Ethanol vs. CO2

Sup Future4200 family.

I opened dialogue with a natural foods store broker in efforts to see what it would take to place our CBD product line onto the shelves of stores like Sprouts and Natural Grocers. Come to find out that they will not even consider product formulated with ethanol extracted raw materials. I was told they will only consider product made from CO2.

Even though our products are certified and 3rd party lab tested, she wouldn’t even let me send samples for her consideration.

What is the communities opinion on the actual quality of ethanol vs. CO2 extracts? Especially when formulated into finished goods such as: topical product, tinctures, edibles, smokeables, etc?

Does one method vs the other cause a larger loss of cannabinoids/terpenes? Which is more efficient to yield a quality, therapeutic product at scale?


Extractors who have their shit together will be able to make good products with either. Solvents are just tools in the toolkit.

Good luck convincing vegans / health nuts of that though. They believe CO2 is “solventless” - which shows that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him not stupid.


I’m still learning, but isn’t the c02 extract treated with pentane post process to purify anyway. I like ethanol because it’s cheap effective and I consider it non toxic, not sure about the vegan crowd. I’m thinking that cryo ethanol is going to be the absolute best. Look up the extraction contraption. It uses dry ice and a cement mixer to make hash from live plants. For total terpene retention wouldn’t you need something like that or freeze dry your biomass before extraction?

People have this stigma that co2 is the “cleanest” way to extract.

They really think that the other solvents end up in your extracts post processing. Like ya…I love smoking ethanol and butane.

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Ugh. Little do they know they’re likely using ethanol and hydrocarbons to further process after initial extraction. I remember hanging up on a customer who was throwing a fit because we didn’t have any CO2 extracted isolate. :roll_eyes:

Though I should really learn to have more patience with willfully ignorant people who refuse to listen to reason. Lots of money to be made by just telling dummies what they want to hear and leaving out the parts they don’t.


This is what irks me, most brands tout their CO2 products as being solventless. It’s as if they all conveniently forget about the solvents used during winterization…


Because CO2 extraction process is experimental extraction. It costs a lot and requires high-pressure equipment, which has certain risks.
In addition, the maintenance fee is expensive after the equipment is damaged. All the equipment used need UL and Asme certification. If there is a certain asset capacity, CO2 extraction should be used, but generally speaking, alcohol extraction will eventually get the same, and both ways in the extraction process will have wax and chlorophyll, which depends on the back-end process.


Unless folks are using a very expensive oil free compressor in their cycle I think there will be traces of refrigeration oil in their CO2 extracted product.
This makes winterization a necessity using a secondary solvent.
Even so, I expect most CO2 extracts contain low levels of compressor oil which may be detected by taste.
The way to test this theory is to use a fluorinated or chlorinated compressor oil so that there are some fat targets for GC-MS analysis at the ppb level.
A bit of oil mist does not affect a refrigeration cycle but when typical refrigeration compressors are used in an extraction cycle I expect oil mist carryover.
My personal choice for a solvent is the one you can drink.
Besides, are there any EtOH extractors that don’t take a sip like moonshiners every now and then?
You can learn a lot about quality from the taste of an EtOH extract…not something easily done with other solvents.
That said, at high production levels, the economics of CO2 and hydrocarbons are tough to beat.

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The CO2 extraction machine I use does not have a compressor, it has a condenser with like 98 jacketed tubes. No random oils in my stuff…


Lol… exactly what I am saying. Too much ignorance in the retail industries.

what machine are you using?

Waters SFE


What are the true processing capabilities of the waters unit ? I have seen that it is the unit with the highest pressure from what i’ve seen at 700bar .They claim 100% efficiency with 90 minutes runs at the 2x5lt unit could you descibe your experience with this machine?

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Sure, I had an older model with the P200 pump, I hear they sell them with a P300 pump now, so efficiency should be better, I’ve heard they upgraded the lines as well, which should also increase efficiency.

The 5L vessels hold approximately 3 pounds of biomass. With the units I ran, you can get 95-100% extraction efficiency in 6 hours on 1 vessel. The seals in the pump go out every 1-3 months, which causes about an hour of downtime, not including if the issue happens mid run.

If the parameters aren’t just right, it will clog easily with the small lines. Hopefully the upgrade solved that. You really don’t want to run at 700 bar, it will pull extra crap that is harder to get back out. Realistically, it wasn’t meant for cannabis extraction, but, certainly works for it.

It’s all automated with software, so it can be ran overnight, which is nice. Waters has good customer service, which if they didn’t, I would never recommend anyone use their equipment. They have a parts and technical help contract you can renew for a somewhat hefty price tag, seems worth it considering I can’t seem to find anywhere to buy the seals for the pump or most of the preventative maintenance parts.

All in all, it makes a good product as far as CO2 extraction goes. Especially if you want full spectrum oil or distillate.

Also of note, I’m 100% sure if you’re able to use ethanol as a co solvent in the system, those 90 minute runs are completely realistic. You can setup a run method that pulls the terpenes first, which can be collected from the system before ethanol is introduced, then the system uses the co solvent pump to pump ethanol in for the cannabinoid extraction. Using this method one can also produce a very nice THCA crystalline which can have the terpenes reintroduced for a “diamonds and sauce” type product.

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CO2 is great, I highly recommend it

Thank you for your detailed answer. I mentioned the 700 bar because the ability of the equipment to run that high means that it does not operate at the higher pressure margin of it’s capabilities. Unfortunately i am in a European country and the exotic distillates you produce are not allowed in my country. We have to go all the way to isolate and sell it to pharmaceutical companies. I am now designing the extraction facility and wanted to be ready for a law change so both ethanol and co2 will be operating.

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For the most part, distillate is a step along the way to isolate. So you’ll be handling the stuff regardless, haha.

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