As customers become more sophisticated and discerning about the fast-growing cannabis extract market, from vapes to dabs to infused pre-rolls, the need to routinely produce consistent, quality extracts at scale is becoming doubly important for processors. Compounding the issue, the potential for federal legalization will bring significant growth opportunities but also increased federal oversight, including the need for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and other onerous standards that will challenge unprepared operators.
Future-Proof Extraction Operations Through Data
To overcome these twin challenges, processors should start developing (if they have not already) a framework to capture, review, and analyze data at every stage of production to produce consistent, quality, and compliant products.
That framework should examine every aspect of the extraction process, starting with the type of material harvested from farms, including how it is stored and handled, through to the final, packaged retail-ready product.
It should also be tied to specific goals and clear objectives. Capturing data simply to capture data within a given framework but without a clear idea of how that data will be used can lead to analysis paralysis, or worse, endless trial-and-error that wastes time and material, eating into expected profits.
Leverage Design of Experiments Methodology
Design of Experiments, or DoE, is a scientific methodology that can help guide processors in determining the key parameters they want to track and how those parameters interact. This starts with assertions that map to specific goals or objectives, such as investigating the yield of a specific terpene with the goal of blending it with a distillate-based vape cartridge. From here, processors can design and set up experiments with varying inputs from temperature to pressure, to biomass composition, all to understand how the yield of a specific terpene is influenced throughout a given process.
When these learnings are applied at production scale, the framework developed through DoE methodology provides a guide for creating consistent products, but also to better manage and rectify issues that may arise. With specific goals in mind, processors can then determine what data they need to capture and analyze.
The Four Steps of Data Capture
Step 1: Chemical Makeup – When selecting or determining what plant material to use for extraction, processors first must examine the chemical makeup of the cannabis biomass. This can include the profiles of cannabinoids, terpenes, and the fat/wax/water content.
The exact chemical makeup of cannabis biomass can be difficult to determine because of its nonhomogeneous nature. Imagine closing your eyes and selecting a random sample from a container of bulk biomass. Maybe you grab a sugar leaf or flower, high in THC-laden trichomes, or maybe you grab a fanleaf with little to nothing to contribute to a high-quality extract. The chemical composition will look significantly different depending on how one selects the sample. So it’s important to be cognizant of what and how biomass testing is conducted, and often a single sample isn’t the answer. Knowing the approximate chemical makeup of the feedstock material will guide the processor to determine what type of recipe they will use for extraction and post processing and, ultimately, what end products are most valuable for a given input.
Once the chemical makeup has been determined, the processor will know the inputs of the material, such as the associated THC, CBD, terpenes, etc. They can then use that data to determine what will (or should) come out of the extraction process at its conclusion. This is the mass balance of the production process. It is difficult or impossible to optimize any process if one doesn’t know exactly what goes in and what comes out. Of course, this is much easier said than done given the nonhomogeneous nature of biomass.
Step 3: Identify and Maintain Key Process Parameters – Depending on the recipe and desired end product as determined through the above steps, the extraction process will need to maintain specific temperatures, pressures, times, and flow rates, among other key variables, to ensure a consistent, quality product. This is where a DoE or other similar process can add significant value. Analytical tools, such as the DoE, can help determine what process parameters need to be precisely controlled, and what parameters can have looser controls or can be ignored altogether. Compliance comes into play here as well. The ability to track and record these key data points is crucial to achieving GMP compliance as well as creating a consistent product that customers expect.
Step 4: Post Process Review – In order to understand how recipe parameters affect the end product, the processor needs to know its chemical composition as well as the composition of any waste materials (e.g., biomass, fats, waxes), or impurities that have been filtered out. Capturing this data is vital as it offers the critical clues to why a particular batch did not turn out as planned, for example, so the processor can investigate potential causes and corresponding solutions.
Step 5: Recording Data Between Each Process – What happens between each process is nearly as important as what happens during the process. Storage conditions can have an impact on quality and consistency, issues that may not be readily evident within the data capturing during processing. Those data points to know, among others, may include monitoring the freezer temperature where biomass is stored, measuring the humidity of the environment, documenting when and how equipment is cleaned, or even tracking how long material sits between extraction and placement in a vacuum oven.
Decision Making Via Data Analysis
After the data is captured and analyzed, managers may need to enact decisions if the data shows deviations from the expected outcomes. For example, as part of post-production lab tests (step 4), are acetone traces appearing in the finished product? If so, the organization may need to change its equipment cleaning practices (step 5) to ensure unwanted trace chemicals are not seeping into finished products.
Although enacting a program to better capture, review, and analyze data can appear to be a daunting task, doing so will provide the processor a significant competitive advantage. Not only will it help ensure consistent production while future-proofing the organization against coming regulations, it may also enable processors to experiment with and develop novel or proprietary extracts derived from a repeatable, scientific method that can’t easily be replicated by competitors.
Hydrocarbons are the ultimate solvent in the extract market for creating a high-quality concentrate product. Strong enough to pull massive amounts of cannabinoids from any quality cannabis and hemp biomass and gentle enough to keep the sensitive terpenes intact in the end product.
With such a high reward, there is bound to be some risks throughout the production process. Even under the strictest building, electrical, and fire codes, there is plenty of room for error when processing, purging, and disposing of cannabis and hemp biomass.
Safety should always be a priority when processing raw cannabis and hemp biomass. Sometimes, letting your guard down just once during the production process could spell disaster. Protect your staff and business with our pro safety tips for processing raw material and handling the spent biomass.
Non-Classified Thermocouple Readers
Extraction technicians use thermocouple sensor technology products to get an accurate measurement of temperature during production. Using a thermoelectric effect, these temperature sensors can measure temperatures in gases, vapors, and fluids in your sealed and pressurized containment vessels.
When dealing with high pressures and flammable vapors, it is critical to invest in classified equipment meant to handle the risk of ignition or worse, explosion, in a hazardous production area. Using non-classified thermocouple readers is, unfortunately, becoming an increasingly common practice among licensed hemp and cannabis extraction facilities.
In hazardous work areas, Class 1-certified electrical equipment is tested to function in work areas handling flammable gases and liquids. Under Class 1, Division 1 and Division 2 classifications, thermocouple readers can handle the hazards of a BHO lab:
Division 1 rated equipment is designed for severe conditions where the hazardous environment is always or often present, or becomes present during regular servicing or repair.
