How To Make Cannabis Distillate
Making cannabis distillate is accomplished by using an apparatus that heats a solution to a specific temperature in order to vaporize a specific compound within the solution without destroying it, then re-condenses the vaporized compound back into a liquid effectively separating it from the rest of the ‘undesirable’ compounds in the original solution.
A simple example of distillation is the process of purifying water. Heating water to 100°C (212°F) will vaporize the H20 molecule, leaving behind any undesirable compounds. Rapidly cooling this water vapor causes it to re-condense into distilled, purified water.
The same principle used in water distillation can be applied to cannabis distillate. A bench-top short-path distillation unit is one of the most common apparatuses used in making cannabis distillate.
Short-path distillation units have three major components: a boiling flask, a condensing head, and a collection flask. The cannabis crude oil is heated in a boiling flask at varying temperatures. The vapor then passes through the condensing head (turning the vapor back into a liquid) and a liquid residue is collected in the collection flask, thereby isolating the THC and CBD components. Depending on the temperature reached in the boiling flask, you will either collect fractions known as “main”, “tails” or “heads”. The “main” fraction, often a pale yellow color, contains your THC and CBD fractions.
For mid to large scale processors, it is more common to find a wiped film distillation apparatus in the laboratory. Wiped film is a variation of short path in the sense that the chemistry is the same, but the technique and equipment are slightly different. Often the biggest differences between short path and wiped film distillation are the ability to operate the unit in a continuous mode and the use of rolling wipers in the heating step to create a thin film around the evaporator flask.
There are pros and cons to both distillation techniques. Ultimately the product you are trying to make and the volume you are processing will dictate which is best suited for you.
Use Distillate To Make Consistent Products
With distillation, isolating THC and CBD as a cannabinoid group can be done from any source cannabis plant material, regardless of quality or origin. By using distillation as a post processing technique the processor can also buy large volumes of trim and otherwise low-quality biomass, and covert it to a consistent, high-quality and high-potency liquid.*
The isolated CBD and THC distillate can then be infused into a variety of products such as vape pens, edibles, pills, topical solutions and everything non-leaf. Flavors may be separately infused back into the cannabis distillate in a controlled manner thereby creating a predictable, replicable and consumable product for the end user.
Essential for the building and maintenance of any brand, distillation makes product consistency an achievable reality.
*Note that quality of input will always affect quality of output and proper preparation of the crude material will ensure uniformity of potency.