A Guide to Cannabis Extraction Equipment and Machines
Before any CBD oil, THC tincture, weed butter or cannabis concentrate can be bought, first, it must be extracted. This is the job of cannabis extraction equipment, the machines that remove the coveted cannabis compounds from the plant’s matrix (a process explored in more detail here).
And just like any other piece of kit, an inevitable question arises when considering extraction machines: which one’s the best value for money?
Some are industrial, some are the size of a kettle. Some use CO2 as a solvent, others utilize alcohol. All have their pros and cons which can be listed in a nice, handy guide to cannabis extraction equipment and machines. A guide just like this:
CO2 Cannabis Extraction
CO2 might not be the cheapest solvent going, but its benefits can be worth the price tag. In these machines, high heat and pressures turn the gas supercritical, enabling it to extract higher yields than many other solvent methods.
The BOSS CO2 Extraction System
Automation at all stages has already improved the extraction process, especially with regard to repeatability and accuracy. Quadron Cannatech focuses on developing automated extraction systems specifically for the cannabis industry. Its BOSS CO2 Extraction System incorporates automated controls that eliminate the use of manual valves and has been designed to make load and unload times as short as possible to increase production capacity. The company claims that by streamlining the process its setup can process 20 pounds of cannabis material in 4 hours and run continuously without supervision, enabling a total of 6 runs per day.
The BOSS CO2 extraction system. Credit: Quadron Cannatech
The price: approximately $250,000
|Small footprint||Not suitable for small-scale production |
|Relatively low energy costs||Relatively expensive |
|Automated batch loading ||CO2 must be stored carefully |
|Easy to use for this kind of system||Operates at high pressures |
|Does not require harmful solvents||Relatively complex |
In all extraction methods, throughput will always be a key element for improvement. For example, the CannabisSFE, a supercritical CO2 extraction system from Supercritical Fluid Technologies, can be configured with 1-3 vessels to increase the amount of material that can be processed in line with a producer’s requirements. Flexibility and scalability in throughput are always desirable attributes, particularly in the fast-paced cannabis industry where companies grow fast and requirements can change overnight.
The CannabisSFE Supercritical CO2 Extraction Unit. Credit: Supercritical Fluid Technologies.
The price: $35,500
|Small footprint||Not suitable for large scale production |
|Suitable for average scale production ||No automated loading between runs |
|Scalable capacity||CO2 must be stored carefully |
|Add-ons available to enhance functionality ||Operates at high pressures |
|Does not require harmful solvents||Relatively complex |
Hi-Flo FX2 20L 5K
The Hi-Flo™ High Performance Series is known for its processing powers, and one of the latest in the series, the FX2 20L 5K, is no exception. Capable of processing as much as 107lbs of biomass a day, the extractor offers up to 5,000 psi and a rapid change-over for maximum extraction times.
The Hi-Flo FX2 20L 5K. Credit: Eden Labs LLC.
The price: $175,000
|Closed-loop design with up to 95% CO2 recapture rate||Requires a well-ventilated, tightly controlled lab environment|
|Fast terpene capture with advanced oil integrity cup design||Not suitable for small scale operators |
|Easy step-by-step protocol for upkeep||Relatively expensive |
|No internal moving parts so fewer points of failure||Requires scientific expertise to optimize|
|Energy efficient ||Lower capacity than some competitors |
Apeks Supercritical CO2 System
The most industrial extraction products deserve intimidating names, and the Force is certainly no exception. Able to process a colossal 200 pounds of dried botanical material every day, Apeks Supercritical’s system is optimized to tackle the biggest workloads in the industry. This one’s for the pros.
The ForceTM. Credit: Apeks Supercritical
The price: start at $445,000
|Can perform supercritical and subcritical extractions||Hefty price tag|
|Equipped with CO2 storage tank||Not suitable for small operations |
|Fully automated||Extensive scientific expertise required to run and optimize system|
|Works for large scale operations||High energy consumption |
Super C Extractor
Compared to the industrial behemoths, OCO Labs’ SuperC extractor looks like a toy. But don’t be fooled by its size; for the right buyer, this little extractor has is it all-in-one. Capable of processing 1oz at 4500 psi by itself, the SuperC’s capabilities can also be expanded with purchased additions such as OCO Labs’ rack specs.
