Or how not to extract oils: 1. Turn up the flow. 2. Don’t collect the oils. 3. Clog your pump.
How to tell if a company hasn’t tested their equipment, or if they haven’t tested to improve yield: Claim High Flow Rate.
What’s that you say ? It’s not the flow rate that matters, it’s the permeability of the CO2 into the botanicals, and the the availability to harvest the extracted oil. Now you know more than most of the upstart CO2 Extraction companies out there.
Why ? Because we’ve tested these parameters over the past three years. If you haven’t tested your machine, then you won’t know that flow isn’t the key, and it can actually be a Pandora’s Box of bad tricks.
Permeability of Cannabis and Hemp Which Allows CO2 to Extract Oil:
It’s not the flow of the solvent (CO2), but how it interacts with the botanicals. In one example, you can have a high flow rate, and that flow goes around the outside of the Cannabis (if introduced in one end of the extraction vessel, and exits the other), which leaves the core of the botanicals under exposed to solvent. That’s why most companies reverse flow in their extraction vessel – because they have incomplete saturation or permeability. The CO2 as a solvent needs proper distribution through a batch reactor system.
Once you’ve extracted that precious oil, you need to collect it. The problem with high flow is that without a proper way to slow it down (or spin out the oil), you’re not going to collect the oil, and it’s going to blow-by your collection vessel(s) and clog your pump. How can you tell if a system that doesn’t collect oil properly ? If the pump is constantly being clogged. Solution: slow down the flow, and charge the entrained oil with a static cling, so that it does not go into the pump. We do that by ElectroStatic Precipitation (ESP). We have one customer who has run his machine on a daily basis, and hasn’t needed to clean the pump in over 2 months.
How To Insure Your Machine Runs Properly:
One word – maintenance. If you are not going to take care of your machine, I promise you it will fail, you won’t have proper extraction, or even worse, you’ll lose valuable extracts (not to mention time). Of course, it goes without saying that your operator must have proper training, and needs to run the system for success (we suggest a learning curve on high-oil-content hops). Running with this methodology gives the operator confidence, and reinforces a positive learning curve.
Pump Flow and Speed: At first we had a high flow rate, and noticed everything mentioned above. It wasn’t until we found a way to slow down the flow, and properly harvest oil, that our yield and time to process improved greatly.
It’s typical for larger vessel manufacturers (and start-ups) to boost flow, in order to compensate for improper solvent (CO2) distribution in a large vessel. Go big, or go home, right ? Wrong. You need to properly introduce and distribute the CO2 throughout all of the cannabis, to efficiently extract the oil. This can’t be done with sheer flow rate alone.
How to Spot a Start-up: Those who claim high flow rate, without any mention of how to collect the oil.
Anybody pre-buying a new unproven system (that hasn’t been tested for a good period of time), is buying a headache.
Nikola Tesla started with a theory, then tested it. That methodology worked well. We use his AC system, electric motors, and yes, he was the inventor of radio. Thomas Edison just did trial and error (thousands of times for a light bulb). Be a Tesla, not a Edison.
Test, Test, and Test: A great CO2 manufacturer will always test, and keep testing their machine. And they will always look for technology to improve its performance. A good builder will want to improve customer satisfaction, and customer experience. Testing is the only way to improve your product. This applies on the extraction process as well. Get to know your machine and test with hops. Experiment with varying pressures, temperatures, times, configurations, etc.
Extract Color: One of the good ways to see how well a extractor is performing, is to look at the extract color. For Cannabis, you want that peanut buttery, honey-like, yellow-orange color and consistency. If you are trying to extract live-resin, or other extract specific components, you may have other textures and color. But for 99 percent of you out there extracting for the vape pen and concentrate market, you want the yellow-orange color. If you are extracting a brown oil, you need to look at the temperature, pressure, or the machine parameters.
It’s not the rate of the flow that matters, it’s what you do with it:
If you have a high flow into a large batch extraction vessel, chances are good that there will be partitions in the vessel that don’t get flow, hence the term “soak” time. That is time needed to soak all of the botanicals. In a improperly designed system, a long soak time is needed to release the oil into the solvent flow stream. Smaller extraction vessels will result in even and better solvent distribution, than large batch reactors. Infinity uses a FlowBar, which is the best method to distribute the CO2 solvent along the entire length of the extraction vessel.
Flow rate doesn’t determine extraction cycle speed:
The integrated system and operator determine the run time. If your system is designed properly, the solvent (CO2) will extract the oil (with temperature and pressure) by distributing the solvent evenly through the cannabis, and (hopefully) it will be collected in the collection vessel. High flow rate can create blow-by, and the oil may end up in the pump. The operator has a huge factor in this, even in automated systems. A improperly trained operator (or no training at all), may negate any system design, and lead to a consistent failure rate, with little oil.
How Do You Spot A Improperly Designed or Operated System ?
Look for oil extract (called “carry-over”) in the pump. The leading cause of pump failure (and maintenance) is extracted oil which is not collected in the right place – the collection vessel. A poorly trained operator can foil even the smartest systems, and force oil into the pump. The three best methods to insure fast cycle and a clean running pump is to properly distribute the CO2 in the extraction vessel, harvest all the oil in the collection vessel, and have proper operator training. Infinity uses a FlowBar for proper CO2 flow, and TriboTube for electrostatic precipitation to harvest oil.
Experimentation – Repeating Success Leads to Not Duplicating Failure:
Once you have a good handle on your system operation, use a low cost, oil rich botanical to experiment with cycle times with your system. We use hops for the botanical. Always log your experiments and results. Infinity has develop a simple database log for this purpose (works with any machine). This allows you to experiment with different recipes, and see which method produces the best results. Some automated systems already have these, however the pro’s will tell you they prefer semi-automated systems so they can have more control over the cycle.
30/30 and 45/45 Cycle Experiment:
Using our FlowBar, we started to experiment with hops and a cycle time of 30 minutes on, stop the machine and remove the botanical basket, put it back in, then run for 45 minutes more. What we found was really interesting. It turns out that with proper solvent distribution, most of the oil is extracted in the first part of the cycle, or 30 to 45 minutes. If a manufacturer claims fast extraction times, ask to see testing results on the website. In the cannabis industry, there is lots of talk. Ask to see the proof.
In conclusion, don’t trust the marketing hype.
If a new system hasn’t been tested, and you don’t see run results on the website, then you’re buying a system that hasn’t been thoroughly tested. The important factor with flow is how it interacts through the cannabis to precipitate out the oil, and it has to be at a rate which can easily have the oil separated (harvested) from the CO2 in the collection vessel. If the sticky, extracted oil, makes it to the pump, then it’s too late. All of these observations can only be learned through experience, and many runs.