INTRO TO ETHANOL EXTRACTION



The growing popularity of products that contain cannabis oil speaks to the incredible benefits of the chemical. Unfortunately, one cannot reap the benefits simply by purchasing the hemp plant itself. The component must be extracted in a lab and converted into an oil extract to be used as an ingredient in salves, tinctures, edibles, or creams. To match the demand of such products, the highly specialized extraction industry has been steadily growing and perfecting such processes.


USING ETHANOL FOR EXTRACTION


Ethanol is a polar solvent, meaning that it binds to water soluble components. While this can compromise the purity of the final extracted oil, it is acceptable for full spectrum hemp extracts since some water soluble components of hemp plant have health benefits. Ethanol is passed over the plant to dissolve active compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes). Its polar nature means the extraction process will yield a less pure, less potent product and will require post processing. Ethanol-based extraction methods are still popular, however, because they usually require a lower investment than hydrocarbon-based processes.

Those in favor of ethanol as an extraction solvent argue that by keeping temps very cold (below -5°F) during the process, most of the water soluble plant extraction can be avoided. However, if the extraction is not completed properly, purity is compromised and limits the uses of the final product to a full spectrum hemp extract. Further purification can be achieved through crystallization, an often labor intensive, expensive, and large scale process. These extra steps can be a deterrent from using ethanol as an extraction solvent, but if operating on a large scale, the method can be the perfect solution.


WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ETHANOL, AND HOW ARE THEY USED?

If you’ve been looking into ethanol extraction methods, you might be wondering about the different types of ethanol and why each is used. Let’s explore.


ETHANOL

High purity ethanol, such as 200 proof, will remove complications and irregularity in the final product. Lower quality solvents have few controls for contaminants and may have been diluted to avoid regulatory restrictions, shipping fees, and taxes. It is important to know where the ethanol has come from and that the solvent supplier is reputable.


DENATURED ETHANOL

When a high purity solvent is unnecessary, denatured ethanol is a good option. Denaturation causes the ethanol to be unfit for consumption and therefore exempt from federal alcohol excise taxes. Adding a denaturant can lower costs and reduce safety hazards.


EXTRACTOR 710

Bridging the purity gap between 200 proof ethanol and denatured ethanol is Extractor 710 denatured 200 proof ethanol for extraction. The product carries no federal excise tax, no permitting, and no record keeping requirements.


PROS AND CONS OF ETHANOL EXTRACTION


3 PROS OF ETHANOL EXTRACTION


  • Facilities are bound by fewer storage limitations and requirements when using ethanol. This means that larger volumes of plant matter can be extracted at once.

  • When ethanol is used properly as an extraction solvent, it eliminates the need for further extraction techniques like dewaxing or winterization.

  • Ethanol extraction produces a final product that is great for full spectrum extracts and tinctures.



3 CONS OF ETHANOL EXTRACTION

  • As a polar solvent, ethanol will allow the more water soluble components of the plant to coexist, as in the case of chlorophyll.

  • Because the boiling point of ethanol is much higher than alternative extraction solvents (i.e. butane or propane), the recovery process usually takes longer and can be more difficult.

  • If the higher purity is sought after, the post processing is much more laborious and costly. It involves several downstream methods to refine and filter the final product.


DECIDING WHETHER TO USE ETHANOL IN YOUR EXTRACTION LAB?

Using ethanol extraction is a personal preference, and depends on many different factors. Your location, budget, desired end-product, timeframe and skillset all have impact on which extraction method to chose for your lab. Iris Lab Solutions has an expert staff that can help you decide what's right for you.

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