Our complete, step by step guide to making your own marijuana concentrates at home using the alcohol extraction method. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when extracting CBD from cannabis with alcohol. Learn how to safely extract CBD with alcohol.
How to Make Your Own Concentrates Using Alcohol Extraction
You can spend literally hours on YouTube sifting through various instruction videos on how to extract cannabis oil with alcohol. Everybody out there seems to have their own preferred method, each of which probably works pretty similarly once all is said and done. Of course, if you really want to find some expert advice on cannabis extraction with alcohol, all you have to do is read a few user comments on the aforementioned YouTube videos. Apparently, there are a lot more marijuana extraction wizards out there than we realize.
All joking aside, making cannabis concentrate (including dabs, wax, shatter etc) with alcohol is a pretty easy process, and is one that you can tackle using a few standard household items – most of which you’ve probably already got.
That said, there are still a few inherent dangers involved with the overall process, as well as some crucial tips and pointers to make sure you end up with the cleanest, purest, and most effective concentrate possible. So without further ado, we present how to make marijuana extracts using alcohol – straight from the comfort of your own home.
What Do You Need to Make Cannabis Concentrates Using Alcohol Extraction?
Really all you need, if you’re wanting to extract cannabis oil using alcohol, is weed, a few heat-safe glass dishes, a strainer of some sort, something to mix with, a heating device, and of course, some quality high-proof grain alcohol.
If you’re wondering why people use alcohol to extract cannabinoids from raw plant material, it’s because the chemical nature of the alcohol works very well as a solvent to pull – or “strip” – the active compounds (i.e. THC, CBD, etc) from the nuggets. Once the cannabinoids are pulled from the weed, all you have to do is let the alcohol evaporate and you’re left with a thick, sticky, ultra-potent residue of cannabis concentrate.
Here is a more organized and appropriate list of the materials you’ll need if you’re wanting to make cannabis concentrate at home using alcohol extraction:
- Cannabis flower
- Food grade alcohol (190-proof Everclear is typically the go-to choice)
- Oven-safe glass bowls of varying sizes (Pyrex dishes work great)
- A mesh or wire strainer
- Unbleached coffee filters
- A non-open flame heat source (hot pad, rice cooker, etc)
If you’ve got this assortment of easily-attainable materials, you can be making your very own marijuana concentrate with alcohol extraction in no time at all. First, though, let’s run through a few safety aspects of the process to point out some of the inherent dangers that are potentially involved.
How to Make Weed Concentrates Using Alcohol… The SAFE Way!
Have you ever seen someone take a big slug of high-proof alcohol then blow a massive fireball by spitting the liquid out over an open flame? This badass technique is typically only attainable in the movies or on TV, but the general scientific idea behind the process is pretty accurate: that is, that alcohol is very flammable.
As such, when you’re making cannabis concentrate with alcohol extraction, you’ll want to ensure two things: that you’re doing so in a well-ventilated, open-air environment, and that there are no open flame sources around – or even something that can produce a spark.
While high grain alcohol is not quite as combustible as other (more volatile) solvents like butane or hexane, there is still an inherent risk of setting something (including yourself) on fire if proper safety precautions are not taken. In fact, several people have died in recent years from accidental explosions while trying to make cannabis concentrates at home in poorly-ventilated areas.
Be safe, know what you’re doing before you start doing it, and also ensure that what you’re doing is legal in the state/area you live in – we are NOT responsible for any illegal activity, and are certainly not responsible for any fatal or ill-fated attempts at trying to make weed extracts at home using alcohol. In fact, we recommend that you just go to a dispensary and buy the product from a professional, rather than trying to do it yourself. But that’s just us.
Easy DIY Steps for Making Cannabis Concentrate with Everclear (High-Proof Alcohol)
For this first method on how to make weed concentrate using alcohol, we’ll discuss the process when using 95% (190-proof) Everclear alcohol, as this is probably the most common technique (Everclear is fairly easily available in most U.S. states).
Make sure you’re in an outside (or otherwise very well-ventilated) area, make sure there are no open flame sources around, and here are the steps you’ll take:
- Break apart your nugs into relatively small pieces by hand, making sure to leave most of the sticks and stems out. You don’t want the flower too fine, so a grinder is not recommended.
