CO2 Extraction: Your Complete Guide To CO2 Cannabis Oil
Many medical and recreational cannabis consumers prefer to inhale a cool, instantly-rejuvenating, cannabinoid-infused vapor as opposed to the comparably harsh combusted cannabis smoke.
However, many health-conscientious cannabis concentrate consumers—you included, perhaps—prefer to avoid all together inhaling residual petroleum particles from butane hash oil into their lungs. We couldn’t agree more.
So are you ready for a cleaner, purer, tastier, safer and overall truly higher-quality cannabis concentrate? Well, have we got a treat for you: supercritical CO2 extraction!
That’s not actually the treat, though. Rather, it’s a really awesome way to remove all the stuff that makes ganja great from the plant matter on which it resides. That way, you don’t have to burn your marijuana to reap all the mind-altering and medicinal benefits.
And best of all for those health-conscious cannasseurs out there, this extraction method won’t leave behind trace amounts of toxins in the finished product. Now that’s something to sit up and take notice of.
This post will break down a bit of the basics behind supercritical fluid extraction and the biochemical benefits of CO2 extracted cannabis concentrates. We’ll also leave you with some simple steps for extracting your own concentrated kief crystals at home using dry CO2 ice.
The Added Value of CO2 Extraction
Supercritical CO2 is increasingly being used as a cheap, recyclable, and environmentally safe industrial solvent for creating high quality:
- Fruit and nut extracts
- Fruit and nut aromas
- Omega-3 oils
- Tobacco extractions for e-cigarettes
- Hop-oil extraction for beer
- Oil extractions from algae (as an alternative energy source)
- Cannabis oil
You may look at that list and say, “Hey, it’s cool that CO2 extraction is being used for so many different products. But why, exactly, is it so popular?” Great question! Here’s the deal.
- Our bodies naturally produce carbon dioxide ( CO2 ) when we breathe so it’s considered a “natural” product. This is in comparison to chemicals like the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) found in hairspray which caused such a ruckus in the 1970s and 80s.
- The FDA considers it safe which is why CO2 is used, among other things, to keep our soda pop fresh.
- CO2 is nontoxic and CO2 extraction processes do not contribute toward carbon emission increases in our atmosphere.
- CO2 extraction doesn’t bring any flammable petroleum-based solvents (like butane) into contact with your medicine. This removes the danger of explosions from the CO2 extraction process as well as potentially harmful petroleum-based butane particles from the final, very fine, concentrated cannabis product!
So now that you understand why CO2 extraction is such a great process, let’s delve a bit deeper into the science behind how it works.
Supercritical CO2 Extraction 101
Warning: The following description may seem a little complicated if you’re not an industrial chemist or if you’re not already high enough while you read this.
CO2 extraction machines essentially freeze and compress CO2 gas into a “supercritical” cold liquid state. “What does it mean to be in a supercritical state?” We’re glad you asked.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) usually behaves as a gas at standard temperature and pressure (i.e., in places where humans can survive without special equipment). That gas can be changed to a solid without much effort. This solid state is known as dry ice. These are the two most-common phases of CO2 that appear outside a lab.
With special equipment (i.e., in a lab), you can change CO2 gas into a liquid by increasing the pressure to 75 pounds per square inch and keeping the temperature below -69 ℉. Brrr! This liquid CO2 is the starting point for our CO2 extraction.
From this liquid state, we’re going to increase the temperature and pressure past a certain point. We won’t get into the numbers here because it becomes super complicated. Just know that when you increase the temperature and pressure of liquid CO2, the fluid becomes supercritical.
This means that it can adopt properties midway between a gas and a liquid at the same time. Mind blown, right? A supercritical fluid can fill a container like a gas while still maintaining its density like a liquid.
This supercritical property of CO2 is great for chemical extraction because it is “gentler” than other compounds and won’t cause damage or denaturing (making unfit for consumption). And because the solubility in CO2 varies with pressure, supercritical CO2 can be used to extract selected compounds (rather than a combination of all compounds) with just a few small adjustments.