The SuperC. Credit: OCO Labs.
The price: $4000
|One of the cheapest extractors on the market||Very low capacity |
|Ideal for small, irregular use||Incapable of mass production |
|Practically necessitates expansion packs|
Alcohol Cannabis Extraction
Like CO2, alcohol is one of the most commonly used solvents for cannabis extraction. Cheap to source, the ethanol soaks up the prized compounds, which can then be separated via evaporation. But this cheap solution doesn’t come without its challenges. Ethanol is highly flammable, and any temperature change can drastically alter the final product. Luckily, these machines come with instruction manuals.
Across International Rotovap
Built more like a home chemistry set than an industrial extractor, Across International’s Rotovap might be the perfect choice for a savvy buyer. Plus, thanks to its smaller volume, the Rotovap offers much more control over the evaporation of liquid phase materials. Any downsides, of course, stem from the extractor’s stripped back design. For example, any cooling system will have to be purchased separately.
The Ai SolventVap 5.3G/20L Rotary Evaporator. Credit: Across International.
The price: $19,470
|Much more affordable than other products||Minimal temperature control|
|One-year warranty||Accessories, such as chillers and pumps must be bought separately|
|Suitable for small scale operations||Very limited loading capacity |
|Simple and easy to use||Lacks flexibility |
|Small volumes allow fine controls ||Alcohol extracts must be treated to remove unwanted co-extracts like chlorophyll |
Genius ASAHI Rotary Evaporator
Like Across International’s Rotovap, the Genius ASAHI Rotoray Evaporator’s choice of solvent, alcohol, helps to keep it affordable. Two cold chambers can help to keep chlorophyll trapped in the plant matter, making the final product lighter in color and more flavorful.
Genius ASAHI Evaporator. Credit: Genius Extraction Technologies, Inc.
The price: varies depending on size.
|Removes solvents at low temperatures to preserve terpenes and cannabinoids||Accessories, such as chillers and pumps must be bought separately|
|Much more affordable than other products||Limited loading capacity in smaller models|
|Easy cleaning and maintenance||Lacks flexibility|
|A variety of sizes are available||Extraction process is completely manual |
The extractor for the on-the-go cannabis connoisseur, the Source Turbo can be operated remotely via a mobile app. No day is too jam-packed for this extract. As an extra feature, the Turbo also comes equipped with altitude-specific tuning, so it can operate at its best performance whether up in the mountains or down on the beach.
Source Turbo. Credit: Extract Craft.
The price: $599
|Suitable for home-use ||Very low production capacity|
|Easy to use||Alcohol extracts can require extensive clean up|
|Does not require harmful solvents||Not suitable for commercial extraction |
Part of the evolution of any form of equipment comes from the introduction of new methods. ESCET, for example, have developed a method that enables cannabis extraction with low-proof alcohol, such as bourbon or vodka, plus vegetable oil and water. The company claims that this method is “non-flammable, has no moving parts, and operates at normal pressure.” As the process is currently patent pending, data to prove the efficacy of this method are promising but unavailable.
The price: unknown.
|Does not require harmful solvents||Not commercially available |
|Very easy to use ||No public data available to prove efficacy |
|No dangerous chemicals or equipment required||Alcohol extracts can require extensive clean up |
Butane Cannabis Extraction
Butane, or propane in some instances, can be seen as similar solvents to CO2 in many ways. The butane is pressurized and heated, which transforms it from liquid to a vapor, making it easier to remove. This process creates a shatter, a clear material of THC, CBD and other cannabis compounds like terpenes. Although effective, the process can be undesirable for medicinal products, due to the risk of contamination.
