At Vitalis, we’ve always marched to the stroke of our own pump. And we’ve kept our stride in developing our latest innovation: dual solvent extraction.

We began by defining a way forward based on customer requirements and our own goals for the future of the technology. Then came a stage of intensive internal prototype testing and refinement. We reviewed the results and dug into the data, and there it was: proof we were able to achieve a beautiful, high-quality extract in a fraction of the time and using so little cosolvent that there would be no special facility requirements.

But how would it perform in the field? What process adjustments would our customers need to make? What would the business implications be? To answer these questions, Vitalis initiated a series of field trials, partnering with forward-thinking, enthusiastic customers. Together, we put the system through real-world testing, collecting data to inform our path forward and drive our decisions.

Specifically, we wanted to compile datasets that documented each customer’s current process, experience of shifting to dual solvent extraction, impacts on current production practices, cost of manufacturing, safety, and, of course, quality of the final product. So that’s precisely what we did.

In this piece, we’ll walk you through the processing—from plant through winterized oil—highlighting the impacts of dual solvent extraction. We’ll also talk a bit of cannabusiness.

From Plant to Product

You’ve done it! After building out your facility and receiving your license, you’ve completed your first full year of production. You don your personal protective equipment and move through the security doors into the extraction room. There it is: your Vitalis extraction system, gleaming under the facility lights. You reflect on mono solvent processing this last year…

Mono Solvent Extraction

First, the harvested biomass is dried, usually to around 8% moisture content. Next, the dried biomass is milled to a smaller particle size to increase packing efficiency and the extraction rate.

Once loaded into the extraction system, the terpene extraction is carried out first. The extraction parameters are then adjusted for the cannabinoid extraction, which would typically require an 8-hour shift to complete.

As the extraction team removes the spent biomass, the mono solvent extract is taken to the winterization room. There, it is mixed with 8 to 10 parts ethanol and placed in an ultra-cold freezer to allow the lipids to precipitate.

This mass of lipids, accounting for around 50% of the total mass of extract, is then removed, readying the extract-ethanol solution to move into solvent recovery. There, the ethanol is recovered before the resulting extract is decarboxylated.

Finally, the winterized oil can be used in a variety of finished products.

Dual Solvent Extraction

Returning to the present, you gaze fondly at your new dual solvent extraction system from Vitalis. The transition to the dual solvent process was smooth and easy (you even said so in the Vitalis field trial questionnaires). Preparation of the biomass is identical, as is loading the extraction system. The terpene extraction is carried out exactly as before.

As you begin the cannabinoid extraction, you initiate injection of a small volume of ethanol cosolvent into the solvent stream. The entire extraction of the same biomass now only requires a third of the time, allowing you to complete multiple extractions in a single 8-hour shift.

The volume of extract brought to the winterization room following the extraction is larger now, but the overall ethanol needed for winterization has been reduced. The extract is placed directly into the same freezer at the same temperature for the same amount of time.

Owing to their lower solubility in the dual solvent mixture, the mass of lipids removed in the identical winterization step is now comparatively minute: less than 1% of the total mass by weight. The ethanol is then recovered exactly as before, though this step now requires less time as there is less ethanol to evaporate.

Finally, a winterized oil of identical character, caliber, and quality to the winterized mono solvent extract is ready for use in the same variety of finished products.

The Future of Cannabusiness with CO2

While you’re still imagining yourself as CEO of your own LP, let’s cover a bit of cannabusiness. In a nutshell, with the addition of a cosolvent, you get to have your edibles and eat them too. You’ll continue to enjoy the tunability that led you to choose CO2 (and the resulting high-quality product), but your process now benefits from much higher throughput—using less ethanol overall and at a greatly reduced cost of production.

So, what did you name your business? Let us know. Get in touch with any questions or contact us for a detailed discussion on how a dual solvent system might work in your extraction room.