Removing Water Soluble Components from Cannabis Oil

by Luke on April 10, 2020

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Water-solubles in your distillate can gum up the works. Along with reducing your potency, they cause color in the final product and leave behind sludgy residue when distilling.

Most extractions bring some water-soluble components into the extract. These components come from the cells in the plant. Even butane or CO2 extractions can pull some.

Water washing hemp extract

A liquid-liquid extraction of water solubles from hemp extract.

With ethanol extractions in particular, these water-soluble compounds can make up quite a bit of the mix! Chlorophyll, sugars, and phospholipids all get pulled from the plant material along with the rest of the crude. The warmer the ethanol, the more water-solubles pulled.

We see even more water-solubles with ultrasonic extracts and screw press extractions. This is because the increased extraction efficiency comes from breaking open the cells and releasing many of these compounds.

Phospholipids make up many membranes in living organisms. They are tricky to remove because they are amphiphilic, meaning they like both water and non-polar solvents like hydrocarbons or even ethanol.

One solution is to extract the water-solubles after extraction and before distillation.  Specially designed reactors can extract the water solubles.  The oil is dissolved in a solvent and washed with water.  Solubles are pulled out of the oil and into in the water. Once extraction is complete, the solvent can be rotovaped from the oil.  Then it is ready for trouble free distillation.

Posted in Cannabis, cannabis-distillation, Hemp Processing

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  • What type of solvent is used while washing with the water?

    • The basic requirements are that:

      1) The solvent is completely immiscible with water. This means most alcohols are off the table.
      2) The solvent has a much greater affinity for cannabinoids than water does. Meaning that almost no THC/CBD can be found dissolved in the water layer. This also makes it so that many alcohols cannot be used as your cannabinoid fraction would be split between two solvents.

      There are other factors like safety and health, ease of use, cost, and method of separating your solvent from your cannabinoids.

      To answer your question, probably hexane.

      • Great information.

        What is recommended for the temperature of the reaction, time and solution ratio of hexane, crude oil and water?

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