- This step is not entirely necessary, but if you want to drive some of the moisture from the buds and improve the extraction process, you can place the ground up nugs on a baking sheet in an oven at about 180-degrees Fahrenheit for roughly 20 minutes. This will NOT decarboxylate the THCa, but will simply help produce drier plant material which many believe is better suited for alcohol-based extractions.
- Empty the ground up nugs into a glass jar and pour enough alcohol overtop so that they are completely immersed. Stir slowly but deliberately for about 10 minutes.
- After stirring, put your strainer over the top of a clean glass dish and pour the Everclear/cannabis mixture into the strainer. You should be left with a nice bright green liquid in the clean dish (don’t discard the saturated nugs as you can save these for further rounds of extraction).
- You will now need to heat your Everclear/cannabis mixture in order to evaporate the alcohol and separate it from the cannabinoids. Pour the mixture into a rice cooker and let it sit on low heat for several hours. You can also use a boiling water bath, but whatever method you use, make sure you keep the temperature low enough so that the cannabis extract is not combusted or deteriorated.
- If your alcohol evaporation process goes correctly, you should be left with a thick, gunky, tarry-like cannabis concentrate substance and virtually zero alcohol. To test for alcohol content, put a tiny amount of concentrate on the head of a needle and hold a lighter flame to it. If it produces a spark, there’s still alcohol in it. If there’s no spark, it’s probably pretty pure.
- Scrape the remaining concentrate from the inside of your glass dish/rice cooker and place it onto a wax parchment paper. You may want to freeze or refrigerate it to make the accumulation process a bit easier.
- Repeat steps 1-7 as many times as desired, though be advised that your “first run” will by far produce the purest, most potent concentrate. Each successive run will be less potent and will contain more plant impurities.
A Few Notes on the Alcohol-Extracted Cannabis Concentrate You’ve Just Made
There are a few different terms for this style of alcohol extracted cannabis concentrate. Most would call it honey oil, but it’s also basically the same thing as Rick Simpson Oil, or RSO concentrate.
Whatever you choose to call the cannabis concentrate you just made, be advised that it should be used for oral consumption only. In other words, this type of cannabis concentrate using alcohol extraction should not be used in a dab rig or vaporizer.
Why, you might ask? Well, for one it will probably taste like crap if you try and dab/inhale it. While the alcohol strips that plant material of the active cannabinoids (THC and CBD) very efficiently, it also extracts chlorophyll, which is largely the reason why you end up with such a dark, thick, gooey, tarry substance.
While chlorophyll can be very healthy when ingested in a normal diet (i.e. eating leafy greens), it combusts/vapes terribly and is probably not too great for the respiratory system. For this reason, you should administer your alcohol-extracted cannabis oil orally, sublingually (below the tongue), or infuse it into edibles. You can dab it, but it’s definitely not advisable – especially if you’re after a good, pure taste.
If the process was done correctly, the end concentrate should be nothing but pure plant extract. It may look (and taste) a little funky, but at least you know you’re not consuming (or shouldn’t be, anyway) any foreign chemical substances.
How to Make QWISO Cannabis Concentrate (Quick Wash Isopropyl Alcohol Technique)
Another popular method for making cannabis concentrates using alcohol extraction is the quick-wash isopropyl alcohol technique, otherwise known as QWISO. This process may be a little quicker, and if done right, it can produce a nice amber, slightly more visually appealing extract than RSO concentrate (though you’ll typically get a much smaller yield).
For the QWISO cannabis extraction technique, you’ll need:
- Marijuana flower
- 99%+ isopropyl alcohol (do not use rubbing alcohol)
- Unbleached coffee filters
- Various size glass jars and dishes
- A wire strainer
- A non-open flame heat source
Again, properly-made QWISO extract can produce a beautiful golden/amber concentrate that (depending on the extraction conditions) may or may not end up in the form of a nice 80%+ shatter. The steps are more or less the same as the previous extraction technique with Everclear, albeit with a few crucial differences:
- Break apart your nuggets by hand, making sure not to produce too fine a powder.
- Place the nugs in an oven-safe dish at about 180-degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. This will drive the majority of the moisture out of the flower but will NOT decarboxylate the buds.
