Turning hemp plants into usable CBD products is a complicated task. It requires a combination of science and production knowledge along with solid procedures, patience, and attention to detail. Needless to say, the three main processes – CBD extraction, evaporation, and distillation – are not as easy as boiling water on the stove.
At the heart of all three processes is the equipment that manufacturers rely on. Cedar Stone Industry, a Houston supplier of hemp extractors and distillation equipment, says there isn’t just one way to perform each process. Therefore, the equipment a particular manufacturer invests in is heavily dependent on the processes they choose to utilize.
1. CBD Extraction
Extraction is the first process. It removes cannabinoids, terpenes, and other desired compounds from plant material. Hemp extractors can be designed around solvent extraction, CO2 extraction, or even old-style distillation. Solvent extraction is by far the most popular because it offers the best balance between cost and efficiency.
With both solvent and CO2 extraction, the extracted crude oil contains some substances manufacturers do not want in their end products. To get rid of those substances, they rely on the second process: evaporation.
2. CBD Evaporation
The second process, evaporation, gets rid of solvents and other unwanted liquids. Again, there are multiple ways to accomplish this. The most common method is by combining evaporation and extraction using a method known as vacuum extraction.
With this process, evaporation takes place in a vacuum – which is to say a sealed tank where solvents and other compounds are drawn off as extraction occurs. This process is preferred because it facilitates evaporation while keeping the extracted material below boiling point. It utilizes a combination of pressure and temperature to do so.
It should be noted that hemp extractors and evaporators can be separate pieces of equipment used independently. Vacuum extraction is just one way to facilitate evaporation.
3. CBD Distillation
The final process is CBD distillation. This is where crude oil is subject to a traditional distillation process in order to separate the various components in the oil. The two most available cannabinoids in crude oil are CBD and THC. But all told, there are more than a hundred cannabinoids in a typical cannabis plant, in addition to dozens of terpenes.
Distillation involves heating the crude oil gradually. Each of its constituents boils at a different temperature. At that temperature, the desired constituent evaporates. It is immediately cooled again and collected in liquid form.
Because the evaporation process does not necessarily remove all the unwanted compounds, manufacturers often put their distillates through a secondary evaporation. This may or may not be conducted in a vacuum.
In some cases, manufacturers complete hemp extraction and evaporation and go no further. They sell the crude oil as is. In other cases, the crude oil is processed only to remove THC. Everything else stays in the oil. That oil is sold as a full-spectrum oil in CBD shops.
So why bother with distillation? Because it allows manufacturers to produce custom-made products based on an endless variety of formulas. Manufacturers can isolate CBD and then mix-and-match terpenes to create complex recipes. But they can also mix-and-match cannabinoids.
The ability to create custom-made products is enhanced by growers who are constantly coming up with new cannabis strains. Each of their strains offers a different cannabinoid and terpene profile. Thus, you can get different types of crude oil from different strains. You can also grow certain strains to maximize particular cannabinoids and terpenes. In the end though, a finished product is a result of extraction, evaporation, and distillation.