Division 2 equipment is designed where hazardous environments are present only under abnormal conditions, such as in the case of accidental spills or ventilation failure. Division 2 includes storage/handling facilities, where the solvent is kept in sealed or closed systems.
When designing a BHO lab, ensure all electrical devices, including thermocouple readers are properly classified, meaning they are completely safe to use in hazardous work areas.
With properly classified devices, ignition sources are accounted for even in a worst-case scenario such as short circuiting or gross negligence.
Unfortunately, many licensed extraction facilities are overlooking the importance of proper certification and installation of all electrical equipment (even small devices such as thermocouple readers) in the lab.
Shop Vac in Extraction Lab
Standard shop vacs may be helpful in construction and woodworking sites, but they are not built for use in a hydrocarbon extraction lab. Designed to suck up dirt, debris, and other building site material, shop vacs are not ideal for use anywhere near hazardous areas.
Even if you use the shop vac outside of the hazardous area with a long extension hose, it is a bad idea. When cleaning the extraction room with a shop vac, technicians may mistakenly believe that just because the vacuum motor is outside of the hazardous area, the process is safe.
Similar to problems with non-rated thermocouple readers, standard shop vacs are not designed for use around such a flammable environment. Everything from the hoses to its motor to its cartridge filter can ignite a spark.
Most shop vacs hoses are made from plastic. If any dust travels through, the spinning dust particles inside the tube can create static electricity. Since most vacuums are not grounded, the static electricity can be dispersed inside the vacuum or the dusty atmosphere.
Adding fuel to the flame is a shop vac’s brushed DC motor. Over time, the wear and tear from the contacts can create a spark every time it is used. Mix that with the flammable vapors from your solvent and spent biomass and you have got yourself a recipe for an explosion.
Spent Biomass: How to Handle Cannabis and Hemp Biomass
Even after you have successfully processed your cannabis or hemp biomass and converted it to a light-colored and highly potent concentrate, it is no time to let your hair down. Residual vapors (such as butane or even ethanol) from your spent biomass can offgas into the lab unbeknownst to your operator.
In the case of hydrocarbon extraction, spent biomass that has not fully been purged of the solvent can evaporate in an ominous and invisible vapor all around. Based on secondhand reports, operators have been known to use tools with non-classified electric motors near the spent biomass. The spark from the motor of any non-C1D1 rated power tool provides the perfect ignition source for the flammable vapors in your hemp and cannabis processing facility.
While the operators were left relatively unscathed with no injuries or property damage after a small explosion due to mishandling of the spent biomass, other technicians may not be so lucky. Adopting strict safety protocols in the lab is a regulatory requirement of every legal state and should be common practice.
Even after an operator has been trained on proper safety procedures, maintain a written and clearly visible resource containing standard operating procedures for handling the biomass from start to finish. If needed, hiring a quality control specialist in your operation can help you stay on top of risk reduction.
It is important to spend the extra time developing and following procedures for safely handling spent biomass. Handling spent biomass may seem like a rote activity, but operators should still remain focused and follow safe disposal procedures of the spent material.
When removing the spent biomass that has been extracted, avoid using a non-classified vacuum. Instead, a material sock for your biomass allows you to load and unload without the need to use powered tools. Except for a final wipe with a clean cloth at the bottom of the column, there is not much clean-up required for handling spent hemp and cannabis material.
Safety protocols should also include the purging phase where vacuum ovens nearly eliminate any residual solvent from the spent biomass. As a result, you have got yourself a significantly less hazardous waste material that may be sold for a variety of industrial and agricultural purposes. You would be surprised at the many possible uses of spent hemp and cannabis that do not involve CBD or THC.
If you could not tell, cannabis and hemp biomass extraction is essentially a fuel factory. Luckily, the spent hemp and cannabis materials have plenty of value as biofuel. Hemp biomass, in particular, makes an excellent biofuel. Spent biomass can either be converted to a biofuel (cellulose ethanol) at a refinery or can be pressed as heat pellets for fuel production.
Hemp biofuel pellets offer a sustainable alternative to the standard wood pellets. As far as biofuels go, hemp pellets have similar combustion qualities as wood without the corrosive qualities of grass pellets. While every market has its own regulatory limitations, there is bound to be use for your spent hemp material.
Pressurized Piping and a Failed Pressure Gauge
When dealing with liquefied petroleum gases (LPG), consider the high internal pressures inside your system and its components. During the production process, you will need to maintain an accurate assessment of pressures in the biomass, media, and collection tank.
The type of pressurized piping and pressure gauge used is critical to containing gases and accurately measuring pressure inside the containment vessels.
During critical maintenance and cleaning procedures, accurate pressure measurement determines the safety of the equipment. For instance, it is a matter of life or death knowing the exact pressure of a vessel when an extraction technician is removing the fastening device for an extraction vessel cap.
When dealing with extracted hydrocarbon, ensure you use a pressure gauge that reads high enough to account for the pressures used in your process. Investing in a compatible pressure gauge, piping, and columns can help you maintain a precise measurement of the pressure in your system at all times.
Ensure you use piping designed to operate at a pressure high enough for the solvents or solvent blend you are using. Butane has a very low vapor pressure leading to systems being designed to operate at relatively low psig with pressure relief set at a slightly higher psig. However, avoid mixing your solvents with propane if you have not specifically designed your system to handle the higher vapor pressures. While the pressure relief valves protect the equipment, the hydrocarbon vapors can be released if the solvent vapor pressures are too high for the equipment.
Above all, invest in peer-reviewed equipment based on your market regulations that has included an evaluation, especially of the pressure vessel and pressure relief systems. In many cases, buying used equipment affords you a piece of equipment that does not come with any pressure relief.
Biomass Processing Safety Through Automation
As the technology catches up to the demand for derivative CBD and THC products, innovative automated systems are the pinnacle of hydrocarbon, ethanol, and CO2 safety.
As the most obvious benefit, removing operators from hazardous areas significantly reduces the risk of injury. Nearly eliminating the need for frequent operation inside the hazardous area, automation not only keeps operators safe, but allows them to focus on other important tasks.
In addition, built-in engineering controls such as emergency stop switches, extraction booth interlocks, and control system limits allow operators to remotely handle a potential crisis with a system’s automated alerts.