So now that you have a passing understanding of what supercritical CO2 is, we can turn our attention to how it’s used to make cannabis extracts.
Using Supercritical CO2 To Make Cannabis Extract
As you can see in the diagram above, you start with liquid CO2 (top left corner). You raise the pressure of the liquid CO2 via a compressor (top middle), and then raise the temperature via a heater (top right).
The supercritical CO2 is then passed through some high-grade pot contained in an extractor (bottom right corner). It’s at this point that the CO2 pulls all of the essential trichomes and terpene oils and/or waxes out of the plant material.
This solution (the supercritical CO2 containing all the ganja good stuff) is then passed through a separator (bottom middle) where it is broken down into its constituent parts.
The trichomes, terpenes, and other goodies are sent to a collection receptacle (“Extract” on the diagram above) while the supercritical CO2 is passed through a condenser (bottom left), where it is turned back into a liquid. This liquid is then sent to the storage tank where it can be used to restart the process.
And if you’re wondering about residual CO2 left over in the extract, don’t worry. Decreasing the pressure on the CO2 after the extraction process is complete allows the liquid CO2 molecules to turn back into a gas and evaporate into the atmosphere.
This is probably the simplest part of the whole procedure: just leave the extracts out at room temperature.
This is the same chemical reaction that causes a soda pop to go flat after it’s opened and warms up. Some industrial supercritical machines can even simplify this process by recapturing, recycling and reusing the CO2 gases that are given off when extraction is complete.
Why Supercritical CO2 Is So Great
Supercritical CO2 extraction is super cool for the future of the global ganja community because the process gives concentrate makers the ability to isolate, capture and scientifically understand, not just THC and CBD , but the more elusive cannabinoids like cannabigerol ( CBG ), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol ( CBN ), and cannabicitran (CBT).
In other words, CO2 extraction is the key to understanding the hidden medical benefits of the other, less prevalent, cannabinoids and how they work together (a process known as the entourage effect ) when the whole plant is used as medicine .
This cooperation between chemicals within the cannabis plant produces some truly unique mental and physical effects that can’t be achieved by taking the pieces by themselves.
Yes, you may be able to treat certain conditions (like nausea, chronic pain, and psychosis) with just THC or just CBD, but other illnesses will go untreated.
To really unlock the potential of the cannabis plant, you need to take everything together. Doing so makes a wide variety of new treatments and effects possible.
For example, the combination of all the cannabis compounds together makes the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), arthritis, and migraines possible. The individual cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemicals by themselves don’t result in these same effects.
The interaction of all the chemicals produces a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate parts (known as synergy ). A great example of synergy can be shown by the combination of pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene.
The terpene pinene helps counteract cognition malfunction and memory loss caused by THC. A combination of pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene helps stave off anxiety. Myrcene can decrease resistance in the blood-brain barrier which can enable easier passage of beneficial chemicals.
If you extract only THC or only CBD, you miss out on all the other beneficial cannabinoids that can be found in the whole plant. The absence of these substances can, at the very least, cause a bad trip and, at the very worst, cause the medicinal value of your marijuana to be zero.
The customization and flexibility of supercritical CO2 extraction means that we can delve deeper into how all these cannabinoids work together to produce the beneficial effects that we have come to know and love.
In addition, supercritical CO2 extraction will probably help growers breed wildly new strains of cannabis with undreamt of, yet-to-be-discovered, miraculous medicinal health benefits. Imagine a strain of marijuana that helps reverse Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
The chemicals in the cannabis plant can have such an impact on the brain that these types of uses aren’t outside the realm of possibility.
Additional Extracted Value
As we’ve mentioned, one of the many benefits of CO2 extraction is that CO2 oils are highly customizable.
Industrial concentrate makers can make pure cannabis extracts with the consistency of oil, shatter, budder or wax just as easily with the same CO2 machine simply by varying and fine tuning the temperature, pressure, solvent-to-feed ratio and the flow rate during the extraction process.
