What is the Best Ethanol Extraction Equipment for Cannabis?
December 19th, 2017
Alcohol extraction is a process designed to remove essential oils, fats, and other chemical compounds (like cannabinoids) from botanical material AKA plants. Any plants. But for our purposes, we’ll be discussing it in relation to the marijuana plant, of course.
There are quite a few different ways to perform an alcohol extraction but only a select few are effective in cannabis. Both the delicacy of cannabis terpenes and the unusual chemistry of the compounds people want to extract from cannabis limit extraction methods to three primary options: butane, supercritical CO2, and ethanol extraction.
Butane is popular for home users because it’s exceptional when it comes to selecting the active cannabinoids and terpenes required to make concentrates potent. Meanwhile, supercritical CO2 is popular in professional settings because it’s relatively cheap and safe, but purifying the extract takes longer than it does with butane. And finally, there’s ethanol, which we’ll be breaking down today.
Ethanol is relatively new to the cannabis extraction game so there’s a lot we still need to learn about it, but it’s gaining popularity as many argue that it could be the most effective and safest option we have—it might be able to select active cannabinoids and terpenes as well as butane does and it could be as safe to use as the CO2 method.
So, if you’re looking to explore your ethanol extraction options, you’ll definitely want to start by getting to know the different equipment you can use to make the process effective.
What to Look for in the Best Equipment
Ethanol extraction has only recently become popular due to a long-held belief that its molecular makeup diminishes its potential as a solvent. The polarized ends of ethanol molecules mean that they bond with different types of molecules on either side. Therefore, while ethanol can easily bring out cannbinoids and terpenes from plants, it also tends to draw unwanted molecules along with it, resulting in bitter, murky concentrates.
But with the rise of technology overall has also come a rise in ethanol extraction technologies. These days, there’s equipment on the market that will extract the vast majority of the chemicals you’re after while leaving the rest behind.
The Best Ethanol Extraction Equipment
When it comes to equipment, there are a few different routes you can take on your ethanol extraction journey and they’re largely dependent on your budget, your needs (are you extracting for personal use or for a business?), and the ways you plan to ingest the final product (are you eating it, applying it, or smoking it?).
And while we should all expect a boom in the ethanol extraction equipment that’s available as more companies adopt the technology that makes it viable, the following are arguably the best equipment options out there at the time of this writing.
Ethos 4 is an ethanol extraction system developed by Capna Fabrication, and it might be the best option out right now. That’s because it can draw 98.5% of the THC from a cannabis plant while leaving the bitter-tasting and dark-looking chemical compounds of chlorophyll behind.
It works this magic by operating at cryo temperatures AKA super duper cold and spraying 200-proof ethanol onto the plant. Once it circulates over the material several times, negative pressure moves the final solution into a collection chamber that will remove additional impurities by way of micron filtration.
The freezing, low-pressure system eliminates the need for dewaxing and winterization, which can take a ton of time, while having the ability to process up to 48 pounds(!) of cannabis in eight hours. Even better, the closed loop method it uses means that solvent and flammable vapor never exit the system, which minimizes the chance of fire and explosion significantly.
Coldfinger Extraction is great for those looking to make tinctures. Created by Eden Labs, the unit makes it possible for someone to do a relatively pure extraction with just a little bit of solvent. The end result is a thick, concentrated extract that’s perfect for tincture-making.
This system functions by filling a perforated basket with ground flower and suspending it over a pool of solvent. Above that basket is a condenser that’s designed to ensure solvent vapor condenses and drips evenly over the basket so that the extraction is well-distributed.
Then, heat is used to make the solvent vaporize, which liquifies directiy onto the condenser to drip from the designated points. From there, the continual dripping slowly draws out the soluble components from the flower and the solvent moves through the device’s perforations to the extractor’s bottom.
This device primarily uses heat for vaporization and distillation, but enlisting the use of a vacuum can reduce the boiling point so that less heat is required for the desired results.
For at-home extractions and personal use, the Source Turbo is a great option. Developed by ExtractCraft, it’s a closed-loop (AKA much safer) system equipped with a heated vacuum chamber that will give you the control to make precisely the substance you’re after—be it oil, wax, shatter, and more—safely and securely.
The fact that the device is a self-contained system ensures that the ethanol solution and resulting product are together in one single unit. That means that not only is clean-up much easier and less time-consuming, but the dangerous (and extremely stinky) fumes are safely contained.
Another advantage of this system comes from the fact that it’s fully integrated with vacuum capabilities. Therefore, lower temperatures are needed to process it (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit on average), which results in a highly terpene-potent product. Combine that with the fact that this sweet device can make quality medicine in one batch and smokeable goodness in the next, and it becomes pretty tough to pass up for home use.
While butane and supercritical CO2 were the standards for extraction for many years, ethanol extraction is slowly making its way to an industry standard with the high-quality, low-risk, and relatively inexpensive results it produces.
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