Houdini Lab

How Are Cannabis Distillates Produced?

Have you ever wondered how distillates are created? Despite the fact that it is advertised as such, distillation is not strictly an extraction technique. In its place, it is referred to as “post-extraction processing.”

Several procedures must be completed before the raw plant material can be used to fill a vape pen with 99 percent pure THC or CBD. These steps include refining, filtering, and purifying the plant material. Only after that is it further distilled to produce the ultra-pure cannabinoids that are currently flooding the market.


Before distillation, the following steps are performed: extraction, winterization, filteration, and decarboxylation.

Cannabis must first go through a number of different processes before it can begin the distillation process. A basic extraction must be performed on the raw plant material before any further processing may take place. Butane, CO2, and ethanol are three of the most often used processes in the industry today.


Each strategy has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Some approaches, for example, aid in the preservation of terpenes, while others are simpler and more economical to scale up.


Cannabinoid concentration (also known as crude oil) reaches between 60 and 80 percent purity once the initial extraction process is completed. However, it still contains a number of undesirable components such as plant waxes, chlorophyll, and lipids, among other things. As a result, the second stage of winterization and filtration is required, which aids in the removal of these unwanted substances from the environment.


Winterization, also known as dewaxing, is the process of removing waxes and fats from a surface using ethanol. While butane and other hydrocarbons are commonly used for crude oil extraction, they are not appropriate for distillate production due to the presence of lingering lipids (fats) that contaminate the final product.


To solidify the fats and waxes in the fats and waxes, low temperatures (even room temperatures) are typically utilized for winterization. Once the cannabinoids, terpenes, and leftover plant material have been separated, it is necessary to filter out these layers (along with the solvent) before proceeding to the next step.


Decarboxylation is a final, optional step that can be performed depending on the end purpose.



After the crude oil has been extracted, winterized, and filtered, the final step is distillation, which takes place in a closed system. The two most prevalent types of distillation equipment are a short route distillation system for small-scale applications and a wiping film variation system for larger, continuous applications. Both make use of chemistry that are comparable.


In contrast to direct extraction and winterization, distillation does not necessitate the use of any additional chemicals, solvents, or ingredients beyond water. Short route distillation is a method that involves heating a flask in order to evaporate the cannabinoids and terpenes contained inside it. Following that, the vapor passes through a secondary component known as a condensing head, where the vapor is liquefied in preparation for recollection of the energy.


Extractors regulate the temperature of the cannabis plant in order to target specific cannabinoids and terpenes. Each has a distinct boiling point, which makes it possible to separate and collect them. As the temperature changes, the lab technician can catch specific final distillations in a number of collection flasks that are attached to the condenser.


The contents, color, and consistency of each final flask are dictated by the temperatures at which they are collected. These are referred to as heads, mains, and tails, and they denote the first, second, and third phases, respectively.


They are often pale, golden yellow in color and contain the highest concentration of cannabinoids. Heads and tails are still useful, but they are not regarded a premium extraction because they may still include contaminants in addition to the cannabinoids that are being targeted.


While distilling the cannabis, the contents of the heating flask will darken and grow greener as the cannabinoids and heavier terpenes are extracted from the mixture.



Wiped film distillation (also known as wiped film evaporation) is a method of producing cannabinoids distillates on a big scale and in a more continuous manner. According to ExtraKLAB, a wiping film evaporator may handle as many as 14 short-path distillation units in a single batch of water.


However, it is based on the same methodology as the previous one:


Increasing the temperature of crude oil to a given level

Cannabinoids that have been specifically targeted for vaporization

Condensing these cannabinoids after they have been isolated for collecting

Waxed film distillation is characterized by the crude oil trickling down over a heated wall within the equipment, which encourages the use of revolving wipers to remove the oil. Once again, when it reaches specified temperatures, the cannabinoids of interest evaporate from the mixture. While the terpenes and other less desirable components are being separated, a condenser is being used to re-liquify the cannabinoids so that they can be harvested.


It is possible to achieve a final product that has 80 percent CBD and more than 90 percent THC with this technique. In this case, too, the entire process is dependent on the particular boiling temperatures of the terpenes, cannabinoids, and other chemicals present in crude oil. For example, the relative boiling point of THC is 314.6 degrees Fahrenheit (157 degrees Celsius), and the relative boiling point of CBD ranges between (160-180 degrees Fahrenheit) 320-356 degrees Fahrenheit.



Raw crude oil is the common denominator throughout all distillate products, and it makes no difference whether it is produced using CO2, ethanol, or a hydrocarbon-based process to generate it. Winterization, filtering, and possible decarboxylation are all steps in the purification process before the crude oil is ready for distillation.


Using cutting-edge laboratory technology, technicians improve the product even further, resulting in astonishing potencies at the end (either short path or wiped film). THC distillates can contain up to 90 percent THC or more in some situations as a result of this advanced processing method.


It is a fantastic way for producers to profit from lower-quality crude oils because any grade of crude oil may be used in the distillation process, regardless of its quality. Distillate production is becoming an increasingly attractive post-production technology as the demand for distillate products in vape pens, sweets, and other cannabis-related items rises.