If the ventilation goes out or there is an unsafe level of flammable vapors in the hazardous work area, an automated system will alert the operator, at which point all operations can be shut down.
Automated Solutions for Hydrocarbon Extraction Safety
Save yourself time, money, and headaches by investing in a fully-automated BHO extraction system. While hydrocarbon extraction comes with its dangerous risks, an approved lab facility that uses peer reviewed closed-loop equipment nearly eliminates the risk for fire or explosions.
Crafting high quality concentrate products from biomass does not have to come at the expense of your staff’s safety and your equipment’s structural integrity. AG-Optimists’ IO Extractor was designed with safety, quality, and consistency in mind. Peer-reviewed in every legal cannabis state, you can start your business from any legal state and scale as you please.
Cannabis distillates are the ultra-refined extracts from the cannabis plant found in vape cartridges, edibles, and topical products worldwide. Distillates contain a single cannabinoid in pure and potent oil. Their amber-colored and translucent appearance does not start off that way. A series of extraction and purification processes convert the raw cannabis and hemp plant material into the marijuana distillate found in a significant amount of cannabinoid-based products.
In a world full of flavorful and aromatic full-spectrum concentrates, why does cannabis distillate seem to be everywhere? Why is this scentless and flavorless extract so coveted among producers? Our cannabis distillate guide breaks down the different distillate types, how they are made, and how they are used for medical and recreational use around the world.
What Is Cannabis Distillate?
As a new user, it can get confusing trying to wrap your head around the different types of cannabis extracts available. Simply put, cannabis distillate is a type of cannabis extract that has gone through a distillation process to create a pure product with nearly 100% CBD or THC content. During the distillation process, processors use distillation equipment to separate the targeted compound, particularly THC or CBD, from the solvent, and other compounds.
Cannabis and hemp are composed of hundreds of individual compounds including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other essential oils. In the end product, boiling techniques remove nearly all of the flavor and aroma that comes from the plant’s terpenes. While terpenes are believed to elevate cannabinoids’ therapeutic potential, they are not always welcome.
Since all of the wax, lipid, and undesirable plant matter is removed from the extract, distillates take on a translucent look. Its viscous and sticky consistency contains a nearly pure potency reaching up to 98% cannabinoids compared to the slightly lower levels (60 to 80%) of undistilled extracts.
For high tolerance users or medical marijuana patients needing high doses of the inflammation- and pain-fighting tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound, THC distillate boasts an impressively high concentration of the intoxicating THC. Its psychotropic and euphoric effects can help treat pain, muscle spasticity, glaucoma, insomnia, low appetite, nausea, and anxiety.
Cannabidiol (CBD) offers a more subdued and non-intoxicating alternative to the cerebral effects of THC. CBD distillate contains no THC and a nearly pure concentration of CBD. CBD distillate is a powerful extract meant to reap all of cannabis’ and hemp’s wellness benefits without the high. CBD has been shown to help treat seizures, inflammation, pain, nausea, depression, anxiety, and migraines.
Terpenes and Flavonoids
Cannabis terpenes are responsible for the unique aroma of each cannabis plant strain. While terpenes are found in minor levels in the cannabis plant compared to cannabinoids, they offer a robust aroma that can fill a room. Flavonoids are found in even lesser amounts and are responsible for the colors in your buds. Removing these compounds helps processors produce a uniform extract that can be flavored afterward.
What Is the Difference Between Distillate, Oil, and Isolate?
Cannabis oil goes by so many names, it is hard to keep track. Cannabis distillate always takes on a viscous oil consistency. It is a type of cannabis oil, but not all cannabis oils are distillates. The term distillate is reserved for oils that have undergone a distillation process after the oil has been extracted, winterized, and decarboxylated. Cannabis oils such as live resin, butane hash oil (BHO), Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), or hemp-derived CBD oil are similar but not the same.
Many people confuse distillate and isolate since they both focus on a single cannabinoid. In fact, isolate is technically a type of distillate since distillation techniques are used to refine the cannabinoid extract. Cannabinoid isolates, however, are completely pure crystalline powder forms of the therapeutic compound. Think of distillate as a less refined but equally powerful extract that elicits potent effects.
How Is Distillate Made?
Making cannabis distillate starts with a cannabis or hemp seed and undergoes a range of cultivation, extraction, and post-processing steps to remove the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from the biomass (flowers, leaves, and stems). Here is a complete rundown of the supply chain and process used to distill the most valuable cannabis compounds.
Even before the distillation process is initiated, the cannabis plant must undergo multiple steps including being properly dried and cured after harvest. Once dried, the biomass can be extracted using a range of solvents including carbon dioxide, butane, and ethanol. The biomass is packed in a material column, drenched in the solvent, and may be further refined using color remediation techniques before ending up in the collection tank.
Some processors may perform a winterization on their extracts to remove fats and waxes using ethanol and cold temperatures. In addition, the extract may be decarboxylated to activate the acidic cannabinoids, such as THCA and CBDA, into their parent compounds: CBD and THC.
In the end, crude oil derived from the initial cannabis extraction process contains a THC or CBD concentration between 60 and 80%. The rest of the oil will be composed of different flavors and aromas (terpenes), vitamins, antioxidants, and other essential oils. After the extraction process, the oil needs to be further purified to become a distillate.
Cannabis distillation equipment varies but the process is very similar among the different distillation methods. Distillation reduces the pressure inside the apparatus to purify the cannabinoid at the lowest possible boiling point. A distillation apparatus heats the cannabis oil to a specific temperature to evaporate the desired cannabinoid from the oil without degrading it and then condensing the cannabinoid vapor back into a liquid.
Through steam distillation and fractionation techniques, distillation equipment can remove the ethanol, carbon dioxide, or butane solvent and almost everything else besides the cannabinoid through multiple passes.
Generally, the short exposure to heat during the process reduces the risk of degrading the highly volatile cannabis compounds. In addition, the best equipment creates a thin film of the oil onto the evaporative surface for more uniform heating and evaporation. Compounds with higher boiling points usually fall downward with the force of gravity and agitation into a separate residual collection vessel.
Cannabis distillation equipment ranges from small units for small-batch operators to industrial-scale models for larger operations. Running the crude extract through the equipment multiple times helps remove as much of the plant matter, terpenes, and flavonoids as possible. The first “pass” removes volatile solvents, gases, and water while additional passes remove terpenes and flavonoids from the final product.
