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Ethanol Extraction

There are several extraction methods for CBD: butane, CO2, and ethanol

Butane is the traditional cannabis extraction method, and when done correctly, creates a high-purity extract. Unfortunately, safety is a major concern because butane is highly combustible. Fatal accidents are relatively common, even the most advanced systems. Resulting regulations have all eliminated butane as an extraction method in the hemp industry. 


C02 emerged as the primary extraction method nearly a decade ago with the demise of butane extraction and the rise of the cannabis concentration market. It is considered the safest extraction method, but it is also the least efficient. You may have noticed that CO2 companies tend to charge higher prices than companies using ethanol. This is the case due to a lower throughput of CO2 systems. Heavy lipid contamination is another issue with CO2 systems. 


Ethanol extraction equipment has become more common in recent years due to increased efficiency without drawbacks in purity/quality. Sunny Skies CBD is capable of extracting 140 pounds of material in a 10-hour shift while using less power than a CO2 system of comparable extraction capacity. 


We also create a very pure extract. Super cooling the renewable, food-grade ethanol to -80 degrees Celsius allows us to lock out undesired constituents. The extracts we produce are completely free of chlorophyll and waxes. 

Ethanol Extraction Equipment

Our entire extraction process takes place in encapsulated systems – one of the many precautions we take to prevent contamination.

CBD Ethanol Extraction Equipment

Before being dispensed into the extraction vessels, ethanol is cooled to -80 degrees Celsius in our industrial cryofreezer. The system maintains the temperature of the ethanol throughout the entire extraction process.

CBD Ethanol Extraction Equipment

After the extraction process, we recover approximately 99% of the ethanol used in extraction with a Centrifugal Ethanol Recovery System (CERES) and an Alcohol Recovery Evaporator System (ARES). This is an essential step! The ethanol used in extraction must be evaporated off and separated, otherwise there will be traceable amounts of ethanol (aka “residual solvent”) present in the extract. Customers purchasing products from companies that use ethanol extraction methods should request Residual Solvent Certificates of Analyses (CoAs). For an example of a Residual Solvent CoA, click here. As you can see, there is no ethanol in our extracts.


CERES Ethanol Extraction Equipment



CBD Products

(CERES in action)


CBD Distallates



Of course, there are companies using CO2 extraction methods that are making great products. Many companies with deep pockets find a way around the lipid contamination common in CO2 extracts and operate at large enough economies of scale to sell a CO2-extracted product at a competitive price. However, be wary of CO2 extractors that claim that they have a product of higher purity. First, be wary of any company that uses their extraction method of choice as a competitive advantage. Such a lack of differentiation is a red flag in itself. Second, do any side-by-side comparison of a product that is a derivative of an ethanol extraction versus one that is a derivative of a CO2 extraction – whether a taste test, color comparison, and/or comparison of the Certificates of Analyses