Building Better Brands by Isolating THC and CBD

making cannabis distillate

How to make cannabis distillate

Introduction: Making cannabis distillate, why all the craze?

Imagine if your favorite beer tasted and smelled different every time you drank it. Or the alcohol content was wildly different with every batch. Faced with such unpredictability, it wouldn’t be your favorite for long.

Product consistency is fundamental to building and maintaining any successful brand.

The cannabis plant, by nature, possesses inconsistent and unpredictable qualities. Depending on strains and evolution within strains, taste, smell and THC/CBD potency may vary greatly. These inconsistencies will flow into any end product, thereby causing undesirable variations.

In order to produce a consistent product, the THC and CBD components must be isolated and separated from other cannabis components and then infused into the product. Via distillation, this is possible.

The Basics: What is cannabis distillation?

Cannabis distillation is a post-processing extraction technique done subsequent to an initial solvent-based extraction.

In practice, and by way of example, the raw oil (sometimes referred to as “crude” oil) from the cannabis plant will first be extracted via the use of a PX1 or PXP system. Depending on a number of factors, that crude oil will have a THC/CBD concentration of 60-80%.

What is not THC and CBD in the crude oil will be a blend of flavors and smells, known as terpenes, and a variety of other plant-based components from vitamins, antioxidants and additional consumable substances.

In order to further purify the oil, it will then be subject to the distillation process with a specialized commercial distillation unit such as Precision’s CDU 1000. The distillation process isolates specific compounds, such as THC and CBD, thereby producing a refined oil (or “distillate”) of over 90% purity.

The remaining terpenes and other non-THC/CBD compounds will have an insignificant effect on the flavor and smell of the product. By targeting THC and CBD, for example, one can see how flavor, smell and potency may not be controlled by the producer.

The Science: How does cannabis distillation work?

In its most basic form, making cannabis distillate is accomplished by using an apparatus that heats a solution to a specific temperature to vaporize a specific compound of a solution without destroying it, then condensing the vaporized compound back into a liquid.

A simple example of this is the process of purifying water. Heating water to 100°C (212°F) will vaporize H20 molecule, leaving behind any undesirable compounds. Rapidly cooling this water vapor causes it to condense into distilled, purified water.

The same principle used in water distillation can be applied to cannabis. A short-path distillation unit is a one of the most common apparatuses used in cannabis distillation.

Short-path distillation units have three major components: a boiling flask, a condensing head, and a collection flask. The cannabis compound being distilled is heated in the boiling flask. The vapor then passes through the condensing head (turning the vapor to a liquid) and collects in the collection flask, thereby isolating the THC and CBD components.

short path distillation diagram

The Takeaway: So why is this relevant to my business?

Via distillation, isolating THC and CBD as a cannabinoid group can be done from any source cannabis plant material, regardless of quality or origin. Distillation allows the processor to buy large volumes of trim and otherwise low-quality biomass, and covert it to a consistent, high quality and high potency liquid.*

The isolated THC and CBD 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 in a controlled manner thereby creating a predictable, replicable and consumable product, from taste to potency, for the end user.

Essential for the building and maintenance of any brand, distillation makes product consistency a practical reality.

*Note that quality of input will always affect quality of output and proper preparation of the crude material will ensure uniformity of potency.

Precision Distillation Equipment

Precision CDU 1000 Cannabis Distillation Unit
Precision’s CDU 1000 Distillation Unit

With the CDU 1000, also known as the “Barracuda”, you’re working with the pinnacle of cannabis distillation equipment. The automated capabilities, continuous operation and unique features of the CDU 1000 exponentially increases the efficiency of the distillation process.

Crude oil is fed into the distillation column via an automatic dosing pump. The automatic dosing pump is fully programmable based on the operator’s desired throughput. The crude oil is pumped into a column, where it is evenly distributed over the evaporative surface by several PTFE “rollers”. This wiped film technique allows higher efficiency and lower temperatures to be utilized during the distillation process. Learn more about the differences between short path and wiped film distillation in our recent article.

The CDU 1000 maximizes the efficiency of your lab with no batch-size limitations and no flask swaps. Continuous operation with minimized downtime.

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