Short Path Distillation
Short path distillation, also known as fractional distillation, is a purification method that uses vacuum pressure to lower the boiling points of the cannabinoids and terpenes. Since lower temperatures are used, the gentle short path distillation can carefully weed out the cannabinoids and terpenes from the end product without damaging them.
Short path distillation uses slow thermal heating to heat crude oil in a glass flask with a magnetic stirrer. As the temperature slowly rises, extractors can separate fractions of the distillate beginning with the terpenes and solvent. Each fraction is collected in a collection flask. There are usually three, one for terpenes and highly volatile compounds, another for CBD or THC, and the last one for cannabinoids with high boiling points.
Wiped Film Distillation
Wiped film distillation is a type of short path distillation. Under a vacuum, the cannabis oil is loaded onto a heated and rotating vertical cylinder. Wipers continuously wipe the extract creating a thin film on the evaporative surface. A chilled condenser in the center of the wipers condenses the THC or CBD vapor. Different collection vessels collect the CBD or THC distillate and any heavier compounds such as chlorophyll, wax, and salts below.
Rotary evaporation techniques use rotary evaporators, also known as roto-vaps, are common in the removal of the solvent from the final product. In a rotary evaporator, the pressure drops using a vacuum pump which reduces the boiling point of the solvent. A rotating distilling flask is filled halfway and heated using a water bath. The distillation flask is rotated creating a thin film of the cannabis concentrate. This increases its surface area to speed up the evaporation rate.
Falling Film Evaporation
Falling film evaporators include an evaporator and condenser and use a different boiling point to separate compounds from the cannabis concentrates. Using this method, the oil is drained from above into a heated column and falls downward creating a thin film on the evaporative surface. As the cannabinoids evaporate, they are collected on a chilled condenser. Due to its unique methodology, cannabinoid products with lower viscosity work well under this process.
How to Use Cannabis Distillates
THC and CBD distillate can be used in a variety of ways for medicinal and recreational consumption. Its versatility makes it a favorite among extraction companies and consumers. Smoke it, vape it, cook with it, or make soothing lotions and creams infused with THC or CBD. The possibilities are endless. Cannabis distillate can be found in a majority of products sold in retail shops today.
Dab Rig/Portable Vaporizer
Cannabis concentrates such as distillates are commonly consumed, or dabbed, with a glass dab rig or electronic nail (e-nail). Dab rigs and e-nails are great for use at home since they can deliver large doses using heated surfaces. E-nails, in particular, can maintain consistent temperatures using a digital controller and power source to perfectly vaporize cannabis oil. E-nails offer the convenience of not having to use a torch and estimate your heat up and cool down times for your nail.
Portable vaporizers and certain battery-operated vape pens are good for on-the-go consumption. Many vape pen cartridges contain CBD or THC distillate (some with additional flavors) that can be disposed of when finished. Other portable vape pens feature a heating chamber that can be reloaded with a CBD or THC distillate.
Pipes, Bongs, Joints
While dabbing distillates is the recommended method of consumption for sky-high potencies, many users may also smoke their distillates to enhance the potency of their dried cannabis flower. Simply add a tiny dollop of your cannabis oil on top of a packed bowl or within/outside your joint for an enhanced effect.
Cannabis distillates are a favorite ingredient in the making of edible products. Distillates can be infused into your favorite foods or beverages. Add this already decarboxylated oil directly onto your finished meal or use it as an ingredient as you cook. A distillate’s flavorless and odorless form allows you to create edible products that do not have the tell-tale taste and smell of the cannabis plant.
In addition, you can consume distillate sublingually for faster absorption and onset of effects compared to ingestion. It is recommended to bind the distillate to a carrier fat such as coconut oil, MCT oil, butter or other food-grade oil for better absorption since THC cannabinoids bind to fat. While the extract is already decarboxylated, it still needs help absorbing into the mucous membranes under the tongue. Warm up the mixture, stir until it is dissolved, and it is ready to go.
No matter what cannabinoid distillate you buy or produce, you can infuse it into a variety of topical products including lotions, creams, and salves. Recipes require cannabis distillates and a carrier oil such as coconut oil along with your favorite essential oils for aroma. The salve infused with cannabinoids can be applied directly to the affected area for localized relief without the high since the cannabinoids cannot reach the blood-brain barrier.
Why is Distillation Important?
Through distillation, operators can purchase a greater volume of marijuana trim or low-quality biomass and distill their desired compounds into an ultra-potent liquid.
Distillates have become the backbone of the marijuana derivatives market. Find them in nearly every product category. Their flavorless and scentless characteristics help create a consistent and repeatable cannabinoid product.
Those infused gummies and chocolates we all know and love are only possible with a foundation of distillates. And, if you are a fan of aromatic terpene compounds, they can be reintroduced back into the final product.
AG-Optimists: Automated Cannabis Extraction
High-quality THC and CBD distillate require an efficient extraction stage to remove as much of the cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. AG-Optimists’ automated extraction system, the IO Extractor, provides processors with a peer-reviewed hydrocarbon solution. Produce clean and pure marijuana distillates from any quality cannabis or hemp biomass using the power of hydrocarbons and automation.
For all the hash lovers out there, we cover the best strains for concentrates. Cannabis concentrates are derivatives of the raw plant. They have extracted cannabinoids, terpenes, and other therapeutic oils. When making concentrates, hash makers choose strains that produce a high amount of resin. Keep reading to find out the best strains that the hash-making pros are using.
How to Choose Strains
Concentrates can be made from any cannabis or hemp strain, but some are better to work with than others. Extraction artists prefer strains that produce a lot of trichomes. Each strain’s unique chemical profile varies. Strain preference is subjective. Hash makers look for plants with a wide spectrum of compounds and a great aroma and flavor.
1. Gorilla Glue #4
Gorilla Glue #4, also known as Original Glue, checks off all the boxes for a great strain for making concentrates. It produces large yields and an abundance of sticky trichomes. They’re so sticky they can render brand-new trimming shears useless in just a short while. GG#4 grows short and bushy with dense buds. A loud diesel aroma blends with lemon, chocolate, and earthy notes. Enjoy its strong and clear-headed sativa effects.
