Plant Oil Extraction – FAQ

Q: What are the most common Questions?

  • What is the max load size? 30 liters / 15 pounds
  • Why ethanol as a solvent? Simplicity, safety and low cost
  • How many gallons ethanol needed for a max load? 15 gallons
  • How much time per load? 2 hours short path, 5-6 hours for WPO
  • Can ethanol be recovered? Yes, 90% or more
  • At the same time as extracting? Yes
  • Does it have to be run hot? No, see below
  • How much does the Red Rabbit cost?
    Far less than a CO2 extractor

Q: Why hot ethanol?
A: Hot ethanol strips everything from plant material creating a rich, full-spectrum tincture. This full-spectrum tincture includes all the oils, fats and lipids, and other components of the plant.  However, the Red Rabbit extractor is very flexible and can be used at lower temperatures (and vacuum pressure) when selective extraction is desired (see more below about this).

From a mechanics viewpoint, hot ethanol provides for internal re-circulation during the extraction process thereby enabling super-saturation to occur — the ethanol will absorb far more from the plant material than it could absorb otherwise. Once extraction is complete, the super-saturated tincture is transferred into the Ethanol Recovery Unit where 90% to 95% of the ethanol is recovered for re-use. The remaining extract is called hyper-tincture and still contains 1.5 to 2 gallons of ethanol (based on a 15 pound / 15 gallon load.

Q: How hot is hot?
A: The hottest it gets is the boiling temperature of ethanol. At sea-level that is 173 degrees F. At 5,000 feet it is 165F. Using vacuum, lower temperatures can be achieved.

Q: How is the Hyper-tincture used?
A: There are several possible production paths depending on the plant you use. Here are some of the more common product paths:

1) Use “as is” for resale; many medicinal and herbal users prefer it in this form Bottling hyper-tincture

2) Finish into whole plant oil (WPO). This is a molasses-like substance that is excellent for a wide range of products. Finished whole plant oil This is a very stable form of output and has a long shelf-life.

3) Winterize then fraction. Since it is already in ethanol solution, Pure oilwinterization is simple. Once fats and lipids are removed the tincture may be distilled into pure fractions. Because there’s a gallon or two at start, even rare plant oil fractions may be distilled.

Q: What is full-spectrum oil?
A: Full-spectrum means that all the soluble goodness is removed from the plant material. This includes all the essential oils and the desirable sterols and terpenols; these components add medical value to a full-spectrum extract.

Q: Does hot ethanol break down terpenes?
A: Some, yes. Flavor will still come through but hot ethanol method of extraction is not suitable for fully preserving the taste of a nuanced material. Terpenes are commercially available and can be added back into finished product to set an exact (and reproducible) flavor profile.  Also, cold-extraction is an alternative and can be run in a Red Rabbit extractor if desired.

Q: Is it economical to use less desirable parts of plants?
A: Many types of extractors prefer only the most potent parts of a plant but frequently, there is value to be gained from other parts as well. Since hot ethanol is a very efficient solvent, experimentation with the less desirable parts of the plant may make economic  sense.

Q: Can I use previously washed plant material?
Yes, it may be worthwhile to use hot ethanol extraction on high quality plant material that has been previously washed using a different extraction methodology such as carbon dioxide washing. Quick washes typically leave behind essential oils that ethanol can make economical to recover.

Q: Why is food-grade ethanol the solvent of choice?
190 proof food-grade ethanol is a clean, residue-free solvent that doesn’t leave a chemical signature in essential oils once it has evaporated. Additionally, ethanol has antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. It can be purchased by the barrel and is easy to handle. It also doesn’t require high pressure (unlike CO2) and it has a higher flash/auto-ignition temperature than hydro-carbons, making it safer to handle. Ethanol can be easily recovered using Red Rabbit’s built-in Ethanol Recovery Unit (ERU) and used over and over again. Finally, ethanol can be used as a solvent at a variety of temperatures and vacuum pressures and the Red Rabbit can support this, making it very suitable for a wide range of plants and extraction procedures.  For more information about the benefits of ethanol as a solvent, see Why Ethanol?

