Distillate is one of the purest products containing only the THC and CBD molecules, and has many applications across the cannabis industry.
Removed in the extraction and winterization process are most fats, waxes and lipids that form the plant profile of the cannabis or hemp plant. After this process, however, there remains a wide variety of terpenes, cannabinoids and a small percentage of fats, waxes and lipids, the amount of which depends on the method used and the producers desired levels.
Cannabis distillation aims at removing these factors which impact purity, potency, and volatility, and instead isolate the desired cannabinoids.
The THC and CBD molecules have high boiling points which means the molecules stay intact when heated at a high temperature. For some of the other undesirable compounds, a much lower boiling point is required to convert them to a gas, meaning that a machine designed to collect and remove the vapors produced leaves you with a final product that consists of up to 99% pure THC or CBD.
This process is borrowed from the production of things like essential oils. Botanicals like lavender undergo a similar process to produce a liquid compatible to put on your skin or in a diffuser. For cannabis, this means that the final product is decarboxylated and less volatile so it can be, for example, heated in a vape and consumed.
One of the most common forms of distillation is the short-path method. Starting with a crude oil, it is heated until it vaporizes, where it enters a fractional tube and then a condensing tube before entering into another flask. The material is separated into “heads”, “tails” and “main”.
The “main” is a much higher concentrate of the desired cannabinoid and the “heads” and “tails” are all those other materials that have now been boiled off. The short-path method uses small batches and experienced operators to ensure that the temperatures are kept at a desired level. This makes the short-path method ideal for smaller operations.
Wiped film distillation uses the same concept of boiling off unwanted solvent or terpenes but in a different set up. The crude oil is “wiped” along the outside of a heated cylinder. This means that all the product is heated evenly so that undesirables boil off at a similar rate. The vapors are then condensed back to a liquid and collected. This process is run multiple times to ensure a high-quality product. A wiped film unit can be set up to run continuously, increasing its productivity and scalability.
Maratek carries both short-path and wiped-film distillation units in varying sizes to suit the needs of our customers from a small-scale lab setting to a full production facility.
You can learn more about the various cannabis and hemp distillation techniques in our blog, What are the Cannabis and Hemp Distillation Techniques?
The Final Product: Distillate
The purity and potency of distillate makes it very valuable. The oil produced is pure, clear, and smooth. After the extras have been removed, what purpose do we have for such a product? Distillate is mainly used in vapes, in edibles or consumed as a liquid dropper-style.
Since the terpenes, or flavors, of the oil have been reduced during distillation, the taste can be manipulated to be more appealing to customers. At this point, the desired terpenes can be added back into the distillate to manage the final flavor. Mango gummies and mint dab pens sell much better than products with a plant-like cannabis flavor.
The process of distillation allows for much more customization and consistency in your final product. It is much easier to predict potency and how the product will taste to the final consumer.
While removing terpenes makes the product tasteless and odorless, some believe that the process of removing terpenes also eliminates some of the medicinal benefits. Some forms of distillation remove less or more of the terpenes, so it's all up to the end consumer and what they are wanting in their cannabis products. CBD distillate is often used to control pain and help relax, and THC distillate is most used recreationally to get high.
Post processing techniques-like distillation-provide an abundance of control over the look, feel, smell and taste of the final product. Distillation allows for a more comprehensive customization of the end product.
Interested in learning more about distillation and how Maratek can help your business set up an effective and efficient distillation process with our innovative equipment? Get in touch with us today.