The flexibility of these machines to be fine-tuned for different extracts means that products can be made cheaper than they would be if you had to have a separate machine for your oil, your shatter, your budder, and your wax.
At $39,000 a pop, four machines to produce four different extracts would be quite a large chunk of change (at least $156,000 for those of you who were wondering)!
Another benefit of CO2 extraction is that running supercritical liquid CO2 through reefer kills any microbial bacteria, mold, mildew or insect mites that shouldn’t be in your weed in the first place. This guarantees that your concentrates will be cleaner and healthier for you to consume.
That equals peace of mind in a world where drugs are being laced with highly-lethal products like carfentanil that result in almost immediate fatalities.
A third benefit of supercritical CO2 extraction is that there’s no need to use potentially harmful chemicals in the process. For example, in other extraction processes, ethanol alcohol is used to winterize (soaking the extract in alcohol and freezing it in order to separate the residual products) and butane is used to de- wax , or extract, the cannabis oils.
The absence of these extra chemicals makes supercritical CO2 concentrates safer to consume and tastier to experience thanks to the preservation of terpene aromas. These terpenes would normally be destroyed by the alcohol or butane making your cannabis extract much less flavorful.
The superior taste of CO2 extracts also makes them ideal for using in cannabis concentrates.
Dry Ice DIY CO2 Extraction
The cost of custom-made CO2 weed oil can vary wildly. As we touched on above, the cost of an industrial, state-of-the-art, supercritical CO2 extraction system itself can run you about $39,000.
Chances are, you don’t have that kind of coin burning a hole in your pocket. And your friendly neighborhood bank isn’t likely to loan you the money for such a contraption without a really good reason.
Regardless, you can still enjoy making potent, solvent-free, environmentally safe, concentrated cannabis hash at home even if you’d rather not spend a small fortune on an industrial supercritical CO2 extraction machine.
This is probably for the best as, without proper training, you risk blowing up your home by experimenting with butane hash making methods.
Thankfully, it’s very common, easy, and safe to use the solid form of CO2—known as dry ice—to make your own high-grade kief hash at home.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- Size 73, 160 and 220 bubble hash micron mesh bags
- A clean 5-gallon food grade plastic bucket
- Thick, heat-resistant gloves
- A putty knife, paint scraper or just a laminated card to collect the kief hash
- 3 glass mason jars to store your kief hash
- A large clean mirror or piece of plexiglass
- Up to 6oz of cannabis bud/trim
- Up to 3lbs of dry ice
Make sure you follow a few simple dry ice precautions while making your cold CO2 hash.
- Don’t touch the dry ice without your gloves! Dry ice is much colder than regular ice and can burn the skin (like frostbite) almost immediately. You wouldn’t want to get any freezer burn, now would you?
- Don’t eat the dry ice. Frostbite on the fingers is bad enough, but frostbite on your esophagus is the worst.
- To be safe, consider wearing safety glasses. And if you’re going to be chipping or cutting wear a face shield.
- Don’t place dry ice in an airtight container. The CO2 given off can build up and cause the container to explode. Instead, store the dry ice in a thick styrofoam cooler to slow down the sublimation process.
- Make sure you work with dry ice in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling more carbon dioxide than you should.
- Safely dispose of any leftover dry ice by allowing it to warm up and transform back into harmless CO2 gas.
Simple Dry Ice Hash-Making Steps
The process of actually making your dry ice hash is fun, easy to follow, and won’t take you anywhere near as long as it will take you to gather the materials you’ll need for the process.
Put on your gloves and eye protection. Safety first, boys and girls. It’s all fun and games until someone gets freezer burn!
Choose your favorite cannabis strain and chop it into small pieces with a marijuana grinder .
If you’re on a quest to seriously alter your perceptions, choose a high-THC strain like Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies or Sour Diesel . If medical benefits are more to your liking, choose a high-CBD strain like Harlequin or Cannatonic.
The more surface area you can create (i.e., the smaller you grind your cannabis), the better the chances that the dry ice will get all of the mind-altering or medicinal goodies from the plant material. Don’t reduce your ganja to dust, but give it a few quick turns through the grinder to make small pieces.