Q: What does a Red Rabbit Extractor cost?
A: Ethanol is a low cost way to process pounds of plant material at a time. Where many other extractor types are limited to 20 liters or less, the Red Rabbit extractor can handle 30 liters for a fraction of the cost. Many 20 liter CO2 extractors cost between $200,000 and $300,000 while the Red Rabbit ethanol extractor runs far, far less. Plus, when you consider the value of the extracted plant oils, you can fully pay for a Red Rabbit Extractor in a surprisingly short period of time. For a quote please contact us at 800-530-4197 (US and Canada) or

Q: What else is needed besides the Red Rabbit Extractor?
A: Just input material, food grade ethanol (190 or 200 proof) and electricity. The extractor includes the chiller, heater, and vacuum pump mounted in two carts plus all the ancillary plumbing, pumps, controls, and secondary vessels like glass carboys for ethanol recovery. It is a complete turn-key system, ready to run. Food grade ethanol is easy to obtain in bulk and we can provide contact information for sources.

Q: Is the ethanol recovered for re-use?
A: Yes, up to 95% of the ethanol is recovered and can be re-used many, many times.

Q: Can the ethanol from a previously extracted load be recovered while a new load is extracting?
A: Yes, the Red Rabbit has two separate stainless vessels; the extractor vessel and the ethanol recovery vessel. Each has its own independent heating system so they can be run at different temperatures and at the same time to maximize production.

Q: How much time does it take to run an extraction on a full load?
A: That depends on the type of product you want. If you’re looking for essential oils, a very short extraction time at a lower temperature and pressure may be best. If you are seeking feed-stock for a fractional distillation system, a short-path extraction may run two hours for a full load. If you’re making full spectrum plant oil you’ll want everything the plant offers; we recommend 3 hours for the primary immersion wash and 2-3 hours for the super-saturating secondary wash.

Q: How should plant material be prepared for extraction?
A: A common method is dried plant material ground into flakes (about the same size as parsley flakes). This method provides the greatest density of plant material in the stainless steel extraction basket. However, very rough dried material can be used though this will reduce the weight that can be fit into the extraction basket. Finally, fresh plant material may be used without drying. This allows plant material to go directly from harvest to processing thereby reducing spoilage, contamination, or break-down of the plant’s valuable goodness.

Q: Can wet plant material be used?
A: Yes. In cases where drying is a hassle or unworkable due to local conditions, fresh, moist or even wet plant material may be used. If possible, chop up the plant material and increase wash time. Ethanol recovery time may be slower due to increased dissolved water in the output tincture.

Q: Can the roots or bark be used?
A: Yes, a strong advantage of ethanol extraction is that it can work with extremely tough plant material such as roots, bark, and stems. It’s recommended that root runs are processed separately – not mixed with other plant material until the resulting plant oil is fully analyzed and understood.

Q: Can powders be used?
A: Yes, high quality filters can be placed inside the extraction basket to hold powder.  Filters are available in a variety of micron sizes.  Filters are washable and reusable.

Q: Is this cold ethanol extraction?
A: No, it is hot ethanol extraction. Cold extraction is a very quick wash designed to strip easily extracted oils. Typically it does not strip other, more deeply integrated components. The Red Rabbit can be used for cold extraction if desired, but secondary super-saturation is not available when used in this mode.

Q: Can the extracted output be reproduced reliably?
A: Provided the same inputs and procedures are used the resulting output should be close to identical and testing will verify it. The input must be the same in terms of plant species and variety, grower and method of growth, the same age after harvest, and the same dryness and grind. The procedures must be the same too; use the same amount of material and ethanol, temperature and vacuum, and the same amount of immersion and wash times for each load. Finally, use a good lab to test and verify the output.

Q: What type of plant material is best for extraction?
A: The Red Rabbit Hot Ethanol Extractor can be used to extract essential and whole plant oils from many plants Rosemary extract such as rosemary (see picture at right), hops, chiles, and akuamma powder (see picture at left), etc. Contact us to discuss your particular needs as we may need to fabricate a custom basket or filter bags to best handle the prepared plant material.

Q: Why did you name it the Red Rabbit Extractor?
A: It’s a funny name, we know. “Red” comes from the painted dimple Red Rabbit Extractor logojacket on the extractor and ERU vessels. The dimple jacket transfers heat into the ethanol very efficiently. For whatever reason, maybe because it’s dimply, people like to touch it. The red reminds them not to touch because it’s HOT. “Rabbit” because it eats a lot of plant material and does it very quickly. And there you have it, the Red Rabbit is a hot, plant-eating, fast money-making machine.

Feed Your Fractional System

Q: What do you mean by “FRAC IT”?
A: Frac in this case is short-hand for fractionalize (to distill into fractions). It is a catchy way to highlight one of the possible product-paths available from Red Rabbit extracts.

Stainless Steel Fabrication