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What’s the Difference Between De-waxing and Winterizing?




Cannabis concentrates have become a topic that people in and out of this industry just can't seem to avoid. These concentrates seem to be popping up everywhere across the globe, and it's taking the cannabis community by storm. The demand is only going up, especially with 15 states passing CBD oil bills in congress, so now would be the perfect time to capitalize, and get your foot in the door whether its BHO, PHO, LHO, CO2, ethanol, or a non- solvent extract. "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," so making cleaner concentrates is always going to be an intriguing topic for the local extraction artist wanting to make the best, cleanest product possible. There are multiple ways to clean your concentrates, but it all depends on which route you take to clean it. Two of the most common ways of cleaning cannabis concentrates right now are winterizing and de-waxing. What's the major difference between de-waxing and winterizing?  Is one better than the other? Which process is safer? Are there any other materials required in order to do the process safely? Lets find out what a local, underground anonymous extraction artist in Colorado has to say.

What is winterizing?

Winterizing is the use of grain alcohol (i.e. ethanol) in order to separate the plant waxes and fats. The process strips a lot more of your terpenes because it is a lot harder to purge off ethanol than butane, because the heat has to be higher to evaporate off to residual alcohol rather than using just butane. People do it because it's more common, and it's not something that people are as foreign to. People do it because it's much more basic. You can throw alcohol in your deep freezer. You can fill a mason jar with ethanol, but you can't do that with butane. De-waxing is a lot more to deal with, compared to alcohol, which doesn't have the same explosive tendencies as butane does. This makes winterizing a much easier method to carry out. 

What is de-waxing?

For de-waxing, your solvent in this case is probably butane. Also called single-solvent de-waxing, this process uses only butane. You run butane through the plant material to extract it, and then bring it down to sub zero temperatures so the lipid material separates out. Then you would put it through a Büchner funnel, and attach it to a passive vacuum. The undesirables sit in the top layer. You have to be able to pull the butane through fast enough without having too much evaporation. Butane needs to be pulled through fast enough to be able to separate the layers, and left behind are the plant fats separated from the oils. It's almost the same thing as winterizing, but not as efficient, but it doesn't harm your terpenes as much compared to the alcohol. 


What materials do you need in order to do some of these methods?

Explosion-proof freezer for both, it's definitely more dangerous to use butane than it is to use alcohol. Especially when it comes to purging and everything else. You absolutely should have to have an explosion proof freezer for butane.

But most people still de-wax though?

Yea. A lot of people run air over the top and cool the butane in a way, some people put it on dry ice, but that's the aggressive way to chill it. If you use an infrared temperature gun and check the temp, make sure it doesn't get below -30° Fahrenheit, you won't lose a lot of your yield out of it. If it gets down to around -50°, the cannabinoids actually condense into the fats you aim to filter out.

De-waxing with explosive chemicals is very dangerous.  It's not something that should be taken lightly to any extent. You need to make sure that when your doing the process, you have to use static-less things. When you de-waxing with butane, the process uses extra butane. People assume you run it into a tray, and you take that tray you just ran into, and you pour it after it's been frozen, directly into a Büchner funnel; that's not really how it works. You have to add enough butane to dissolve the oil, and enough to account for evaporation during the entire process. If you don't have enough butane, to run through all the processes, between the original extraction, and you have to add butane, freeze it, and once the organic layers separate out, you pour it through a scientific filter paper screen. You can find these at your local scientific supply store, or you can look on eBay, or Amazon for scientific filter papers. 25-micron filters seem to work very well. Once extracted through a 25-micron scientific filter paper, pull it into a beaker, and a passive vacuum hooked to the side of it. A passive vacuum is an explosion- proof vacuum. It basically has a closed circuit that run a fan and pulls a vacuum, but it never gets into running parts so that way it doesn't explode. It's completely static-less. The vacuum it generates cools the butane to the cold temperatures needed to separate the fats out.

This type of equipment is very expensive. There are other ways to do it, like with a hand pump, but a hand pump isn't very fast. It's really hard to do without the appropriate equipment.  There are ways though, but they aren't very safe, so it's not really worth getting into, due to the risks. Once you have the oil pulled into the beaker, you would pour it into a Pyrex dish, and water bath purge it slightly. From there once it's slightly purged, you would place the unfinished product into the vacuum oven or chamber directly in the Pyrex, but if your de-waxing you would want to purge for longer, because you are adding more butane into the product. You might saturate your oil slightly.


How would you get your solvent colder?

Freezing it in a flash freezer at – 32 and -34 at least overnight.

What would effect yields?

Growers who use Humboldt nutrients, "Bud Candy," or anything that increases frost, the plant may look extremely frosty, but when you process the whole plant, after de-wax, you might yield 6%, because a lot of those nutrients create larger lipid heads! When your trying to extract and do a de-wax, your actually just pulling out the lipids and fats from the plants. A lot of people get worried when they're de-waxing because they are going to lose a lot of yield. There will always be a loss of yields when you choose to de-wax, there's no way around it, but de-waxed concentrates are smoother on the lungs.


What are some pros and cons of de-waxing?

Pro: You retain your terpene profiles much more, in comparison to using ethanol as a solvent. The color is much brighter as well; a true representation of the strain. No extra solvents are added that could possibly strip the terpenes, or alter the color or flavor. 

Con: Yield gets hit much more than they would with an ethanol process. 

People winterize typically because it's easier, and requires less materials and butane. It's not as harsh on your yield, most people believe it would be easier to do, and the science has been around a lot longer. Purging is longer with ethanol than butane too. 


Cost efficient?

Ethanol at wholesale is almost $13-20 a gallon, where as butane, to de-wax would require a can for every 4-5 grams of oil in the tray. Let's say if a quarter pound of high-grade weed would yield you about 4-5.5 grams an ounce, you would have about 16-22 grams of oil. This extraction would require 4-6 cans of cold butane at this point, but butane can only dissolve so much oil. It's the same with de-wax, where as alcohol, you can pour enough alcohol till you see it all dissolve, and you see it separate. Your only spending pennies on the dollar to winterize compared to de-waxing because winterizing doesn’t require any extra solvent. It's a faster process to get into the freezer; it's also a safer process as well, because you’re not worried about things exploding so easily. There are so many things that can go wrong with butane compared to ethanol. It’s important to take every precaution to remain safe.

HIGH TIMES does not recommend anyone perform butane extractions or manipulations at home, leave this to the professionals.