2. Amnesia Haze
Amnesia Haze is a sativa-dominant strain with tons of energizing power. As a citrus-scented strain, Amnesia Haze will feel refreshing and motivating. This strain delivers a quick-acting mood boost and uplifting effects. Its balanced head and body high make for a good dab. You’ll feel a pleasant cerebral buzz that tapers off into a relaxing end.
3. NYC Diesel
NYC Diesel’s high trichome production and gassy and skunky scent make it a favorite among concentrate producers. Bred from a clone-only Sour Diesel and an Afghani/Hawaiian male, NYC Diesel produces a balanced cerebral high. For a sativa, this strain grows short and bushy. It can flower in just 55-60 days. When extracted, NYC Diesel flavor and aroma shine.
4. OG Kush
OG Kush’s genetics are a mystery. It’s a pretty low-yielding and finicky plant to grow. After 60-70 days of flowering time, it can produce lemon- and pine-scented buds. Its buds have short trichome bulbs with skunky and gassy notes. Expect its buds to be super sticky. Try to work in a cool and dry environment to avoid a glue-like resin consistency.
5. The White
For a taste of quality East Coast genetics, The White is a striking-looking strain. It has a highly visible white coating of trichomes throughout its buds, hence its name. Even its sugar leaves have a higher-than-average resin content. It’s a hardy strain that elicits relaxing effects. Its aroma has diesel, pine, citrus, and earthy notes.
We can’t include a list of best weed strains for concentrates without a CBD-rich strain. Harlequin is a 2:1 CBD-to-THC strain. Expect to find this high-yielding strain with 14% CBD and 7% THC. It’s a sativa-dominant strain with a cherry, pepper, and earthy aroma. Choose Harlequin for a flavorful and balanced extract. Medical users use this strain for pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms.
7. Blue Cheese
Choose Blue Cheese strains for its potency, musky and fruity aroma, and balanced effects. Enjoy a relaxing and energizing experience to unwind or ease minor aches and pains. Its clear-headed effects can soothe anxiety symptoms in small doses. Its musky, cheesy, and citrusy aroma is amplified when extracted.
8. White Widow
White Widow is known far and wide. It gained popularity in the early ’90s. Bred in the Netherlands, this balanced hybrid is now a widely available strain around the world. After flowering for 8-10 weeks, White Widow produces medium-sized and dense buds. Experience its euphoric effects firsthand. It’s the perfect strain to relieve stress and anxiety.
Chemdawg and its many derivatives are highly-sought after by extract makers. Its distinct diesel-like scent is enhanced when extracted. Notes of bright orange and earthy pine add a balance to the pungent aroma. This smooth-hitting strain produces euphoric and uplifting effects. It’s perfect for stress, pain, and anxiety.
Chernobyl is a sativa-dominant extract from TGA Seeds. An abundance of terpenes and THC is the perfect recipe for a great entourage effect. Hints of tang and grapefruit blend with a refreshing and earthy mint aroma. Long-lasting heady effects send you on a one-way trip to your happy place. Ease your stress, pain, and anxiety with this powerful strain.
Learn How to Make Cannabis Extracts
Do you want to learn how to make cannabis extracts from the comfort of your home? Enroll in CTU’s online cannabis training program. We cover the fundamentals of growing a cannabis plant for the first time. We also teach you how to transform your plant’s resin into a potent and flavorful extract. Start your extraction journey today with CTU.
Trichomes are the hairs found on the surface of plants and are responsible for producing the protective, therapeutic, psychoactive, and intoxicating properties of a cannabis plant. Certain trichomes contain resin glands that create the terpenes, flavonoids, THCA, CBDA, and other phytocannabinoids for which cannabis is known.
The crystal-like sheen and sticky feeling of cannabis buds are caused by high accumulations of trichomes. While they’re most visible to the naked eye on cannabis flower, trichomes can also be found on the leaves and stems of the plant, though not all of the trichomes will be glandular. Non-glandular trichomes do not produce the same psychoactive compounds as glandular trichomes, but do aid in maintaining the plant’s surface balance and are thought to add a layer of protection against pests and adverse environmental conditions.
The glandular type of trichome produces cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Within the glandular trichomes, there are three main types: bulbous, capitate–sessile and capitate-stalked. Non-glandular trichomes are called cystoliths.
Bulbous trichomes are tiny bulbs that dot the surface of the plant. They cannot be seen without a microscope. While their production of cannabinoids is still in question, they add a crystal-like sheen to the cannabis plant and add to the stickiness of the flower. Bulbous trichomes aren’t restricted to particular areas of cannabis; they are evenly distributed throughout the surface of the plant.
Capitate sessile trichomes are more abundant than bulbous trichomes, but still typically only visible with the aid of a microscope. Like bulbous trichomes, capitate sessile trichomes have large bulbs, but with more of a classic mushroom-shaped structure. This type of trichome is primarily found on the underside of the sugar leaves and fan leaves.
Capitate-stalked trichomes are shaped like mushrooms and contain a large bulb at the head of the stalk. These are the largest and most abundant trichomes in cannabis, and they are most familiar with consumers because they can be easily seen with the naked eye. The capitate-stalked trichomes are primarily found on the surface of cannabis flowers and are rarely seen on sugar leaves, fan leaves, or stems.
How compounds are created in the trichome
Cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are produced within the trichome cells through biosynthesis, in which enzymes catalyze a series of chemical reactions to produce complex molecules from simple (smaller) molecules. A quick review: Cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, or phytocannabinoids, interact with our body’s receptors to produce numerous psychotropic and therapeutic effects. Terpenes are compounds responsible for the aroma and flavors of cannabis, and support cannabinoids in producing desired effects. Flavonoids are similar to terpenes in that they contribute to a plant’s aroma and flavor profile, but may offer their own unique therapeutic effects.
The three basic steps for cannabinoid biosynthesis are binding, prenylation, and cyclization. On a molecular level, the activity is as follows: Nanoscale macromolecules called enzymes bind to one or two small molecules (substrates), attach the substrates to each other (prenylation, catalytic chemical conversion of the substrates), then pass the small molecule (transformed substrate) down to another enzyme that processes it, making sequential changes to the small molecule (cyclization). Think of enzymes as biological nanomachines that use chemical energy rather than mechanical energy to build structures. Enzymes have inspired numerous studies in nanotechnology, biology, and other fields.