The PX40 Extraction System
Throughput and scalability have been the focus of manufacturers of hydrocarbon solvent-based extraction equipment too. Precision Extraction Solutions, for example, continuously update their flagship PX40 Extraction System, which is ominously known as the Executioner. Run using either butane or propane, or a mix of both, this system can process up to 360lbs of material in a 10-hour shift of runs. The $189,000 price tag comes with the assurance that any extractor will be able to process vast amounts of cannabis using a machine that has been built above and beyond regulatory compliance. Plus, on-demand heating and chilling enables maximum control with ease of operation.
The PX40 Extraction System, also known as the Executioner. Credit: Precision Extraction Solutions.
The price: starts at $189,000
|Easy to use for this kind of system||Uses hydrocarbon solvents which must be removed |
|Compatible with propane and butane gas||High cost |
|High capacity ||Not suitable for small-scale production|
|High throughput||Hydrocarbon solvents must be handled with care|
|Great for terpene extraction ||Relatively complex|
The Io extractor
Over on the butane side of the extractor world is the Io extractor, a fully automated system capable of extracting 18lbs of plant material per hour. Priding itself on its novel data logging suite, Luna Technologies’ product constantly reviews the temperatures and pressures of each run, logging and refining its process with each cycle.
The Io extractor. Credit: Luna Technologies.
The price: approximately $225,000
|Computer controls can help refine extraction recipes for maximum yield and efficiency||Low processing capacity (18lbs)|
|Automation-ready||The dangers associated with butane oil|
|Simple to use ||Butane must be removed post-processing |
Ablaze Mini Closed Loop Extractor
And here it is, what might be the cheapest butane extractor on the market: Ablaze’s Mini Closed Loop Extractor. With a 45g capacity and a 100psi limit, this processing product might only be capable of the most humdrum extractions, but for those interested in a saving, this is one of the best deals out there.
ABLAZE Mini Closed Loop Extractor. Credit: Ablaze.
The price: $510
|Low price point||Not as simple as at-home alcohol extractors |
|Suitable for home-use||Very low production capacity|
|Easy to use||Vaccum pump and recovery tank also required|
Ice Water Extraction
More ‘back-to-basics’ than other extraction methods, ice water extraction isn’t a step too far from giving the cannabis plant a cold bath. Because THC is denser than water, the compound can separate from the leaf material when washed. After this, the cannabinoid-rich water only needs to be filtered through a series of micron bags before it’s ready to be used.
Eberbach Model E5703
Working to create a safe and easy method for cannabis extraction, collaborators at Mountain High Suckers and Eberbach have developed a commercial platform that enables ice-water extraction, which eliminates any concern of residual chemicals in extracts. Plus, putting cannabis material in ice water and then filtering it is an extremely safe process. Currently available on their website, the Model E5703 can process over 1lb of plant material per hour and has been designed to comply with existing FDA standards. They are yet to release detailed information on the results of their experimentation, but the technique holds promise for small scale extraction and could potentially be scaled up to process more material.
The Eberbach Model E5703. Credit: Eberbach.
The price: approximately $10,000
|Does not require harmful solvents||Methodology still in development |
|Very easy to use ||Scalability unknown |
|No dangerous chemicals or equipment required ||No public data available to prove efficacy|
|Cheap to run ||Ice water extraction is non-specific |
|Suitable for small scale operations||Water-based extraction can be slow |
Funding cannabis extraction equipment
Getting real equipment takes some investment in a business and can be a huge barrier to start-ups with some setups costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. To help overcome these hurdles, companies such as Trust Capital have been set up to offer financing for cannabis equipment. If a manufacturer wants to make a professional extract, professional equipment must be used. Another approach is to borrow or lease the extraction equipment your business requires, enabling you to get off the ground without making any large capital investments and potentially explore various production methods whilst you are developing your ideas. For example, Apeks, a manufacturer of CO2 extraction systems, offer their equipment on lease for anything from a week right up to two years. They even throw in free servicing and in-depth training on the system.
As this industry grows, so will the equipment options for extraction. These advances will probably go across the kinds of extraction processes, and the connection between extraction and analytical testing could also see improvement. Even with the best equipment, though, only skilled operators can produce the intended results. So, training operators as needed should always be performed in any company to guarantee results.