How does the CBD isolate supply chain work?
Updated: Apr 13
The complete supply chain to make CBD isolate involves several steps, including hemp genetics, cultivation, harvesting, extraction, winterization, decarboxylation, crashing and chromatography.
Hemp genetics: Having High CBD plant genetics is one of the most critical steps to creating high quality CBD at a great price. If the plants are to high in other cannabinoids like THC the energy and nutrients will be diverted from the production of CBD. When you have great genetics the plant will stay compliant as legal hemp. If the THC delta 9 level goes above 0.3% then the plant will no longer be considered hemp and not protected by the 2018 farm bill. Many farmers have had to destroy their CBD hemp crop because the genetics were not optimized and the plant went "HOT" with THC D9. Furthermore, you need your seeds to be feminized so that your hemp does not have seeds. Seeds dramatically lower the percentage of CBD in the plant as many nutrients are used to make seeds that would have been used for CBD production. Also processing hemp biomass that contains seeds is not optimal as it will produce lower potency crude.
2. Cultivation: The second step in making CBD isolate is to grow hemp plants with high CBD content. These plants are typically grown outdoors or in greenhouses using organic farming practices. Cultivation requires state licensing in the USA. There are also best practices that need to be followed so that your biomass does not contain pesticides or heavy metals.
3. Harvesting: Once the hemp plants reach maturity, they are harvested and dried. The dried plant material is then sent to a processing facility for extraction. There are many different ways to dry the hemp. Some farmers use drying machines which can be problematic as the heat can destroy the cannabinoids and terpenes in the biomass. Some farmers field dry. Where they lay the hemp in the field and allow the sun to dry the hemp. This practice is not optimal as it can cause high levels of mold and has an increased potential for bacteria/microbials. The best way to dry hemp is the hang dry it in a cold low humidity area like a barn. This drying method will maximize the cannabinoid potential and retain the most amount of terpenes.
4. Extraction: The next step is to extract the CBD from the plant material using a solvent such as ethanol, hexane or CO2. This process separates the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material. The most efficient extraction methods are super critical ethanol (sub -80 degrees Celsius) and Hexane. These processes are the most efficient and saleable which is a big factor when controlling costs. CO2 is a great way to pull the broadest spectrum of compounds from the biomass. However, CO2 is not the best method to make isolate because there is more to remove in the distillation process and CO2 crude is harder to get to crash into isolate.
5. Winterization: After extraction, the crude oil is mixed with ethanol and put in a freezer overnight. This process removes any remaining impurities such as fats and waxes. Removing ALL of the fats and Wax is critical to getting making high efficiency crude. Many producers of crude do not have complete remove of fats and waxes because their winterization methods are not cold enough or have the filtration to get everything out.
6. Decarboxylation: The winterized crude oil is then heated to activate the cannabinoids by removing a carboxyl group from their molecular structure.
7. Distillation: With the decarboxylated crude oil you need to further refine it by turning it into distillate. Distillation of hemp crude oil with a roto vap works by separating the different components of the crude oil through a process called fractional distillation. This process involves heating the crude oil to a specific temperature and then condensing the resulting vapor to isolate and collect the desired components.
The roto vap, or rotary evaporator, is a device that is commonly used in this process. It consists of a rotating flask that is heated by a water bath or oil bath, and a condenser that cools the vapor as it rises from the flask. The flask is filled with the hemp crude oil, and as it rotates, the heat causes the different components to vaporize at different temperatures.
The vapor rises into the condenser, where it is cooled and condensed back into a liquid form. The liquid is then collected in separate containers based on its boiling point and properties. This allows for the isolation of specific compounds such as cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
The use of a roto vap in hemp crude oil distillation allows for greater control over the process and results in higher purity extracts. It also allows for the removal of unwanted compounds such as chlorophyll and lipids, which can negatively affect the flavor and quality of the final product.
Overall, distillation of hemp crude oil with a roto vap is an important step in producing high-quality hemp extracts that can be used in a variety of applications including medicinal and recreational products.
8. Crashing hemp distillate into CBD isolate is a process that involves the conversion of hemp distillate, which contains a range of cannabinoids, into pure CBD isolate. The final step in the process is to subject the isolated CBD to a process known as crystallization. This involves dissolving the CBD in a solvent such as pentane or hexane and allowing it to slowly evaporate in an oven. As the solvent evaporates, pure CBD crystals are formed.
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