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Ethanol Recovery with ExtractCraft

Written by Asia Mayfield

Walk into any modern cannabis dispensary and you’ll see products with names like “budder” and “shatter” and “sugar.” Known as concentrates, these products are increasingly popular. The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content in the average concentrate is significantly higher than in plain flower cannabis, hence the name ‘concentrate’.

Interest in cannabis concentrates has existed for a long time. However, past enthusiasts who wanted to make their own solvent-derived concentrates risked causing an explosion or injuring themselves. That’s because the process can incorporate flammable solvents such as butane or ethanol to liberate cannabinoids like THC from the plant material. You needed an adequately outfitted laboratory to create concentrates quickly and safely- until now.

Troy Ivan is the CEO of ExtractCraft, a company that specializes in small-scale ethanol recovery appliances geared towards providing a safer way to create plant extractions at home. In states where cannabis is legal, consumers can use ExtractCraft’s devices to create cannabis concentrates. In states where cannabis is not legal, consumers make different kinds botanical extractions.

“There are two units, a small black one called the Source Turbo that was the original product and a larger black and silver one, the EtOH Pro,” Ivan said. “They’re basically appliances. We have cosmetic makers in Beverly Hills using them for cosmetics. We have people using it for coffee extractions, chili extractions, etc. We have people from all overusing it for CBD [cannabidiol] extraction.”

Making your own concentrate is simple if you follow the directions. You can purchase high-proof ethanol at many liquor stores. When you mix ethanol with a plant like cannabis, the oil in the plant combines with the alcohol. After the plant matter is filtered away, a solution of alcohol and oil remains. The ethanol, then, must be removed to isolate the oil.

“That’s what the ExtractCraft equipment actually does,” Ivan explained. “You put that tincture of alcohol and oil into the machine and push the button. The machine works under vacuum at low temperature to evaporate the ethanol and then recollect it on the outside, thereby isolating the oil.”

The smaller machine, the Source Turbo, has two modes. The normal mode takes about 5 hours to complete, whereas the turbo mode takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. The temperature is the same in both settings, but the turbo mode uses more energy. The larger machine has an adjustable temperature control dial and an additional purge mode that you can use in post-production as a hot plate or like a vacuum oven.

Although you must purchase ethanol, one of the most significant advantages of using the Source Turbo or the EtOH Pro is that the solvent can be reused. “It’s an appliance that actually pays you back every time you use it,” Ivan said.

The EtOH Pro has a 4L capacity, which equals 1-2 pounds of dry plant material depending on the bulk density. Although you can recycle the ethanol for additional use, Ivan says that the recovery rates average between 85 and 90%, so you will still need to replenish your supply.

Ivan and his partner, Lee Sutherland, started the business in 2014 because they wanted to make it easier for medical cannabis patients to access their medication. Sutherland’s mother needed a reliable supply of cannabis oil to help treat her autoimmune disorder and he realized that being able to make the oil herself would be easier.

Six years later, ExtractCraft has grown into more than an appliance brand; they’ve built a community of passionate, well-informed customers in the cannabis community and beyond.

“You get a lot of people that say, ‘oh, I’ve been doing this (making concentrates) for 20 years’, and they’re out there with a rice cooker or you’ve got different device-makers in the market making claims and leading people down the wrong road just to sell them equipment,” Ivan said.

“So, our main focus, aside from selling our equipment, is educating the community and getting rid of this tsunami of bad information that’s pervasive and almost swamping the internet. We spend an immense amount of energy striving to provide solid information and making it easy to access and understand.”

About the author

Asia Mayfield

Asia Mayfield is a freelance writer who focuses on the cannabis industry. She can be reached at [email protected]