Our complete, step by step guide to making your own marijuana concentrates at home using the alcohol extraction method. Ethanol alcohol can be used to make cannabis tinctures and other concentrates such as Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO). Learn more about alcohol extraction from Leafly. For high-volume extraction companies, ethanol can be the most efficient and cost-effective solution for separating cannabis compounds from plant matter.
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.
Ethanol alcohol can be used to make cannabis tinctures and other concentrates such as Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO). Isopropyl alcohol can be used to make hash, but many are shy away from it because of concerns of its toxicity. Denatured alcohol is toxic and should not be drunk or used to make cannabis concentrates at all.
“When a product was made with alcohol extraction, it’s a good idea to ask what type of alcohol was used.”
What is alcohol extraction?
Ethanol alcohol can be used to make cannabis concentrates. It’s important to note there are different types of alcohol, all with their own uses:
- Ethanol, also called drinking alcohol because it’s the only alcohol that’s safe to drink, is the active agent in alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine, and spirits. It is safe to use for making cannabis concentrates.
- Isopropyl alcohol has been used by some hashmakers but it can be toxic at certain levels, and many in the cannabis community shy away from it.
- Denatured alcohol is poisonous if consumed and should only be used for cleaning tools or surfaces. It should not be used for making cannabis concentrates.
How to make an alcohol extraction
When using ethanol alcohol to make extracts, many extractors use something close to 100% pure ethanol. Most spirits, such as rum, vodka, gin, tequila, whiskey, etc., have around 40% alcohol by volume (ABV), or are about 80 proof. If making a cannabis extract, 190 proof or stronger (95-100% ethanol) is ideal.
There are various ways alcohol can be used to extract cannabinoids, and the simplest method is to make an alcohol-based tincture, where cannabis is soaked in alcohol at room temperature for weeks. Alcohol tinctures are common in herbalism with non-cannabis herbs and usually have around 40% ABV. Since only a few drops are consumed at a time, it is not enough for one to feel drunk.
Alcohol is considered a polar solvent, which makes it wonderful for extracting cannabinoids, alkaloids, and other chemicals from cannabis and other herbs, although it also extracts chlorophyll, usually giving alcohol extracts a deep green color. Alcohol tinctures are usually consumed under the tongue but can also be added to drinks or food and consumed like an edible, or even rubbed into the skin like a topical.
Ethanol, and all other types of alcohol, are highly flammable as liquids and vapors, so alcohol extraction should be done in a well-ventilated area.
An alcohol extraction can also be heated or left out to let the alcohol evaporate. The result will be a dark, tar-like substance rich in cannabinoids with no residual alcohol—this is often called Full Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO).
Ethanol Extraction for Cannabis and Hemp
Ethanol has a long history of extracting oil from plant materials for therapeutic use. In today’s highly competitive marijuana extraction sector, extraction artists have a wide range of extraction solvents to choose from such as carbon dioxide, light hydrocarbons (propane and butane), and ethanol. These solvents are used to extract the cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis or hemp resin.
What Is Ethanol Extraction?
Ethanol is more common than you think. Ethanol can be found in grain alcohol made by fermenting plant sugars from agricultural crops. Ethanol (C2H5OH), also known as ethyl alcohol, is a colorless and flammable liquid that can produce intoxication, be used for fuel, and also be used as a solvent. Ethanol can be fermented from different crops, but corn is the main source of ethanol in the U.S.
Ethanol extraction can be performed under warm or cold temperatures. Generally, raw and ground-up cannabis material (dry or frozen) is soaked in pre-chilled ethanol for a certain amount of time to separate the plant’s trichomes from the plant matter. Warm ethanol extraction has been a staple in amateur home extractions. For larger batches, room temperature or cooled ethanol can improve the quality of cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis and hemp extraction.
After the initial extraction process using food grade ethanol, the solution is filtered and the ethanol is purged from the extract. Post-processing techniques gently remove ethanol from the extracts through evaporation. Ethanol may be removed with rotary evaporators, falling film evaporators, or a vacuum distillation system.
Winterization is a term used to describe the process of removing impurities such as plant lipids, chlorophyll, waxes, and fats from the oil. Chilling the oil and ethanol solution can cause these undesirable compounds to separate (precipitate) and rise to the top for easier removal. The cooling process can be performed in freezers, cold rooms, or other cooling equipment.
