Kristina Etter   |   July 09, 2018

Evolution of Ethanol Extraction

Learn how a break through at Capna Fabrication might change the future of ethanol in cannabis extraction.
Before becoming a freelance cannabis writer, Kristina Etter, spent 20 years in corporate information technology with companies including Maytag Appliances, Wells Fargo Financial, and DuPont Pioneer. With a niche in mobile technology and…

Photo: Capna Fabrication

Ethanol is a relatively common solvent for performing cannabis extractions. As a polar solvent, ethanol binds to water-soluble compounds within the plant material. Full Extract Cannabis Oil, or FECO, is well-known for the wide array of plant compounds it contains including not only cannabinoids and terpenes, but aldehydes, ketones, esters, and other beneficial compounds in the raw materials. However, ethanol extracts like FECO typically look like the plant matter they were extracted from - dark, thick and muddy, mostly due to chlorophyll content.

With a higher boiling point than butane, the recovery of ethanol is typically more difficult and much slower. Additionally, ethanol extracts typically don’t create products like shatter and require more post-processing than other methods.

One extraction company in California may change the way the cannabis industry looks at ethanol, especially in large-scale operations.

Capna Fabrication: Ethos Systems

Speaking with Noe Garcia, Vice President of Sales at Capna Fabrication, their Ethos-4 and Ethos-6 ethanol extraction systems may be changing the game in cannabis extractions. Despite the fact, their company never intended to market an extraction system, their own frustrations with available extraction technology forced the company to look for a better way.

“Butane extractions are extremely dangerous,” Garcia recalled, speaking about an accident which happened in their lab with butane. After which, the company swore off the solvent to find an alternate and safer method. Although the push for CO2 is clear, there are still challenges with CO2 extraction processes including the time invested, as well as a reduced scalability. Garcia explained with CO2 systems, it takes anywhere from 4 to 8 hours on the low end, and up to as much as 12-24 hours to perform extractions with carbon dioxide. Additionally, CO2 extraction systems can be quite costly as production increases. “High capacity CO2 extractors can cost millions,” Garcia commented.

 

Patent-Pending Technology

Unlike the legacy versions of ethanol extracts, like FECO, the extractions from the Ethos system are clear and golden in color like shatter and very pure. The extracted solution is 100% wax free, with no lipids or chlorophyll. Best of all, the Ethos system saves 24-48 hours in the process and is 98.6% efficient in extracting the valuable compounds from the raw materials.

The system is incredibly easy to use and to scale. Garcia commented, “There is nothing difficult about the process. You can bring someone in off the street to run the machine, it might take a little longer, but the quality of the final product will be identical.” With practice, experienced operators can perform a complete extraction in only 15-20 minutes, although 30 minutes is typical.

Their flagship system, the Ethos 4, processes about 10 pounds of raw material per hour, while the newer, larger Ethos 6 can process up to 14 pounds per hour. This fully-enclosed system uses negative pressure to evacuate and transfer an emulsion in a recirculating closed loop extraction system, which is not only extraordinarily safe to operate but highly efficient, as well.

The Stats

Using 200-proof ethanol, these systems create high-quality extracts in a matter of minutes. Each system can produce fully-winterized, de-waxed, chlorophyll-free extracts with a 77-82% cannabinoid yield, and a 4-7% terpene yield. Additionally, these systems have an 85% solvent recovery rate.

Ethos 4

  • Processes 2500g in 30 minutes

  • 24-gallon ethanol capacity

Ethos 6

  • Processes 3600g in 40 minutes

  • 36-gallon ethanol capacity

  • Draws just 15.8 amps of power!

Garcia mentioned a larger system is on the horizon for later this year or early next year which can process 40-50 pounds per hour.

Photo: Capna Fabrication

Reduction Phase

Both the Ethos 4 and the Ethos 6 can be connected to the auto-feed of a rotary evaporator or to Capna’s newest engineering marvel, the Faling Film Evaporator (FFE). According to Capna this revolutionary piece of equipment “does the work of five 50L rotary evaporators, using the power of just one.” By separating ethanol from the essential oils in a more efficient manner, the FFE requires less manpower and less time to produce the final product.

Benefits of the FFE

  • Reduces 2L per minute or 31L per hour

  • 95-98% solvent recovery rate

  • 3-phase 220v/50-amp system

  • Small footprint with 8’ clearance

  • Eliminates the typical bottleneck of the rotary evaporator

  • The Next Level of Efficiency

Capna Fabrication is so focused on achieving the ultimate efficiency in producing extracts they have taken the process one step further. With their Centrifuge, producers can extract any remaining ethanol and cannabis oils still remaining in the materials after the original extraction. By producing a speed of 1900 revolutions per minute, the Centrifuge recovers 95-98% of the remaining ethanol with a capacity of 25kg per 3-minute cycle.

Since selling their first system in April 2017, Capna Fabrications has sold over 70 units since then. “Our little secret has become other extractors’ little secret,” Garcia stated.

Clearly, Capna Fabrications see ethanol as the future for cannabis extractions in the United States cannabis market. Garcia commented, “Other legacy extraction methods like butane will not hold much market value, and the lack of efficiency in CO2 will eventually make it obsolete as margins start to come down.”

To learn more about Capna Fabrication visit their website at http://capnafabrication.com.

 

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