What is Co2 Extraction?

stoner scientistWhat is Co2 extraction exactly?

We’re constantly asked what is a co2 extraction, co2 oil or co2 hash oil? So our first question for Ask A STONER Scientist featuring Brite Labs scientists comes from a stoner who’s looking to understand co2 extraction and get the inside scoop on CO2 cannabis concentrates. Tweet @stoner_stuff or @britelabs or email your THC extraction questions to askastonerscientist at gmail.com.

Question: I see CO2 concentrates everywhere these days. So how exactly does CO2 extraction work?

Answer: Understanding CO2 extraction starts with understanding just what an extract is. Cannabis contains hundreds of different medicinal compounds, everything from cannabinoids like THC, CBD and CBG to the molecules responsible for taste and aroma like terpenes, terpenoids, and flavonoids. Picture berries on a branch and you have a pretty good image of how these compounds are attached to the cannabis plant.

Co2 extraction 101

If you shake all these compounds loose and collect them, you have an extract or concentrate. A common cannabis concentrate? Hash. Anyhow, extracts are great for delivering concentrated amounts of cannabis’ healthful compounds and allowing a patient to consume them in ways other than smoking a joint – think dab wax, your vape pen and vaporizer cartridges.

There are a lot of different ways to make a THC extraction. Some companies make cannabis concentrates using solvents like butane or alcohol. Some utilize “solventless” methods with water. However we here at Brite Labs use carbon dioxide or CO2. This is where the CO2 extractor machine comes in. The CO2 extraction machine is the size of a room. We’re talking a collection of tools here. It’s basically made up of a large stainless steel drum for holding dried cannabis. Attached to the co2 extraction machine is a closed loop of pipes and canisters of highly purified CO2.

The co2 extraction machine is pretty common actually. In fact the co2 extraction machine has been the go-too tool for decades used to make everything from decaffeinated coffee, to cooking extracts even to fat-free snacks. So even though a supercritical co2 extractor sounds super complex it’s actually easy to use with cannabis and of course—perfectly safe.

Co2 Extraction
The typical Co2 Extraction machine ain’t nothing but a buncha parts, man…

Making a Co2 extraction

Utilizing a supercritical co2 extractor to make co2 oil can be very complex but the process is pretty straightforward. Using carefully controlled heat and pressure CO2 circulates through the pipes and around the inside of the cannabis cylinder. As the CO2 comes into contact with the cannabis it dissolves away medicinal compounds and deposits them into a collection chamber. That’s it. simple, eh?

Not quick though. A single batch of THC extraction might take 10 to 12 hours of extraction time. When the THC extraction is completed the cannabis has been stripped of medicinal compounds and the raw extract is removed from the collection chamber. CO2 extraction is so thorough that the used cannabis is good for not much else but composting.

So when you see a medicine in your dispensary labeled “CO2 extract” or “CO2 oil” you can expect that it was made in a co2 extractor using the process we’ve described here. But be aware, not all CO2 extracts are created equally. It’s easier to run a Co2 extractor than it is to create a high-quality Co2 extract, especially a Co2 extract that preserves all the precious stuff found naturally in cannabis.

Have you ever tried a co2 extraction in a vaporizer? What’d ya think of it? Tell us in the comments below. And don’t forget to Tweet @stoner_stuff, @britelabs or email your questions for Ask A STONER Scientist to askastonerscientist at gmail.com.

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