“The Battle of the Gods” CO2, Ethanol, or BHO Extraction? Which one is the best? The Devil’s in the detail.
Which one is the best and most cost-effective method for people who grow and sell cannabis? In a nutshell, it all comes down to what you want to do. But who is the ‘God of gods?” when it comes to cannabis extraction?
If you are a person who wants to learn more about each type of extraction method, keep reading. If you’re a business owner who isn’t sure which extraction method is best for you, our guide to cannabis extraction methods is for you. It goes over each technique in detail and compares its strengths and weaknesses.
Solvent-Based Cannabis Extraction – what is it?
Ancient solventless extractions were done by scraping the plant to get the resin. But oh, how things have changed!
So, for example, modern solvent-free cannabis extraction methods like dry sifting, cold water extraction, and rosin pressing don’t use solvents to get the plant’s resin. To get the plant’s resin out, these methods don’t use alcohol, CO2, or hydrocarbons, all solvents.
It’s also possible for solvent-based extractions to be more precise and effective for big businesses.
When using solvent-based methods, you use chemical solvents like ethanol, CO2, and hydrocarbons to break down the plant’s cannabinoids and other therapeutic oils. “Generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) as per the Food and Drug Administration says that all the solvents in the cannabis industry are safe (FDA).
At this point in the extraction process, the solvent is removed from the final extract. This is called a purging phase. When you work in a closed-loop environment, the solvent is reused and used again for another machine run.
To make a concentrated cannabis resin, processors use chemicals to separate the essential components. This product can be used to create a wide range of extracts, edibles, and other products.
Every extraction method requires a lot of money to buy equipment that has been checked by experts and approved by the government, as well as highly trained operators who can run the equipment without a hitch. Ensure that you follow all government rules and regulations when you are doing protocols like this.
When cannabinoids like THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids are extracted from most plant material, each method can do it better than the last. However, each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the best one depends on what kinds of compounds are needed, how much money a company has, and how big the operation is.
Ethanol Extraction – what is it?
Ethanol, often known as grain alcohol, has long been a preferred polar and food-grade solvent in the cannabis industry, particularly during its heyday in apothecaries in the early twentieth century, before cannabis became outlawed in the United States. Tinctures based on alcohol were all the rage.
Ethanol is made from grain alcohol produced by a plant fermentation process. Ethanol is kept at a low boil and washed over the biomass during Extraction. A vapor full of the plant’s most beneficial compounds is created by gentle agitation.
Because ethanol is a polar solvent, it can be used to extract both fat-soluble and water-soluble molecules, such as:
- Cannabinoid (THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG, THCA, CBDA, and more)
- Amino acids.
Because ethanol can separate therapeutic compounds, it can be a double-edged sword. Ethanol can get rid of things that aren’t good, like chlorophyll. Its polarity can make a product that looks greener and tastes harsher without more purification.
Ethanol extraction can happen at warm and cold temperatures, but cooler temperatures are better for retaining the compound. Sometimes, ethanol is used in winterization methods that remove undesired waxes from BHO or CO2 extracts.
- It doesn’t need to be heated or dewaxed during the winter or in the summer
- Great at getting cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant.
- Having a lot of space to store a lot of ethanol is not necessary
- It’s a cheap solvent
- Alcohol quickly evaporates, so there isn’t a lot of risk of getting sick
- Water-soluble compounds like chlorophyll can also be removed by ethanol, making the products less pure.
- Because ethanol has a higher boiling point than hydrocarbons, the recovery process takes longer.
- May need to be cleaned and refined after the ethanol extraction process, which means more work, time, and money.
- Produces a limited number of products and may not make popular varieties like shatter or terp sauce.
- Food-grade ethanol may cost more than CO2
CO2 Extraction – what is it?
It is known as supercritical CO2 Extraction; it is a standard method used in the pharmaceutical, food supplement, and cosmetics industries. CO2 is an odorless, non-toxic, and colorless liquid gas that is safe to use to make high-quality extracts.
