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Co2 extract for cbd oil and ethanol

Co2 extract for cbd oil and ethanol

The CO₂ extraction is an exceptionally elaborate process in which the flowers and the solvent must be exposed to the necessary pressure and the right temperature in special facilities.

While carbon dioxide does dissolve the CBD from the hemp, it also releases a lot of undesirable substances such as waxes and chlorophyll. Therefore CO₂ extracts have to be cleaned in many time-consuming steps before they can be used.

On the other hand, valuable amino acids, other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are not or only partially soluble in CO₂. So a lot of awesome ingredients are lost during the CO₂ extraction.

Alcohol is the only suitable solvent for producing real full spectrum extract, as it dissolves the entire spectrum of cannabinoids, valuable terpenes, amino acids and other beneficial substances from the plants.

The situation is quite different when it comes to alcohol extraction. Instead of dissolving unwanted waste products such as wax, the alcohol is able to release other cannabinoids, terpenes, amino acids and other beneficial substances from the plants.

The resulting extract is much purer, clearer in colour and better in taste. It contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids and can be utilized much better by the human body (i.e. it is more bioavailable).

So when it comes to producing a particularly clean extract that exploits the full potential of the hemp plant and carries it into the concentrated power of cannabis, alcohol is the only suitable solvent.

Industrial factories for CO₂ extraction are available on a large scale. Therefore most manufacturers use this extraction method despite the poorer quality of the end product.

The reason why most producers of cannabis extracts choose the CO₂ method is as simple as it is a pity. Especially in Europe, the extraction sites for alcohol extracts are only available in a small scale. Although alcohol extraction is basically the cheaper option, many producers use the already existing infrastructure for the CO₂ extraction. They process their plant material in large, industrial complexes, which are also used for the commercial processing of herbs and spices.

For our customers, we as a manufacturer want to offer only top-quality products. Therefore, as always, we go our own way. Contrary to the general public, we at Bushplanet produce on a regional level and use the better method of extraction with alcohol.

Ethanol vs. CO2 vs. BHO for Cannabis and Hemp Extraction

The battle of the titans: ethanol extraction vs. BHO extraction vs. CO2 extraction. Which one produces the best cannabis oil? Which one is the best and most cost-effective method for cannabis producers? In short, it depends.

Everything from the quality of the equipment to the standard operating procedures used to the quality of the starting biomass can affect the throughput, cost of production, and quality of oil. In the cannabis industry, all three methods of extraction offer superior performance, but is there one to rule them all?

If you are a user who wants to understand more about each type of extraction method or are an entrepreneur debating between ethanol extraction vs. BHO extraction vs. CO2 extraction, our ultimate guide to cannabis extraction methods covers each in detail and compares and contrasts their pros and cons.

What Is Solvent-Based Cannabis Extraction?

Ancient solventless extractions involved literally scraping the plant for resin. Oh, how things have changed.

Modern solventless cannabis extraction methods such as dry sifting, ice water extraction, and rosin pressing use heat, pressure, or agitation, or a mixture of each, to manually remove the plant’s resin without the need for a solvent, such as ethanol, CO2, or hydrocarbons.

However, solvent-based extractions can offer more precise and effective processing for large-scale companies.

Solvent-based methods use chemical solvents such as ethanol, CO2, and hydrocarbons to dissolve the plant’s cannabinoids, terpenes, and other therapeutic essential oils. All solvent types used in the cannabis industry are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During the extraction, the solvent is removed from the final extract during a purging phase. In a closed-loop environment, the solvent is recycled and used for another run.

Using chemicals to separate the most valuable compounds, processors can create a concentrated cannabis resin. This end product can become the base for a variety of extracts, edibles, and topical products.

Every extraction method requires a large investment in peer-reviewed equipment and government-approved facilities, as well as highly-skilled operators who can run the equipment without fail. Be sure to follow all government rules and regulations.

While each extraction method offers an unparalleled ability to remove cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, and other minor cannabinoids from most any type of plant material, there are certain pros and cons to each method of extraction. Choosing the best one depends on the types of compounds desired, a company’s budget, and the size of the operation.

What Is Ethanol Extraction?

Ethanol, or grain alcohol, has been a popular polar and food-grade solvent in cannabis production, especially during its heyday in the early 20th century in apothecaries before cannabis became illegal in the U.S. Alcohol-based tinctures were all the rage.

Ethanol is derived from a plant fermentation process that produces grain alcohol. During ethanol extraction, ethanol is maintained at a low boil and washed over the biomass. Gentle agitation creates a vapor full of the plant’s most beneficial chemicals.

Since ethanol is a polar solvent, it is safe and effective in extracting fat-soluble and water-soluble compounds including:

  • Cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG, THCA, CBDA, and more)
  • Terpenes
  • Lignans
  • Polyphenols
  • Chlorophyll
  • Flavonoids
  • Amino acids
  • Alkamides

Ethanol’s ability to separate therapeutic compounds can be a double-edged sword. Ethanol can remove undesirables such as chlorophyll. Its polarity can end up creating a product with a greener look and harsher taste without additional purification.

