No matter how you look at CBD - as a scientist, a buyer or a wannabe grower - you'll want to learn more about its extraction process.
CBD extraction is one of the key manufacturing stages that determines the quality of the final product.
The first requirement for high-grade CBD is obviously a healthy, clean plant. But even the purest buds can be damaged or contaminated by poor extraction.
That's why it's critical to learn more about the technology used behind the label.
The problem is that most online resources support a single extraction method while being biased against other methods. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
To dig deeper into it, we spoke with Andy Joseph, founder of careddi Supercritical, engineer, inventor of five patents, and skilled manufacturer.
As it turns out, he's not so biased on the matter.
First things first: What is CBD Extraction?
As you may know, the cannabis plant is rich in various compounds, the most famous of which are THC and CBD.
In order to create a product containing a single active cannabinoid, the original plant must be submitted to a chemical process that separates the material into separate compounds.
In short, if you want a bottle of CBD oil, you have to extract it from cannabis.
There are multiple ways to do this, each with its advantages and disadvantages.
Mechanical and Solvent Extraction
In short, there are two methods of extracting CBD from the cannabis plant: mechanical and solvent methods. Each of them then has subgroups that differ in terms of effectiveness, cost and time management.
There are several procedures known as mechanical separation techniques - dry sieving (the Kief production process), ice water hashish, and bubble bags.
Essentially, they all boil down to the same procedure: cooling the raw material and mechanically breaking off the fragile trichomes where most of the cannabinoids reside.
The main drawback of the method is that it cannot be used for decoration. This is where solvent extraction comes in handy.
While there are many extraction solvents, some of them have dominated the cannabis industry in recent years: carbon dioxide, butane and propane (hydrocarbons), and alcohol/ethanol/isopropanol.
Regardless of the solvent used, the principle of solvent extraction is almost identical: mixing raw cannabis plants with a liquid that will remove the cannabinoids and subsequently remove them from the concentrate.
Carbon Dioxide Extraction - The Industry Gold Standard
The extraction method that has become the most technologically advanced in the cannabis industry is the use of high-pressure carbon dioxide to separate the cannabinoids from the plant.
This technique is safe and effective, but is only used for industrial scale production because of the precision apparatus used.
At standard temperatures and pressures, CO2 is present in the gas phase. When heated above 31.0°C (critical temperature) and 1,070 PSI (critical pressure), CO2 exhibits both gaseous and liquid properties and becomes a so-called "supercritical fluid", which acts as a solvent and is necessary for the beginning step of supercritical CO2 extraction.
The supercritical fluid then passes through the chamber containing the cannabis material, gently dissolving the membranes of the trichomes to capture their active compounds.
Next, the compound-rich solvent enters another pressurized separation vessel. As the pressure and temperature fluctuate, compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes are fractionated off.
Finally, the remaining CO2 is transferred to a condenser vessel where temperature and pressure stabilize the fluid back into the gas and out of the extract.
Advantages of carbon dioxide extraction
The biggest advantage of CO2 extraction from a manufacturer's perspective is that it is a tunable solvent, says Andy Joseph.
"This means that simple changes in the operating parameters during extraction (usually temperature and pressure) can make it weaker or stronger. Subsequently, you can take out different target elements with different molecular weights," he explains.
In essence, this CBD extraction is highly scalable, and you can operate as you try.
Joseph goes on to say that from a customer's perspective, the advantage of CO2 is that it wants to be a gas at room temperature.
"You're left with pure extract. There's no residual solvent," he emphasizes.
"Think of it like beer or soda. When you leave them out, all the carbon dioxide that makes them froth and foam up disappears after a few hours. The same thing happens when you use carbon dioxide as an extraction solvent. Once the material is extracted, just let the material out of the gas and the CO2 is discarded," he explains.
The best part is that you get a pure representation of the oil in the original material plant.
Pros and Cons
The biggest disadvantage
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