Cannabis contains more than 500 compounds, which generally fall under two major categories, namely cannabinoids and terpenoids. Cannabinoids are the compounds that account for the therapeutic properties of cannabis, whereas terpenoids mostly carry the plant’s distinct aromas.
After harvesting, cannabis goes through an extraction process to come up with final products like cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
When a cannabis product contains a significant concentration of a specific substance, the product is referred to as a concentrate. For instance, a substance with more than 70% concentration of CBD is generally referred to as a CBD 101 concentrate.
Now, the extraction of cannabis concentrates is an intricate procedure that requires an in-depth background in analytical chemistry.
This article shall go over some of the top four ways to extract cannabis concentrates.
1. Extraction Using Hydrocarbons
One of the most popular ways to extract cannabis concentrates is using hydrocarbons. The common hydrocarbons used in this process include propane and butane solvents.
The process begins by administering the hydrocarbon in a heated and pressurized system, usually under a vacuum. As the system heats up, the solvent vaporizes, making it easy to remove.
The concentrates obtained using hydrocarbons are usually referred to as shatter. Shatter is typically clear and includes significant levels of CBD, THC, and other compounds of the plant, including terpenes. In other words, the concentrates produced using this extraction method are technically Edibles canada.
Modulating the concentration of terpenes is necessary for determining the consistency of the final product. That’s because high levels of terpenes in shatter makes the extract unpleasantly soft.
To control the level of terpenes in your shatter, you should consider starting the extraction process with cured flowers and buds. A great part of curing involves oxidizing these components so that the terpenes in them are less active.
If you find the curing process to be too tedious, you could consider heating the solvent used. Doing so will also remove excess terpenes from the final product, as terpenes happen to be more volatile than cannabinoids.
2. Alcohol Extraction:
This method is somewhat related to extraction by the use of hydrocarbons. Only this time, you use alcohol instead of hydrocarbons. Instead of using, say, butane, you can now go for butanol. Propane would be substituted with propanol, ethane with ethanol, methane with methanol, etc.
The process begins by soaking your cannabis extracts in alcohol. Then, you remove the plant material and filter the liquid. At this point, the liquid is basically a mixture of your cannabis concentrate and the alcohol used.
You can then remove alcohol from the mixture through evaporation or distillation, depending on whether you want to reuse the reagents or not.
It’s important to choose the right alcohol for this procedure. Experts recommend shunning solvents that come with higher risks of polarity. Simply put, these are alcohols that tend to dissolve molecules like chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll in your cannabis concentrate adds an extra layer of protection, thanks to its abundance in antioxidant compounds like anthocyanins. However, chlorophyll is notorious for its bitter flavor.
3. CO2 Extraction
As the name implies, CO2 extraction uses carbon dioxide instead of hydrocarbons or alcohol. The actual process is known as superficial extraction, which means that it allows CO2 to exist in a liquid and gaseous state simultaneously.
The process involves using high temperature and pressure to separate the various components from the cannabis plant matrix. After obtaining your cannabis components, the superficial carbon dioxide is forced into a condenser, where the gas liquefies for disposal or reuse.
CO2 extraction is the most recommended method of extracting cannabis concentrates, and understandably so. First, this method is cost-effective. While you’ll spend a considerable amount on purchasing the initial equipment, you’ll get high-quality yields of concentrates compared to other extraction methods. Not to mention, the method requires fewer reagents.
It’s also less time-intensive, especially with regards to clean-up. According to research, different cannabis compounds get concentrated at different rates, even when they’re subjected under one extraction process. So, while using CO2 extraction, you can extract several compounds just by adjusting the temperature and pressure of the setup.
4. Solvent-free Extraction
All the three methods of cannabis extraction we’ve highlighted above are solvent-dependent, even though their dependency differs with each method.
However, you could also extract your cannabis concentrates without using solvents at all. That’s what constitutes solvent-free or solventless extraction.
The idea is to separate cannabis trichomes from the plant. Trichomes are the parts that contain the highest concentration of cannabinoids.
Now, there are numerous solvent-free methods you can try. One of the popular ones is using ice to chill your cannabis flowers to subzero temperatures. Ice stimulates the resin glands of cannabis flowers, causing them to detach themselves from the flowers’ epidermis. Some of the cannabis extracts that are usually obtained using solvent-free methods include bubble hash, kief, and rosin.
Solventless extraction methods are lauded for being relatively affordable. Also, they require a less steep learning curve. But one glaring drawback is that you could damage the plant’s buds in the process.
There are several ways to extract cannabis concentrates. However, CO2 extraction remains the most effective one. Not only does it guarantee high-quality concentrates, but it also promises high yields. Plus, CO2 extraction is remarkably cost-effective compared to the other methods.