Ethanol extraction can occur with warm or cold temperatures, although cooler temperatures are recommended for better compound retention. In some cases, ethanol is used in winterization techniques used to remove undesirable waxes from BHO or CO2 extracts.


  • Removes the need for winterization or dewaxing
  • Super efficient at separating cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant
  • Food grade solvent that is safe for lab use
  • Able to easily store large volumes of ethanol
  • Affordable solvent
  • Can create full spectrum hemp extracts
  • Low risk of toxicity since ethanol evaporates quickly


  • Ethanol polarity means it can also remove water-soluble compounds such a chlorophyll and create lower purity products
  • Slower recovery process due to ethanol’s higher relative boiling point compared to hydrocarbons
  • May require additional purification and refinement processes after the initial ethanol extraction process, meaning an increase in labor, time, and cost
  • May produce a limited variety of products and unable to produce popular varieties including shatter or terp sauce
  • Food-grade ethanol can have a higher cost than CO2

What Is CO2 Extraction?

Also known as supercritical CO2 extraction, this method is widely used in the pharmaceutical, food supplements, and cosmetics industry. Supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) is an odorless, non-toxic, and colorless liquid-gas that is safe to use to create high-quality extracts.

Carbon dioxide extraction uses CO2 in its supercritical state, which has characteristics of a gas and a liquid. CO2 is maintained at cool temperatures and pressurized to convert it to the supercritical state.

With its gas-like characteristics, it can diffuse through the entire biomass tank full of hemp or cannabis. Its liquid properties under compression dissolve non-polar compounds.

CO2 is lauded as a “tunable solvent” meaning processors can adjust the temperature and pressure depending on which soluble components are desired.

Its high tunability, however, does not offset its inability to reap the most flavor and aroma from the plant, based on a 2018 research study published in Planta Medica. The study found that CO2 significantly altered the plant’s original chemical profile.

In addition, CO2-extracted oil may need to be winterized to remove its wax and lipids. Winterization introduces ethanol or another variety of solvents including isopropanol or methanol, which can decrease purity and yield.


  • Inert, meaning it is non flammable, which reduces the risk of explosions.
  • Affordable solvent
  • Low risk of toxicity
  • Low impact on the environment


  • The process can take longer than other methods
  • May require a higher upfront cost for equipment
  • Longer run time and aggressive process may degrade some of the cannabinoids and terpenes in the extract
  • May require winterization (a solvent) defeating the purpose of the cooler temperature extraction

What Is BHO Extraction?

Butane hash oil (BHO) extraction uses hydrocarbons such as butane and propane individually or in a blend of solvents to reap more of the valuable terpenes from the plant. Butane, in particular, is a non-polar and flammable liquid gas.

Low boiling points of hydrocarbons enables processors to extract the most amount of cannabinoids and terpenes without degrading the product.

In the wrong hands, these hydrocarbon solvents can wreak havoc. They can create safety hazards in the lab and leave behind residual solvents in the final product. Today’s modern BHO technology, however, does away with all of these concerns.

BHO has become the most common method of extraction and a favorite among connoisseurs.


  • Relatively lower upfront cost for equipment
  • Able to produce full spectrum extracts due to the solvents’ low boiling point
  • Higher throughput than CO2
  • Requires minimal post processing
  • Fully automated solutions available
  • Able to produce a wide spectrum of products including:
    • Distillates
    • Live resin
    • Terp sauce
    • Diamonds.
    • Shatter
    • Wax
    • Budder
    • Crumble
    • Oil
    • Pull and snap
    • THCA isolate


    • Highly flammable, an increased risk of explosion when not properly designed or operated
    • If not used properly, can leave behind residual toxic solvents in the final extract
    • May come with a higher cost for facility
    • May make facility permitting more restrictive
    • Can have long post-processing times when using low-quality equipment

    Ethanol Extraction vs. BHO Extraction vs. CO2 Extraction

    For large-scale extraction needs, each extraction process can deliver high-throughput capabilities per day of cannabis and hemp crude oil. However, each method caters to different business needs defined by cost, speed of production, throughput, oil quality, and ability to create several product types.

    CO2 Extraction for Low Toxicity Safety

    In the competitive extracts market, any selling point is a plus. Carbon dioxide has a higher appeal to those who do not even want to risk introducing harmful toxins in the final extract. In terms of flammability, CO2 is a non-combustible gas, although there are other safety hazards that apply. Supercritical CO2 extractions are often perceived as safer and that may be worth it in and of itself.

    Ethanol Extraction for Commercial Hemp Scaling

    Ethanol’s wide use across various industrial applications makes it more scalable for large-scale facilities hoping to handle hundreds of pounds of hemp per day. In high-volume production, ethanol’s polarity allows it to remove more polar and non-polar compounds.

