Extraction isn’t a process limited to marijuana, though it’s certainly used in the world of cannabis. It’s a method upon which “engineers” take the best features of a plant to make something even better. In the weed industry, extraction turns buds into outright BFFs. The result is cannabis concentrates, concentrates that are growing in popularly and threatening regular flowers in terms of who gets to rule the school at Herb and Hash High.
People use concentrates for an enhanced experience, of course, but they’re not limited to psychoactive value. Some people want concentrates heavily concentrated in CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that offers known and unknown health benefits. Because extraction extracts the terpenes and flavonoids, the end result is a purer, more potent creation. If THC is involved, the high will be more potent. If CBD is involved, the wellness effects will be more potent.
The Popularity of Concentrates
Some states don’t allow for the sale of concentrates, not even when they allow for the sale of marijuana flowers (for recreational and medicinal purposes). Other states have separate buying limits for consumers purchasing concentrates. And other states, still, have confusing laws regarding concentrates, leaving people unsure or what is and what is not illegal. But, regardless of the rules, many people believe concentrates are the future of cannabis.
In 2017, the sale of concentrates rose by 50 percent. Flower sales, on the other hand, declined throughout the majority of US.
That, naturally, propels extraction into the spotlight: forget about just going to the dispensary in search of higher highs. Those in the biz are now in the market to extract faster and safer while creating concentrates more efficiently.
How Extraction Happens
Many cannabis concentrates are produced with solvents: the solvents are used during the extraction process. Butane is one of the more popular mediums to rely on.
It’s a colorless gas that’s odorous – you’ll know it when you smell it. While it’s good for extraction in terms of separating components, it’s not ideal for a few reasons.
First up, safety! If you’re making extracts at home, butane offers none! In short, using it is dangerous. But, it’s not only risky from a “Honey I shrunk the garage” standpoint (i.e., shrunk the garage by blowing it up), it’s risky for your health as well.
Even if you manage to use butane to make concentrates without starting a fire, it’s very difficult to remove all the butane from the concentrate when done with layman technology. That means each time you imbibe, you’ll not only inhale flavonoids, you’ll also inhale leftover gas. The exact ramification on this depends on a myriad of factors, but inhaling butane is never healthy. Butane’s fine in moderation? Yeah, that’s not really a thing.
Ethanol is another solvent often used in the extraction method. While it’s probably not something you want to inhale as part of your health regiment, it’s much safer than butane.
It’s deemed GRAS, which is FDA shorthand for “Generally Regarded as Safe” (as large amounts of exposure or repeated exposure can have damaging effects). This is the reason it’s in a myriad of foods and drinks. It’s also the reason we’re exposed to it all the time even if we aren’t aware of that exposure.
Cold Extraction Method
With its better safety profile, ethanol is becoming a regularly used solvent in the extraction world. This wasn’t always the case – for a long time, people assumed that ethanol’s molecular makeup limited its ability to work as a solvent. They believed the ethanol would bring out cannabinoids and terpenes (as desired), but also undesired molecules, compromising the concentrate (and leaving it ill-tasting).
New technology has made ethanol not only a game player, but an up-and-coming team captain. And among this technology is Ethos 4.
Ethos 4 was developed by Capna Fabrication; it’s designed to draw out the THC while leaving things like chlorophyll behind. It works by using extraordinarily cold temperatures and ethanol.
Per their website, Capna Fabrication have developed an extraction system using 200 proof Ethanol. Ethos-4 is a closed loop ethanol extractor which has 98.6% extraction efficiency rate. In an 8 hour shift, this system can process 24-60 lbs. of material. It uses negative pressure to evacuate and transfer an emulsion from stage to stage. It operates by spraying ethanol on top of the material and soaking it with freezing ethanol. The system operates at cryo temperatures.
Benefits of Ethos 4
One of the biggest benefits of Ethos 4 is that it significantly reduces fire danger and the risk of explosion (which is a wonderful trait for all products – cannabis affiliated or not - to have!). But it also makes the extraction process easier and faster.
The crazy cold temperature combined with the low pressure allow concentrate creators to skip winterization or dewaxing.
Winterization involves dissolving hash oil into ethanol at cold temperatures (sub-zero temperatures). Doing this separates the waxes from the oil, propelling them to merge at the top where they’re easily filtered. It’s not especially difficult to do: you can do it with a mason jar. But you need access to a sub-zero freezer. And you need patience too.
Dewaxing is a similar process in which plant lipids and waxes are removed before the product is fully done (hence the term “dewaxing”). But instead of ethanol, butane is used. The other difference is that dewaxing is much more complicated than winterization (though some people use these terms interchangeably). Like winterization, it improves color and purity, but more skill and equipment are required.
Doing away with the above allows for concentrate creators to “concentrate” on other things and process pounds and pounds of finished product a day. The whole not blowing up thing is nice as well.