A single-chamber (two-piece) or two-chamber (three-piece) grinder should produce exactly the results you’re looking for. You don’t need the three-chamber (four-piece) grinder in this instance because you don’t want to separate the kief from the bud just yet.
Place the ground cannabis in a 5-gallon, food-grade bucket. Make sure it’s a food-grade bucket or you could leach harmful plastic compounds into your final product.
Cover the cannabis in dry ice and let it sit for 3 minutes. You don’t need to fill the bucket to make this work. In fact, it’s better if you only fill the bucket about half way. The extra room in the bucket gives the dry ice room to move which makes the next step infinitely easier.
Fit your 73-sized micro mesh bag over the opening of the bucket and shake the contents around for about 4 minutes. When the cannabis comes in contact with the dry ice, the low temperatures cause the trichome resins to freeze.
Then, when the bucket is shaken, the ice moves against the plant matter and knocks the frozen trichomes off.
Lift the bucket up, turn it upside down over your clean mirror or plexiglass and start shaking out as much cold powdery resin through the micro-mesh bag as you can until you can’t shake anymore out.
Be sure to give the bucket a good and thorough shaking to displace as much of the resin as possible.
Next, use your scraper or card to smoothly scoop up the kief hash from your surface area into a mason jar. For 1 ounce of cannabis, expect to produce about 3.5 grams of kief.
You’ll get about 0.5 grams of high-grade stuff with the smaller micron bag and about 3 grams of lesser-grade stuff with the larger micron bags.
Repeat the previous steps with the size-160 and 220 bubble hash bags in order to collect three different grades of pure, solvent-free, homemade CO2 hash. Not sure what to do with this giggle dust? Do whatever you please!
Smoke it, vape it, dab it, infuse it, or bake it into edibles. The sky’s the limit with this marijuana extract.
The CO2 Cannabis Conclusion
Supercritical CO2 produces cannabis concentrates that are much safer, cleaner, less toxic and more aromatic than butane hash oil products. CO2 oil is more cost efficient to produce en masse and more customizable in terms of its cannabinoid content for the consumer.
CO2 extraction is the cutting edge of the cannabis industry. However, a typical supercritical CO2 machine costs way too much for most people to own and use one of their own at home.
You can still make high quality, completely non-toxic, CO2-extracted cannabis concentrates at home with some simple materials, some easily obtainable dry ice and some good organic weed .
If you’d like to try cannabis concentrates before you go all-in and make your own, purchase a small quantity of kief, oil, wax, or shatter from your local dispensary and see how your body reacts. Start small and increase your dosage carefully (especially if you’re just trying to get high ).
Remember, concentrates are, by nature, a lot stronger than your regular dried bud. That means that you don’t need nearly as much to fly sky high or experience some serious medical benefits. A little goes a long way.
For more information on all things cannabis and to check out our 100-percent all-natural marijuana products, visit HonestMarijuana.com today.
CO2 Extraction of Cannabidiol (CBD) – Process and Why it’s Important
CBD products are becoming increasingly popular, leaving many consumers wondering where to start. While it’s true there are almost more options than you can count in the world of CBD today, there’s one important factor everyone should consider before buying and consuming a hemp product: How it’s made.
In terms of CBD products, how the hemp oil is extracted drastically impacts the final result. Although all methods are attempting to do the same thing – create a highly concentrated version of cannabinoid for human use, there are definitely right ways and wrong ways to extract the oil. And, of course, even when you’ve narrowed it down to the right ways to perform the extraction (keeping in mind the purity and potency, among other things), there are still several different “right” ways being put into practice. All of this makes it extremely difficult for consumers to know which method really is best – and where they should be spending their money.
What’s most important to remember is that, even when dealing with the exact same hemp strain, the extraction method utilized to create the oil can produce very distinct results. Even at a chemical level, you can tell which method has been used to create a specific CBD product – and that can make the difference between you getting the results you want and feeling like you’ve wasted your money.