    For hemp farmers looking to process tens thousands of pounds of hemp biomass in just a few months after harvest, ethanol as a solvent typically receives more lenient storage restrictions than the often maligned hydrocarbons.

    BHO for the Best Quality Versatility

    Hydrocarbons are the solvents of choice for many hemp and cannabis processors. In particular, hydrocarbons allow processors to create a wide range of products including extracts of various consistencies and chemical compositions. From wax to shatter to terp sauce and more, hydrocarbons offer versatility and profitability in the market.

    Furthermore, hydrocarbons’ relatively low boiling points and non-polar characteristics allow them to separate more of the beneficial compounds, including those with low boiling points such as terpenes.

    In hydrocarbon extraction, preserving the terpenes can create a full-spectrum extract. Full-spectrum harnesses the therapeutic power of cannabinoids and terpenes to create an elevated experience with greater benefits and fewer side effects.

    Automated Hydrocarbon Extraction at Your Fingertips

    For the ultimate automated run experience, Luna Technologies’ IO Extractor overcomes the common challenges of modern BHO systems.

    • Reduce labor time and cost: An easy-to-use closed-loop system that cuts down on months of technician training.
    • Remove the risk of operator error: Program several pressures and temperatures parameters for each product type in your line of consumer packaged goods.
    • Increase throughput: Process 18 lb. of dried plant material or 25 lb. of fresh frozen biomass. One technician can run 400 lb. of material per day.
    • Speed up run time: Run times in just under an hour with a 10-minute soak and 2-minute change over time.

    For the blazing fast production and the best in closed-loop BHO equipment, consider the IO Extractor, rated high in safety and quality

    Cut Labor Costs
    Automated controls eliminate weeks or months of apprenticeship training required for manually controlled hydrocarbon systems.

    Eliminate Operator Error
    Pre-programmed recipe-monitoring system checks pressures and temperatures hundreds of times per second to remove risk of operator error.

    Increase Capacity
    Process 18 pounds of dried plant material or 25 pounds of fresh-frozen material per run. Single operator can process 400 pounds of biomass in a single day.

    Improve Run Time
    50-minute average run time with a 10-minute soak. Run-to-run changeover times of two minutes.

    Supercritical CO2 vs Ethanol Extraction for CBD Distillation

    Current thinking has most licensed producers (LPs) evaluating ethanol and supercritical CO2 extraction processes as the best options for their extraction labs. Each has its advantages and obstacles, and some LPs choose to employ both methods. Below is an at-a-glance summary of the pros and cons of each, and why we’ve chosen to use ethanol for our mobile extraction labs.

    Pros of ethanol extraction

    • The process is fast, making it a good choice for high volume harvests
    • You’re able to extract pure CBD and THC well, which is excellent for edibles and topicals
    • Ethanol extraction is more environmentally friendly than alternative extraction methods, as ethanol can be recovered and reused (read more about how we’re Bringing Clean Technology to the Extraction Industry )

    CBD distillate produced by extractX mobile labs is some of the highest quality distillate in the world.

    Cons of ethanol extraction

    • Most authority having jurisdictions (AHJs) require a fully certified C1D1 or C1D2 hazardous material processing area
    • Engineering and build-out costs for an ethanol extraction lab can run from $750,000-$1.5 million
    • Design, engineering, and approval processes can take 12-18 months

    Pros of supercritical CO2 extraction

    • While the process is more complicated, you’re able to extract a wider range of cannabinoids
    • The CO 2 extraction process allows you to pull terpenes from raw material, which is preferred for vape pen products
    • CO 2 is non-toxic and non-flammable

    Cons of supercritical CO2 extraction

    • It takes 6-10 CO 2 extractors to deliver the same output as a single ethanol extractor
    • Used CO 2 gas is released into the atmosphere, adding to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
    • Supercritical CO 2 extraction requires winterization, which drives equipment and operating costs up

    Ethanol extraction fuels clean-tech

    Our ethanol-based extraction labs help reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to other processes commonly used in the industry. Ethanol can be recovered and re-used between batches, making this method considerably more environmentally conscious than supercritical CO2 or butane extraction methods.

    Did You Know?

    As of July 7th, 2021, extractX has been highlighted for funding of up to $1.48 million from the Government of Canada’s Agricultural Clean Technology (ACT) Program. The ACT Program supports technologies that cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve energy efficiency, helping Canada meet its climate change goals. Read the full news release.

    extractX Mobile Labs

    For our turnkey mobile extraction labs, ethanol extraction was the clear process of choice. Delivering superior results in efficiency, scalability, and product quality, our turnkey mobile extraction labs arrive fully staffed and ready to start processing within a short time of arrival. Labs are built to comply with local regulatory standards , come with documented SOPs, and trained staff manage ongoing operations, processing up to 189 0 lbs. of biomass each day.

    Have a question, comment, or topic that you’d like to see covered in one of our blog posts? Engage in the comments section or reach out directly and our team of experts will get back to you as soon as possible!