The following figures depict some of the molecular structures involved in cannabinoid biosynthesis. In these figures, each line is a bond between atoms. When two lines meet at a point and no letter is written, the atom is carbon by default. Oxygen and phosphorus atoms are explicitly indicated. Hydrogen atoms are only drawn in when bonded to oxygen or on the aromatic ring; they are not drawn on the alkyl chains. The curved arrows that point from one atom to another indicate that a new bond is formed between those atoms during the reaction, they also indicate the motion or exchange of electrons which make up a bond. Not all steps are shown, so there are some bonds that break and by-products that are formed which are not displayed.
The precursors to all natural cannabinoids, geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid, are produced themselves by a complex series of biosynthetic reactions. Geranyl pyrophosphate and olivetolic acid bond to each other with the assistance of an enzyme in the prenyltransferase category known as GOT, thus creating the first cannabinoid, CBGA (see Figure 1). CBGA, or cannabigerolic acid, contains a carboxylic acid group (with the molecular formula COOH), and due to the presence of that acidic group, an “A” is placed at the end of CBGA. This is true for the rest of the cannabinoids whose acronyms end with the letter A (THCA, CBDA, etc.). The carboxylic acid groups spontaneously break off the cannabinoid structures as carbon dioxide (CO2) gas when heated. This process is called decarboxylation, after which the “A” designation is lost. For example, decarboxylated CBGA becomes CBG. This is considered a degradation process because it does not require enzymes and occurs after the plant is harvested. The CBG type of cannabinoids have one ring in the molecular structure; it’s the aromatic ring that came from the olivetolic acid (see Figure 1).
So, CBGA is the first cannabinoid formed from a biosynthetic reaction that joined two smaller pieces together — it is also the precursor to all other natural phytocannabinoids. Next, CBGA is cyclized into THCA, CBDA, or CBCA via the enzymes known as THCA synthase, CBDA synthase, and CBCA synthase. The presence and relative quantities of the specific enzymes determine which cannabinoid is the major product from each particular strain and each particular cell. Remember, the CBG type cannabinoids have only one ring in their structure. After the cyclization reactions, the THCA, CBDA, and CBCA cannabinoids have more rings in their structures (see Figure 2).
For THCA, two new rings are formed by the creation of two new covalent bonds, a carbon-oxygen (C-O) bond and a carbon-carbon (C-C) bond. The CBDA synthase enzyme catalyzes a reaction that creates one new C-C bond at the same position that the C-C bond formed in THCA, but without the new C-O bond, thus forming CBDA. The formation of CBCA occurs by the formation of one (C-O) bond at a different position of the molecule than the (C-O) bond formed in THCA. Compounds with two rings fused to one another, such as in CBCA and CBC, are said to be bicyclic. That’s how THCA, CBDA, and CBCA are made through biosynthesis.
When cannabis flower is dried and cured properly, the most prominent cannabinoids will be the acidic forms of the cannabinoids (THCA, CBDA, CBCA, or CBGA). When smoked or baked into edibles, these molecules decarboxylate. While decarboxylated forms of cannabinoids might be produced to a small extent biosynthetically during drying, acidic forms are the major product. The decarboxylation products are delta-9-THC, cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabichromene (CBC) (see Figure 2).
As you can see, cannabis’ effects are the result of complex developments of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes that take place in the plant’s glandular trichomes.
Burke, Anthony. “Cannabinoid Biosynthesis Part 1 – CBG, THC, CBD and CBC.” www.marijuana.com, 23 June 2014.
Fellermeier, Monica, et al. “Biosynthesis of cannabinoids: Incorporation experiments with 13C-Labeled glucoses.” European Journal of Biochemistry, no. 268, 2001, pp. 1596–1604.
ElSohly, Mahmoud A., editor. Marijuana and the Cannabinoids. Humana Press, 2007.
Botanical extraction is the process of removing and concentrating one or more substances from a botanical material. Spices, hops, citrus and other fruits, herbs, hemp, and cannabis are all botanical materials that are commonly extracted. The products derived from these extractions range from vanilla extract to CBD oil.
The variety of products produced by botanical extraction has contributed to the diversity of extraction methods. Innovators have developed a wide range of extraction techniques. Each technique comes with drawbacks and benefits that need to be considered when choosing the best extraction method. It can be a daunting task, but this introductory guide will provide a basic overview of the scientific principles behind solvent extraction. Understanding these basic scientific principles is foundational to performing an astute review of the many solvents and extraction options available to you.
Two Primary Botanical Extraction Methods
At the broadest level, the two methods of botanical extraction are solvent extraction and mechanical extraction. This article focuses on solvent extraction, but it is important to understand the basic principles and differences between the two techniques.
Mechanical extraction refers to an extraction that is caused by mechanical force pressing a liquid out of a solid material. This method is usually reserved for either high value oils or for botanicals sources which have very high ratios of oil to solids. Extra virgin olive oils are produced in this manner inside giant screw presses. Citrus essential oils are produced in a similar manner by pressing citrus peels. Some mechanical extraction methods use heat to increase extraction efficiency.
The benefits of mechanical extraction include eliminating the need for flammable solvents and protecting temperature sensitive compounds. The downside of mechanical extraction is the extraction efficiency is much lower than solvent extraction. Even the most efficient expellers leave about 7% residual oil in the base material.
In hemp extraction, mechanical extraction is an acceptable method if:
Either the market value of the oil is so high it can cover the loss of some cannabinoids in the plant material, or
You are going to process the mechanically extracted material afterwards, recovering the residual oils in the plant materials.
Mechanical extraction is not advised if you are concerned about the loss of roughly 50% or more of the oil material that would be left in the spent material following extraction. Overall, mechanical extraction is suitable for extraction of fewer materials in fewer applications than solvent extraction.
The second method of extraction, and the focus of the rest of this article, is solvent extraction, which has much wider applications and higher possible efficiency than mechanical extraction. The multitudes of available solvents with distinct characteristics make the extraction of diverse compounds possible.
Solvent extraction provides higher throughput, lower energy consumption, and higher extraction efficiency than mechanical extraction.
Polarity And Solvent Extraction
Solvent extraction has thousands of applications. It is used in many industries including the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, food, and beverage industries. The principle behind solvent extraction is extremely basic. The goal is to use a liquid (solvent) to dissolve (solvate) a target molecule or group of compounds (solute) and to wash them out of the solid plant material. The solvent is then separated from the solute in order to concentrate the solute. This separation is usually achieved by evaporating (distilling) the solvent, which concentrates the solute. The distilled solvent is then condensed and recycled to conduct another extraction.