- After you take the marijuana out of the oven, place the nugs in a sealed glass jar and put them (along with the 90%+ isopropyl alcohol) in the freezer for about four hours.
- Take both the nugs and the alcohol out of the freezer, then pour just enough alcohol over the buds so that they’re fully saturated. Working quickly (hence the name “quick-wash”), stir the alcohol/cannabis mixture for no more than about two minutes. (This will vary depending on the amount of bud you’re using. If you’re using an eighth or less, you’ll only want to stir for about 20 seconds).
- After your quick-wash stirring, quickly pour the cannabis/alcohol mixture through your mesh wire strainer and into a clean jar. You should be left with a nice, clean, lightly-hued liquid extract.
- Further filter this liquid by pouring into an unbleached coffee filter, and draining into another glass clean jar.
- To evaporate the alcohol, place the jar with your cannabis/alcohol mixture into a warm water bath, making sure that it doesn’t get so hot as to decarboxylate the THC and CBD. You can also let the mixture sit and evaporate on its own, but this will likely take 24+ hours.
- Once the alcohol is completely evaporated, scrape the cannabis concentrate onto a clean piece of wax parchment paper. To test for purity, scrape a tiny amount of concentrate onto the head of needle and hold up to a lighter flame. If a spark is produced, there is still likely to be alcohol solvent remaining, and you should let it sit and evaporate more.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Cannabis Concentrates Using Alcohol Extraction
All in all, making cannabis concentrate using alcohol extraction techniques is a pretty crude method. However, it can no doubt produce a safe, pure, medicinal, “highly” effective (pun fully intended) end product – if done correctly.
Just be safe, make sure you’re working in an open-air (and/or extremely well ventilated) environment, and make sure that there are NO open flames around (this includes sparks and vaping devices). Also, make sure that what you’re doing is legal in the state or area that you’re in. As we said before, we are NOT responsible if you break the law, and/or if you hurt yourself, others, or damage property while trying to make cannabis concentrates with alcohol extraction.
How Is Alcohol Extracted From CBD?
This article is sponsored by Colorado Extraction Systems, a Colorado-based company with decades of expertise and knowledge in extraction, distillation, and evaporation equipment manufacturing.
Cannabis has been used by humans for thousands of years. Especially for medical purposes. It
was generally used to cure different illnesses and pains, primarily those of the muscle and bone
Today, CBD extraction is proving useful in various applications far wider than the original ones
where it sprung. However, unlike THC in marijuana plants, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t cause the “high” associated with marijuana.
The big picture is finding a reliable extraction method; it is crucial in producing a high-
quality and safe product without contaminants. Given that cannabis oil is a highly concentrated substance that contains more than just Cannabidiol (CBD), it only makes sense that the extraction process involves more than just one substance.
For example, when extracting essential oils from plants like lavender or peppermint, ethanol is
almost always used along with another substance like olive oil or coconut oil.
In essence, extracting CBD from cannabis is easy, if you know how to do it. Unfortunately,
there are a lot of things that can go wrong when extracting CBD from cannabis with alcohol.
That is why we created this article. It addresses CBD extraction with the aid of alcohol as the
main solvent. Let’s dive in.
Photo Courtesy: Colorado Extraction Systems
Alcohol extraction from CBD
Alcohol extraction is very common in making cannabis extracts. The process is fast and
relatively simple. You can make a CBD/Cannabis extract with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl), but
the most common and safest solvents to use are ethanol or grain alcohol.
Alcohol is a polar solvent, meaning it will dissolve polar molecules—such as chlorophyll, the
a green pigment found in plants. To be more precise, it will dissolve them into the water portion of the solution. This is why you have to separate the two phases when making an alcohol extraction.
The more polar the solvent is, the more likely it will be able to remove chlorophyll from the plant
material and result in a cleaner extract.
Alcohol extraction is usually recommended for people who want a quick and easy way to make
a CBD tincture at home.
Alcohol extraction can be done with high potency cannabis flower or trim, kief or hash. You can
also use low-quality cannabis material to make your own low-potency edibles or topicals.
