What do cannabis extracts, beer, and spirits have in common?
Okay, alright—aside from the obvious.
Four things are critical to the optimal extraction of THC and CBD from cannabis: time, temperature, pressure, and flow.
And, like the process of crafting beer and spirits, the correct amount of time, temperature, pressure, and flow for different extraction processes is key.
High Pressure, Heat are Super Critical
Take CO2 extraction, for example: high pressure and heat are essential for creating a “supercritical” CO2—liquid and gas at the same time—to extract the target cannabis components. By adjusting the pressure, temperature, and runtime, you can extract different target compounds.
“It’s really important to have very precise control of the entire process and to be able to make accurate adjustments at each stage. If you miss your pressure, temperature, or flow targets, you can completely fail to extract any CBD and end up with only the oils and fats,” says ICC NW President Kyle Sawyer. “Investing in the right system pays off with higher yields and better quality extracts.”
Successful CO2 extraction produces a golden, full spectrum oil with all the natural compounds of the cannabis plant, including terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils, and a range of cannabinoids that work together to create an enhanced “entourage effect” that provides greater therapeutic benefits.
Control is Essential
While ethanol extraction can be done at normal pressure, it relies heavily on maintaining the right temperature throughout a longer extraction process.
“It can be very difficult and tedious to try to get the same quality of oil out of your extract with an alcohol process,” says Sawyer. “Without careful temperature control, you can end up with more of the chlorophyll and waxes than the cannabinoids and terpenoids.”
Temperature control is also important in the ethanol extraction process because it’s highly flammable, but the payoff is extraction of all compounds with no residual chemicals in the final product.
Since alcohol breaks down water-soluble elements, the extract is “dirtier” than a CO2 extract, containing chlorophyll and other plant material. The extract can be distilled to remove the chlorophyll and other undesirable elements, producing a broad spectrum product.
Both CO2 and ethanol can be recaptured and reused. The supercritical CO2 is condensed back into liquid form, filtered, and used again. Ethanol can also be captured, filtered, and reused, minimizing waste and expense.
Compliance: Build it In
Cannabis extraction is, of course, highly regulated. Partnering with the right design engineering company with deep expertise in the manufacture of extraction equipment and systems can help companies stay in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements while improving efficiencies with:
· Insulation—for precise temperature control
· Temperature sensors—for correct temperature readings to maintain proper temps.
· Appropriately sizing and designing facilities to include rigorous validation procedures to show that THC or CBD levels are consistent and repeatable
· Software integrated into extraction systems to accommodate local and state requirements for traceability of cannabis from the planting and harvesting through extraction to sale
· Clean-in-place skids—saving water and reducing cleaning chemicals used during cleaning, and then capturing the water and chemicals for re-use. ICC is an engineering and design partner you can trust to create visionary, compliant, and cost-efficient solutions.