The effectiveness of a given solvent at dissolving your solute will depend on its polarity, the polarity of the compounds you seek to extract and the solubility (the amount of solute than be dissolved in the solvent) of the solute in the solvent. Polarity is a chemical property in which opposing sides of a molecule possess distinct positive and negative charges. The polarity of a molecule can range from very polar or slightly polar, to non-polar.
When it comes to solvent extraction, polar solvents can solvate polar solutes and non-polar solvents can solvate non-polar solutes. This phenomenon is commonly summarized and easily remembered as, “like dissolves like.”
“Like Dissolves Like”
We have all experienced the “like dissolves like” rule in our everyday life. For example, you can dissolve salt in water to high concentrations but salt is not soluble in vegetable oil. That is because salt is a polar molecule and so is water, they are “alike.” Vegetable oil however is non-polar which explains why it cannot act as a solvent for salt.
Solvation occurs when molecules of the solvent surround and encapsulate the molecules of the individual solute completely. This is driven by a number of chemical and physical forces which vary based on the polarity of the solvent and solute. Polar solvents for example, dissolve polar solutes via a magnetic attraction of the positive and negative charges of their molecules. A good everyday example is once again table salt (NaCl), which when dissolved in a polar solvent such as water, separates into Na+ and Cl- which carry a slight positive and negative charge. Water itself has a slight positive charge at one end and a slight negative charge on the other. These negative and positive charges orient themselves in such a manner that they are attracted to each other like miniature magnets, causing the Na+ and Cl- ions to be surrounded by the water and dissolved in it.
Figure 1: Table salt (NaCl) is dissolved by water. The Na+ and Cl- ions are surrounded by water molecules.
In contrast, oils and other lipids are non-polar and do not have areas of positive and negative charge. In keeping with the “like dissolves like” principle, non-polar substances such as oil dissolve well in non-polar solvents such as hexane. This process is driven by a different intermolecular force than the “magnetic” attraction between polar solutes and solvents.
The force that binds non-polar molecules is called the London Dispersion force. The London Dispersion force is a result of negatively charged electrons constantly moving in space around the nucleus of their atom, occasionally resulting in a temporary negative charge when all electrons are in the same area. This temporary charge may then attract nearby molecules and even induce a temporary charge in them.
In summary, once you understand the polarity of your target solute, you can begin to identify an ideal solvent for your extraction process.
Figure 2: Chart showing relative polarity of common solvents.
Other Factors that Affect Solubility
Solubility is affected by more than the polarity of the solute and solvent. By controlling and manipulating the parameters below, more efficient extractions can be achieved.
Temperature – As temperature increases, the solubility of solid solutes increases dramatically. The increased kinetic energy of a higher temperature solvent further breaks up the bonds holding the solute together, allowing more solute to be dissolved at a faster rate.A common example of this is dissolving sugar in water. In room temperature water, sugar dissolves until the solution is fully saturated. When the temperature of the water increases, the solubility also increases, allowing more sugar to dissolve in the warm water. This process also works in the opposite direction. Sugar will fall out of a saturated sugar-water solution as the solution cools.
Solvent Density – As solvent density increases, the solubility of most solutes also increases. This solubility increase is caused by the increased number of solvent molecules available to surround solute molecules. Solvent density becomes critical when the solvent is a gas that has been compressed into a dense liquid or supercritical fluid state in order to provide sufficient solvating power. Pressure increases the density of supercritical fluids dramatically, which is why many CO2 extraction systems operate at pressures up to 5000 PSI.
Distill: to purify (a liquid) by vaporizing it, then condensing it by cooling the vapor, and collecting the resulting liquid.
Polarity: a separation of electric charge leading to a molecule or its chemical groups having a negatively charged end and a positively charged end.
Solubility: the maximum amount of a solute that can dissolve in a solvent at a specified temperature and pressure.
Solute: a dissolved substance
Solvate: to enter into reversible chemical combination with (a dissolved molecule, ion, etc.).
Solvent: a liquid substance capable of dissolving or dispersing one or more other substances.
Solution: a liquid mixture in which the minor component (the solute) is uniformly distributed within the major component (the solvent).
For anyone interested in exploring the scientific principles of solvent extraction in further depth, we do plan to publish future resources here at aptiaengineering.com. In the meantime there are some excellent resources listed below:
We receive many inquiries about removing THC contamination from CBD distillate via chromatography. Successfully performing chromatography at scale requires a well-developed method, diligent adherence to SOPs, and thoughtfully considered solvent recycling equipment.
Chromatography scales reliably according to well established formulas. We advise all of our potential chromatography clients to develop and optimize their method at bench top scale using either a small LPLC or HPLC depending upon the purification technology our client wishes to employ. If you are not experienced with chromatography, we would recommend hiring an experienced technical consultant to develop the method for you (or you can purchase a method from a consultant who has already developed one).
Once the pilot scale method is well developed, the method can be used to design and implement larger scale chromatography equipment. The solvent consumption, separation efficiency, yield, sorbent lifetime, and other economic factors can be modeled. You can be confident in the economics of the process before investing in equipment.
Regular FFE and rotary evaporation systems often do not give the desired solvent recycling performance with chromatography. These systems are simple, but often solvent concentrations drift over time with these systems giving unreliable chromatography results and resulting in excess solvent waste. Ensure that you consider potential azeotropes in your mobile phase, and that you account for maintaining the proper solvent concentration in your recycled solvent.
At Aptia Engineering we can help you navigate the chromatography implementation process and we can provide thoughtfully engineered solvent recovery systems that will dramatically reduce your solvent waste.
“Percent Solvent Recovered” vs “Percent Residual Solvent”
When comparing solvent recovery equipment, it is critical for both client and manufacturer to be using the same terminology. Differences in terminology can be disastrous. One example of potentially confusing terminology is (%) Solvent Recovered, which is a commonly advertised specification among Falling Film Evaporator manufacturers.
(%) Solvent Recovered refers to the percentage of the total solvent that is recovered from the total ethanol in the starting solution. It is easy for equipment manufacturers to claim greater than 99% solvent recovered by using this metric, but it really doesn’t tell you anything about the solvent content of the extract after it goes through the recovery process. The metric looks outstanding at first glance, but potentially cause you to misunderstand your next processing step.
