Decarboxylation Before Molecular Distillation is Critical
Did You Know? Decarbing Cannabis Crude Prior to Molecular Distillation is the Key to Producing High Quality End Products
Cannabis and hemp plants primarily produce the acidic forms of the major cannabinoids, THCa and CBDa. Decarboxylation converts the acidic cannabinoids to their non-acidic forms, THC and CBD. Decarbing is achieved by applying just the right amount of heat and time to result in extracting these highly desirable cannabinoids.
How does decarboxylation work?
Simply put, decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that is achieved through heating raw cannabinoids to a temperature at which they release a carboxyl group of molecules. Once this has happened the major cannabinoids convert from THCa and CBDa to the more readily bioavailable THC and CBD.
When referring to decarboxylation of crude cannabis oil, the process is usually performed on a hot plate for small batches, or in a reactor vessel for industrial-scale operations.
When to decarb during the cannabis extraction process?
The decarboxylation process occurs after the solvent has been evaporated but before molecular distillation. A simplified version of the cannabis extraction process typically flows something like this (for our purposes here, this is a Cold Temperature Ethanol Extraction process):
- Chilling:Pre-chill ethanol solvent using the DC-40 Direct Chiller to as low as -40c to reduce post-extraction steps.
- Extraction:Soak and agitate the biomass in chilled ethanol solvent to extract cannabinoid compounds via CUP Series closed-loop mechanical centrifugation.
- Particulate Filtration:Remove suspended particulates/adsorbents
- Solvent Evaporation:Remove ethanol from plant crude oil using the Falling Film Evaporator (FFE).
- Decarboxylation: Conversion of THCa and CBDa to the more readily bioavailable THC and CBD by removing carboxyl group.
- Molecular Distillation: Separate THC and CBD molecules from crude oil utilizing Rolled Film Distillation (RFE).
This final step; molecular distillation is generally one of the last processes in extracting and refining cannabinoids. It involves applying deep vacuum and high heat. If any other chemical reaction (such as decarboxylation) is occurring during distillation, you will not be able to properly fractionate (separate) the molecules and you won’t produce a high-quality distillate. This is why the decarboxylation process must be done in full prior to distillation.