Distillation and Isolation of Cannabinoids: The Distillation Process

Maratek distillation process thin film

The process of distillation and isolation takes place in the final stages of creating a cannabis oil extract, which is made using the dried plant in crude extract.

Winterization is a process that occurs after the extract is created. During winterization, fatty acids and other plant materials are removed from the extract which is then decarboxylated to activate the desired compounds.

Once winterization is complete, distillation can now take place. Since cannabinoids like THC and CBD have different boiling points, they can be isolated by precisely heating under pressure to the temperature of the desired cannabinoid’s boiling point. For example, THC’s boiling point is 157 degrees Celsius.

When isolating for THC, the temperature would be set to 157 degrees Celsius during distillation so that THC is the only compound that is taken from the extract. The distillation causes the desired compound to become a vapour and condensate to where it is then stored.

This process is commonly referred to as “fractional distillation” because the compound that is isolated is a fraction of the extract. Fractional distillation gives players in the Cannabis and Hemp industry the ability to isolate certain compounds or to also remove certain compounds from the extract. Isolated compounds can also be put back together to create different mixes of compounds.

The distillation process used to be a lab central job, but technology has adapted and allowed for opportunities of an industrial approach. The operation can now be automated, instead of manual.

Common problems and errors that occur in the cannabinoid distillation process

Although distillates are the new potential money maker, this doesn’t mean that it is an easy industry to become a player in. The first common error that aspiring distillate producers make is not having properly trained staff operating the machinery. This mistake can lead to a domino effect of errors in production. The product needs to be operated and set up correctly.

In Cannabis Industry Journal, Dr. Edward F. Askew states: “The temperature and vacuum controls must be adjustable and accurate for all parts of the distillation apparatus. Failure to control the temperature and vacuum on any part to the apparatus will lead to:

  • Thermal destruction of the distillate
  • Oxidation of the distillate
  • Impure distillate.”

Another problem that can occur in the distillate process is the criticism of safety and purity. With all of the industrial and machine processes, some customers may not believe that the distillate is a trustworthy, natural product.

How you can avoid these problems

With every business opportunity, problems will arise. There is always a way to minimize and avoid the potential problems. In the case of distillation and isolation, like all industries, proper operations and management will result in a much better production experience.

An educated operations manager that understands what needs to be done during the distillation process will greatly decrease the risk of production errors.

As for the concern of safety and purity, documents such as GMP and certifications of clean and pure products will assure customers that the product is high quality and safe. These certifications will not be difficult to attain as long as the product truly is high quality; it is definitely worth it!

Want to learn more about the distillation process in cannabis and hemp? Contact Maratek today, our team of experts would love to answer any questions that you may have.

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