipment for this method is higher than that used for alcohol extraction. However, many companies like this method since it can produce a higher yield than alcohol extractions can. Not as much valuable material is lost either. This is a good method for extracting certain components. By changing the runtime, pressure, or temperature, more of one component or another can be extracted.
By using this process, different components can be concentrated at different rates using the same process. That means that companies will need to analyze the finished product, particularly when they want to have a certain concentration of one component or the other.
When the components are extracted, the supercritical CO2 can then go to a condenser and become a liquid that you can filter and use again. That means that very little of the reagent will be used. Once a producer has the equipment, the method is economical to run. It also reduces the need to get rid of as much waste.
If there is any CO2 in the extract after the process, it can simply evaporate. This is important if a producer is making a concentrate for a medical marijuana patient. This will guarantee that no solvent remains in the product at the end.
Although there is some financial investment needed to get a CO2 system, it can save the producer money in the long run since they can reuse the reactant.
Propane or Butane Marijuana Extraction
If you have ever used butane hash oil, then you have a concentrate that was created using butane for the extraction solvent. The process begins with liquid butane and marijuana in a heated and pressurized system. The company will use evaporation under a vacuum, and the butane solvent can be removed. The vacuum will turn the butane from a liquid to a vapour. That means it easier to remove.
This type of extract can also be called shatter, and it is a clear material. It usually has CBD, THC, and some other compounds in it. The terpenes will also be in the substance. To make real shatter, the number of terpenes has to be kept fairly low. Otherwise, it will be a solvent that makes a softer extract.
Using a good starting sample, the producer can make a final product that does not have too many terpenes in it. Starting with cured flowers is a good idea. But the producer might also heat the butane hash oil to remove the terpenes once the extraction process is done. That is because the terpenes are more volatile than the CBD or THC.
But even without adding any more steps, the method can have some potential hazards. In the gas phase, butane can easily burn. That means that you have to manage the temperature extremely carefully. Otherwise, there is a very real risk that the gas might explode. A system also needs to have circulators to recycle and remove the butane. This can help reduce any remaining butane in the extract. But no matter how the process is done, there should be analytical testing done to see that every last bit of butane has been removed. It is very toxic to humans.
This extraction method might not be as desirable for certain products, like those made for medicinal users. With tighter regulations and increased analytical testing on the acceptable amount of residual butane, this method might be limited for some applications. Otherwise, the producer will have to take more precautions to limit the remaining butane in the product.
However, this method of extraction has still been popular for enthusiasts and extract producers for many years. One reason for this is that the equipment and running costs are fairly low. Plus, it can create a flavourful extract that has more terpenes than you can get with CO2 extraction.
About Propane Hash Oil
Some companies choose to make propane hash oil. With this method, liquid propane will be used instead of butane. High pressure will keep the propane in a liquid state, and you can do extraction at a lower temperature since the boiling point of propane is lower than that of butane.
The temperature of the extraction will impact the component that a producer can get out of the plant. While the methods are similar, the extracts are not similar. In some cases, the propane and butane extraction methods can be used with each other to make a product that has a larger chemical profile.
However, as with the butane process, you have to follow some special safety procedures when working with propane extraction. It is important to remove as much of the propane as possible. Then, it has to be independently tested to prove that it does not have any traces of the chemical left.
There are also some basic techniques for getting marijuana extracts and removing the desirable components from the plant. For instance, kief can be made from the buds by just sieving and grinding.
The kief is a crystalline formation that makes up some of the structures called trichomes. These are found on the outside of many kinds of plants, including the marijuana plant. The trichomes are there to protect the plant, and the female plant makes it during the flowering phase. They have a bitter taste and a strong scent, which makes it unpalatable to potential predators. They might also help to reduce any fungal growth.
When you separate it from the cannabis plant, the kief will look like pollen or a powder. As the cannabinoids and terpenes are highly concentrated on the trichomes, you can add the powder to your cannabis preparations to make them more potent. Or you can take them alone for a unique high.
This is also known as hashish. It is an example of a very basic extract that is made without using solvents. The goal is to separate the trichomes from the plant since they have a high level of the desirable components.
There are two main methods of making hash. One of them will involve taking your frozen cannabis buds and breaking them up into smaller bits over a screen. The trichomes will be separated from the plant, and they will fall through your sieve. Then, you can press them into blocks. The other method will involve using ice water, which can separate the trichomes. Then, you can press them into a block once they are dry.
Rosin is a popular extract that is made from flowers, kief, or hash. It is translucent and usually has a consistency like sap. It is made by applying pressure and heat to the material. The result is a product that is very close to a butane extract, which is much more expensive and time-consuming to make.
Testing has shown that while this approach is simple, it is also effective when it comes to removing the terpenes and cannabinoids. It does not have any risk of leaving behind trace amounts of potentially toxic solvents, such as butane. The approach is simple, making it one of the biggest benefits of using it.
You can even do it at home. It is fairly easy to use a hair straightener, a collection tool, heatproof gloves, and baking parchment to make a highly potent rosin extract yourself. You can also get commercial rosin presses to create this substance on a bigger scale. However, the idea is still the same. A mechanism that applies both pressure and heat will be used to squeeze your material, regulating the pressure and heat. Then, the extract can be scraped off of the tool.
Preserving the Terpenes
The terpenes are important in the cannabis plant. These give each of the many strains a unique flavour and aroma. Plus, they can moderate the effects of the plant. The terpenes are responsible for what kind of high you get, plus any potential medicinal effects from the plant.
Unfortunately, high heat can destroy the terpenes since they have an extremely low boiling point. This is why you might want to look for extracts made with methods that do not use heat. A low-temperature method or even a solventless extract will often have more terpenes in it. This can be the best method for many users.
There are many methods for creating marijuana extracts. The right kind of extract for you will depend a lot on what you want to get out of cannabis. For example, if you are a medical user, then you might want to look for an extract that does not have the possibility of having residual solvents in it. However, if you want to have an extract that has a lot of terpenes in it, you might want to go for one that was made using a solvent. However, the best way to find the right extract for you is to experiment with the many different kinds yourself.