It is easy for equipment manufacturers to claim greater than 99% solvent recovered by using this metric, but it really doesn’t tell you anything about the solvent content of the extract after it goes through the recovery process.
An arguably more important metric is the (%) Residual Solvent that remains in the extract following recovery. The (%) Residual solvent really determines what your next processing step is.
Please see the example below. It shows how a falling film recovery system can simultaneously achieve the 99% Solvent Recovered metric, while still leaving 20% residual solvent behind in your extract. Ask potential manufacturer’s to state their systems performance in both terms to you.
**Please note that the term “miscella” refers to a mixture of extract and ethanol.
Starting Miscella: 3% CBD, 97% ethanol, 1000 Lbs total miscella
Ending Miscella: 80% extract, 20% ethanol. 30 Lbs. of CBD, and 7.5 Lbs. of ethanol.
A falling film evaporator (FFE) is a specific type of vertically oriented shell and tube (S&T) heat exchanger that is used to separate two or more substances with different boiling point temperatures.
A shell and tube heat exchanger is divided into two compartments. It’s most basic function is to bring a heating or cooling fluid, called media, into indirect but intimate contact with a product fluid, called the process fluid. Energy, as heat, is transferred rapidly and efficiently across a shell & tube heat exchanger between the media and process fluids. When the goal is to use an S&T heat exchanger to evaporate a component of the process fluid, then the media is hotter than the process fluid, and energy is transferred into the process liquid from the media.
In the specific case of the falling film evaporator, the heating media is circulated through the shell side of the S&T heat exchanger. The process fluid is passed through the tube side of the evaporator. Energy is transferred from the heating media into the product, and a portion of the product is vaporized.
The process liquid is pumped into the top of the falling film evaporator and is distributed evenly across all of the heating tubes in the heat exchanger. It is very important that the liquid be well distributed so that it evenly flows down the inside walls of each tube. This film of liquid that is descending through the tubes is known as a “falling film” and is where this particular heat exchanger derives its name.
Why Falling Film
A falling film evaporator can be an extremely efficient and effective type of heat exchanger. In fact, many factories across most major industries have been steadily updating their equipment from older rising film evaporators, calandria style evaporators, or forced circulation style evaporators to falling film evaporators due to the excellent thermal performance of a well-designed FFE.
Falling film evaporators achieve their high thermal performance via the creation and maintenance of a very thin-film of rapidly descending liquid that is laminated to the interior surface of the evaporation tubes. An evenly distributed liquid film maximizes the contact between the process liquid and the heating media, and allows for the greatest rate of energy transfer from the media to the process fluid. This means faster evaporation rates and the ability to use cooler heating media, which has benefits when handling products subject to thermal degradation.
In order to achieve this high level of performance, the descending liquid must be well distributed between all of the tubes, uniformly spread around the circumference of each tube, well laminated to the interior surface of each tube, and must travel with optimum velocity down each tube. Tubes that are not properly wetted can cause degradation of thermally labile products, are the most common cause of fouled evaporators, and have very low thermal performance.
Aptia Engineering optimizes their flow lamination system for each and every FFE that Aptia engineers and manufactures. Aptia recognizes that different applications may have a unique combination of characteristics, such as solids content, extract content, desired (%) reduction in solvent, and vapor velocity that need to be accounted for when optimizing the flow lamination system. The result is a compact FFE with superior throughput that is resistant to fouling and provides uniform, controlled evaporation temperatures.
In the hemp industry in particular, many different interpretations of falling film evaporators are rapidly increasing in popularity. The performance and reliability of an FFE ranges wildly depending upon the actual engineering aptitude of the designer. Aptia Engineering prides itself in providing high-performance equipment that has been fully engineered, diligently manufactured, and proven in practice.
The cannabis/hemp extraction industry has been growing at a rapid pace. As production scales, the capacity of machinery must scale as well. A major step of the ethanol extraction process is solvent recovery. This is where the ethanol needs to be removed from the extracted material, THC or CBD.
Ideally, one would want to recover their solvent, such as ethanol, in order to reuse it for more extractions. Recovering ethanol is a huge money saver, but it can also create a big bottleneck in your system when processing large amounts of material.
The RotoVap Limitations
For years, the industry standard for solvent recovery has been the rotary evaporator, or otherwise known as the RotoVap. A generic 20L RotoVap has a recovery rate of about 1.5 gallons per hour. For small scale setups this may suffice, but large-scale manufacturers have been forced to run multiple RotoVaps. The working capacity is only the beginning of the limitations of a rotary evaporator.
Moving, breakable parts A rotary evaporator has moving parts that are mostly made of glass. This means there is a high chance of parts breaking. Many generic machines are made and built in China with low quality parts. Good luck finding warranties and customer service.
Manual Operation On top of that, they are very manually operated. The more machines you have to run, the more people you need to operate them. Running many machines with many employees significantly increases your production costs.
Long Residence Time The amount of time your material is exposed to heat, the more chance you have of destroying fragile, yet critical elements of your final product. RotoVaps generally have a residence time of over 1 hour!
Enter Falling Film Evaporation as the Solution
Falling film evaporation is the most efficient, effective solution to solvent recovery. One machine can potentially fulfill the capacity of up to 20 RotoVaps!
The AutoVap Series from TruSteel are a good measure to compare what a falling film evaporator can produce. As a leader in the industry, TruSteel has developed a falling film evaporator that is not only effective and efficient at solvent recovery, but is completely scalable and built to last.
No moving, breakable parts The majority of the AutoVap system is high grade stainless steel. The only glass parts are the site glass, which are made from Metaglas, which a high grade glass that is built to last.
AutoVaps are built in the USA with high quality parts that come with a 1 year warranty and excellent customer service.
Automation The AutoVap30 is completely automated with a control panel for quick, easy operation.
Short Residence Time Material is only exposed to heat for 30 seconds! Compare that with 1 hour for RotoVaps.
Closed-Loop System AutoVaps work in a closed loop extraction system. This decreases bottlenecks and automates most of the process.
The AutoVap15 can recover up to 15 gallons per hour, while the AutoVap30 can recover up to 30 gallons per hour. This all significantly increases your working capacity while lowering overal costs of your production.