Ethanol extraction is preferred over other solvents due to its safety, cost-effectiveness and
versatility. The process of ethanol extraction involves soaking the plant material in ethanol (which acts as a solvent) to extract cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, THC and others.
The soluble components are then separated from the plant material using a filtration process.
The components are then evaporated off using low heat to arrive at a concentrated extract.
The extracts obtained through ethanol extraction are amber in color and have a thick
Ethanol extraction can be carried out at room temperature or by heating the solution to enhance
cannabinoid extraction rates.
However, one of the major drawbacks of this method is that it also extracts chlorophyll from the
plant matter which leads to bitter-tasting extracts. Thus, a post-extraction winterization step is necessary to remove chlorophyll and any other lipids or waxes present in raw oil.
In addition, extracts obtained through ethanol extraction tend to be less pure than those
obtained through supercritical CO2 extraction or butane extraction.
Why is alcohol ideal for CBD extraction?
One of the most important things to consider when buying your CBD oil extract or CBD crystals
is the solvent used in its extraction process. The solvent that is used to make your product has a
direct impact on the quality of the end product you’re going to receive.
While there are several different types of solvents that can be used, one of the most popular
and effective solvents for extracting CBD is ethanol. Ethanol is a clear liquid and works well in
extracting cannabinoids from plant material.
Here are some more detailed facts about why ethanol is such an optimal choice for creating
Ethanol extraction is a simple process
If you’re looking for an efficient, uncomplicated method for CBD extraction, ethanol extraction is
for you. With this process, you can easily remove unwanted plant material from your extract.
This allows you to create a purer end product, which makes it easier to do whatever it is you’d
like to do with it, be it vaping it or using it topically.
Ethanol extraction doesn’t damage terpenes
Many other methods of extraction can damage beneficial terpenes found in cannabis, but with
ethanol extraction, this isn’t a problem. As long as your ethanol comes from food-grade sources.
Alcohol is cheap and available
First of all, alcohol is inexpensive, whereas other solvents such as butane are not. This is
because alcohol can be easily made at home with a still. On the other hand, butane must be
purchased from a chemical supply company.
Furthermore, the initial cost of purchasing a butane extractor can cost up to ten times more than
an alcohol extractor. Alcohol is also less expensive due to the fact that it does not require
purchases of new equipment.
Alcohol is safer
Moreover, alcohol is safer than other solvents since it evaporates at room temperature, making
it much less likely to cause an explosion during extraction.
Other solvents such as propane and butane require heaters which are more likely to cause an
explosion due to a higher chance of malfunctioning when used for long periods of time. In addition, there have been many cases where people have caused fires when attempting to
make extracts with butane inside their homes; therefore we do not recommend using this
method in order to extract your cannabis oil.
Lastly, it is an all-natural product that is widely available in varying strengths, which makes it a
great choice for this process. It also has been used for years as a solvent for various products
and ingredients, making it a natural fit for this application.
Butane vs. Ethanol
Why then would anyone want to use butane instead of alcohol?
The main reason is that butane extracts more CBD. In fact, it extracts much more than just CBD – butane will pull out everything except the water and a little bit of chlorophyll. And that’s important because there are many other cannabinoids besides CBD – THC, CBG and so forth.
But there are also many other chemicals besides cannabinoids – terpenes, plant waxes and so
forth. And those other chemicals will go into the butane extract too.
So when you make an extract with butane you get a kind of sludge that contains all kinds of stuff
you don’t want: waxes and chlorophyll and whatever else was in the plant. And some of those things may be dangerous or unpleasant – for example, when marijuana with a high THC content is made into an edible oil for eating on food.
Alcohol is the most preferred solvent for CBD extraction. It has a low boiling point, which means
that it evaporates fast. Since alcohol is flammable and hazardous, all the other solvents that have higher boiling points are not preferred. Isopropyl alcohol and ethanol are used to extract CBD.
The only difference between them is that ethanol is derived from plants whereas Isopropyl is
made from petroleum. Alcohol extraction is also known as the ethanol method because ethanol
creates a mixture of both water and alcohol in the ratio of 70% alcohol and 30% water.
When it comes to purifying ethanol, you need to remove the water content from it by using
different distillation techniques like molecular distillation, short path distillation, and wiped film