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Accelerating Cannabinoid Refining: An Opportunity to Maximize Throughput via Process Optimization

How can I refine cannabinoid extract faster and increase my production capacity?

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Refining cannabinoid extract–whether you have BHO, ethanol extract, or use supercritical CO2–is a time-consuming process that often creates a bottleneck in production facilities. Refining the extract includes process steps such as winterizing the crude extract, filtration of the winterized crude, distilling the filtrate, and performing a vacuum purge inside a vacuum oven. Of these steps, using a vacuum oven to remove residual solvents and water and to decarboxylate the products is particularly time-consuming. Accelerating this process therefore holds significant potential to accelerate the refining process and get more out of your existing equipment.


Proper equipment setup and sizing are critical to process optimization. A common vacuum purge might take as long as 36 hours, and involve several cycles of manually manipulating the extract to release entrained solvents. But by inserting the extract into the oven properly and using the right equipment and parameters, you may be able to reduce that process time drastically and eliminate the need for manual intervention. 

For example, using a metal tray to spread the extract into a thin, even layer helps to reduce the time needed to bring the extract up to temperature. This also allows solvents like hydrocarbons or ethanol to evaporate more rapidly, while preventing terpenes from evaporating from localized hotspots that exist if heating is not uniform. Likewise, using well-controlled temperature and pressure (vacuum) levels can accelerate decarboxylation and the rate of solvent removal. 

Sizing equipment properly also plays an important role in accelerating the refining process. An oven with insufficient shelf space limits the amount of extract you can place in the oven, or means that the extract is inserted in the oven in a thick layer, slowing down the process. A pump that pulls a weak vacuum  will slow down the process; a pump that pulls too strong a vacuum will cause you to lose your terpenes. 

To accelerate the vacuum purge process with your existing equipment, or to find new equipment that will boost your production capacity, work with knowledgeable vendors. They will help you get the most out of the equipment that you already have in place, and work with you to size new equipment and understand how much more throughput new equipment can help you realize. Not only will a good vendor be able to help you find the right equipment for your specs and budget, but they’ll also work with you to integrate the
equipment into an optimized process. 

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