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Ethanol Extraction on a Budget

Hi everyone!

I just harvested my first hemp crop in Colorado. I've been contacting extractors around the state and so far everyone either wants half of the output or they're just too dang busy to bother with me until spring. I'm beginning to investigate doing my own ethanol extraction to get the ball rolling, but I'm having a hard time find quality information on the interwebs. I'd love it if I had the budget for some of these amazing systems out there but I just don't. Still, i can afford maybe $5k-$6k in components and have the tools and expertise around me to get the job done.

Can anyone point me in the right direction to get started on building my own extraction setup? Are there plans out there that I'm just not seeing? I feel like I'm just not asking the right questions. What about procedures? Maybe there is someone here in Colorado who would be interested in consulting on this?

Thanks for reading!


  • @Senorwanderer I may be able to help you out, ethanol extractions can be fairly straightforward and I can point in the direction of some good vendors if you want to piece something together on your own. Ethanol extractions are effectively solvent washes, you're taking the plant material and soaking it in solvent, dissolving any cannabinoids that are on the plant material into solution. On the very smallest scale, folks will simply soak plant material in ethanol in a mason jar, agitating the mixture with shaking/stirring occasionally and generally just giving the process a substantial amount of time to complete before removing the ethanol via distillation. What are your specific processing throughput needs in terms of lbs. of plant material extracted per day? Are you only working with hemp/CBD extractions or do you plan on working with cannabis plants containing THC as well? What is the final product going to be following extraction? If you're able to provide some direction with answers to these questions, I should be able to point you towards some vendors.

  • @cannabis_nek Thanks for your reply! I'll try to answer some of your questions:

    The crop is hemp for CBD, their wont be any cannabis/THC/MMJ processing.
    I have aprox. 2500lbs to process. I dont have a target for lbs/day, but obviously dont want to be processing this into crude oil for the next 6 months! That said, I'm willing to sacrifice some volume in exchange for a higher quality extraction.
    The final goal is a distillate. I'm in contact with a provider for short path distillation of the crude oil, and I'm also exploring the purchase of a small SPD setup for in house distillation.

    Are you located in Colorado? Thanks for taking the time to lend a hand!

  • @Senorwanderer I am working on building full hemp extraction lab, Will need biomass to process maybe we can help each other out.

  • Large batch ethanol extractions can be done on the cheap at room temperature. The only caveat is that you’ll have to deal with chlorophyll and other dark colorants. One can deal with this to give a light colored, wide spectrum oil by using hexane. In fact, it’s probably best to start with hexane. Residual solvent is of no concern if you plan to winterize and either decarboxalate or purge under vacuum.

  • @mike1212 said:
    @Senorwanderer I am working on building full hemp extraction lab, Will need biomass to process maybe we can help each other out.

    Hi there Mike. I'm not interested in sending material to San Diego for extraction and am moving forward with our own processing. good luck with your lab.

  • After doing a lot more research I've put together a plan to do an ethanol extraction. I already have most of what I need sitting in the garage. I have a rather sophisticated home brewery that I'll use for extraction. I'll start with a 15.5 gallon beer keg that I've converted into a mash tun. it's been flipped upside down so that the bung hole where the beer comes out is now a bottom drain. a 12" diameter hole was cut on the new top. 2" sanitary tri-clamp fittings attach to the bottom drain without any modification. I have two upright commercial freezers that I use for fermentation and dispensing (kergerator). both chill to -20C. i'll fill the keg with plant matter and place on a stand in freezer 1. freezer 2 will have a second similar keg with 200 proof ethanol. after both are chilled i'll pump the ethanol into keg 1.

    at this point should i let it sit or should i recirculate the ethanol? what is the correct ratio of ethanol to plant matter? my contact time will be 15-20 minutes. i'll refine that through trial and error.

    I plan to run the ethanol through a filter but haven't sourced the correct type yet. any suggestions?

    should I do a second wash on the plant matter at this point? is it worth it? can anyone give me an idea of yield % on just one extraction vs. two?

    after extraction i'll use a third keg that is a boil kettle as a hot water bath. it has a water heater element wired to the inside that is controlled by a PID and holds a very accurate temperature. i'll suspend a 10L boil flask in the hot water bath. i'll use a vacuum pump. a fourth keg has a stainless steel coil welded into it. i'll fill the keg with ice water and flow the ethanol vapors through the coil to condense and capture the ethanol.

    I'm also investigating continuing on with a SPD rig and using the same setup to distill my extraction. I would replace the water bath with a glycol that I can heat above 100C, but I think it will work quite well. I would use the keg with the coil as a chilled water tank in place of a chiller for the condenser on the SPD glassware setup.

    I think it will work quite nicely. I'd love to hear comments and suggestions on my little plan. any ideas to make it better are appreciated and also if you can point out any errors im making or things im missing.


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