Cannabis Oil Extraction Methods [and Why They Matter]
Extracting cannabis concentrates isn’t a simple process. At least not when you want to produce marijuana oil with the high potency and consistent flavor profile and appearance found in many commercial products.
There are ways to make your own cannabis oil at home—and we’ll get into DIY hash oil later—but how do the pros do it? What’s the best way to get the purest concentrate with the optimal ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes?
Let’s look at how different cannabis extraction methods can affect your vaping or dabbing experience.
Pre-Extraction: Choosing the Right Flower
Regardless of the extraction method, you’ll want to start with top-shelf flower grown using organic methods. This ensures a higher quality concentrate with no pesticides or other toxins.
Many concentrate companies use only cleanly grown, pesticide-free cannabis flower. If you aren’t sure, check the manufacturer’s website or ask your budtender.
If you’ve ever heard someone talk about CO2 extraction, they were actually referring to a process known as supercritical fluid extraction (SFE). Carbon dioxide, or CO2, refers to the solvent that is used to separate plant matter.
By taking a natural solvent, like carbon dioxide, and forcing it through plant matter at high pressure, cannabinoids and terpenes can be isolated and extracted with incredible accuracy (allowing for a more flavorful concentrate).
It’s the same process many brands use to create de-caffeinated coffee or extract the essential oils in your favorite shampoo.
Why is CO2 the solvent of choice?
As Dr. Fergus Clydesdale (yes, that’s his real name), distinguished professor and Director of the Food Science Policy Alliance at University of Massachusetts Amherst says, “At such pressures, carbon dioxide takes on unique, ‘supercritical’ properties that enhance its usefulness as a solvent. Supercritical carbon dioxide has a density like that of a liquid, but its viscosity and diffusivity are similar to those of a gas.”
All that’s to say CO2 can withstand a tremendous amount of pressure and heat, allowing for more precise extraction.
Carbon dioxide is also completely natural and leaves behind no residue, giving it an edge over other extraction methods.
It’s what we use at Karing Kind Labs to ensure higher THC levels and a more flavorful concentrate with no additives.
Butane is another very popular extraction method capable of producing extremely high potency concentrates (especially shatter).
Butane hash oil (BHO) is so-named because it is extracted using butane as the solvent.
- Butane is pumped through a container with the selected marijuana flower until only the butane escapes.
- The liquid that remains is a combination of butane and the extracted cannabinoids and terpenes.
- The butane-cannabinoid mixture is then evaporated to remove harmful substances, leaving behind a high-potency concentrate that can top out over 90% THC or CBD.
The downside—and the reason many consumers are shifting away from BHO products—is that butane has the potential to leave behind unsafe toxins in the finished product.
And even trace amounts of butane that aren’t considered toxic can leave an unpleasant aftertaste that overwhelm the natural terpenes.
Butane extraction should also be avoided if you want to try your hand at making your own hash oil, as an improper set-up can be extremely dangerous.
As one of the older methods of cannabis oil extraction, ethanol has been rigorously tested and is used to create some of the most consistent concentrates.
Safer than butane and cheaper than CO2 extraction, ethanol extraction remains common in the cannabis industry.
Similar to butane extraction, you soak cannabis plant material in ethanol and then heat to evaporate the ethanol. Ethanol extraction also requires the right equipment and a finely-tuned process to remove solvents from the finished product so they don’t interfere with the flavor or aroma.
Unlike other extraction methods, ethanol extraction has the ability to retain chlorophyll from the marijuana plant material, which can give the final concentrate a darker color and an earthier flavor profile.
DIY Hash Oil Extraction
There is a safe way to create your own cannabis concentrate at home—no flammable gases or expensive equipment required!
You won’t have the range of concentrates or the consistently high potency you can find at your local dispensary, but it’s a great way to put extra flower to good use (especially if you’re home-grown plants are producing more bud than you can smoke).
To start creating your own rosin concentrates at home, you only need a few basics:
- A Hair Straightener
- Parchment Paper
- Razor blade
- Cannabis (flower, kief, or hash)
By lining the hot hair straightener with parchment paper, cannabis can be pressed. The heat extracts resin from the plant, and just like that, you’re left with your very own cannabis concentrate!
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:
- Break up your chosen bud into ½ gram pieces. We recommend your favorite strain of organically grown flower.
- Heat a hair straightener to medium-low.
- Fold unsticky parchment paper in half and place a half gram of cannabis in the middle.
- Place the folded parchment paper (with the cannabis inside) in the hair straightener/hair iron and press very hard for about 3 seconds.
- Carefully remove the paper and pot from the hair straightener. There should be a small resin stain made from the bud. Now move the same bud to another spot and repeat.
- When you stop seeing new resin stains, use a razor blade to scrape away the rosin.
Tip: Some strains are known for their heavy resin production. If you aren’t happy with how much your first batch yields, ask your budtender to recommend a high-resin strain.
Don’t underestimate the cannabinoid levels in your DIY cannabis oil!
While you’ll almost certainly lose more cannabinoids and end up with a lower THC product than you’d buy at the dispensary, it’s better to be cautious when making and consuming your own concentrate. To avoid getting too high to enjoy your hard work, assume you achieved the highest levels of THC possible and give each inhale time to take effect.
Know How Your Concentrates Are Extracted
While trained professionals understand the chemistry of extraction, it’s just as important for consumers to understand different extraction methods and the benefits (or risks) associated with each method.
For clean, CO2 extracted cannabis concentrates and top-shelf flower grown in our very own garden using organic methods, stop by Karing Kind.
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Karing Kind is located just off of US-36, one mile north of Broadway, open MON-SUN from 9am to 10pm.
While we carry a variety of strains, concentrates, edibles, salves and tinctures, inventory and stock levels fluctuate from week to week and month to month. Check our menu and follow us on Twitter for an up-to-date list of edibles, concentrates and buds available.