Winterization Process Options for Cannabinoids

winterization process options cannabinoids
https://hms.harvard.edu/news/unraveling-cannabinoids

As a member of the Board of Directors of Nectar Health Sciences, I have the opportunity to work with a team of experienced scientists and industry experts dedicated to commercializing a unique and patent-pending cannabinoid isolation technology. Nectar, is a privately-owned cannabinoid isolation and extraction company, with a technology that isolates cannabinoids to >99% purity. This blog, though, will focus on winterization process options for cannabinoids.

According to Lo Friesen's recent article, Methods and Advancements in Wax Fractionation from Cannabis Extract, there are more than 400 chemical compounds in the cannabis. While some of these compounds are targeted during extraction, others, such as waxes, are extracted alongside the targeted compounds. Plant waxes are composed of a variety of compounds, such as fatty acids, hydrocarbons, esters, lactones, and alcohols. Most plants, including cannabis, produce waxes that exist on the plant’s surface. The cannabis wax layer is easily soluble in many solvents used for cannabis extraction. While waxes prove to be useful to plants, they are often an undesirable by-product of extraction methods. Waxes dramatically impact the viscosity as well as the complex chemical profile of cannabis extract.

What does this have to do with Winterization Process Options for Cannabinoids?

The winterization process involves freezing of the solvent-extract solution to facilitate crystallization of the waxes. Here is where it gets more interesting. The question is: how do you remove, through filtration, the wax crystals? This filtration is happening at very low temperatures. Down to -60 degrees C, from the liquid solvent! As you know, this is my area of expertise.  

There are actually several alternatives for this “wax-removal” step. Some producers use a simple manual vacuum “clam-shell” filter. These would be constructed in stainless steel with a vacuum connection. After the filtration, the “clam-shell” is opened and the cake is shoveled out.  

“High-speed” centrifugation is another approach. This is a fully automatic operation. But, depending upon the type of wax, viscosity and particle sizes and shapes, blinding of the filter cloth is a risk.  

Finally, pressure candle filters, with or without the use of filter aids, provide a  solution that is both simple to operate and  forgiving if the waxes become amorphous leading to blinding. For more information, review the BHS website for hemp and cannabis production.  

Conclusion

Currently, hemp and cannabis producers are working towards optimizing operations for cost-effective manufacturing. There are many approaches to winterization of cannabinoids to consider. The strategy selected can impact yield and/or flavor. Ultimately, it will come down to the individual extraction needs and equipment of the company involved. And, of course, testing the alternatives to determine the most effective route for those unique winterization process needs.

Please visit my website at P&ID for further information for various options and process development. I've enjoyed becoming well versed in the cannabinoid and terpenes marketplace technologies from hemp processing to final product. I’m confident that I can help in this industry. But I'm also open to learning about new processing areas too!