Extracts are a valuable and versatile resource within the cannabis and CBD industry. They offer manufacturers a convenient way to infuse various products (edibles, vape oils, etc.) easily and effectively. However, when it comes to the actual methods of cannabis extraction, not all are created equally.
There are three options for extraction, and determining the “best” extraction method is a widely debated topic. That being said, ethanol extraction has emerged as one of the most popular and preferred methods. Even though manufacturers use varying benchmarks to determine their best-fit process for extraction, more and more are coming to the same conclusion: ethanol works exceedingly well for cannabis extraction.
We’re going to take a closer look at using ethanol for extraction, discussing how it works, how it compares to other methods, and why it might be the route you’ve been searching for.
What is Ethanol?
First, let’s clarify exactly what ethanol is. Sometimes referred to more generally as “alcohol,” “grain alcohol,” or “ethyl alcohol,” ethanol is the clear liquid and primary ingredient in alcoholic beverages. Ethanol is in beer, wine, and other spirits, as well as other products such as beauty products, paints, and fuel.
Ethanol can be produced by hydrating ethylene, but it is also a natural byproduct of the process of plant fermentation. One of the biggest benefits of using ethanol is that it is a renewable energy source. It comes from plant material. Typically, ethanol is sourced from corn, with other feedstock sources including wheat, sugar cane, potatoes, barley, and grain sorghum.
What ethanol is used for extraction?
In the professional ethanol extraction process, high-proof alcohols (190 and 200) are typically used.
How Does Extraction of Ethanol Work?
For manufacturers that are extracting cannabis using ethanol, the first decision is whether to operate under warm or cold temperatures.
If warm ethanol is used, the Soxhlet technique will be implemented to boil, condense, and then slightly cook the ethanol. Then, the flower material will be soaked in the ethanol, leaving minimal residue. One of the major drawbacks of this approach is that it is generally suited for small-batch productions. On the other hand, it does offer the ability to convert THCA to THC, which can be a plus for those interested in activating the chemical compounds contained in cannabis.
In most scenarios, manufacturers will select room temperature or cool ethanol. With this method, the amount of plant pigments and waxes in the final result is significantly reduced. At the same time, an excellent variety of cannabinoids can be retained, which is a definite benefit.
As a polar solvent, ethanol literally dissolves cannabinoids, terpenes, and water-solubles such as chlorophyll. The cannabis flower is mixed with the solvent (ethanol) until the cannabinoids have been successfully removed. Then, the solvent is expelled through the process of evaporation. What’s left is a pure cannabis oil, which is then put through post-processing for further refinement. At this stage, plant material and chlorophyll are separated from the oil to eliminate the earthy, grassy flavor of the plant.
Why is Ethanol a Good Solvent for Extraction?
So, why are so many manufacturers turning to ethanol for obtaining extracts of hemp and cannabis? In simplest terms, it’s the most straightforward route to an excellent final result.
But beyond that, there are many benefits to cannabis ethanol extraction, including:
- Cost-efficacy: Despite the high quality of its product, ethanol extraction is surprisingly affordable. When you compare it to other options, it’s generally associated with a much lower start-up cost (in terms of labor and equipment). The extraction equipment offers the advantage of automated technology, requiring minimal human intervention thanks to digital interfaces and leak-proof closed-loop systems.
- An exceptionally pure extract: When the extraction process relies on ethanol, the end product is an oil that is up to 99% pure. Because ethanol is a universal solvent, it dissolves (most) plant matter, chlorophyll, terpenes, and cannabinoids alike. The result is a multi-faceted chemical profile of the plant’s original properties, without the undesirable flavor of excess plant matter.
- Safety: According to the Food and Drug Administration, ethanol is categorized as a “GRAS” (Generally Regarded as Safe” substance. This means that it is considered safe for human consumption, which is why it’s such a common ingredient in many foods and beverages.
- Versatility: Depending on the intended use of the extract, ethanol extraction can yield full-spectrum extracts or cannabinoid isolates. There is also the option to boil off terpenes, leaving you with a highly potent and completely odorless oil that is ideal for edibles and tinctures.
Is ethanol or CO2 extraction better?
Every extraction method comes with its pros and cons, so comparing ethanol directly to CO2 extraction is somewhat of a challenge. Depending on a manufacturer’s top priorities, one or the other might be a better fit. The answer is also affected by the way in which the extract will be used; i.e., what kind of product will it infuse? Generally, ethanol tends to come out ahead as the more beneficial method.
Ultimately, selecting the best cannabis extraction method should be an informed decision made with care.
Maximize Efficacy with Advanced Extraction Methodology from WayMaker Labs
With a clearer understanding of the benefits of ethanol extraction, it becomes easy to see why it’s often considered the gold standard of cannabis extraction methods. In the minds of many experts, ethanol is expected to eventually become the preferred solvent for manufacturers and consumers alike.
WayMaker Labs produces premium-grade extracts using the ethanol extraction and Wiped-Film Evaporator (WFE) systems from Precision Extraction Solutions. Within the cannabis and hemp industry, these methods are widely recognized as the ultimate in extraction technology.
As a result of our precise procedures and advanced ethanol extraction equipment, WayMaker Labs has become a trusted source of the best CBD extracts on the market. Consistently pure, odorless, clear, and high-quality, our extracts exceed industry standards in virtually every way possible. Rich in flavonoids, cannabinoids, and terpenes, extracts from WayMaker Labs are an excellent match for consumers seeking the ultimate in plant-based wellness.
For more information about how our approach to ethanol extraction distinguishes us from other cannabis extraction labs in Texas and the U.S., contact WayMaker Labs today.
WayMaker Labs: The Gold Standard of CBD Extraction
At WayMaker Labs, every decision we make is driven by our passion for providing best-in-class cannabis extracts to the farmers, retailers, and practitioners that will help put premium-quality products in the hands of consumers. Our team is passionate about the ways in which CBD can support a greater sense of well-being and serve a valuable role in the lives of a diverse range of individuals.
We also believe that, as industry experts, we have a deep responsibility to hold ourselves to the highest standards of excellence. For that reason, we utilize only the best extraction technology, including wiped film distillation from Precision Extraction Solutions. As a result, we are able to produce exceptional-quality CBD extracts that are rich in cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes, while maintaining less than 0.3% THC. If you are seeking extracts with specific cannabinoid profiles, our advanced methods also make that possible.
For more information about our CBD extraction services and how partnering with WayMaker Labs can help your business flourish, contact our team today.
Featured Image: Photo: WayMaker Labs