Ethanol extraction has long been one of the most popular method for extracting cannabinoids and other desirable compounds from cannabis plants. This efficient and generally safe process utilizes ethanol as a solvent to create high-quality cannabis extracts. In this blog, we will explore the process of ethanol extraction, the different types of ethanol used, the advantages of using ethanol, and the equipment involved in this extraction method.
The Process of Ethanol Extraction
Ethanol extraction is a straightforward process that involves the use of ethanol as an extraction solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant material. The process begins by soaking the plant material in ethanol, allowing the solvent to dissolve the desired compounds. This creates a solution known as the ethanol extract, which contains cannabinoids, terpenes, and other valuable constituents.
Once the extraction is complete, the ethanol extract is further processed to separate the desired compounds from the solvent. This is typically achieved through a process called ethanol recovery, where the ethanol is evaporated or distilled from the extract. The result is a concentrated cannabis extract referred to as Crude, that can be used to create various cannabis products, or refined further into products like distillate.
Types of Ethanol Used for Cannabis Extraction:
In ethanol extraction, high-purity food-grade ethanol is commonly used as the solvent. Ethanol with a high concentration of alcohol (typically 95% or higher) is preferred due to its ability to dissolve a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes effectively. This ensures a comprehensive extraction of the desired compounds from the plant material.
Ethanol being used is a solvent for extraction is referred to as GRAS or Generally Recognized as Safe. This is an acronym developed by the FDA for “any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive, that is subject to premarket review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excepted from the definition of a food additive”.
Advantages of Ethanol Extraction:
Ethanol extraction offers several advantages that make it a popular choice for cannabis extraction:
Ethanol is considered a safer solvent compared to other hydrocarbon solvents like butane or propane. It has a lower risk of explosion and is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for consumption.
Ethanol can extract a wide range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds, making it suitable for producing various cannabis products with diverse profiles.
Ethanol extraction can achieve high yields of cannabinoids and terpenes in a single extraction process, making it cost-effective for large-scale production.
Ethanol extraction equipment is in comparison very affordable. The extraction solvent itself is also on the lower end of the price scale, and can be reused with minimal loss if the recovery process is performed properly.
Equipment Used in Ethanol Extraction:
The equipment used in ethanol extraction can vary depending on the scale of the operation. However, the basic components include:
This vessel is used to soak the cannabis plant material in ethanol to extract the desired compounds. Most commonly, a centrifuge is used.
After extraction, a solvent recovery system is used to separate the ethanol from the extract through evaporation or distillation.
Once the bulk of the extraction solvent has been removed, the crude oil is put into a decarboxylation reactor to remove the remaining residual solvents and activate the cannabinoids.
Ethanol extraction is a widely used method for obtaining high-quality cannabis extracts. Through the use of food-grade ethanol as a solvent and the appropriate equipment, cannabis businesses can efficiently and safely produce a diverse range of extracts, concentrates, and infused products. Understanding the process and benefits of ethanol extraction empowers cannabis producers to meet consumer demand and excel in this dynamic industry.