Keep in mind, ethanol has a higher boiling point than butane or propane. Because of its relatively higher boiling point, many of the terpenes that give cannabis the desirable flavors and aromas that many consumers enjoy, are lost in the ethanol extraction process. The inevitable loss in terpenes from the ethanol process also diminishes the entourage effect of the final ethanol extract product when compared to BHO extraction. Regardless of ethanol’s weaknesses, large-scale throughput and financing can easily overcome equipment limitations.
Ethanol extracts can also undergo a final polishing phase where adsorbents can be used to lighten the oil’s hue and improve the translucence of the extract. Popular adsorbents such as activated charcoal and bleaching clays can improve not only the color but also the quality of ethanol concentrates.
The residual ethanol is evaporated, condensed, and reused in the closed-loop extraction system to increase cost-efficiency and throughput. All of these operations take place in a lab-grade facility with adequate ventilation and storage areas.
Why You Should Choose Ethanol Extraction Over CO2?
Every extraction company favors one solvent over another for various reasons. Butane is the most common solvent used for cannabis extraction and CO2 extraction has also been touted as safe and eco-friendly. Ethanol extraction, however, offers both safety and efficiency when extracting cannabis or hemp on a large scale.
For high-volume extractions, ethanol can be the most efficient at separating cannabis compounds from the plant matter. Ethanol is an extremely polar solvent that can bind to cannabinoids, terpenes, but also chlorophylls and other water-soluble undesirable compounds. Many terpene boiling points are about the same as ethanol’s boiling point, thereby, increasing the risk of terpene loss when removing the ethanol solvent.
Ethanol’s polarity problem can largely be overcome with chilled ethanol (-40ºC or below) to bypass most of the chlorophyll, lipid, and other unwanted compounds. Under the proper conditions, ethanol extraction can produce isolate or limited full-spectrum concentrates with cannabinoids, and some terpenes, flavonoids, and other therapeutic compounds.
Ethanol can be easy to scale because using this solvent becomes cost-effective at a higher volume (1,000 to 5,000 pounds per day) compared to CO2 extraction, for instance. As hemp farming heats up across the nation, growers and extractors are looking for the most versatile and cost-efficient to reap CBD for a variety of infused products, not just CBD flower.
Is Ethanol Safer?
Ethanol extraction is no safer than hydrocarbon and CO2 extraction, that is to say, all extraction methods are safe for production under the approved building requirements. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified ethanol as a Class 3 solvent with low toxicity. Ethanol is one of the safest solvents for food grade and pharmaceutical extraction processes.
In pharmaceutical manufacturing, residual ethanol below 0.5 percent or 5,000 parts per million (ppm) is considered generally safe. Some legal cannabis states, however, have enacted stricter cutoff residual solvent levels based on recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Residual cutoff levels vary by state.
While ethanol extraction may not be any more dangerous to use than light hydrocarbon extraction or CO2 extraction, the building requirements for ethanol extraction are less stringent than hydrocarbon extraction approval. Jurisdictions are familiar with approving distilleries that use ethanol compared to approving propane and butane facilities that elicit negative images based on a lingering stigma from black market extractions.
On top of receiving quicker approval by local governments, storage limits for ethanol are much more lenient compared to other solvents. That means an extraction facility can store more ethanol in the facility and use large volumes of ethanol at one time for cannabis or hemp extraction. Storing large volumes of solvent can keep the continuous extraction going without missing a beat.
Ethanol extraction systems are the go-to solution for large-scale commercial operations that process a high volume of cannabis or hemp. Ethanol is fast, reliable, and efficient at extracting low to mid-quality oils from cannabis and hemp for companies looking to scale. With the proper ethanol extraction system, cannabis companies can process hundreds of pounds of material per hour and gain a competitive edge.
Cut Labor Costs
Automated controls eliminate weeks or months of apprenticeship training required for manually controlled hydrocarbon systems.
Eliminate Operator Error
Pre-programmed recipe-monitoring system checks pressures and temperatures hundreds of times per second to remove risk of operator error.
Process 18 pounds of dried plant material or 25 pounds of fresh-frozen material per run. Single operator can process 400 pounds of biomass in a single day.
Improve Run Time
50-minute average run time with a 10-minute soak. Run-to-run changeover times of two minutes.