Winterization refers to a step in the processing of hemp into a consumer level product. It is one of the most important steps for the creation of a clean product. Winterization extracts elements which are unwanted from hemp such as waxes, fats and lipids. The elements can become cloudy, darker and have an unpleasant taste if winterization does not take place.
How Does Winterization Work?
Winterization begins with a raw extract of crude oil. This is made up of all the crucial elements of the hemp plant, excluding only the plant material. Minor cannabinoids, THC/CBD, terpenes, fats, lipids and waxes all make up this liquid and crude oil extracted by a CO2 machine is light in color, compared to oil which is extracted by alcohol and has a dark appearance.
Crude oil is then added to 200 proof alcohol and is thoroughly stirred until it is totally combined. The alcohol then thins the crude oil and parts of the crude oil remain in the solution and undesirable elements coagulate and freeze meaning they can be filtered out. The mixture will look cloudy ready for filtration.
Following this, the mixture will be strained through paper filters which will remove frozen fats, lipids and waves whilst the THC/CBD oil stays inside the alcohol solution. Filters should catch all of the frozen plant waxes when properly winterized, the filters and waxes can then be discarded and the clean oil is refrozen to go through the process again and ensure that it is 100% clean.
When the undesirable elements have been removed the alcohol is then removed using a rotary evaporator.
What are the Benefits of Winterization
Winterization is a critical step in the creation of a high purity extract. Fats and lipids dilute cannabinoid fraction and lower the purity levels. The presence of fats can also mean that the distillate is less transparent which decreases its value and can cause poor taste.
Types of Extraction and the Impact of Winterization
Cold ethanol is the optimum extraction method for minimizing fats in extract. Less fat will be pulled from the plant the more cold it is. BHO extraction will pick up a moderate amount of fats and the cloudiness will increase. CO2 extraction will pull the highest amount of fats from a plant.
The best practice is to use 10 liters of ethanol for each liter of crude extract. 190 proof ethanol is usually better than pure ethanol as it is cheaper and has 5% water which means it is more polar. This is well-suited for winterization as cannabinoids are soluble at cold temperatures whereas the waxes are not.
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