Understanding How the CO2 Cannabis Extraction Method Works
One of the most trusted ways to extract CBD from cannabis or hemp, the CO2 extraction method is categorized into three different types: supercritical, subcritical and mid-critical. Most professional and reputable companies use the CO2 extraction method simply because it’s the safest way to create the purest product.
Far from inexpensive, the equipment needed to extract CBD with CO2 is highly technical machinery that often is separated into three distinct chambers. As expected, each chamber has its own specialized task:
- First Chamber: Pressurizes and cools the CO2 to a supercritical cold liquid state
- Second Chamber: Holds the organic plant material
- Third Chamber: That captures the final product, including the used CO2 so that it can be used again
Clean and efficient, CO2 extraction is only used by professionals, as the technical knowledge needed to operate the equipment (not to mention the expense of getting your hands on it) keeps amateurs and hobbyists away.
CO2 cannabis extraction works so well because of its ability to use pressurized carbon dioxide (that’s the CO2 part in case you missed chemistry class) to extract CBD from plants. Although other extraction methods can get the job done, CO2 works better because it becomes a solvent when frozen below -69 degrees Fahrenheit, turning it from gas form to its liquid state, and without presenting any of the risks that other solvents carry.
When using the supercritical CO2 extraction method, the liquid CO2 is pushed to the point of becoming a property that is halfway between a gas and a liquid. Known as a “supercritical” state, the CO2 now functions as both a gas and a liquid, making it ideal for chemical extraction because it doesn’t denature or damage the substance. For CBD products, which are either consumed by ingestion or absorption, making sure that the hemp oil is as safe and pure as possible, without losing any of the critical components that make it effective, is key. When done properly, CO2 extraction pulls out all of the essential trichomes and terpene oils, ensuring that the products you buy really deliver the benefits you’re looking for.
The Pros and Cons of the CO2 Extraction Method
Like anything, CO2 extraction isn’t perfect. While a popular and safe choice, there are some downsides to the process that should be considered, whether you’re a consumer or a CBD business owner. First, however, let’s focus on why CO2 really is one of the best extraction methods being used today, especially for CBD products.
Pros of CO2 Extraction
- Incredibly safe, CO2 itself is used in a variety of popular foods and beverages as an additive. Carbonated soft drinks, for example, are made possible because of CO2.
- The CO2 extraction method has also been used by many trusted food companies for years because it is so effective. In addition to creating essential oils, coffee companies use CO2 as a solvent to remove caffeine from coffee.
- The process of CO2 extraction ensures purity, which is why it’s so important for CBD products. Specifically, the cannabinoids produced by this method retain their potency without being contaminated by chlorophyll and other toxic substances. For people wanting to buy the most pure CBD products as possible, CO2 extraction is the way to go. (It’s only a few steps away from being a complete isolate, which means all other compounds are completely eliminated.)
There are, of course, a few reasons why CO2 extraction isn’t the right method for everyone. Below are a few of the cons to consider…
Cons of CO2 Extraction
- The equipment needed to perform CO2 extraction is costly, with even starter kits running close to $40,000 each. Because of the cost, CO2 extraction is impossible for many companies and individuals looking to extract their own hemp oil.
- Even if you get your hands on the equipment necessary for CO2 extraction, it takes a lot of specific knowledge to make sure it’s operated properly and safely. Even an amateur chemist shouldn’t attempt to use CO2 equipment without professional training.
- Because CO2 extraction equipment is expensive and because the knowledge needed to operate it creates a barrier to entry, CBD products created with the method tend to be more expensive than those created using a different technique. (Of course, as the saying goes, you typically get what you pay for.)
Deciding if CBD Products Created by CO2 Extraction are Right for You
Like anything you choose to consume, you have a choice in what you buy. While some consumers will decide that they’re fine using CBD products created using a different method, especially if it means they save money, a lot of people choose to exclusively use CO2 extracted CBD simply because it’s the safest most effective way to ensure they’re getting the benefits they want. At the end of the day, remember that how your CBD products are made will ultimately affect the end product, as well as your overall health.