Carbon dioxide extraction uses CO2 in its supercritical state, which has the properties of both a gas and a liquid. CO2 is kept at a cool temperature and then pressurized to make it supercritical.
Its gas-like properties can spread through the whole biomass tank full of cannabis. Its liquid properties, when it is compressed, dissolve non-polar substances.
CO2 is a “tunable solvent,” which means that processors can change the temperature and pressure to get the soluble components they want.
It is straightforward to change, but that doesn’t make up for not getting the most flavor and aroma from the plant, according to a study in Planta Medica in 2018. The study found that CO2 had a significant impact on the plant’s original chemical profile.
The CO2 extracted oil, on the other hand, may need to be winterized to get rid of its wax and lipids. Winterization adds ethanol or other solvents, like isopropanol or methanol, which can lower the purity and yield of the product.
- Because it’s not flammable, there is less risk of it exploding
- It’s a cheap solvent
- Fewer chances of toxicity
- The environment isn’t hurt by ethanol
- The process may take longer than other ways.
- Equipment may cost more to buy at the start.
- Some of the cannabinoids and terpenes in the extract may be damaged by a long run time or an aggressive process. The result could mean that the extract will need to be winterized (winterized with a solvent).
What is BHO Extraction?
In the process of making butane hash oil (BHO), hydrocarbons like butane and propane are used to get more of the plant’s valuable terpenes. Because butane is a non-polar and flammable liquid gas, this is a good thing.
Hydrocarbons with low boiling points make it easier for processors to get the most cannabinoids and terpenes out of the plant without destroying it.
In the wrong hands, these hydrocarbon solvents can do a lot of damage. They can be dangerous in the lab and leave behind solvents in the final product. There are, however, no worries about BHO technology today.
- Equipment has a relatively low upfront cost.
- Full-spectrum extracts can be produced because of butanes’ low boiling point.
- BHO has a higher throughput than CO2
- Requires very little post-processing
- Fully automated solutions are available
- Little risk and total safety if properly installed by a certified company
- Can make a wide range of products, such as:
- Terp sauce
- Terp sauce
- Pull & Snap
- THCA in its purest form is called an isolate
- An increased risk of an explosion when not designed or used correctly. The trouble is toxic solvents left behind in the final extract.
- Toxic solvents could be left behind in the final extract if not used correctly.
- Permitting restriction may apply
- When low-quality equipment is used, it can take a long time to finish the job.
CO2 Extraction vs. BHO Extraction vs. Ethanol Extraction
Each extraction process can produce a lot of crude oil from cannabis each day for a large-scale extraction laboratory. However, each method meets different business needs, such as how much it costs, how quickly it can be made, how much oil it can make, and how many kinds of products it can make.
Low Toxicity Safety is delivered with CO2 Extraction
With so many extracts out there, anything that can help you sell your product is a great thing to have—those who don’t want to risk putting harmful toxins in the final extract like carbon dioxide. CO2 isn’t flammable, but other safety issues come into play. Supercritical CO2 extractions are often thought to be safer, which may be enough to make this method worth its own.
Hydrocarbons are the solvents of choice for many people who process cannabis. Hydrocarbons, for example, allow processors to make a wide range of products, such as extracts with different viscosities and chemical compositions. Hydrocarbons can be used to make wax, shatter, terp sauce, and more. They can also be used to make money in the market.
On the other hand, hydrocarbons have low boiling points and aren’t very polar, so that they can separate more of the beneficial compounds, even those with low boiling points like terpenes.
In hydrocarbon extraction, terpenes can be kept getting a full-spectrum extract. Cannabinoids and terpenes in the full spectrum are used to make a high with more benefits and fewer side effects.
Based on the numbers across the industry, BHO has become the most common way of Extraction, and it’s also a favorite of people who like the taste of it and purchase the products.
For the best quality and versatility, many manufactures prefer BHO. But that doesn’t mean it’s best for you and your company. Contact people in the industry and trade associations and have conversations with those currently doing the business. Compare your research online, on the phone, and in-person and decide what will be ‘The God of Extraction’ for your future.