Winterization Of CBD Oil

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One of the most critical steps in terms of making a clean cannabis product is CBD winterization. If you’ve ever wondered what that means, click to learn more! Winterization, aka dewaxing, is a vital step in creating a high-purity extract oil. Learn why it is necessary in the botanicals industry and 4 easy-to-follow process steps.

What is CBD winterization?

There are many steps to processing hemp into a consumer-level product. One of the most critical, in terms of making a clean product, is winterization. No, this isn’t what your dad does to the lawnmower every fall. Winterization is a process that removes undesirable elements extracted from hemp, for example, fats, waxes, and lipids leaving behind clean, consumable CBD oil. Without CBD winterization, these unwanted materials would cause the final product to be cloudy, darker, and have an unpleasant taste.

What steps come before the winterization of oil?

The winterization process starts with raw extract straight from our CO2 machine (see photo below). This CBD crude oil contains all the essential parts of the hemp plant except for the actual plant material itself. CBD, minor cannabinoids, terpenes, fats, waxes, and lipids are all part of this viscous liquid. Crude oil extracted from a CO2 machine will have an attractive, light color to it, especially compared to alcohol extracted oil, which will have a dark, sludge-like appearance.

What is CBD Winterization?

The CBD crude oil is combined with 200 proof alcohol and stirred vigorously until completely mixed. The alcohol is used to thin the crude oil out, as the desirable parts of crude will go into solution with the alcohol while the undesirable parts will coagulate and freeze allowing them to be filtered out. The mixture is then placed in a deep freezer at below-zero temperatures. Once it has time to freeze it looks cloudy and is ready for filtration. The next step is to place the mixture in vessels that use paper filters to remove the frozen fats, waxes and lipids. The actual CBD oil remains with the alcohol solution and passes through the filter while the frozen undesirable parts are caught by it. The photo below shows what a filter will look like after the solution passes through it. When properly winterized, the filters will catch all of the frozen plant waxes from the oil, leaving them sitting on top. Once the pass is complete, the filters and waxes are discarded. The clean oil flows through the filter into a collection vessel where it is refrozen for more passes. We winterize multiple times just to make sure that our oil is 100 percent clean!

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So wait, even though the winterized oil is CO2 extracted, it will still contain alcohol?

Nope! The alcohol is just used to thin the CBD oil in order to properly filter it. Once it’s been filtered and the undesirable elements have been removed, it’s time to remove the alcohol. This is done with a piece of equipment called a rotary evaporator (rotovap). This is CEO Craig Henderson, who started refining hemp from the garage of his home, using a rotovap in the early days of Extract Labs. This bad boy is an efficient way to quickly distill the alcohol out of the solution. The bulb spins in a hot water bath while the system is under vacuum, allowing the alcohol to evaporate out while leaving the winterized oil spinning in the bulb. The alcohol vapors then travel up to the chiller coils where they condense into a liquid and drip down for collection. The alcohol is then recycled into our process. Once the rotovap is done with a work order, the spinning bulb will contain only clean winterized CBD oil. The winterized CBD is then ready to move on to the next phase of the process. From here, the winterized oil will be formulated into tinctures or it will move to our distillation department for further refinement.

Winterization: A Vital Step to Botanicals Purification

The importance of obtaining a pure cannabis extract continues to grow. Production companies are making sure their final extracts are free of undesirable components such as waxes, lipids, and fats. Many are achieving this through a process known as winterization. After extraction, winterization is a final step that can be taken to reach a further purification of extract.

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Winterization, also known as dewaxing, is a vital step to creating a high-purity extract in the cannabis industry. Winterization is the removal of the unwanted substances including, waxes, lipids, and fats of the plants in the crude extract. It is important to winterize to remove fats because the fats dilute the final concentration of cannabinoids in the final extract which lowers the purity and then affects the overall value. These fats can cause the final extract to be cloudy and less attractive, also resulting in a lower value. Removing the fats and waxes will result in a pure sample, stable viscosity, and a longer shelf life.

Depending on the method of extraction, it could vary the amount of fats that can be removed during the winterization process. A cold ethanol extraction is the best extraction method for minimizing fats in the extract. The CO2 extraction method is usually the method that contains the most amount of fats in the final crude extract. The methods to complete winterization include four steps: dissolve, cool, filter, and boil.

Winterization Steps

Step 1:

Dissolve the extract in 30 to 60°C of ethanol using a 10 mL:1g (ethanol:extract) ratio. Stirring the solution using a lab spatula or using a magnetic heater/stirrer with a stir bar will do the trick. Now the extract is suspended in ethanol. The waxes, lipids, and fats have now been dissolved in the solution. Solvent at warmer temperatures, completely dissolves the sample. Cooling the solvent, the solubility is decreased, and the waxes are precipitated out. These fats have a lower solubility in cold ethanol compared to warm ethanol, which is why the next step is to freeze the solution.

Step 2:

Using a chiller/freezer, get the solution as cold as possible. Waiting at least 24 hours should enough time for the waxes to precipitate out of the solution. You will notice a layer of fats have formed on top of the ethanol solution.

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Step 3:

Once this is complete, a vacuum filtration system is the final step using a vacuum pump, Buchner funnel, and filter paper. The highest surface area filter paper will allow you to filter out as much precipitate as possible. Keeping the funnel and filter papers as cold as the solution will keep the fats from going back into solution after coming into contact with the warmer surfaces. Using separate filters may help with the filtration, as higher micron sized filters will take out most of the fats but using smaller micron filters will filter the smallest particles of fats. Once the filtration apparatus is set up, use a cold pure ethanol to pre-wet the filter paper and apply a vacuum. Then slowly pour the solution onto the filter paper. A build up of fats will block the ability of the filter paper to continue to pull the solution through.

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Step 4:

There are now two separate products: the fats, which will look like a brownish butter on top of the filter papers, and a golden translucent oil. This final step is to evaporate off the ethanol from the oil. Ethanol will boil off at 78.5°C atmospheric pressure. Using a hotplate, boil off the ethanol until the solution reaches a thicker viscosity, close to the viscosity of honey. If using a vacuum oven and are pulling -28.5” Hg, this will reduce the boiling point of ethanol to 12.8°C. This process will purify the cannabis solution creating a higher value of the oil with the least amount of impurities.

Solvent at warmer temperatures, completely dissolves the sample. Cooling the solvent, the solubility is decreased, and the waxes are precipitated out.

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